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Jim Dueholm | Community Voices

The Dad and Pete sugar bush
In the spring of 1966, my dad, Harvey Dueholm, had sugar maples in his woods and time on his hands. A good combination, he thought, for making maple syrup.
He needed help. My brother Dave, a 16-year-old high school student, could only help on weekends and after school. I was home for a time on spring break from law school, but came after the trees were tapped and left while the sap was still running. Dad turned to Tom Lund.
Tom was a longtime friend and neighbor and a grandfatherly figure to me and my brothers. He was a large, powerfully built man with a full head of white hair, a lined, weathered, friendly face, a bowlegged walk and a philosophical bent, a fount of home-spun wisdom and advice for my brothers and me. He had a dairy farm about a mile from ours, but lost his herd in the 1957 "bangs” epidemic. Our cattle escaped that scourge, but Dad sold the herd in 1965, so in 1966 both Dad and Tom were free to turn sap into syrup.
They tapped the trees, inserted spigots to drain the flowing sap, fitted pails with pitched-roof covers to repel debris, weather and critters, and hung the pails on the spigots. They placed a vat outside a cabin on our farm we called the Geisen cabin and propped up the vat to make room to thrust firewood beneath it. When the pails were full they poured them into 10-gallon milk cans, rehung the pails, hauled the cans to the cabin, dumped the sap into the vat and lit the firewood.
The fire hissed and crackled, the sap bubbled and churned, water became steam and sap turned to syrup at a ratio of about 40 to 1. The scene was captivating as we gathered round the vat, and especially so when we watched the fire’s glow and the billowing steam as day gave way to dusk and darkness.
Mom and Florence, Tom’s wife, got into the act. They took the syrup from the vat, boiled it in the Geisen cabin to make a more robust syrup, and bottled the syrup in quart jars. Even with the extra boiling, the syrup was a little watery, and only a few quarts were produced, but the venture was fun, and when the sap stopped running Dave and Tom put the equipment away to await a 1967 encore.
For Tom, 1967 never came. He died in October, just-turned 75. Dad didn’t make syrup in 1967. He revived the venture in 1968 with Tom’s brother Louie as his partner. It was largely a replay of 1966. The partners looked forward to 1969. For Louie, 1969 didn’t come. He died in December.
Dad decided to have another go of it in 1969 anyway, even though his sons suggested history might scare neighbors away. Undaunted, Donald Hutton joined Dad in 1969 and for a couple more years, and outlived him by seven years.
The Dueholm sugar bush was revived decades later by my nephew, Bob’s son Peter, with more-modern equipment and a commitment to quality syrup. Every spring Pete cranks up the venture when the sap starts running, mans the operation, bottles the syrup in the Geisen cabin, and stores the equipment when the trees run dry. Bob helps a lot. Other family members gather from near and far, to help a little, but mainly to bond with the family, enjoy the outdoors, and be part of a fetching venture that produces several gallons of quality syrup that Peter shares liberally with friends and family.
Another sugar season approaches. Pete is getting ready to tap trees and fire up the vat. Bob stands by. The family awaits. Dad would have loved it.


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