I’ve never been to New Hampshire, and I don’t believe I know anybody from New Hampshire either. Being from and living in Minnesota, I tend to forget some states so small and so far away. In fact, I only bless New Hampshire with my attention during presidential elections. But last Saturday, I was saddened by news from a state 1,400 miles away. New Hampshire’s Old Man of the Mountain had crumbled.
The great Daniel Webster summed up the Old Man’s profoundness: “Jewelers hang out monster watches, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.”
More then 300 tons of ancient granite formed the Old Man of the Mountain, which overlooked Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire. Last Saturday, the Lincoln-esque profile buckled and collapsed, sending rocks cascading down the descent. With the fall of those jagged stones, along fell New Hampshire’s identity. The profile so admired by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Robert Frost is no more. The profile that so inspired pride in the people of New Hampshire to make it the focus of the state’s quarter is gone. Now, those coins are relics of the past, a symbol of the old New Hampshire.
New Hampshire is a state so small and obscure it is invariably confused with Vermont. One never hears of riots in New Hampshire or that it harbors terrorists. No professional sports teams bide their time there.
Some say the Old Man of the Mountain was only rocks, but then the Mississippi is just a river and redwoods are just trees. The Old Man represented oneness with wilderness. Sadly, human connections to nature are fewer with each passing year. The massive force of a granite man jutting out and looking defiantly into the brazen skies exists no more. Another of Mother Nature’s acquaintances has been destroyed.
And here in Minnesota, I was 1,400 miles away from the violence and destruction of the Old Man’s death. As the sad news disappeared on the scrolling marquee, I was left to wander the streets of St. Paul, left to imagine Minnesota without Paul Bunyan and its 10,000 lakes. Idaho without potatoes. Arizona without the Grand Canyon. Kentucky without bluegrass. With the crumbling of granite, so too crumbled New Hampshire’s identity. But to paraphrase Shakespeare, it is better to have had an identity than to have had none at all.
Maybe I’ll still visit New Hampshire someday. I’ll actually make an effort to meet the people there and eat a piece of cold pie at one of their diners. I know Minnesota is more than just cold winter. And I know New Hampshire is more than just the Old Man of the Mountain.
Karl Noyes is a University first-year student and a member of The Minnesota Daily editorial board.
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