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May 13, 2012

Driving Around Vermont
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:54 PM * 56 comments

Earlier this month Doyle and I found ourselves in mid-state New Hampshire quite early in the day. We had a few hours before we were to arrive at where we wanted to be next, so the thought came to us, “Why not visit Joseph Smith’s birthplace?”

Yes, we get thoughts like that more often than we’d like to admit.

So, from Lebanon, New Hampshire, where we happened to be, we went cruising up I-89 (Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Highway), to Exit 2 in Vermont, for Joseph Smith was a Vermonter. At Exit 2 we headed south on VT-132 to its end (not terribly far away) in the town of Sharon, an entirely quaintly picturesque New England town (as almost anywhere more than 500 yards off the highway tends to be in these parts). At the end of the road we turned west, cruising along VT-14 along the banks of the White River (best known, perhaps, from a town a bit farther downstream called White River Junction, where the White River and the Connecticut River meet; a town that once boasted seven rail lines and four depots). So we passed from Sharon into Royalton, Vermont, still along the banks of the White River.

This is farming and dairy country. Spring plowing (and fertilizing) was underway. Farther on we came to the junction of VT-14 and Dairy Hill Road (by no means a misnomer — the road had a section of 12% grade, and dairies lined the road on both sides). There, at the junction, we spotted a sign:

JOSEPH SMITH MONUMENT
Mormon Prophet’s Birthplace. Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Lattter-day Saints, was born near here on December 23, 1805. A visitor’s center and a 38½ foot tall monument, considered the world’s largest polished granite shaft, commemorates his life and is located at the birthplace 2½ miles up Dairy Hill Road. The site is open year round.

Sounded like the right place, and who doesn’t want to see the world’s largest polished granite shaft? We went up (and up, and up, and up) the road.

Sure enough, a couple of miles farther on, off to the right we spotted LDS Lane. That was it, all right.

LDS Lane went back quite a way from Dairy Hill Road. Past a Mormon church. Past a small graveyard. Past a field. Past the bus parking. Past yet another welcome sign. Then, suddenly, without warning, there it was on the left: The tallest polished granite shaft in the world.

They don’t make ‘em like that any more.

It was still pretty early; we were the only ones there. Up at the monument itself, starting on the south face, the inscription reads:

Sacred to the memory of Joseph Smith, the prophet. Born here 23d. December 1805, martyred, Carthage, Illinois, 27th. June 1844.
On the north face, the inscription reads:
TESTIMONY OF JOSEPH SMITH.
In the spring of the year of our Lord 1820, the Father and the Son appeared to him in a glorious vision, called him by name and instructed him.
Thereafter heavenly angels visited him and revealed the principles of the Gospel, restored the authority of the holy priesthood and the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ in its fullness and perfection.
The engraved plates of the Book of Mormon were given him by the angel Moroni. These he translated by the gift and power of God.
He organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on the sixth day of April 1830, with six members.
He devoted his life to the establishment of this Church, and sealed the testimony with his blood.
In his ministry he was constantly supported by his brother Hyrum Smith, who suffered martyrdom with him.
Over a million converts to this testimony have been made throughout the world; and this monument has been erected in his honor, to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of his birth, by members of the Church which he organized they love and revere him as a Prophet of God, and call his name blessed forever and ever. Amen.
An inscription around the monument, beginning on the south face and continuing onto the east, north, and west faces, reads:
IF ANY OF YOU LACK WISDOM LET HIM ASK OF GOD THAT GIVETH TO ALL MEN LIBERALLY AND UPBRAIDETH NOT: AND IT SHALL BE GIVEN HIM. James 1:5

It was still early; we hadn’t had any coffee. The welcome center wasn’t open yet (and I had a sneaking suspicion that even if it were coffee wouldn’t be on the menu). So we retreated back down the hill to the town of Sharon, where we’d seen a place that advertized breakfast. Given that this was a farming community, and given that they opened at 05:30, I expected that coffee would be available. And so it was that we came to Sandy’s Drive-In Lunch.

