William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD
MAPLE SYRUP AND PORKY PIG
Let’s make dat maple syrup lads, now as dat de sweet saps flow.
We got doze colder nights right now an doze days ave melted snows.
Haul dat auld iron cauldron up from out behind de ol pig slaughter shed.
Fill it wid snow and scrub brush it out, dat’s wat my Grandpa said.
Hard wood birch logs we’ll cut dem up an pile em near de pot.
We need to keep it boiling lads the thick syrups boiling hot.
Dad drilled each tree wid bit and brace, an hammered spigots in.
For hardwood buckets an doze new pails dat are now made of tin.
De double sleighs had cheese factory milk cans loaded on de back.
De heavy team dey hauled doze sap cans braced by a wooden rack.
Billy, sure keep dat fire going and put on some more hard wood,
Keeping picking bark off the syrup, now jus like a good lad should.
I got de week away from school wen de sugaring off it came.
De winter snows were melting now dere under de springtime rain.
De sweet syrup was black an thick, sure it look jus like mallasse.
One gallon wine jugs dey were all filled up an sold for jus un piasse.
We took 40 galloons to byward market, in town, down dere below.
In our 1929, Model A Ford Truck, we forded the deep slushy snow.
Just after de war no one had cash an selling maple syrup was slow.
We traded syrup for sacks de patats an a wee pig, before we’d go.
My pet pig porky, was 200 lbs an de next winter he got scald in de pot.
Dad shaved off his hair an he dipped him dere into dat water so hot.
Into a pork barrel with syrup he went, cured by layers of pickling salt.
We moved away one fine spring day an dat sugaring it came to a halt.
©Copyright August 16, 2009 by William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD
Notes to my Grandchildren: We had no electricity, no refrigerator, no indoor plumbing, and no money. We had a huge garden, a root cellar and we got our water from a creek behind the house. But we had fresh liver and onions when my Dad killed my pet pig porky cut him up and salted him down for the winter. The root cellar is where Mom kept her maple syrup, her summer gathering efforts of filled jars on filled up shelves of wild raspberry jam, jars of spiced crab apples with cloves and cut beans in jars and potatoes, and turnips and parsnips and carrots in bins covered with sand. We were dirt poor but we ate well.
Canada is a land of plenty where even a poor immigrant Irish soldier returning from World War Two could eke out a living from the earth. We moved to Ottawa when Dad got a job at EB Eddys Mill and we then received a regular pay cheque for our wonderful Irish Catholic family of nine kids… seven boys and two girls. My grandpa Jim McCaffrey lived with us from time to time and he always had good advice for us kids.
The first year we made syrup was at Woodlawn and I am on the sleigh with Martin O’Rourke. The next winter 1946 we made syrup up the Gatineau. The syrup of today is pasteurized and clear and not too tasty. Our syrup was boiled outside in an open pot, was smoke coloured and thick so that you could not see through it. My main job was to keep the fire going, and to pick pieces of bark off the top of the boiling pot filled with syrup. Poured syrup on snow was a real taffy treat – and there was glass candy at the bottom of the iron pot when the sugar season was over. I used to chip off pieces with a stone to suck on the way to school. My dad paid $175.00 for the truck from his severance pay from the Canadian Army.