The Sugar Shanty

(A Short Story)
Nestled in the woods of an old growth maple woods sets a shack made of tin and lumber. It is quite some distance from the main road, and past the rutted tractor path, that in years past guided a team of horses. The path ends abruptly now that its meandering course through the meadow is overgrown and only shows hints of its use some years ago. This trail was used to take a family of stoic older men and eager young children to a hillside grove of sugar maples that shared their life blood every spring.

After the sap from these trees was gathered in buckets, it was taken to the sugar shanty to be boiled down. This was part of the process of making maple syrup. This annual ritual of tapping trees in the spring was a sure sign that winter was gone for the year.

As a child growing up who witnessed the beauty of this shadowy mysterious forest, I understood all that these trees provided for man and animal alike. I believed these trees smiled down on the children as we traipsed through the woods, nurturing and caring for us as though we were their own. They always offered guidance if we opened our hearts to them.

Many seasons have come and gone since this old shack has been used. Its roof is partially caved in and the days are gone that these walls echoed the laughs of children out to the sugar maples on the ridge. Its frequent visitors of late are a curious chipmunk and an occasional sparrow. As I see the outline of the shanty nestled in the woods, I am taken back to the days of my youth; riding this trail on the back of a wagon. It was a time when anything was possible in these woods that held such mystical appeal.

Much haschanged since then, but this land still holds many mysteries that I will never know. This visit is a solemn one, for it may be the last time I see this place. As I think of the laughter and cries, and the stories that were shared in and around this humble shanty, I wonder who will suffer the greatest loss, the family who used to come together here every year or these stately nurturing trees that may never again hear the children’s laughter. ~ D. Schmieder

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