Getting It Right

Byline_BrendanTwo New Hampshire State Representatives and one State Senator have sponsored a bill that could significantly affect the future of our state.
The impact of what this bill could mean if passed would be felt from here on through eternity. It is that important and I feel that it must not be taken lightly and needs to be discussed further before it becomes official.
Of course, I am talking about House Bill 113 which reads “The giant mastodon, Mammut americanum, is hereby designated as the official state fossil of New Hampshire.”
At first, you may read that and say to yourself: “This may be the stupidest thing I will hear all year and it is only January.” I can understand such a response. After all, what if we make the mastodon our official state fossil and then, somewhere down the road, someone unearths the fossil of a giant mammoth here in the state? Boy, wouldn’t we feel dumb? There would be no taking it back then and we and future generations of Granite Staters would have to live with the embarrassment of having the mastodon as our state fossil while the whole time the mammoth would be the elephant in the room.
That is why, if we are to have a state fossil, we need to make sure that it is something that we know is going to be a sure thing.
First we need to define what a fossil is. The dictionary has a few definitions. One, of course, is “a remnant, impression, or trace of an organism of past geologic ages that has been preserved in the earth’s crust” which would obviously signify a mastodon or mammoth (or maybe the yearly casino bill Repeatum Adnaseum that always comes up for a vote).
But there are other definitions that we have to consider as well. One reads: “A person whose views are outmoded.” (A good example of this can be a state legislator who has been in office for way too long Wornum Outwelcomeum and keeps introducing old legislation over and over again, like, say, the casino bill.)
Another definition of fossil is: “Something that has become rigidly fixed.” (See above.)
So, you see, a fossil doesn’t necessarily have to be a thing like a mastodon which could later come back to embarrass us if a mammoth shows up, it can be a person or an idea whose time has passed. If we were to name the latter things as our state fossil they could never come back to embarrass us because by giving them that designation, we have declared that we are already embarrassed (if you get my drift).
Maybe we could declare that “all bills that waste time and money to declare something or other as the official state something or other are hereby designated as the state fossils.”
Of course, those who truly want the mastodon to be the state fossil over anything else will do all in their power to see that it happens. I understand that the mastodon lobby is very powerful. To see those high-powered lobbyists lurking about the halls of the state house, dressed like Fred, and Wilma, Flintstone is sure to grab the attention and votes of more than a few of the easily persuadable representatives. A few “Yabba Dabba Dos” and the lobbyist will have them eating out of their outstretched hands.
Perhaps they may even use the old “little kids and puppy dogs” scam, bringing in fifth graders from a local school to tell those in the house and senate how important it is for the mastodon to be the state fossil. After all, it worked for the pumpkin as the state fruit. (How soon we forget!)
There will be a lot of back and forth over this state fossil thing and it is important that we get it correct. All the other legislation that will come up this session: taxes, Medicaid, more things that you can’t do while sitting in your car, etc…will be things that can always be changed down the road if we get it wrong. But figuring out what should be the state fossil, or the state anything for that matter, should really take all the resources we have at the state house. If we get that wrong, there is no turning back.
No matter what the decision as to the state fossil, be it the mastodon or the mammoth, the casino bill or even a state lawmaker who has been in Concord way too long and has forgotten the real reason he or she is there, I will accept it, as long as it is given the careful consideration it deserves.
Let’s just hope all involved do the right thing.

4 Responses to Getting It Right

  1. Avatar Thom Smith
    Thom Smith says:

    Good afternoon,

    I found your article by accident and wished I had not, but strongly desired to comment on it considering your opinion of the mastodon bill. All I would like to say is I wish you had researched how the bill came about before you wrote your criticism. This bill came about because of all of the ideas, research, enthusiasm and determination my third grade students put into it starting in October of 2013. What you have written makes it sound like it was haphazardly created, and that it was foolish individuals who desired the mastodon to be the state fossil. New Hampshire is a great state that has representatives and legislation that thankfully listens to the opinions of their citizens thoughtfully. This bill was voted down, but it was an extremely wonderful learning experience for my students, and I was very proud of their efforts. We were also very thankful for the state representatives’ efforts in helping their voices be heard, and we were very thankful that professors from Dartmouth and UNH advocated for the mastodon to be the official state fossil as well as they thought it was an excellent choice, and felt it would help increase interest in paleontology and our states’ ancient past among our state’s students and residents (as did I). You may still believe that having an official state fossil is unwise in our state, and I have no problem with your opinion, but the way in which you expressed your viewpoints in this article, as a newspaper editor, is extremely discouraging – it did not contain any research on the development of the fossil bill, nor did it exhibit the way, I believe, we as New Hampshire citizens should speak to each other – it is certainly not the way I would encourage my students to treat each other / speak to each other. Thank you for your opinion, and I certainly respect your free speech, no matter how much I disagree with the tone of it.

    Thom Smith


  2. Avatar Brendan Smith
    Brendan Smith says:

    I understand my viewpoint will not be accepted by all but there is evidence after all that maybe the Wooly Mammoth should be our state fossil. Like I said, we need to get it right the first time or be stuck with it forever.
    Brendan Smith

  3. Avatar Thom Smith
    Thom Smith says:

    I suggest you contact Professor Gary Johnson from Dartmouth, and Professors Will Clyde and Wally Bothner from UNH to see why they think the mastodon is a better option than the mammoth. I also wanted to add that the NHPR segment you linked had some inaccuracies which Professor Wally Bothner pointed out to David Brooks, kindly. Lastly, the state fossil has not always been chosen by other states solely on the best or the biggest specimens found, but simply as a representative of the state’s ancient past.

  4. Avatar Thom Smith
    Thom Smith says:

    Maybe we could declare that “all bills that waste time and money to declare something or other as the official state something or other are hereby designated as the state fossils.”

    I also wanted to mention that as a teacher who educates his students on the “official state something or others”, students not only take pride in their state “officials”, they also learn a great deal about them. Thank you for allowing my comments to be posted – I greatly appreciate it, as it conveys to me you respect others’ opinions.