Rock of Ages

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People are always saying newspapers are full of bad news. I don’t find that to be the case, in fact, I find some of the best good news in our local papers. Maybe I just breeze by all the bizarre murders, ghoulish kidnappings and international wars, straight to the little notices that cheer me no end. I’ll admit it does take a bit of work to find the good news, but, like anything worthwhile, the work is rewarding. Here is what I found in a couple of recent papers.

A wallet was lost in the downtown area of Peterborough. The wallet was later found with “a significant amount of money and credit cards still in it.”

Police engaged in a “low-speed pursuit” that continued through two towns before the driver finally pulled over. The 93-year-old driver said he didn’t know the police were trying to pull him over.

A front page picture showed a newborn who emerged quite unexpectedly in a pick-up truck in 10 below zero weather, the 24-year-old mother and father the only ones in attendance of the birth. All are thriving.

High school students set up a card table in the snow to collect money to help pay for the funeral expenses of an old man who died unexpectedly in an accident.

Our neighbor and political activist Doris “Granny D” Haddock, who walked across the country in her ninetieth year to promote campaign finance reform, turned 100 years old. There were multiple celebrations, including one at the New Hampshire state house where she delivered an address to the assembled representatives. She attended all the parties under her own steam, though leaning on a walking stick. And wearing a crown.

And then there was the rock. Route 101, a major New Hampshire state highway that passes right through the center of the little town of Dublin, has to share the passage with the town’s eccentricities. For the past 100 years, there has been something called “the oval” in the middle of the highway. The oval was designed and donated to the town by a wealthy summer resident. In the middle of the oval is a flagpole and a historic marker. The flagpole is distinguished as being the only flagpole in the middle of a highway in the entire state (and perhaps any other state, records are scant) and the marker states that Dublin is the highest village in the state. Lots of superlatives. So the oval protects history as well as, some say, drivers. At the western end of the oval is a large rock, about the size of a small car. The rock, as it is known, was placed there in 1916 as a memorial to the same wealthy resident’s mother. Of course, 1916 didn’t see much vehicular traffic but nonetheless the rock has been there all this time and no one has ever run into it. Ever. Not until about six months ago when an intoxicated man smashed his car into it one day and a week later, someone having a medical emergency smashed into it all over again. It was bizarre. The rock was unmoved in either case and neither driver was seriously injured. The police chief was quoted at the time as saying, “In my twenty years here, I’ve never known this to happen even once. Now it has happened twice.”

Since then, engineers from the state have declared the rock a safety hazard and have ordered it to be removed. I can’t count the number of articles in these papers that have been devoted to the proposed movement of the rock but both papers gave the issue lead editorials. Opinions are split. The police chief wisely states he has no opinion. The fire chief thinks it should go. Most residents think moving it is “crazy,” many declaring their love for the rock which, in summer, is covered with a crazed tangle of euonymus and gives the impression of a wild garden in the middle of the road. Many think the rock slows things down. One resident was quoted as saying, “I think it’s kind of silly moving a rock that’s been there for 100 years. If they don’t plow into the rock, they’ll plow into the flagpole or something else.”

Why is this good news? Because it shows that there are still some issues about which no one is certain, issues that don’t lean left or right. They just sit in the middle of the road, unmoved until the votes are cast.

  • Loved your story about the rock .Newtown .Conn. has a flag pole and nothing else around it ,not even grass.

  • In general, I think the smaller the newspaper is, the more like the stories are to be good–or at least “middle of the road” (what a lovely image). Perhaps smaller newspapers feel more neighborly?

  • Mary,

    I want to tell you how much I love your stories. I also wanted to say there is another flagpole in the middle of a state highway. It’s in the next town over, on CT RT25 in Newtown , CT. They don’t even have a rock to protect it. Here’s a link to a picture of it.


    Thanks for all your entertainment through the years.


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