CHELSEA, Vt. (WCAX) It maybe hard to believe, but spring is less than a month away. It's also the start of a Vermont tradition.
"Oh yes, I'm always excited when sugaring is around the corner," said Hale Mattoon. The Chelsea native is sweet on syrup. "I always told my dad in September, 'I can't wait for sugaring comes.'"
Throughout his sugarhouse there's relics from the past like sap boiling doors -- most from companies long gone.
But it's up the hill past the maple trees where he keeps most of his treasures. Arguably the largest collection of maple syrup cans and sap spouts in the state.
Reporter Joe Carroll: What's your favorite can?
Hale Mattoon: Ah, I have many, many.
There's Empire State cans, Canadian cans, even a Colorado container. Pretty on the outside but lacking in the inside. "Imitation maple syrup made from cane sugar," Matoon said.
But it's the Vermont ones that mostly fill the shelves.
Reporter Joe Carroll: Do you feel like you're preserving Vermont history?
Hale Mattoon: Yes, I do.
But he doesn't collect alone. His wife Diane specializes in maple syrup bowls and molds.
Their love story isn't sappy. It started at The Tunbridge World's Fair. Diane, just 16, was showing a horse. Hale, a few years older, was taking care of her uncle's race horse.
"I guess you'd have to say we met at the horse barn," Hale said.
"Well, that's where we met," Diane added.
That Saturday night they went to the fair together. "I won a teddy bear for her by putting a soft ball in an old type milk can -- you toss -- I put all three of them in," Matoon said.
From that point on, Hale was Diane's sweetie. He took her to the junior prom and as a joke he handed her a bouquet of dandelions.
Hale Matoon: I said, 'I brought you something, Diane.' She graciously took them, never said a word, headed for the car and headed for the prom.
Reporter Joe Carroll: That's a keeper.
Hale Matoon: That's right.
Diane Matoon: That's because -- you want to know why? I knew he didn't make much money working on the farms, so.
He did bring a corsage and later popped the question. They have been married close to 60 years. Hale's love affair with all things maple started with just one sap spout.
"And he thought it got lonely, so he got another one. And now they aren't lonely anymore I guess you would say," Diane said.
From wooden to Civil War era spouts, the couple have even written two books on the history of sugaring.
Reporter Joe Carroll: Do you have more to collect?
Hale Mattoon: Spouts? Yes, there are still some out there that I don't have. That's the fun of it.
A rich collection that's more than a drop in a bucket. "Once it gets into your blood, it's there!" Matoon said.