|North Beach, Hampton|
|Lake Winnipesaukee from Mount Major|
In the "Lord of the Rings" a small, modest, happy Hobbit has greatness thrust upon him, much to his chagrin, and he has to embark from his happy Hobbit home in his beloved shire to meet threats and to have adventures in the greater, threatening, astonishing world.
In some ways Mad Dog thinks the same story may be played out for the children of New Hampshire, whose schools are conceived and restricted within the confines of their small towns, rather than, say across larger counties.
And yet, having visited some of the town high schools, Winnecunet, Exeter, Portsmouth, Mad Dog has been impressed by, if nothing else, the architecture, and the presence of some enviable technology--particularly the TV studio at Exeter.
Mad Dog wonders whether life in New Hampshire prepares the rising generations to deal with the world marketplace of talent. One indicator of this might be looking at the numbers of New Hampshire high school graduates who leave the state for college in other states. Recently, this indicator of adventurousness has been affected by the sheer cost of going to an out of state university: Somehow the University of Colorado at Boulder seems to attract New Hampshire students, but how many go to Berkley, The University of Chicago, Rice University, any of the Ivy League schools, Swarthmore, Haverford, Carlton College, Grinnel, Vanderbilt, Duke, Stanford, New York University?
If there are very few New Hampshire Hobbits sallying forth, cost may be the major factor, but somehow families in other parts of the country manage to send their children to these far flung schools. Mad Dog suspects there is doubt among New Hampshire parents about the value of such exposure for their children, or perhaps simply, there is fear: How you gonna keep them on farm once they've seen gay Paree? Or Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.?
If New Hampshire really is inward looking, as Mad Dog thinks is possible, is that good for New Hampshire or for the country, or the world?
In some ways, New Hampshire conjures up in Mad Dog's lame brain the Amish, a group which has looked around at the world and said, "No." Of course, the Amish, admirably, encourage their children to leave their farms and to live among the gentiles for a year or two and to come back only when and if they are convinced life is better among the Amish. Mad Dog is not sure a similar exposure happens in New Hampshire.
Mad Dog hastens to add, he has no reliable data. His only source of impression is a very unscientific observation that he rarely sees college decals on the back windows of New Hampshire automobiles or T shirts or sweatshirts for any of the above mentioned schools as he drives and bikes around New Hampshire. When you do see a decal, it's usually UNH, Keene State or Plymouth State, or its on someone summering on the New Hampshire beach before they vacate for Boston or New York. This is certainly different from a drive around the Washington, DC suburbs or from observations in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Richmond.
Mad Dog recently met a woman who once owned a flower shop in Portsmouth, which had been the law office of Daniel Webster. She was proud of that. She was pleased New Hampshire once played a role in the nation's life which placed it at the center of what was happening. There is a marble bust of Webster in the Supreme Court and a statue of him looming over a traffic circle not far from the Capitol. New Hampshire once sent the flower of its youth out to meet the world, and to mold it.
Lincoln sent his son to Phillips Exeter Academy and visited. George Washington rode through New Hampshire. The state was important enough then.
Walking around a graveyard in Holderness, New Hampshire, Mad Dog was stunned by the gravestones: Row after row of young men who died between 1861 and 1865. New Hampshire may have been far away from the monumental struggle of those years, between the forces of darkness and the forces of righteousness, but its men were in it. They stood up; they stepped forward; they were counted.
The same is true in the graveyard in Gilmanton, where Grace Metalious, author of Peyton Place, is buried: There are graves of soldiers from the Civil War through Vietnam surrounding her. And her artistry touched the nation and moved it. At the time, her book was dismissed as an inconsequential pot boiler, but no one can read that lurid opening paragraph, one of the best in American literature of any generation and fail to see the deep New Hampshire well of knowledge and affection from which it sprang. And, Mad Dog notes, one of its essential plot lines explored the moral conundrum embodied in the decision to do an abortion on a teenager who had been impregnated by her own father. Huckleberry Finn was much admired by Hemingway. Peyton Place is much admired by Mad Dog, which likely explains its obscurity.
Fly home from Europe and you watch the screen on the back of the seat in front of you and the first thing you see which is identifiable on the map is Lake Winnipesaukee, the first landmark in America is New Hampshire.
Of course, we have the primaries, and all that attention those bring, but nowadays what happens in New Hampshire is quickly forgotten as campaigns move quickly on to other states and the TV cameras leave yesterday's news in the dump.
We have great talents visiting the Music Hall in Portsmouth and the Casino in Hampton and the Ogunquit Playhouse, just across the river.
But are we being left behind as the world globalizes? Are the people here, who have the intelligence and the talent being stoked with the ambition to change the world?
And, Mad Dog wonders, should we care much if the answer is "No"?