Monday, August 4, 2008

Yankee Attitude

I stole the piece below from The Barrister over at Maggie's Farm. It pretty well explains the feelings of a lot of us Yankees up here in New Hampshire, particularly those wishing to maintain the N'Hampsha' way of life, the feeling of community that so many other places have lost and aren't likely to regain any time soon. (Note: The Barrister resides in Connecticut, but the same principals apply there as here. We've both seen seen changes in our respective towns that are not to the betterment of the townsfolk, or the town.)


Unless they happen to be in the tourist trade or the mini-mart business, the Yankee native does not tend to welcome visitors to his corners of the woods. Maybe this applies to all of small-town USA.

You get the feeling that the old families don't welcome out-of-towners, much less furriners. And whenever they see a New York license plate in town, they worry and grumble. I'm sorry, but it's just the way the folks are: "Please respect our space and our ways and we will try to tolerate yours as long as you keep them somewhere else."

City people might term it parochial, but it's actually a strong sense of proprietorship and protectiveness towards something valuable - "Our town."

I guess we like things as they are, or, preferably, as they were. The old-timers still refer to my place as "Peck's farm," even though old Amos Peck, the fourth generation on that land and a member of a founding family of the town, ascended to his reward in 1932 and his kids sold the old chicken and dairy farm to a dairy farmer down the road who was looking to expand his herd. One wonders whether there is a covert message in it: "You don't really belong there - you are just a transient with a mortgage."

It takes two to three generations at minimum, I think, to get past being a newcomer. To be an old family, I'd guess five generations minimum. (That makes sense to me. It is an indication that your family might be committed to the town, and not just passing by the way people often do these days, viewing land as real estate rather than as a place to anchor for your future generations.)

Yes, it's about different views of land and of "place". Ideally, your ancestors would have helped build our simple 1742 Meeting House/Congregational Church, which remains the only place of worship for seven miles.

That pretty well explains how it is up here in New England, and northern New England in particular.

I've lived in small towns where change comes slowly, and then only after lengthy discussions and deliberations. I've always been welcomed in every town I've resided, usually because some of the folks in town already knew me through business or other friends, and because of my reputation as a cheap...uh...frugal fellow, not wanting to spend what the town didn't have, and in some cases, didn't need. I've never been one for change for change's sake. But I've also been a proponent for change when it met the town's needs or saved the town money or made the town government or schools more efficient.

While I knew I'd never be a real 'native' in those towns, I was never seen as a “flatlander”, a title that can hang around a resident's neck like the proverbial albatross. No one takes flatlanders seriously, mainly because they bring too damn much of their city foolishness with them, wanting to fiddle with the way things are because they aren't like “back home”. That always beggers the question, “If things were so great 'back home', then why the heck did you come here?”

This gets me thinking I'm going to have to repost more of my instructional scribblings about how things are in small town America, particularly around here in northern New England (Well, more New Hampshire and Maine. Vermont has got problems of its own with all the silly New Yorkers moving in.)

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