When we pulled up to Sandy’s we were the only folks there. There’s a small inside dining room, though mostly it’s set up to be an order-at-the-window sort of place. We went inside, and got our coffee. Which was good coffee.

Mostly it was just us: me and Doyle. A gent did come in and had breakfast while we were hanging out nursing our coffees, but not much other custom. So I had a chance to talk with the waitress, Cheryl. Sandy’s only re-opened in March of this year. They’d been pretty well devastated by Hurricane Irene. Cheryl brought out her photograph albums and we paged through them. The place had been a wreck. The water level had been even with the bottom of the roof. (She pointed out the line on the wall, above my head, that had been the high-water mark.) When you consider that the White River is across the road and, on the day we were there, the water level was about twenty feet below the street level … well, I was impressed. (Amazed that the building was still standing would be a better way to put it.)

The fire station, just up the road, had apparently been devastated. (The building with the red roof to the left of Sandy’s in the photo is the firehouse.)

Sandy’s didn’t have flood insurance, but that wasn’t a bad thing, I heard. The folks who did have flood insurance never got any money out of it. Going to year-round service rather than three-season was to pay off the loans they’d had to take out to rebuild.

Sandy’s is apparently right on the shake/frappe line: They advertised both shakes and frappes on the menu tacked to the wall, with different prices for each. The breakfast special omelet smelled pretty good. But Doyle and I had lunch planned for later on, so didn’t have anything to eat right then.

And so we departed, and carried on with the rest of our day.

Comments on Driving Around Vermont:
#1 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 12:01 AM:

I love reading your travel stories, Jim.

#2 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 12:31 AM:

Are there many Mormon "pilgrims" who visit places like this?

* * *
I never knew that frappes were regional, or were an alternative to shakes. I'd figured they were simply an old fashioned dessert.

(I remember having a frappe as a young kid at a snack counter [as opposed to the actual sit-down restaurant] at the Sears store in Hicksville, LI. Served in a metal cup that you had to give back. It's been forty years, but I could show you exactly where that snack counter was.)(Assuming that the Sears is still there.)

#3 ::: Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 12:44 AM:

There are two different things called "frappes." Or rather, there are frappes and frappés. The former is a New England milk shake; the latter is a Canadian fruit dessert.

"Frappe" is one syllable; "frappé" is two.

Once upon a time, New Englanders had a different drink called a milk shake -- milk with flavored syrup, no ice cream. I think those are extinct, but I've encountered a few places that distinguish between a frappe, made with real ice cream, and a milk shake, made from a mix. Maybe Sandy's does that?

#4 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 01:21 AM:

In 2005 an 8-foot tall statue of Smith was unveiled in Old Slip Park (near the Police Museum) in lower Manhattan. The statue was there for about a year. I couldn't find any references as to where the statue was moved in 2006. I remember looking at it and wondering why it was there. And why is was so tall.

#5 ::: Marc Mielke ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 04:33 AM:

Can you get souvenir t-shirts proclaiming "Home of the World's Largest Granite Shaft"?

#6 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 05:26 AM:

Mark Mielke @5:

World's Largest Polished Granite Shaft

I can't think of anything further to say that is not irredeemably dirty. So let's leave it at that.

#7 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 06:29 AM:

Lawrence@3: They aren't extinct. I work near an ice cream place that sells both milk shakes and frappes. They warn you on the menu placard that the milk shake contains no ice cream.

#8 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 07:59 AM:

John Chu -- warnings are good! However, it isn't always apparent that they might be necessary. When my German in-laws made their first-ever trip to the States, they were happy to find what they thought was Eiskaffee on a menu. Of course the menu item was "iced coffee", not the expected concoction of vanilla ice cream, coffee and whipped cream. They were very disconcerted.

#9 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 08:07 AM:

Debbie - Iced coffee is like jinnentonik - you never quite know what you'll get - I've ordered it and received frozen blender coffee, coffee and sweetened condensed milk over ice, and black coffee with some ice cubes in it.

#10 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 08:32 AM:

Presumably the Mormons gave Joe Smith's birthplace the shaft.

#11 ::: Nanette ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 09:09 AM:

If I do my math correctly this revelation occurred at the age of 15? Hmmmm. Fascinating. Loved this bit of travelogue.

