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July 9, 2012

Yankee Drollery
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:28 AM * 46 comments

As you travel around the New England states, particularly the secondary roads, you’re frequently surprised by little wayside parks, picnic areas, family graveyards, and historical markers. You never know what you’ll find; if you have some time it’s fun to stop and explore.

It’s a good idea, when you’re driving a long way, to stop every two hours or so, get out of your car, walk around, stretch your legs. And so, at just such a time, I came to a little roadside park on the west side of Island Pond Road (VT Rte. 114), between Lost Nation Road and Hawk Rock Road in East Haven, Vermont (population 301).

You can see a bit of the parking area in the photo here. Farther back there’s a trim green with a couple of park benches and a stone memorial marker. That memorial marker has a plaque attached, informing all of the importance of the place.

Here’s a closeup of that plaque.

You just never know what you’re going to find in New England.

44 deg 40.534N
71 deg 52.873W

Note: Not to be confused with Droll Yankee, a birdhouse and bird-feeder manufacturer. We have several of their products and endorse them without reservation.
Comments on Yankee Drollery:
#1 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 01:16 AM:

Just someone's sense of humor, or did they do the whole process for some other reason, then decide not to admit to whatever it was? Perhaps the ELDER GODS didn't want IT commemorated?

We'll never know.

#2 ::: Mishalak ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 01:43 AM:

I love whoever erected this plaque. Seriously, I love the strange whimsy of it. The only thing I can think of that would top it would be a lamppost mysteriously erected deep in a forest for no apparent reason by persons unknown.

#3 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 04:12 AM:

Maybe it proceeded to cause major diplomatic ructions and the establishment of new alliances against a possible threat that nobody was treating with sufficient seriousness?

... no, didn't think so.

#4 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 06:29 AM:

My favorite version of this plaque concludes with, NOTHING HAS HAPPENED SINCE THEN AND WE LIKE IT THAT WAY.

#5 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 07:46 AM:

Somebody must have really gotten around. In my old stomping grounds in Fairhaven [South Bellingham, WA] there are some markers scattered around, including a "nothing happened here" if I recall rightly. There is one saying where some man got cut in half by a streetcar (the concrete base has a couple of parallel rust streaks), a pool at a creek outlet where stray dogs were supposedly drowned, and a spot where a wagon disappeared under quicksand (the quicksand is no longer there, I guess it sank too.) I am not sure who masterminded all this, but there was one of the local historians some time back who didn't have a whole lot of loyalty to the truth, at least when it came to his newsletter.

#6 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 07:55 AM:

The interesting thing about this plaque is how *specific* it is. If nothing happening in 1897 is considered worthy of note, what happened in all the other years to make 1897 so special?

#7 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 08:02 AM:

The horror. The HORROR?

#8 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 08:17 AM:

Chris @6

One thing that would be worth checking was the date this micro-park was built. It wouldn't surprise me if it were built in 1997.

#9 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 08:35 AM:

chris, #6: You can buy those plaques out of the kinds of catalogs that sell Loch Ness Monster sculptures for your garden and tree faces. They all say 1897, as far as I've been able to tell. I don't know why the original manufacturer chose 1897.

#10 ::: Narmitaj ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 09:32 AM:

It seems that in Global terms it is the 11th April 1954 that is the most boring day in history. Apart from a general election in Belgium and it being my brother's 5th birthday, apparently nothing much of note happened.

#12 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 09:49 AM:

I'm so happy to see one of those in the wild. I have one sitting above the sink. As far as I know, nothing happened here in 1897 either.

#13 ::: Marian ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 09:58 AM:

There's a similar plaque on the side of building here in downtown New Orleans. I wonder if someone peddles them by the case.

#14 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 10:02 AM:

Mass-producing these plaques makes perfect sense. There are so many places where nothing is happening at any given time.

#15 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 10:24 AM:

Wow, Jim, I've never seen any of those other versions--there's one on a building in the Strip district, for example, and it's identical to the one in your little park. A friend's parents had one, too, and it was another rectangle with 1897. I guess it's the kind of joke that occurs to a lot of people. :)

#16 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 11:10 AM:

They may be animated by the spirit of Bishop Wolfger of Passau whose account book records a number of things (such as three solidi given to Walther von der Vogelweide), including "sabbato apud crugelar nihil expendimus".

#17 ::: Fragano Ledgister has been Gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 11:27 AM:

I'll hand the gnomes a glass of rum.

#18 ::: Jack V ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 11:29 AM:

I heard someone made a ridiculous effort to figure out where and when nothing was going to happen next and went there, like geohashing, except she never came back...

Of course, a couple of things suggest this isn't actually true (such as the fact that I just made it up :))

#19 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 11:52 AM:

Jack V @17 -- the places where nothing is remembered as happening are the places where the walls between worlds have ruptured for a moment. Nothing is remembered as having happened there because our minds are too good at censoring the unthinkable. So seeking them out, to find them while Nothing Is Happening, is a good way to get into a rather interesting adventure.

#20 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 12:28 PM:

I want to erect a historical marker somewhere along I-80 between Laramie and Rock Springs announcing that on this site 3.7 million years ago the wind started blowing and has never stopped since.

#21 ::: Rick York ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 07:30 PM:

Sometimes, that's a perfect day.

#22 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 08:54 PM:

Some years back I was playing a hypercard game by ZBS media. Basically a puzzle game; frustrating because there was no 'save game' — when you got an answer wrong, you were bounced out of the game and had to start over from the beginning.

One question was something like: "What happened in Kansas in 1889?". I did some library research on that, but I couldn't find anything compelling.*

I described this problem to a friend while I was trying out possibilities. Facetiously he said "What happened in Kansas in 1889? — nothing!". I blinked, and typed in 'nothing'.

