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Monday, March 15, 2004

Civic paganism!

In honor of today's perfectly spring-like weather (and in defiance of tomorrow's snow storm), I salute this charming story in the Boston Globe about Rutland's "Central Tree" — which residents claim stands on the exact geographical center of the state. No one really knows whether it's true, but residents really love their tree:

At the Rutland Historical Society — where you can purchase blankets, plates, and note cards depicting the Central Tree — written accounts refer vaguely to a survey of what was then called the Hardwick Turnpike during the "early days" of the town, which was incorporated in 1722.

"No one has ever challenged us," says the society's curator, Irene Amsden. "And if they did, we'd tell them they were wrong."

Local belief in the centricity of the Central Tree runs deep. "People here have always said it is the center of the state," says Ugo Alinovi, who has lived in Rutland for all of his 83 years and who has served as police chief. "But I don't know where that information came from. No one does." . . .

The current maple dates to 1980, when it replaced a sickly sycamore that had been planted in 1975 and that had lasted only about a year. The sycamore itself had replaced an aging and diseased elm tree that had been removed in 1966. (Thus there was no tree between 1966 and 1975, as well as between 1976 and 1980.) This tree, often referred to as the Central Elm, is considered the town's Holy Grail. Three small pieces of it, along with a goblet that was made from its wood, are preserved at the Rutland Historical Society.

The Central Elm survived the infamous 1953 Worcester Tornado, and as far as Sherry Blair is concerned, the spot has remained something of a beacon for foul atmospheric conditions. "I think it attracts bad weather," says Blair, who, with her husband, Joel, and their three children, lives next door to the Eckhardts. "We get two to three more inches of snow up here than at the bottom of the hill," she says, pointing a half-mile down Central Tree Road toward the Rutland/Holden town line. "And when it rains at the bottom of the hill, it snows up here. People laugh, but it's true."

("Town is rooted in tree's history," Nathan Cobb, Boston Globe 3.15.04)

If you have examples of civic paganism in your neck of the woods, tell us about it in the comments!

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 15 March 2004 at 8:13 AM

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