We don’t have town meeting in Northwood anymore, boo hoo. Voted out a few years ago and replaced with the evil SB2. Luckily 2/3rds of NH’s 223 towns (or is it 222?) continue the 400-year-tradition of residents gathering on a day in March — usually the 2nd Tuesday, or a Saturday thereabouts — discussing the articles on the warrant about how to run the town in the coming months. Then, after careful and often spirited discussion, sometimes with changes to the articles, a vote is taken, on the spot, everybody having heard the same information. This is informed voting. This is community.
As I say, we don’t do that in Northwood anymore. When I move — and someday I may just — it’ll be to a town with real town meeting. That’s for sure.
On the bright side, because I’ve written a book about NH Town Meeting, and because the NH Humanities Council sponsors my talk based on that book,” libraries, historical societies, Lions Clubs, etc., invite me to share stories about what some have called “pure democracy.” (Course, it is. Close as you’re gonna get.)
I get back about as many stories as I give.
Here are a few from this season.
Under the category of Faux Pas — or Fox Pox, as we say around here:
One gentleman recalled witnessing Antrim town meeting as a kid in the balcony. The moderator called on a short lady, and being a stickler for formality, asked her to “Stand up.” “I am standing up,” she said. None too pleased.
Arthur, Antrim’s current moderator, remembered the first meeting he led. A woman raised her hand to speak to the library budget. He asked her to identify herself.
“I’m the librarian,” she said. He maybe ought to have known that.
Under the category of quick wit:
At the Bennington town meeting, the happiness article honored Mr. French, who’d served on the fire department, been selectman for many years, worked for various causes over many decades. The town official intoned: “What do you give a many who has given 50 years of such service?”
From the back of the hall: “A good woman!”
Under the category, defies logic but that’s the way it is:
Selectman Eric Tenny, seated at the front table with the other officials, always had a good view of the crowd. Year after year he said, one couple would sit in the front row. And vote after vote, when one said Yea, the other said Nay. Eric says: “Why didn’t they just stay home?”
This one’s from across the river in Vermont. The town clerk’s husband Carl insisted that apple pie be made without spices of any kind. But for the community supper, Persis, his wife, decided to make pie as it should (in her mind) be made with cinnamon and nutmeg. She was horrified to see Carl get handed a slice from her pie, and braced herself for his reaction.
“Persis,” he said, “this pie is wonderful. Find out who made it and get her recipe.”