#12 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 09:51 AM:

"If I do my math correctly this revelation [in 1820] occurred at the age of 15?"

Yes, but note that he didn't publish the Book of Mormon until 1830, and didn't tell the story of the 1820 revelation in public until 1832.

#13 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 10:41 AM:

Stefan Jones @2:

Are there many Mormon "pilgrims" who visit places like this?
Sure. In her retirement, my Granny ran a charter bus tour business that did an annual Mormon and American history tour. Her customers were all Mormon retirees who hadn't done much traveling and weren't going to do much more, so the emphasis was on iconic sites. Aside from the details of the technology, and the focus on history and inspiration rather than penance and indulgence, it was very like a medieval pilgrimage: see the holy sites, collect the postcards.

The route got to the East Coast as fast as possible (TX, AR, TN, VA), then commenced the American history section. Before the church got so international, Mormon belief tended to conflate their own religious history with Revolutionary War-era American history. We thus saw Mount Vernon, Williamsburg, Jamestown, monuments in Washington, D.C., the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, a bus tour of Manhattan (plus a Rockettes show and a movie at Radio City Music Hall), and the usual patriotic sites in Boston.

After that it was heavy Mormon History all the way. In Palmyra, NY, we got the Smith family home and the Sacred Grove, where there were signs prohibiting hymn-singing in the area. Years later, I laughed when I ran across a complaint from the priests at Santiago de Compostela during its heyday as a pilgrimage destination:

All sorts of noises and languages can be heard together, discordant shouts, barbarous singing in German, English, Greek and every other language under the sun.
Near there we got the theoretical high point of the tour: the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Aside from the unfamiliarity of the stories it referenced, and the absence of humorous interludes, there was very little about it that would have been alien to the audiences of medieval mystery and miracle plays. I hear it's much improved since Scott Card rewrote it.

Joseph Smith's birthplace in Vermont was a must-see, of course. We didn't get breakfast at any of the eateries thereabouts because the Iocal Mormon ward did daily pancake breakfasts as a fundraiser throughout the tourist season. I remember finding the World's Tallest Polished Granite Shaft moderately interesting. I was a bit too young to think anything else about it.

After that we were off to Kirtland, Ohio, Nauvoo and Carthage in Illinois, Council Bluffs in Iowa, Winter Quarters in Nebraska, and Salt Lake City, which were all in chronological order because the history in question happened during the westward migrations. After SLC we made a stop at the Grand Canyon, then headed home to Phoenix/Mesa -- tired, but satisfyingly stuffed full of patriotic and sectarian feeling.

#14 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 10:53 AM:

Aside from the details of the technology, and the focus on history and inspiration rather than penance and indulgence, it was very like a medieval pilgrimage: see the holy sites, collect the postcards.

Presumably not "tell the smutty stories in the inn each evening", though.

#15 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 10:53 AM:

I'd presumed from the Ample Parking that there had to be a lot of visitors.

#16 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 10:58 AM:

Teresa @ 13... it was very like a medieval pilgrimage: see the holy sites, collect the postcards

Postcards? That sounds like an "Asterix" version of the Middle-Ages...

#17 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 11:00 AM:

Ajay: Mercy, no. Not in front of each other.

#18 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 12:53 PM:

I've often thought that founders of religions fall into three overlapping categories: 1. Crazy people, 2. Con artists, and 3. People who had no intention of founding a religion.

You can leave out 3 if you count the people who made whatever-it-is a religion as the founders (as opposed to the person who had the visions or did the teaching or whatever).

I think Gerald Gardner (founder of Wicca) was mostly a con artist, otherwise rather similar to Joseph Smith (bad-fake-archaic-language "ancient" texts revealed by a mysterious figure never seen by anyone other than him; desire to get naked with lots of women, etc.).

I suspect Smith was some of each, really, depending on whether he really did start having visions at 15 or just lied about it later. The trouble is that some things that sound like obvious cons (like the "I can read these texts with my magic rocks, but only once each" thing) could be delusions as well. IANAPsychologist anyway, and people who are (and are responsible) don't try to diagnose someone they can't interview.

