Thursday, February 21, 2008

Yankee Ingenuity

In case you haven't heard, the Western Mountains of Maine have gotten a serious amount of snow dumped on us this winter. This excessive amount of snow is beginning to pose a problem for most people due to the fact that we are running out of places to pile it up. The snow banks are beginning to tower well over your head as you walk down the road. This problem of ours brings to mind the term Yankee ingenuity. Wikipedia defines it as "an American English reference to the self-reliance of early colonial settlers of New England, United States. It describes an attitude of make-do with materials on hand. It is inventive improvisation, adaptation and overcoming of dire straits when faced with a dearth of materials.

Yankee Ingenuity was often necessary for New England colonists. Unlike the rich and fertile soil of Virginia, New England had poor soil as well as a harsh winter and had to rely on improvisation and other means for economic success.

Similar phrases relating to other former colonial outposts exist in other parts of the world, such as Kiwi ingenuity, referring to a similar situation in New Zealand." (

Rough time are not a new concept for New Englanders, we have evolved to learn how to deal with all the troubles that we face. There are too many stories to tell about people creating amazing pieces of machinery out of nothing but rusty trash, or creating a five course dinner out of an empty pantry. All of these amazing feats are contributed to our Yankee ingenuity.

Well to overcome my own issues with the vast amounts of snow that I have in my front yard I have employed a little of my own Yankee ingenuity. I noticed the other day when I was trying to put a piece of outgoing mail in my mailbox that the snow bank was so high that the little mailbox flag was no longer visible. The snow literally came up over the top of my mailbox. I tried to dig out the flag, but the snow banks were just too high. I have taken to calling my mailbox the "little cubby hole in my snowbank". So rather than suffer, I invented something to aid my mail-carrier in noticing that I have out going mail. I call it the flag-xtender (flag extender). It is a red cloth that I tied to the end of a yard stick. Now when I have outgoing mail I simply stick my flag-xtender in the snowbank and my mail-carrier can see that they need to stop! Now tying the red cloth on the yard stick has a purpose, because any true Yankee never makes anything for just one purpose, everything must have more than one use. When the yard stick is placed in the snowbank it can be used to determine how much snow has fallen recently. So the flag-xtender can alert your mail-carrier to out going mail, as well as measuring the total snow accumulation of the most recent snow storm! Brilliant, I know, chalk it up to Yankee ingenuity!

One example of my favorite Yankee ingenuity invention would have to be the weather rock. Below is the Wikipedia article on the weather rock.

"The Weather Rock is a prop used to make fun of the intricate technology used to create modern weather forecasts, as well as the fact that their accuracy is still not perfect, or even good, in the eyes of some. Often there is a great deal of fanfare pertaining to the proliferation of the notion that the pilfering of the "weather rock" will result in the ensuance of terrible consequences. The joke varies, but in all cases there is a large noticeable rock or similar, often suspended from a tripod, particularly within scouting camps or activities. A sign next to it states something like,
  • If rock is wet, it is raining.
  • If rock is green, it rained a while ago.
  • If rock is white, it is snowing...or there are birds around.
  • If rock is shaking, there is an earthquake.
  • If rock is dry, the weather is fair.
  • If rock is swinging, it's windy.
  • If rock is warm, the sun is out.
  • If rock is not visible, it's dark outside...or your eyes are closed.
  • If rock is under water, there is a flood.
  • If rock is gone, there is a tornado (Run!!)"

I think I just might be able to sell my flag-xtender to the same people who sell these weather rocks. Watch out Thomas Edison, here comes SJ!


No comments: