A Good Life Judged From Afar
More than 20 years ago my wife and I were meandering around southern Vermont — no destination in mind, just enjoying the countryside and the time off — when we came to a farm with tins of maple syrup for sale. We stopped, bought some syrup and resumed our hunt for small roads, the smaller the better. Although Irene and I didn’t know it at the time, we had found our “dealer” for life: Truman D. Young Jr., according to the sticker on the can. No one’s maple syrup tasted as good as Mr. Young’s. Two or three times a year we sent a note and a blank check to Mr. Young, asking for another half-gallon of syrup. Around Christmas we might order a tin or two for relatives or friends. When the syrup arrived, this newsman looked forward to reading a few pages of the Rutland Herald wadded up as padding in the shipping box. On trips to Vermont, we occasionally looked for Mr. Young’s farm, but, being firm believers that GPS takes all the spontaneity out of traveling we don’t have one, so we found his farm in the Tinmouth area only one other time. We pulled into the driveway that day and saw the barn door was open as well as the trunk of a car. Before I could head for the barn, an older man came out of the house, and Irene, asked, “We’re looking for Truman Young.”
“That would be me,” the man said. I told him we wanted to buy some syrup. “You probably want the amber, medium grade,” Mr. Young said as I followed him to a shed near the road. Inside the cool shed, he handed me a half gallon tin and apologized for asking $22 for it. “They keep raising the price of tin on us,” he said, adding that it hadn’t been a good year for syrup. Too short a spring. Vermont was losing its farms. People from New Jersey were “buying the land and putting $800,000-$900,000 houses on it,” Mr. Young lamented. But he perked up when he spoke of a marvelous new machine that could shrink-wrap hay in a tight, white plastic cylinder. He explained to us suburban sprawl folks that when piles of hay are left uncovered in the fields they get wet and the bottom part rots. With this new wrapper, the hay can be left out in all kinds of weather. After raving about this advance, he pointed across the road and there was the very piece of machinery he had been describing, so he described it some more. (This conversation stuck me with because my dad, an Indiana farm boy, never lost his enthusiasm for new equipment, large or small. During the CB craze, he had one. His handle “Prairie Chicken.”) Mr. Young said he and his family had been on this farm for 189 years. He grew up there as did his father. If he made it to October he would be 85. I told him he had to make it because we would need more syrup. I asked where he had gone to school. Wallingford was the answer. “I used to ride a horse to school, even when it was 15 below.” He had an aunt in Wallingford who had a stable, and he left the horse there until school was over and it was time to ride back to the farm. A few months ago our latest batch of syrup arrived along with a note from Mr. Young’s family. He died last November, a few days before Thanksgiving. I looked up the obituaries in the Rutland Herald and learned that Truman Dwight Young Jr. of Tinmouth, Vermont:
-Was 96 years old; was one of 13 kids; was married at age 22; lost his wife 33 years later and a year after her death married a woman with children and outlived her by three years.
-Had three children and at least three stepchildren. Grandchildren, in the words of the newspaper, “number more than 10 as do great grandchildren.”
-Was a dairy farmer in addition to a maple producer, helped found the Rutland County Maple Producers Association, and built a sugarhouse on the Vermont State Fairgrounds to promote the maple products industry, a sugarhouse that now bears his name.
-Was a member of the local school board for several years.
-All seven of his sisters along with one brother died before him. The note from the Young family said Mr. Young “was active and independent until the very end.” On the Internet I found an interview a Vermont TV station did with him when he was 93, more than eight years after our talk with him. We were instructed to send our future orders to his son, Truman Young III. We certainly will. It’s been more than syrup we’ve been buying all these years.
-0- I post essays about every two weeks on my website, larrymccoyonline.com.