William Coolidge III
Having animals to tend again, chores to do, is a kind of rebirth for me; a second childhood, a return to yesteryear. Like a new blade of grass, or a fresh sprout poking up through the brown, winter-soaked leaves at the edge of a field, I am coming alive once more, feeling a sense of déjà vu, a usefulness and sense of value and accomplishment that was sorely lacking during all those years working at the prison. Living things are depending on me again for sustenance, understanding and compassion, patience, maintenance and punctuality.
My grandfather, Will Coolidge, was a thrifty, practical, native Adirondacker who, among his other occupations, was also a producer of maple syrup. At one time or another during his life (all 78 years of which was spent on the land he loved – the farm where he was born, in Jay, NY), he was a taxi driver, dairy farmer, potato grower, mailman and trapper. But the thing I remember him for the most is making maple syrup. And while he went about this demanding and honorable business, he was also passing down little pearls of wisdom to me, his eldest grandson.
Elisabeth Jonsson, a previous guest at the ranch, was struck by the similarities between cattle ranching in the American West, and raising reindeer in the far north of her native Sweden. Reindeer, like cattle, are highly gregarious and usually travel in herds. The American rancher relies on his cattle herd to sustain a way of life that has been ongoing for nearly 150 years. Laplanders, the inhabitants of the northern-most regions of Norway, Finland and Sweden, have been herding reindeer for centuries, and are almost completely dependent on them for their livelihood.
March 1982 ~ Dad & I have just built a new, smaller sugarhouse on a slight bench above the brook, behind our 120-year-old farmhouse, on the Glen Road in Jay. I’m 27 now, and employed as a Correction Officer by the State of New York at Clinton Prison in Dannemora. This 6-week stretch that I spend making maple syrup with my father every spring is a retreat, of sorts ~ a return to a simpler time, of working with your hands, legs and back, producing a seasonal product, as my family has done for six generations.