Farewell, Old Man

June 2003 - A childhood memory just came to a crashing end. Perhaps you read about it in the newspaper or heard the news on TV. The Old Man of the Mountain is now just a pile of old, broken rocks.

For years, those rocks were perhaps the most famous landmark in New Hampshire. If you have the state quarter from New Hampshire, you'll see the Old Man of the Mountain on the back. The 40-foot-tall rock formation jutted out from the side of Cannon Mountain near Franconia. The Old Man of the Mountain came to symbolize the independence and stubbornness associated with the people of New Hampshire.

For me, the Old Man represented a departure from the norm, a break in the routine. You see, when I was growing up in eastern Pennsylvania, my family always headed south for summer vacation. Usually, we spent a week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I think we tried Virginia Beach once, too.

Well, one year I suggested that we head north instead. I don't know exactly why. I think I was about 10 years old at the time, which means I would have just finished fifth grade. We spent a lot of that school year learning about the various regions of the country. Maybe something I learned about the northeast made me want to see it for myself. Maybe I was bored with the beach. Who knows? In any case, it wasn't long before we were packed in the car, headed for a couple weekends in New England.

I don't remember too much about the vacation. But, I do recall seeing the Old Man of the Mountain. I don't know what mountain we were on when we saw it, but it was quite a ways away. Still, we could make out the shape of the Old Man. There it was, this head, sticking out from the side of a mountain. I thought it was pretty cool. And, I thought it would be there forever. I had no idea that concern for the Old Man's health had been building for years. His demise was just a matter of time.

Now that the Old Man is gone, the question is what to do about it. I'm sure the rocks shattered into thousands of pieces when they fell. It would be impossible to put them back together. He'd probably end up missing an eye or something. What about building a replacement out of something more permanent, like fiberglass? Please. The concept of an artificial head gives me a headache. It would be like New Coke except, this time, we wouldn't have the original to go back to.

I think the thing to do is to do nothing. Just remember the good times. Remember what he stood for. Remember the tourists, and their dollars that he brought to New Hampshire. And, remember that change happens, whether we like it or not. Let's move on and let the Old Man rest in peace.