Hello again Maple People,
In the last few days, my dreams of retirement have taken on a whole new look…they're for the birds! I've been down with the flu and, to the myriad of other flu symptoms, I would add "stir-crazy". The only redeeming thing about it is that I've been able to read all 343 pages of Governor Jim Douglas' book, "The Vermont Way". I thoroughly enjoyed every page…not saying it was worth having the flu, mind you…but thoroughly enjoyable.
Jim Douglas grew up just south of the Vermont border in Springfield, Massachusetts but he could have fooled me (if it talks like a Vermonter and thinks like a Vermonter, it's a Vermonter!). He describes a normal upbringing by two loving parents who, no doubt, covered the "you can do anything" spiel early on.
Jim's one guy who could have "carried that ball" in any direction but the minute he graduated from Middlebury College, he gravitated toward public service and never looked back.
We first became friends when he was a "barely-dry-behind-the-ears" legislator in 1973 but I'm not crowing about knowing a future governor…heck, he amazingly comes close to knowing everyone else in Vermont by first name! Through his years of climbing the rungs of state government, he brought lots of folks up to our farm to learn about maple sugaring. To him, I was a local farmer with deep Vermont roots. To me, he was a budding statesman with deep love for Vermont and an even deeper desire to help.
One time I met up with him at a function down at Middlebury Inn. He was running for governor at the time and I, slightly out of context, was playing in a jazz quintet…"didn't know you were so versatile Burr", he said. "I'm like you Jim" I joked, "I'll drop to about any level!". At that time, I didn't give him a "snowball's chance in Brattleboro" (to understand, you'll have to read his book) of becoming our next governor…he's a Republican and Vermont had long since rounded the corner to true "blue". In November though, by the grace of God and "help" from a third party candidate, he squeaked in.
The official portrait of Gov. Jim Douglas
I sent him a congratulatory note shortly after his victory. Still in the joking mode, I said I didn't expect to be appointed Commissioner of Agriculture but it sure would be nice if my big band, the Vermont Jazz Ensemble, could play at the Governor's Ball. A month later, we got the "call". I remember being very proud to help initiate the first of my friend's four terms as governor.
We couldn't have asked for a better governor for those eight years. Jim Douglas worked tirelessly and honestly for each and every one of us. Not only that, but he had a "fine-tuned" grasp on economics. Sometimes, it seems, modern politicians expect a "money tree" out there ripe for pickin'…not Jim Douglas. Governor Douglas knew the importance of living within our means!
As the saying goes, "all good things must end" and in the summer of 2009, Jim announced that he would not run again. As in all such momentous occurrences, I remember what I was doing when the news came out. I was filling jugs with maple syrup down in our canning room. Quicker'n a spring freshet, I plummeted from "sweet" satisfaction to feeling a deep void in the pit of my stomach…"this guy's one in a million." I went on to think that if our world's politicians were all like Jim Douglas, we would not be in the mess we are today.
I regret something I said the last time I ran into him after he had left office. It was at an agricultural event where both farmers and dignitaries meet up…shaking his hand I said jokingly, "I'm mad at you Jim Douglas. You could still be our governor!" He laughed and shrugged it off. I've since realized, though, how brash and inappropriate my comment was…yes, we miss him terribly but his book revealed what a grueling investment he made. He somehow packed a lifetime of energy, honesty, and common sense into eight years as our governor. He deserves a break. He's only human, and a great one at that!
PS: Since we last comunicated, our Maple Syrup grading terminology has changed. This was mandated by the State of Vermont and became law on January 1, 2015. Don't despair…we think it's a good thing! It's the same world's best maple syrup we're talking about. We're just using a different "language" to describe it: instead of having Fancy, Grade A Medium, Grade A Dark, and Grade B, we now have Grade A Golden, Grade A Amber, Grade A Dark, and Grade A Very Dark. The extra good news is that in the "Grade A Very Dark catagory (which corresponds to the old Grade B), we're now able to include a slightly darker syrup. We're sure you "Grade B" lovers will find our new Grade A Very Dark syrup to have an even better maple flavor than before! To introduce you, we're giving you 15% off on 1/2 gals., qts., and pts. of Grade A Verk Dark Syrup. Please go to https://www.morsefarm.com/