|A photograph from the Cary Maple Sugar film that was used at Maple Grove in St. Johnsbury. Cary originally used oxen teams to gather the sap for his huge sugaring operations. Many of the houses were in North Danville.
The four Peck boys grew up on a hardscrabble farm over in the Tampico area and became men about the time George Cary’s sugaring operations bloomed in North Danville. The Pecks were probably no different than any of the other local farm kids, but they were noted as being extremely rugged and very competitive. In fact, it was said that if you could somehow yoke them, a span of Peck boys could likely pull Cary’s prize oxen through a knothole.
The locals would often gather on the Old North Church road in Waterman’s field for a picnic and a Sunday afternoon game of baseball. Sometimes an equally ragtag team from another town could be enticed to participate. Ora Peck often pitched. He could throw it long on speed and maybe a little short on control. It was well known that if he happened to hit a bull in the head with one of those pitches, you might as well break out the knives and forks.
First time up, the opposing star belted it to hell. Gone out into the hay. Next time up, the obvious solution was to throw it even harder. The pitch got away, the star got beaned and dropped for the count. A lively discussion resulted. After a few bumps and bruises, the game resumed. A severely sprained ankle (“Naw, it ain’t broke) and chore time ended the fun.
Someone remarked to Ora’s brother Freedom. “Little rough, wasn’t it?”
“Naw, not bad wuff, jus good wuff.”
In his late years, Freedom was helping a newcomer with some farm-type chores. It was suggested that if Freedom saw the newcomer doing something wrong to please bring it to his attention. Freedom’s reply, “I really ain’t used to talkin’ all that much.”
Come springtime in one of George Cary’s big sugar houses up on the Sprague farm, the Peck boys were boiling and a bunch of the other baseball team members were gathering. The sap had been running nonstop for three days and showed no sign of letting up. The buckets were all running over; everyone was working hammer and tong and getting sick of it.
That’s when the boilers questioned the gatherers as to their manliness, their worth, and why they couldn’t keep up. Something else started to boil then, but everyone was too tired to do much about it, so off the gatherers went for another sled-load of sap. As they went down into what is now Hickey’s sugar woods, they passed the big spring there and stopped to water themselves and the horses. Someone miraculously found a big jug under a rock, and it got passed around a couple of times while the horses got their fill.
The pump log from the spring came right to the top of the gathering tank and jug wisdom intervened. Many loads of water later, it was hard to tell if it was sweat or steam coming out of the sugar house vent as the Peck boys doggedly tried to make Cary maple syrup with a little sap and a lot of pure spring water.
Jus some good wuff fun!