This is not to say, btw, that a religion founded by a con man or a madman has no validity. Despite Gerald Gardner's lies and base motives, he created something real (in that it works, not that it was really as ancient as he said). And Mormonism, much as I don't at all believe the founding stories or theology (or really anything else about it), and am highly critical of the interactions of the LDS church with the larger community...Mormonism has its upside. There are many admirable things about the communities they form (for example, one family fallen on hard times is never going to go hungry in a Mormon community, or even if they have Mormon neighbors).

#19 ::: Archergal ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 01:06 PM:

Whenever I see something like "world's largest polished granite shaft" I always think of Sherri Tepper's line from The Gate to Women's Country:

an erection suitable to a parade ground

:)

#20 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 01:50 PM:

Archergal: Is that an obelisk in your pocket...?

(Best line of that book: "Stavia, it even has a prepuce!")

#21 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 02:05 PM:

Give a whole new meaning to "The Two Towers", eh?

#22 ::: Manny ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 02:32 PM:

Jim Macdonald @15: Ample parking could be aspirational.

#23 ::: grackle ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 03:17 PM:

Not that I doubt that Mr. Smith's monument is the world's tallest polished granite shaft but I'm at a loss as to which adjective creates that distinction. It must be "polished," because even a quick look at the Wikipedia entry on obelisks shows that probably most of the surviving Egyptian ones, scattered now throughout the hegemonic world, are taller and since some are described as being of granite, one might assume that many are. Can anyone correct my impression or clarify the assertion? I could easily be missing something here.

#24 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 03:55 PM:

Anyone can have a sign made.

#25 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 03:58 PM:

Is ample parking the same thing as huge tracts of land?

#26 ::: Howard ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 04:11 PM:

I am ashamed to realize that I have lived this close to such a... unique place, and yet have never visited it.

#27 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 04:46 PM:

Serge -

I think "ample parking" is the "huge tracts of land" of the southern hemisphere. So to speak.

#28 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 04:57 PM:

@TNH: Thanks for the run-down. I work with a few LDS fellers, but I'd be embarrassed to ask if they'd been to Polished Shaft.

#29 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 06:00 PM:

It's surprising (to me at least) that a faith so intimately bound up in the geography and social setting of the 19th-century USA managed to export itself to Britain and establish a permanent presence as early as 1837. (Two missionaries with LDS identifying badges—nice young American men in grey suits—stopped me on the street five years ago; when I told them I was Catholic and not shopping around for a new home they asked me when I thought the age of prophecy had ended, a question I've never been asked before or since; I stuttered something about Acts Of The Apostles. We had quite a nice little chat actually, and I hope they didn't get too much abuse on that particular street from the typical mix of hurrying, angry office workers and alfresco White Lightning topers).

#30 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 06:23 PM:

The Mormon Mishes don't try to talk to me on the street. I guess I'm pretty scary looking from their point of view.

#31 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 07:44 PM:

Xopher:

If you're scary looking so am I, since the missionaries leave me alone too. This is possible, depending on their criteria; I am just amused because you and I don't look alike, beyond "light-skinned humans wearing ordinary American clothing of the early 21st century."

#32 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 09:02 PM:

Xopher Halftongue @18, Steve with a book @29. I was reading something within the past couple of weeks about why Mormons apparently tend to make successful entrepreneurs. The author suggested that resilience and cultural competence are built by being sent off to do your mission time, with no control over where you go, often required to learn a new language and immerse yourself in a new culture, and spending all your time trying to sell people something that most of them aren't interested in buying.

#33 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 09:08 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @13: I hear it's much improved since Scott Card rewrote it.

A person who had a part in the pageant told me it used to run 6 hours; Scott Card got it down to 3.

#34 ::: Cassy B ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 10:14 PM:

Lawrence @3,

My (Connecticut-born) husband once warned me that if I ordered a "shake" in his home town I'd get what I would call a "malt" (it's got malted milk in it); if I wanted a (Midwestern US) "shake" I should order a "frappe" (pronounced to rhyme with "trap"). I don't know if that was a regionalism or merely a peculiarity of his local ice-cream store....

