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Reflections on a decade without the Old Man on the Mountain

  • Turnbuckles and hooks that were used to support the Old Man of the Mountain formation dangle over Franconia Notch from the side of Cannon Mountain; Thursday, May 2, 2013. The New Hampshire icon fell in the early morning of May 3, 2003.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Turnbuckles and hooks that were used to support the Old Man of the Mountain formation dangle over Franconia Notch from the side of Cannon Mountain; Thursday, May 2, 2013. The New Hampshire icon fell in the early morning of May 3, 2003.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Cannon Moutain is seen 10 years after the Old Man of the Mountain fell from its perch above Franconia Notch; Thursday, May 2, 2013. The New Hampshire icon fell in the early morning of May 3, 2003.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Cannon Moutain is seen 10 years after the Old Man of the Mountain fell from its perch above Franconia Notch; Thursday, May 2, 2013. The New Hampshire icon fell in the early morning of May 3, 2003.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Eyebolts and cables that once supported the Old Man of the Mountain still cling to the side of Cannon Mountain 10 years after the rock formation fell from its perch above Franconia Notch; Thursday, May 2, 2013. The New Hampshire icon fell in the early morning of May 3, 2003.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Eyebolts and cables that once supported the Old Man of the Mountain still cling to the side of Cannon Mountain 10 years after the rock formation fell from its perch above Franconia Notch; Thursday, May 2, 2013. The New Hampshire icon fell in the early morning of May 3, 2003.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • JR Petrus of Concord (left) climbs below the remnants of the Old Man of the Mountain;  July 14, 2012. Though the 2003 rockslide was not the largest on he mountain, it altered the cliffs rock just below the formation. Some say they can a new profile on the mountain from this angle; one of an old man reclining.<br/><br/>Alexander Cohn photo

    JR Petrus of Concord (left) climbs below the remnants of the Old Man of the Mountain; July 14, 2012. Though the 2003 rockslide was not the largest on he mountain, it altered the cliffs rock just below the formation. Some say they can a new profile on the mountain from this angle; one of an old man reclining.

    Alexander Cohn photo

  • Turnbuckles and hooks that were used to support the Old Man of the Mountain formation dangle over Franconia Notch from the side of Cannon Mountain; Thursday, May 2, 2013. The New Hampshire icon fell in the early morning of May 3, 2003.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • Cannon Moutain is seen 10 years after the Old Man of the Mountain fell from its perch above Franconia Notch; Thursday, May 2, 2013. The New Hampshire icon fell in the early morning of May 3, 2003.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • Eyebolts and cables that once supported the Old Man of the Mountain still cling to the side of Cannon Mountain 10 years after the rock formation fell from its perch above Franconia Notch; Thursday, May 2, 2013. The New Hampshire icon fell in the early morning of May 3, 2003.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • JR Petrus of Concord (left) climbs below the remnants of the Old Man of the Mountain;  July 14, 2012. Though the 2003 rockslide was not the largest on he mountain, it altered the cliffs rock just below the formation. Some say they can a new profile on the mountain from this angle; one of an old man reclining.<br/><br/>Alexander Cohn photo

We miss you, Old Man. We who grew up vacationing in the White Mountains, bouncing along the Kancamagus in the family station wagon, waiting to reach that spot where your face appeared. We who trusted that certain things in life were immutable. We who embraced your poignant symbolism.

Ten years have passed. Kids today don’t know who you are. Not really. Immortalized as you are on license plates and such, most have a vague concept. But they don’t jostle in the back seat for a better view of your face. Anyway, kids today would be too preoccupied, too world-wise to care, wouldn’t they?

The world has changed, Old Man. New Hampshire has changed. Children born after your demise are also post-9/11 kids. They’re digital kids. They know that nothing’s permanent, nothing’s guaranteed. Nothing’s, ahem, set in stone.

We called you the Great Stone Face, and you symbolized for many of us the rugged New Hampshire way of life. We called you the Old Man, and you brought to mind the virtues of tradition. And what of those virtues, those ways of living? Are they gone, too?

Out in our white-steepled communities, you can still find the prototypes: the flannel-wearing, pickup-driving, penny-pinching do-it-yourselfers. Did you think a decade of change would wipe them from the landscape? Hmmph. That’s about as likely as passing an income tax or giving up our first-in-the-nation primary.

But 10 years have wrought plenty of demographic, economic and social change. We’ve got gay marriage now. Women are in charge of our politics. Waves of immigrants and refugees are changing the complexion of our cities and their schools. The southern tier of our great state is increasingly urbanized, Massachusetts-ized.

There are those who wring their hands over some or all of these changes. At best they scoff at the Starbucks sippers and subdivision dwellers, shake their heads at the Massachusetts plates on the cars clogging the Kancamagus. At worst they scrawl their xenophobic sentiments on

the sides of homes.

But if you were still here, Old Man, we don’t think you’d be wringing your hands (if you had hands, that is). You symbolized the real New Hampshire man (or woman), and what real New Hampshire men did best – do best – make things work. We know how to cobble together the old and the new and don’t much care if the siding matches the clapboard. If something breaks or doesn’t run right, we don’t sit around bemoaning the problem. We find the ingenuity to fix it.

Among the many changes of the past 10 years, here and elsewhere, is the birth of a new breed of do-it-yourselfer, a progressive, intellectual sort who may rub those old-school farmers the wrong way but can talk tractors with the best of them. This back-to-basics movement, in many ways, stitches together the disparate parts of our curiously patchwork state. We think that you, patched together as you were, would approve.

Yes, you were patched and cemented and buckled together over the years. If your demise taught us anything, it’s that permanence is just an illusion. If our failed efforts to restore you have taught us anything, it’s that some things are irreplaceable.

The key to keeping New Hampshire great lies between those two truths.

It is crazy, perhaps, to talk to you this way, as though, these 10 years out, you can hear us. As though you ever could. But this sort of reverence, this deeply reflective way of thinking, is what helps us preserve the things we can’t replace – the white steeples and farmlands, the woods and their inhabitants and the way of living these things represent.

On the other hand is the realization that some things can’t and shouldn’t stay the same, that the forces of nature and progress will, at times, prevail.

You succumbed to those forces 10 years ago today. But what your wise, kind old face represented is still very much here. We miss you, Old Man.

If the Old Man was still up there, you would see tears streaming down as he mourns for this country and what the Left has done to this state and our Republic.

Only in New Hampshire would people worship a rock outcropping which vaguely resembles a human head. I guess "The old man of the pile of rocks at the bottom of the hill" is not as catchy. Although, what happened ten years ago in the notch is a perfect metaphor for the precipitous fall of the Tea-Party/Libertarian/Free-State fueled NH GOP in November of 2012!

And your point is?

The democrats should change their party symbol to the Ostridge......it is the perfect metaphor for the democrat party that is sticking its head in the sand

Thank you Hunter_Dan for taking a very well written, sentimental article, and using it to bash the people of New Hampshire and to further spread your toxic partisan politics! You sir are what is wrong with this country!

Exactly. Oh..and "epic"

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