A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 317

Ramgunshoch's bad idea

FARMINGTON – I made a blunder, recently, by listening to Mr. Ramgunshoch, and then extolling one of his ideas, and a very bad idea it turned out to be. The neighboring community of Rochester has been placed in a tricky spot, as an unfortunate consequence.

I hadn’t seen Mr. R. in a dog’s age. The last time, in fact, was when he was in the throes of raising a militia to repulse the imminent land grab of a Farmington acre by New Durham. There he had been, with war maps and battle plans covering the kitchen table, frothing on about good Farmingtonians in kilts ready and able to moon the New Durham backhoe, Braveheart-style, while some homemade trebuchet was lobbing balls of manure at it.

To Ramgunshoch’s grave disappointment, inter-community conflict had been averted at the last minute by a hired cartographer bowing to the sanctity of ancient town boundary markers, no matter what his new-fangled GPS units were screaming in their tinny voices.

Anyway, chatting with a much calmer Ramgunshoch a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the notion of Rochester having a French festival, with the aim of both celebrating local heritage and promoting the city as a tourist destination for the eight million residents of Quebec Province, which is New Hampshire’s northern neighbor.

Maybe it was the word "neighbor" that set him off to plotting and scheming again, but, honestly, I had no hint of it at the time, for Ramgunshoch seemed to warm to the idea.

"Twinning is the way tae go," said the old Scotsman, helpfully (or so I thought.). "Ye find a city with similar demographics to Rochester, and then invite them tae link up socially. I would recommend Thetford Mines in southern Quebec as being a near perfect match."

His reasoning was that Thetford Mines is an industrial, blue collar city, just a little smaller that Rochester, and which is also trying to diversify into tourism. The mines referred to, go back 100 years or more to when asbestos was discovered in the surrounding hills. The resulting mounds of spill from the mine workings, said Ramgunshoch, sort of put him in mind of the giant Turnkey Landfill in Gonic area of Rochester.

I swallowed this guff, and duly made a pitch, in the Rochester Times, that Thetford Mines was the perfect twin for the Lilac City.

"Thetford Mines!" yelled Susan Schwake, co-owner of artstream (the small "a", though annoying, is insisted upon) gallery, looking up from the newspaper, a few days later. "I know that place. It’s ghastly!"

Prompted by his wife’s alarm, Reiner Schwake tapped deftly on a computer keyboard and in a trice produced screen-sized views of the asbestos mines. They certainly were massive enough to be seen from outer space.

I was a little taken aback, but launched into my line about both cities being built by the honest toil of noble workers who, with shared French roots, were ancestral, as well as industrial, brothers and sisters.

Reiner interrupted me with a cry of "Look at this!"

He had a triumphant gleam in his eye.

Further keyboard-tapping had led him to a You Tube video of boisterous Thetford Mines revelers in some sort of nightclub. They were all slugging beer from bottles and cheering and … oh no … they were tossing a dwarf!

"That’s all Rochester needs, I don’t think," thundered Susan, from whose gallery window one can look across Rochester’s North Main Street to Factory Court, where, in recent days there had been outbreaks of antisocial face-painting, nudity and cross-dressing, all which the Law was now in the process of stamping out.

In mental disarray, I beat a retreat from artstream, and that evening, did some online research on the so-called consensual "sport." It seemed to come in two flavors - padded dwarfs were either tossed horizontally onto mattresses or Velcroed dwarves were lobbed vertically to stick up on walls.

Quebec’s neighbor, the enlightened Canadian province of Ontario had passed the Dwarf Tossing Ban Act of 2003, but, astonishingly, it failed to receive the Royal Assent. However, the state of Florida (along with New York), urged on by the Little People of America, has banned the practice.

"Dwarf-tossing is a dangerous, exploitative activity reminiscent of the sideshow circus days in that the person with dwarfism is objectified and dehumanized in the name of ‘entertainment,’" according to officials with LPA, Inc., which is the national support organization for individuals with dwarfism and their families.

The Tampa showman and dwarf, Dave Flood, was outraged by the Floridian ban, and is widely reported as asking why the Little People of America and the politicians get to decide for him.

A news station quotes him as saying "I'm a grown man. I'm 37 years old, I could protect myself."

He adds, "I don't need them to tell me what I should and shouldn't be able to do….If I was 7 feet tall, I'd get paid to put a basketball through a hoop. I'm not 7 feet tall. I'm 3-feet-2 and a dwarf, so I'm capitalizing on getting tossed."

I can hear the smaller government folks and the libertarians of Rochester muttering indignantly in agreement with Flood, but before they jump on the dwarf tossing bandwagon, they should know that the American Civil Liberties Union is already aboard. That latter crowd usually makes ‘em uncomfortable.

On the other hand, the United Nations Human Rights Commission has weighed in heavily on the side of a ban on dwarf tossing in order to protect human dignity. Libertarians, of course, may claim that the U.N. frowns on female mud wrestling for the same reason.

The real point is, we don’t need Rochester inserted into this hornet’s nest, by twinning with a city that is home to a You Tube video on dwarf tossing. No sir! The practice may be still technically legal in New Hampshire, but I reckon it should not be allowed. Not even on Factory Court at 1 a.m.

By the way…back in Farmington, I quizzed Mr. Ramgunshoch about what he did and didn’t know regarding Thetford Mines. It seems he was mischievously aware of the bleak landscape, and after once driving through it, he had actually plumped for a three-hour detour to avoid coming back the same way. He disdained the tossing of midgets, though.

"We toss cabers, laddie. That’s a manly sport," he said referring to the bizarre Scottish practice of upending large wooden poles in muddy fields.



Aug. 28, 2010

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