GrandPapa's Letter part 12
The Cider Press
THE CIDER PRESS was located about a mile south from our house, away down beyond the Grave Yard, and beyond Pratt's Hill. It was a good long walk to get to it, but what boy ever demurred to walking a mile for a suck of sweet cider, fresh from the press? I never knew him. This press was none of your new fangled ones but was a genuine patriarch; It stood a few feet back from the road, in a little swale, through which ran a tiny creek, and was two storeys high, the second storey being on a level with the road, and the first one, which was seven or eight feet high, was approachable only from the other side; The upper storey was the one into which the farmers dumped their apples by the wagonload, and was at the level of the road from which it was approached; On this floor the apples were shovelled into the great hopper, or funnel which was level with the floor, and reached into the mouth of the Press below;
The Press itself was an immense hogshead or vat, strongly bound with iron hoops, but with holes in the lower ends of the staves, and in the bottom, through which the delicious juice of the apples squirted and oozed, to fall into the vat and troughs below. The hogshead or vat was first supplied with a thick carpet of nice clean straw, and upon this was laid a thick layer of apple pulp, apples which had been ground in a mill beside the hopper, then another layer of straw and of apple pulp was laid upon this, and so on until the vat was full, then a wooden cover which fitted closely into the vat was placed On top of all. and a great wooden screw fastened to the top of this cover. This screw ran up through the upper floor and through a stationary nut, and had a long lever attached to it, which was pulled round and round by an old blind white horse, in the basement, and to us his slow solemn pace was the very poetry of motion, for with each advancing step he tightened the head of the vat and caused to flow in steady streams from the side and bottom of the vat little rivulets of the Juice of the apples; SWEET CIDER: ? ? nectar fit for the Gods ?
It was one of the stolen Joys, and so of course of the doubly sweet ones of our school days, to run away from school and suck this nectar through immaculate wheat or rye straws, just as it came all fresh and delicious from the yielding pulp of the golden fruit. I remember several occasions when I visited this press in the company of all the boys and girls and with the sanction of our parents, but it is my belief that the cider was never quite so good as when we ran away from school to get it, and had to hurry back to escape punishment.