Tag Archives: 1970

On The Road #26 – An Iowa Night

The trucker who invited me into the warm cab of his long-haul truck on a cold November night of 1970 was looking for conversation. So was I. He was an interesting man and he seemed interested enough in my endless prattle. At least he didn’t pull over and tell me to get out.

The conversation did touch on the trucking life and he assured me that, yea, there have been times he got tired of it and tried something else. But punching a clock and getting into a daily routine soon sent him back to the road. 

And then there was the time he and his wife decided it would be good for him to be home. The kids were getting through grade school and he didn’t want to miss all of their growing up. Besides, it would do them good to have their dad around the house and his wife could use some help getting them through their teen years. So he talked with the company he was driving for and took on the dispatching job. 

Things went well for five months or so before he and his wife started driving each other crazy. Neither of them wanted to get to hating each other so they both agreed it would be best for him to get back on the road. He added, “Now I sure am glad to get home to my beautiful wife every two to six weeks. And she sure seems to be glad to see me, that’s for sure! Heck, even the kids seem to enjoy my being around for several days.” After those several days, he assured me, the whole family knew it was time for him to go haul something around the USA.

Around midnight the driver pulled us off the freeway and into a truck stop. Was this my cue to say thanks and get myself out of the truck? I sure didn’t want to jump out of that warm truck but this was my first ride with a long-haul driver and I didn’t know what was expected. Before I could ask, he described an adjustable metal stick that he could use to hold the accelerator peddle in one position while he got in his berth for the night. He then gave me a couple of dollars and asked if I’d go in the shop and get him one. When I got back with it he did not ask me to leave as he got in the back of the cab for a good night’s sleep. 

Folks, if you are looking for a comfortable night’s snooze I do not necessarily recommend the passenger’s side seat in the cab of an idling semi truck in the middle of a brightly lit parking lot cocooned in the fumes of fifty other idling diesel engines. But should you find yourself cashless on a windy November midnight in Iowa it is a comforting thing to do. 

Buck Brook #16 – Buckets of Sap

It was darn cold and wet when the maple trees started running sap. And run they did! I was 25. I was at Buck Brook Farm in the Catskill Mountains, a hundred miles north of New York City. 

Having been raised in the evergreen forests of Idaho, the early spring of 1970 was my first exposure to turning the sap of maple trees into tasty syrup. 

I had spent 1969 in the Northeast, enjoying the different leaves and barks and branches of trees I did not know the name of. But when the trees started rising their sap from roots to budding leaves it was easy to pick out the maples — each one had a little peg on its trunk, like a pecker taking a pee. And every peg was easy to find — it sported a galvanized bucket hanging from it. 

Bucket INT

At least they did at Buck Brook Farm. We were a school keeping kids involved. Commercial operations had miles of plastic tubes draining the sap to common collection points but we made use of the tradition of wearing kids out by carrying buckets. 

My first astonishment with gathering maple sap was how fast those trees run it out! I had enjoyed years of visions of a leisurely drip, drip, drip as the pegs lovingly extracted the sweet liquid. Now that I think about it my assumption of collecting maple sap would have filled a bucket every two days or so. 

Folks, that’s not how these mighty trees move their life-giving liquid. What was coming from the pegs was not a leisurely drip. Or a drip at all. It was a steady stream. Think turning  your faucet just past drips. A thin stream, yes. But far from occasional drops.

For two weeks we were kept busy carrying buckets of maple blood through the forest to our pickup, where larger tubs were waiting to be filled and carried to the fire.

Carried to the fire? We’ll explore that next time. For now let’s just say what was running from the pegs was not syrup, folks. It was thin as water. But oh, what delightfully sweetened water!