Gas, Grub & Gossip: Maple Syrup and Life Lessons

Country stores are good places to get what you need and to see everything from friendly faces to ghosts.

By: Drew Bratcher

Glenn Heatwole and daughter Christina of Sugar Tree Country Store in McDowell, Virginia.

Glenn Heatwole hoped to hand over his cattle farm to his kids, but there was a problem: The kids didn’t like milking cows. Luckily for Heatwole, they don’t mind boring holes into trees. In late winter, the family now collects sap from maple trees to make syrup in the sugar house on the back of their Sugar Tree Country Store in McDowell, Virginia. Inside the store—which survived Stonewall Jackson’s Valley campaign in the Civil War—jugs of syrup line shelves alongside jars of apple butter and jellies. Heatwole’s daughters weave rugs. “We’re still learning,” Heatwole says. “And we’ll be learning as long as we’re living.”

Photograph by David Deal