News from Vermont #299 Uphill Both Ways

October 31st, 2013

Hello again Maple People,

I know times have changed but I, admitted curmudgeon, found news accounts of the October 9th "International Walk to School Day" quite entertaining. In fact for folks of my generation, staging a "walk to school" for a single day with fanfare and balloons, is downright hilarious. And, yes, I have my own "walked a mile to school uphill both ways" story to tell to you young whipper-snappers.

It was exactly one mile each way to the one-room school in East Montpelier Center and we're talkin' everyday. I was in the first grade and my sister Susie was in the fourth. Since I cannot tell a lie, I won't say we had to get up and do barn chores, haul water from the spring, and clean out the outhouse before we left...that was for the generation before ours. It was up to us, however, to get ourselves ready, fix something for lunch, and ration enough time for the trek.

Running for school, will I make it?

We were tempted to complain but life in the early 1950s had already taught us the fruitlessness of that. Although children of that era had become "hardened" in many ways, there were still innate fears. As Susie and I headed up the road through the woods, we were always at a run. That stretch of woods between our house and fellow first grader Dougie Schaefer's house brought dark shadows and fears of bears, wolves, and, worse of all, the dreaded truant officer. We learned over time that there were no wolves in Vermont but, to this day, I still question whether the "truant officer" was real or just a mean parental trick to assure our on-time arrival at school!After the run through the woods, we "tied up" with Dougie Schaefer and walked the rest of the way through open farmland (and yes, there were farms back then). As we went along, our numbers grew and by the time we reached the Center School, we had become a "can kickin', stone throwin'" rag-tag gang of 6 or 7. It seems "safety issues" are a big concern today but I pity any creepy person who might have approached this group!

The afterschool walk back home usually brought the release of some pent up energy and some sort of deviltry. I remember stopping by Willie Barnes farm a few times in the fall of the year. He had some Wolf River apple trees out in his pasture, home also to his prize bull. Dougie and I couldn't resist the temptation to steal a few of those luscious-looking apples. We'd huddle together and make our plans ... "Shhhhh...you go under the fence over there and I'll head down the road n'git the bull's attention." We'd always end up with a few bruised Wolf Rivers, which, by the way are the most inedible apples ever invented, and a very upset bull. Our fun always ended when Susie and I dropped off Dougie and made our dreaded run the rest of the way home through the woods.

I'm not suggesting that kids today suddenly start walking to school. No, there are definite reasons why that can't happen, not the least of which is the larger number of "creepy people" out there. I do, however, worry about the level of education kids are getting today; you see, book learning is important but that's only half of an education; the other half comes from the "knocks" of life, some hard, some soft. For that, a long walk to school is a great classroom.

Yep! I made it.

Imagine, we're up to News from Vermont volume 299! And yes, I said "we're...that's you, my avid readers and me, old Vermont maple sugarmaker/writer of stories. I could not have done it without you. Your feedback (mostly all good) has been so important. As I've said before, it's a hard job to think of these things I write two times each month and then it's hard again to write em. One more time...I could not do it without your support, both emotionally and financially...Thanks!

Another way I can thank you is by way of a special offer. Looking forward to the Holidays, we're aware that you might need both cooking syrup and table syrup so here's our offer: from now through Monday, November 11, we're offering 15% off on both Grade B and Grade A Dark Amber (B for the baking and Dark for the "Delicious on pancakes"). Please enter code NFV in the key code box. But, as they say on TV..."and that's not all"....we'll also enclose a free maple cookbook in every order placed at www.morsefarm.com! Hope you'll accept our way of making your Holidays a little sweeter.

Thanks,