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Super Senior: Ken Whitehill - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Super Senior: Ken Whitehill

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MORGAN, Vt. -

Ken Whitehill and his German shepherd, Foxy, are going for a ride.

"This is the same road that my grandmother and grandfather courted on," Ken noted.

His roots are firmly planted on this 280 acres of land in Morgan.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Your commute to work was longer than I thought.

Ken Whitehill: Quite a little ways.

It's a mile to his sugarhouse, and chains on the tires are a help. Ken's excited because this is the first boil of the season.

Joe Carroll: So today is like opening day.

Ken Whitehill: It's opening day for me.

He starts later than most because of his high elevation.

"Sap is running really good now," Ken said.

The sugaring operation is old school. They boil with wood and power the building with a generator.

"When things get older, something like me, sets you back a little," Ken said.

Ken had a few setbacks last year, including a heart attack in the fall.

"So I told the dog I was sick and I better call 911," he said.

He says he's fine now but is still recovering from a broken heart-- the loss of his wife, Carlisle.

"This is my wife in her younger days," he said, showing a photo.

Ken savors the memories.

"And after we were married for 20 years, she was going through some papers of her mother's and she found that she and I were in the hospital the same time when we were born in the same room," Ken said.

The 84-year-old remains active. He still has a construction business on the side, but his passion is the trees.

"This is called a cookie," Ken explained.

The cutout of the tree not only shows the rings, but also the scars of taps from so many years ago.

Joe Carroll: What do you think when you see that?

Ken Whitehill: Well, it makes you think how interesting it is that the tree can heal itself.

In a way, this sugaring season is a way for Ken to heal, too.

Joe Carroll: You still get excited about doing this?

Ken Whitehill: Oh, yes. Sure.

Back on the hill it's time to fire up. Junior Royston is his helper. It pretty much boils down to this: 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup. The Whitehills have been tapping trees on this hillside since the 1820s. Ken makes the sixth generation. But will there be a seventh?

"We hope so," Ken said.

He did have a granddaughter who came for two seasons, but she got married and moved on. He also wonders about the future of small operations like his.

"Of course, through the years I've lost a lot of my old customers," Ken said. "They've died."

For now, he's only thinking of boiling in his woods.

"Well, we have a ways to go," Ken said, holding up a ladle.

It's a sweet life.

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