Governor Jim Douglas Caught with Hands on Sap Bucket

by Tig Tillinghast

Each year here in Vermont, the governor rolls up his or her sleeves and taps tree around Town Meeting day. It’s a nice tradition put on by the various county maple syrup makers’ associations, and a good photo opportunity is had by all – except for maybe this last one. A reader emailed in this photo she found used to promote the upcoming ceremony that’ll take place March 6 on Middlebury’s campus.

She and I both think it looks a lot like the governor was caught sneaking up on the tree Hamburgler-style to steal sap. Maybe one of the governor’s rivals has an operative in the maple association’s staff.

This year’s ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. on Friday at a tree next to Mead Chapel in Middlebury, Douglas’s hometown. There will be all sorts of maple syrup treats there for the attendees. In an attempt to create a media event approximating Groundhog Day, some maple syrup folks push the idea that if the governor’s tap shows a sap flow immediately, it’ll be a good sugar year. That, in turn, has led to silly behavior. I know of one farmer whose tree a Vermont governor tapped some years ago, and being cold the night before, he felt obligated to join his wife outdoors with an extension cord and a couple hair dryers to warm up the sap wood sufficiently to allow for a flow the next morning.