Sunday, February 14, 2010

O what a cunning little hatchet!

...is what I thought when I saw this copper cookie cutter in a second-hand shop. No, that's not true. It's just that I always wanted to use the word "cunning" in a sentence, but nicely, as in charmingly cute or appealing: a cunning little baby.

Honestly, what I really thought was - O cool, this reminds me of second grade when we were given cardboard hatchets to commemorate Washington's birthday. They had hollow handles that held little cherry candies inside. I must have loved that little hatchet, considering more than forty years have passed and I still remember it. I wonder if children are still given these treats. Or perhaps doing so would push the envelope on zero tolerance policies. Shame.

The object lesson was to teach the value of honesty.

We children were told that young George, wanting to try out his new hatchet, chopped down his father's favorite cherry tree. When questioned later by his father, knowing full well that he would be punished, did not prevaricate, but rather said, "Father I cannot tell a lie. I did chop down your tree." Moral of the story: if you are truthful, you, too, can grow up to be president...

In remembrance of Lincoln's birthday, we would make log cabins out of peanut butter and pretzel rods. We children were told that Abraham Lincoln was so honest that he once walked fourteen miles barefoot to return three cents belonging to a friend. History tells us that these must have been Indian head pennies, since the Lincoln head penny was yet to be coined. This deed earned him the name "honest Abe".

I've heard it said that neither of these stories are true accounts, but part of American folklore. True or not, they were great men who for freedom's sake courageously led our nation through terribly difficult times, and for this we honor them. Happy Presidents' Day.

By the way, February is also known as National Cherry Month.

13 comments:

Zach said...

Lovely, witty post. You certainly had fun with this one. I love the contrast between young Washington and the hatchet and young Lincoln and the rail splitting. Notice the book in the left foreground corner of the Lincoln portrait. This is an allusion to the fact that he was teaching himself the law (some say to read)at the same time. I also love the hatchet pie, which itself is cunning.
Your post is an interesting reflection of the development of public memory regarding American History. Most of my college students had not heard of the Washington and the Cherry Tree Story. But folksy as the story seems, it is a decent representation in miniature of the regard Americans in the early republic had for Washington's character. At the end of the Revolutionary War, Washington voluntarily turned over command of the Continental Army to Congress, when many people (both nationally and internationally) believed he would use the troops to seize command of the nation for himself. Upon election to the presidency, Washington also refused a salary (being independently wealthy). Congress had to gently overrule him, reasoning that a unpaid office would attract only the wealthy elite as candidates (had they but known).

Jodi said...

Zach'ry, Zach'ry, my son, my son...I showed Dad your comment. Our parental hearts swelled with pride. Please give Niamh and that cunning baby of yours a kiss.

Love, Mom

Val said...

and the pie looks incredibly yummy too!

(Love the Lincoln painting btw)

Niamh said...

Ok, I am stuck on the fact that 'they' make cookie cutters in the shape of a weapon...like are there bow and arrow toothpicks? catapult ice cream scoops? iron maiden juicers? I love the cookie cutter! It's delightfully random and unexplained!

Jodi said...

Val, thank you very much. And I agree - the Lincoln painting is beautiful.

Niamh, random? Maybe. Unexplained? Hatchet, Washington, cherry tree, cherry pie? It's a vintage cookie cutter and I do think it was meant for Washington's birthday. Vintage homemakers did that kind of stuff....

Joy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joy said...

I have a series of comments...
*ahem*

1. I love this post. It's so creative and ties together so well with the pictures, stories, presidents day, and cherry month.

2. You've had me as a daughter for 23 years and you've been looking for an excuse to use the word, "cunning?" ;D

3. I absolutely love the picture of George Washington cutting down the cherry tree and the one of ol' Abe. American folklore is great.

4. Teaching children that if you're honest you could grow up to be president seems downright dishonest.

5. I've noticed your cynical sentiments about fond things from your childhood that would now be considered un-pc ;D

6. Niamh's comment is so classic, especially the iron maiden juicer. ha ha But I agree, the hachet cookie cutter is such a great find.

7. Rhys wanted me to say that he loves loves loves the photo of the cherry pie. I do too! Using the cherry cookie cutter for the cherry pie was so clever...cunning even.

8. I aready know you are going to say that Rhys should have left his own comment ;D

<3

Stephanie Ann said...

I love the pie. I expect to see one on Lizzie Borden's birthday (7/19.) :D (along with the iron maiden juicer.)

Jodi said...

HaHaHa, Steph. But probably not...this is a family=friendly blog (hee-hee)

Quotidian Life said...

A delightful post Jodi. I like what your son said about it being an interesting reflection of the public memory. I'll have to check with my kids to see how many of these stories they know.

Jodi said...

Melissa, thank you; my son teaches history at a university in Texas. He was surprised to find that so few of his students had ever heard these stories. Times have changed I guess. I would be interested to hear what your kids know.

alive2003 said...

Ahh, the historian... we Lovelocks miss the frequent strolls down folklore lane with Zach! But, we were surprised that Zach left out another amazing fact: that George Washington had to squarely decline requests that he be crowned the king of the newly separated-from-the-crown America, because he preferred to be called Mr. President over Your Highness (it was actually more than just a preference).

Following up on Zach's comment that the people were afraid that Washington was going to try to gain control of the government with the Continental Army, isn't it interesting that the people later wanted him to be king, thus contradicting one of the major reasons that the revolutionary war was fought?... Thanks for the stroll, Mr. Lenz.

Zach said...

My pleasure, