Dreams and Observations

by The Collector THE EDITOR OF THIS department has been as badly bitten by the collecting bug as any other true Yankee, though his special field is not mentioned in the trade magazines. He doesn’t know Stoddard glass from Keene pottery, but he is a specialist in his line. Nose a-twitch and ears cocked like […]

By Yankee Magazine

Nov 08 2018


by The Collector

THE EDITOR OF THIS department has been as badly bitten by the collecting bug as any other true Yankee, though his special field is not mentioned in the trade magazines. He doesn’t know Stoddard glass from Keene pottery, but he is a specialist in his line. Nose a-twitch and ears cocked like a rabbit, he tracks down genuine Dreams and Observations from the minds of genuine New Englanders. Dreams and Observations, for our purpose, cannot be classified or confined. The Collector is not very Freudian thank Heaven!—and he is decidedly an unofficial observer. Hoped-for correspondents to this page are hereby informed that geography is the only limitation. Material must be written by, or about, Yankees.

Aside from this ruling as to locality, our mill is open to anybody’s grist. Large contributions may be ground exceeding small, due to space limits, by the Collector; editing of one sort or another may be done. But all letters and contributions are most welcome—dreams of the day variety, or night—observations of humor, tragedy, or general interest-notes on the structure of Yankeedom and on its dwellers, man, beast, or bird.

Here are some that sound like dreams but they aren’t: Dr. Park Struthers, New Hampshire farmer and accomplished biologist, had been travelling for days on a field expedition through tropical jungles in the heart of South America. Deep within the forest wilderness the party came to a high ridge of mountains. Glad of relief from terrible heat and snake-infested bush, they climbed until late evening found them at high, cool altitude. Here they made camp.

Early next morning Dr. Struthers was awakened by birds and squirrels of exactly the same variety that lived in the woods of his New Hampshire farm. He saw all about the camp familiar-looking wild apple trees, in fact he could see nothing that might not have been found in any New Hampshire hill pasture, even including a fat porcupine sunning himself in a sapling.

It seems that the continents were once united by a high mountain range that extended on about the same level from Canada to the Argentine, and what Dr. Struthers had found was a little island of exactly the same plant and animal life as that of New Hampshire, in a similar climate due to high altitude. The only difference seemed to be in the diet of the squirrels—they didn’t bother to eat nuts, but ran down the steep mountain to gather bananas in the jungle.

The rural New Englander is a cautious and frugal person concerning, among other things, his speech. A man waiting for a train in a little New Hampshire village became idly curious about a hound sleeping on the baggage platform. Unlike most of his kind, the animal had no tail.

“That your dog?” asked the man of the station-agent.

“Follers me round,” the agent said.

“Well,” pursued the man, “He looks like a hound, yet he has no tail. Did you dock it, or was he born that way?”

The station agent tipped back in his chair, found a match, and consumed some minutes lighting his pipe. He then stated, “Mornin’ train.”

Once when I was a boy we had a large field of hay to get in, and it looked ominously like rain. My father hired Old John, a neighbor, to help us beat the rain. Old John had long since given up trying to do much with his farm in favor of the easier life of fox-trapping and, out of season, just sitting and waiting for the fox season to begin again. But he would always help a neighbor, and he worked like a horse until the end of the day.

When the last of the hay was in, Old John turned to me. “You know, bub,” he began, “It’s hard work—” here he paused, and his dripping brow became furrowed with thought. Suddenly the furrows smoothed out, and he began again. This time he finished his sentence with sure finality. “It’s hard work, to work hard!”

While ransacking an old note-book of a New Hampshire poet the other day I came upon the following fragment. I don’t know if it were part of a poem, letter or story, but whatever its purpose, I liked it.

“My old khaki trousers were all worn out. The fall apple picking had finished them. Before I threw them away I emptied out the pockets, saving the nails, coppers, and good matches. In the rubbish of old receipts and cigarette wrappers I found a curious little object. It was a slice of August—only about three hours long, bright colored and warm, its edges were rough and jagged where I had broken it away from a morning in the early part of the month.”

New England is noted for great variety in climate, contour, and industry. These glimpses of the personalities of two old farmers born and bred in the hills show that the same variety runs through the people themselves.

The first patriarch was known far and wide for his kindly tact. The strongest denunciation of his worst enemy would always be, “I like So-and-So, he’s a fine man; but I don’t like a darn thing he does!”

The second man was known for, let us say, his bluntness. On the occasion of a surprise party given him by the neighbors on his birthday, his daughter was embarrassed by there being too few chairs in the kitchen to seat all the guests. “Now, now, there’s chairs enough,” the old man said testily, “Chairs a-plenty, but there’s a sight too many people fer ’em!”

A friend of mine was driving up in the hills the other day. The road was a lonely one and little travelled, and several miles from any town or hamlet my friend picked up a little fellow of eight or nine years. Asked if he lived thereabout, the boy replied yes, adding that his folks worked in a lumber camp.

On being further drawn out he became very expansive, told of his travels at great length, and even mentioned that he had once lived in Boston. “Is that so?” my friend remarked. “And what part of Boston did you live in?” The little fellow didn’t hesitate a second. “Oh, we lived right on the main street.” May he never he disillusioned!