Cassy

#35 ::: auroranibley ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 11:08 PM:

Steve @29, I do believe that a lot of the success of the Church in the UK was due to timing--most of the converts they got in England were working class people who didn't have very many prospects at home. So when the missionaries (at that time, the apostles of the church, as well!) showed up, they were offering both temporal AND spiritual opportunities. AFAIK, things worked out pretty well for most of the folks who decided to get baptised and hop the pond.

#36 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 11:30 PM:

I had never before read about Joseph Smith's martyrdom, and I found it somewhat interesting. After a local paper was published that defamed the Mormon church, and Smith in particular, he got the local government (which he largely ran) to pass an ordinance to destroy the press as a public nuisance and did so.

When outside warrants were brought for his arrest, he disregarded them, declared martial law, and organized a militia. He ended up surrendering to the a state charge of riot that was upgraded to treason when he was in custody. The people supposed to protect him did nothing when a mob came to kill him.

Most people I've read about being referred to as martyrs aren't martyred for obstructing the free press and raising a 5000-man militia to fight off the government, but that might just be my naivete showing.

(That's according to Wikipedia, not any in-depth research. Also of note from Wikipedia the population of Nauvoo, the city where the LDS primarily was, "peaked at about this time in 1845; it may have had as many as 12,000 inhabitants (and several nearly as large suburbs) — rivaling Chicago, whose 1845 population was about 15,000.")

#37 ::: auroranibley ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2012, 12:46 AM:

To be clear the "people who were supposed to protect" Joseph Smith were his jailers, not his followers. Also, in Missouri it was legal to shoot a Mormon into the 1970s. I don't know about the specific press that was supposedly destroyed, but once a population suffers a few pogroms you can understand why they'd want to form a militia.

#38 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2012, 08:26 AM:

In France, the "Force du Frappe" is the country's nuclear weapons, which makes me wonder about the connection to milk shakes.

#39 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2012, 09:49 AM:

nerdycellist @ 27... Heheheh

#40 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2012, 01:29 PM:

Watching a locally made documentary here a day or so ago I learned that Palmyra has the print shop that cranked out the first edition of the Book of Mormon, turned into a museum. They also... what? There's a coverlet museum there? A whole museum of bedspreads??

Gotta run!

#41 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2012, 02:11 PM:

Xopher HalfTongue@30, Vicki@31: it's weird what signals I evidently broadcast to potential interactors on the street. Chuggers think I look like the sort of person who approves of their charities, which is usually true, but evidently my dislike of the practice of chugging (and policy never to sign up for stuff on the street) doesn't show. And presumably because I walk quickly and know where I'm going, people ask me for directions, which I'm not good at giving (particularly if driving directions are needed, as I have only a pedestrian's mental map of my town).

#42 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2012, 11:06 PM:

rea @38:
If I'm remembering my high school French correctly, 'frapper' (or some similarly-spelled verb) means something along the lines of "to strike" or "to beat". The connection to both should be fairly obvious.

#43 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2012, 12:43 AM:

Steve with a book @ 41: "Chuggers" is a new term to me - useful. It seems as if their fresh, smiling faces and evil clipboards loom at every corner in Portland. I swear I've seen one on each corner of an intersection. I do generally support the causes they are pushing, but I don't donate on street corners, and I'm sick of being pounced on.

#44 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2012, 12:51 AM:

Kip W@#40 -

Having now googled "coverlet museum", I am half-convinced this is viral website for an upcoming Christopher Guest movie. I am both delighted and amused that such a thing exists. Also, it has given me a new favorite sentence, perhaps best experienced entirely devoid of context: "... Mr. H___ has pledged his coverlets to the Museum."

#45 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2012, 11:00 AM:

RE: frappés.

To me (bartending experience) a frappé is crushed ice with liqueur poured over it. (Like an adult snowcone.)

It is fun to notice how many uses one word can be put to.

#46 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2012, 04:10 PM:

Joseph Smith was a very imaginative story teller. He should have been a science fiction writer, but he was born a century too soon.