Which was of course the answer.

* My original line was 'I did some library research on that, but found nothing convincing'. But that would suggest I should have come up with 'nothing' on my own.

#23 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 08:56 PM:

Amazon has the identical 1897 plaque listed for sale, but is apparently out of them:

#24 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 08:56 PM:

mishalak @ #2:

No, that lamppost grew there. From a cutting.

#25 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 10:19 PM:

What do men love more than life,
Hate more than death or mortal strife?
What does the contented man desire,
The beggar have and the rich man require?
What is more needful than air's breath
But when breathed or eaten brings on death?
What do misers spend and spenthrifts save
And all take with them to the grave?

#26 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 03:10 AM:

Nice, David. I hadn't seen that before. Yours?

#27 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 03:43 AM:

Thanks, but not mine -- at least, mostly not. I encountered it (sans lines 5 and 6) in a digest of questions and answers from the Usenet Oracle. I don't recall the Oracle's answer, save that it was spectacularly unhelpful. I took the time to figure out the intended answer (something that people in this thread will have done instantly, I'm sure, but I didn't have the contextual clues present here!) and in the process got the riddle by heart. I always assumed it originated in a game of some sort, but I don't know for sure.

Peter David used a version of it in one of his comics, but memory fails me which one -- maybe Fallen Angel? His didn't rhyme, but had the bit about "...if you eat it you die". I composed lines 5 and 6 here and now, inspired by that.

#28 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 03:53 AM:

...and, when googling to see if anyone had a source for the riddle (lots of riddle collections including, none immediately visible with any history) I found out that I posted it here before, just about a year ago in Open Thread 161! That time I asked if the poets here might add to the riddle. I guess this time I was more inspired.

#29 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 04:16 AM:

Well, I like what you did with it.

And oh, the Usenet Oracle! I remember finding the Oracle, and being delighted. I'm almost afraid to go back and read the answers, for fear the Suck Fairy might have got at them.

#30 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 12:12 PM:

David Goldfarb @25 -- Similarly, there's the proof that a ham sandwich is better than complete happiness in life.

#31 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 01:59 PM:

Tom Whitmore@30: I don't know for sure that a ham sandwich is better than complete happiness in life, but I do know that it's actually possible to obtain a ham sandwich.

#32 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 02:21 PM:

It's simple transitivity. Nothing is better than complete happiness in life, right? Well, a ham sandwich is better than nothing!

#33 ::: Teka Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 11:01 PM:

"Twas whispered in heaven, 'twas muttered in hell,
And echo caught faintly the sound as it fell;
On the confines of earth 'twas permitted to rest,
And the depths of the ocean its presence confessed;
'Twill be found in the sphere when 'tis riven asunder,
Be seen in the lightning, and heard in the thunder.
'Twas allotted to man with his earliest breath,
It assists at his birth and attends him in death,
Presides o'er his happiness, honor, and health,
Is the prop of his house and the end of his wealth,
In the heaps of the miser is hoarded with care,
But is sure to be lost in his prodigal heir.
It begins every hope, every wish it must bound,
It prays with the hermit, with monarchs is crowned;
Without it the soldier, the sailor, may roam,
But woe to the wretch who expels it from home.
In the whisper of conscience 'tis sure to be found,
Nor e'en in the whirlwind of passion is drowned;
'Twill soften the heart, but though deaf to the ear,
It will make it acutely and instantly hear;
But, in short, let it rest like a delicate flower;
Oh, breathe on it softly, it dies in an hour."

-- Catherine Fanshawe

#34 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 04:43 AM:

Mishalak @ #2:

There's a wood in Minnesota that has a lone lamppost erected in the middle of it. It doesn't quite fit the bill, because there's still plenty of people who remember who put it there and why, but if it lasts long enough...

#35 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 07:54 AM:

Paul A @ 34... Hey, that's James MacAvoy!

#36 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 03:07 PM:

Teka Lynn @ 33

Oooo, I got it! And I'm not saying, so as not to spoil it. As proof I know, I'm keeping mum about it. Do I pass?

#37 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 04:01 PM:

Paul A @ 34, do you by chance mean this lamppost?

#38 ::: Syd is having tea with Their Gnomishnesses ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 04:04 PM:

My comment that should have been #37 and which contains a link to an Author's Blog re: a lamp post.

My apologies to the gnomes. Would you like to share my madeleines?

#39 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 11:43 PM:

Nice, Syd! Thanks for sharing that.

#40 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 12:56 AM:

Teka Lynn @ 33: I like. It completely foxed me on first encounter; I shrugged and forgot about it; then, staggering up this morning with the sleep still in my eyes and the riot still in my hair, I hit Cally's comment and scrolled back for a refresher, whereat it hit me like a speeding cluebat. Hard.

#41 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 05:26 AM:

I'm pretty sure that I got #33, but I don't quite see how Cally's comment relates. I will say that you won't find the answer by looking briefly; it's only to be found at the end of a search.

#42 ::: Cassy B ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 08:09 AM:

David Goldfarb @41, Like you, I don't see what Cal's answer has to do with it. I'd say that Cockneys might have real difficulties solving the riddle, however...


#43 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 10:51 AM:

Syd @ 37... Neat!

#44 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 11:14 AM:

David Goldfarb @41, Cassy @42, Cally's comment relates in what it does not say.

#45 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 12:53 PM:

Syd @ #37:

Yes, that's the one.

#46 ::: Cassy B ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2012, 09:15 AM:

Lorax @44

{facepalm} I should have seen that. (Or not seen that. Oh, you know what I mean....)


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