Making Maple Syrup | Yankee Classic
Fairfield is one of the biggest maple-syrup-producing towns in Vermont. Most likely that is because of the Howrigans. Robert and his sons are not the only Howrigans who make syrup. Robert’s two brothers and their offspring also do a keen business. The Howrigan clan is a close family, and the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day here rivals Christmas.
Still, they don’t tell each other how many gallons they make each year. Nor will they say how many trees they’ve tapped. Their father used to advise them not to share that information with anyone. “You do that, and it’ll depress the price!” he told them. And so they don’t, not even with each other. It’s a friendly competition but a competition nonetheless. “I always tell people, ‘We made enough for the house and some to sell,’ ” Robert Howrigan says. And he laughs his merry Irish laugh.
From the sugarhouse Shelley walks across the road to the house. Inside, her father-in-law is still in the rocker, Annah fast asleep in his arms. Sitting as he is, in the strong March sunlight, his lids are heavy, too.
Seven generations. Annah is the last for Danny and Shelley, whose oldest child is now a teenager. Another maple season is coming to an end. It is nearly the turn of the century, and Robert Howrigan’s 75 years in the sugar bush are on the wane. But here is Annah. “Sweet child,” Robert Howrigan says, getting up to place her gently into her crib.
Excerpt from “’This New England,” Yankee Magazine, March 1999.