#47 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2012, 05:05 PM:

TomB @46: Robert Silverberg wrote a book titled The Mound Builders.

In one section, he describes in the 1800s there had been more than one book published describing a fanciful history to account for the mounds.

IIRC, Silverberg claims Smith had been a fan of one of these publications, and that an analysis of The Book of Mormon showed a significant 'borrowing' from the story; the King James Bible being the other book significantly borrowed from.

#48 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2012, 07:10 PM:

In one of his essays, Loren Eiseley describes an encounter with a man who offered him an extraordinary-looking fossil. I forget its nature, but it was the sort of thing that made the naturalist plotz.

The problem was, the offer had strings attached. The guy wanted Eiseley to buy into his delusion of a Golden Age in pre-historic America. He wanted Eiseley to do this in print, lending the author's reputation to the guy's imaginings of a utopian lost civilization.

Eiseley didn't go for it, but felt really bad about losing access to the fossil.

#49 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2012, 04:05 PM:

Rob Rusick @47: Thanks for the recommendation. It reminds me that I've always liked Silverberg's non-fiction. He has written a lot of it. Including an unabridged version, Mound Builders of Ancient America: The Archaeology of a Myth, which I will seek out.

#50 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2012, 10:51 PM:

janetl @43: It seems as if their fresh, smiling faces and evil clipboards loom at every corner in Portland. I swear I've seen one on each corner of an intersection.

They're definitely on all four corners of at least one intersection in downtown Minneapolis, and have been for what seems like months. They wear green vests with the name of what they're fundraising for (Child Fund? I'll look next time I'm down there, and make a note) and they carry clipboards and they are persistent. Very persistent.

Chuggers. Yep.

#51 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2012, 12:48 AM:

elise @ 50: I just evade the chuggers downtown, but the ones that ring my front door bell are a bigger annoyance. I have, on at least two occasions, startled an earnest young thing by taking the conversation away from the Good Cause and into Proper Clipboard Technique.

One of my young friends once went door-to-door for Greenpeace or something, and she told the tale of how they were trained to use their clipboards. If you manage to get the person talking, you hold out the clipboard to them edge-on, so they can't read what is on it. They naturally take in in their hands to angle it for reading -- and your odds of reeling them in just went up dramatically.

Of course, after demonstrating this technique, I hand them back their clipboard and shoo them off of my porch.

#52 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2012, 06:40 AM:

TomB @49: Thanks for the links. I had read The Mound Builders at one time; I hadn't realized it was an abridged book — it would be interesting to read the expanded version.

Joseph Smith was a very imaginative story teller. He should have been a science fiction writer [..]

I was thinking perhaps Smith was not even that, but a plagiarist — and here is a real science-fiction writer who hints at that.

#53 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2012, 10:11 AM:

I have been just shaking my head at those people, or saying "I could spare two minutes, but I can't spare any money," but I think next time it's going to be "How much are they paying you to do this?" Just to see the reaction. I don't object to nonprofits paying their staff; I do object to them pretending that this is out of the goodness of their hearts.

Come to think, the last time I was accosted by such a person, it was for the Human Rights Campaign, at a point where I was annoyed at the organization anyway. So the conversation went something like

Them: Can you spare a minute for gay rights?
Me: I'm not giving to an organization that denies bisexuals exist and doesn't care about trans issues.

They really aren't prepared for someone who already has an opinion about the organization. (I am sure that if I had written to their headquarters, I'd have gotten some sort of excuse/defense. But the chugger on the street? He doesn't know and/or hasn't been given a script.

#54 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2012, 10:23 AM:

Vicki @53: I was approached (when I was in a bad mood and a hurry) by an extremely limpet-like Greenpeace volunteer who said, perkily, "Can you spare a minute to save the planet?"

I said something like, "I've been separating my trash since at least five years before you were born, and I got my first WWF membership when *I* was five. Save it for someone who doesn't KNOW how to save the planet," and brushed past her while she was still fishfacing.

#55 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2012, 02:22 PM:

We're in the midst of a major spam attack. I'm on it.

#56 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2012, 02:26 PM:

I'm on it too, Jim

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