" Men hang out their
signs indicative of their respective trades. Shoemakers hang
out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch; even 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
- Attributed to Daniel Webster
|March 3, 2003:
(taken by Peter Smith)
the morning of Saturday, May 3, I awoke to the phone ringing. On
the other end of the line was my mother, calling from home in Littleton,
parents and I have a very scheduled routine when it comes to talking
on the phone. Every Sunday evening we talk for an hour or so. Rarely
do I call them at other times of the week, and almost never do they
call me at other times. So when I first heard my mother's voice,
I immediately feared something was wrong. Her voice was steady and
she did not sound upset, so I was hopeful that the news was not
bad. She said, "Have you heard the news? It's quite sad actually."
My mind began to race. What sad news could be so big that she would
call, yet not so sad that she would be audibly shaking?
Man fell down last night."
initial sense of relief that all family and friends were okay was
soon replaced with a deep sense of sorrow. It was not a loss of
life, but it was still a huge personal loss.
(For those who don't know: What
is the Old Man of the Mountain?)
those who are not from New Hampshire, it is hard to explain the
deep connection we have with the Old Man. He is the State Symbol.
He is on the N.H. state quarter issued a few years ago. He is on
every single road sign and almost every license plate. Losing the
Old Man is like Philadelphia losing the Liberty Bell, or New York
losing the Statue of Liberty. In a world of change, he was always
there. Always keeping an eye over the North Country, reminding us
all of where we came from. He was a symbol of the life we embraced.
every New Hampshirite, I have a strong personal connection with
the Old Man. I grew up 15 miles up the road from him. I developed
my passion for the outdoors from playing in his front yard. Through
most of my childhood, I spent every single winter day that I was
not in school downhill skiing on his backside at Cannon Mountain
(before I saw the light and turned to cross country). I have climbed
every mountain that the Old Man could see from his perch in Franconia
Notch. I have skied, run, hiked, rollerskied, biked and driven by
him hundreds and hundreds of times.
every time I passed by, I still turned my head to look up and see
him. It was a silent way of saying "thanks for being there."
People who have explored into the bowels of this website know that
one of the first web pages I ever created
was a tribute to the Old Man. Even here, 4,000 miles away in
Alaska I still have a framed picture of him hanging in my dining
people who know about the Old Man, also know the Daniel Webster
quote, written above. I, like many others, am very proud to have
been raised in Northern New Hampshire. That quote, and the Old Man
himself, are major part of the pride I feel.
for me, my feeling for the Old Man run deeper. It is a spiritual,
even religious feeling.
the subject of religion would come up in every day conversation,
my father was fond of saying that he goes to church everyday - every
time he straps on his skis or gets on his bike. Exercise is his
I was younger, I used to think that was just a cute little quip.
But as I have grown older, I have found a lot of personal truth
in that statement. I believe in God, but I am a bit uncomfortable
with the personification of God - thinking of him/her as a person,
albeit an all-powerful person. To me, God is more like Mother Nature
- a spirit that controls the ebb and the flow of the natural world.
In fact I think God and Mother Nature are one in the same.
I rarely attend church, I experience God almost every day when I
exercise. Every time I get out into the woods, it is a powerful,
peaceful experience. I feel closest to God when I am skiing alone
in a snowy wilderness, or traversing a remote ridge line, or gazing
at the stars. I give thanks for the amazing world around me and
for my ability to experience it. Most of the natural world can be
explained with science, but it's beauty contains an indomitable
spirit as well.
Old Man of the Mountain was a perfect face for that Spirit. A synergy
of God and Nature. Geologists who had examined the Face in the past
said there was no
scientific explaination for how it still hung there. To me,
the Old Man of the Mountain was a very strong symbol of God and
the wonder of the natural world. He was sacred, which is why I would
pay my respects every time I passed by.
than once, while I was skiing, or hiking, or rollerskiing in Franconia
Notch, I stopped and talked to the Old Man. Mostly I would thank
him for the stunning beauty of nature, and for watching over us,
and occasionally I would vent my troubles. He always listened, and
in his own silent way, was very reassuring and encouraging. He never
seemed scared or worried, why should I? Talking to the Old Man was
like going to church and talking to your best friend at the same
proud Old Man was a source of State Pride for a million people.
So it was only fitting that no one saw his demise. A proud animal
who knows its time has come will slink of into the woods to rest
in peace, not letting anyone see his weakness. The Old Man, too,
slipped away under the cover of clouds and darkness, leaving behind
a bare mantle of rock where he once stood. Like a mythical being,
or Jedi Knight using the Force, he simply vanished, leaving behind
only the chains that once held him in place.
say he fell to the ground, and many souvenir seekers will probably
clamor at the base of the Cannon cliffs to get a small piece of
granite that might possibly have hung 1200 feet up as part of the
Old Man. The rock might have fallen, but the Old Man did not. He
is still there, just as he is still here in the mountains of Alaska.
The Old Man raised generations of New Hampshirites who will keep
his spirit alive and well for years to come. We will continue to
raise him high in our hearts whenever we visit the mountains, whether
they be in New Hampshire or halfway around the world.
to visit the Old Man every time I step out the door with my running
shoes on. In fact, after my mother woke me up with the sad news
yesterday morning I knew that I needed to see him. Later that day
I did a four hour run, high in to the Alaskan wilderness. I needed
to visit the Old Man's house to say goodbye. There I was, miles
from civilization, without anyone in sight. But the Old Man was
there, just as he always is whenever Nature overwhelms me with her
beauty. From that spot I could see glaciers, lakes, mountains, ocean
and sky - signs of the Old Man's work everywhere. I paused and tried
to say goodbye, but I just couldn't do it. Despite what people may
say, I knew he wasn't gone. He had just moved on to another part
of his beautiful natural kingdom.
stopped for a minute before continuing on my run. After all, the
Old Man's kingdom is endless and I still have a lot more of it I
want to see.
long for now, Old Man. I'll see you again soon.
Manchester Union Leader:
Man of the Mountain Falls
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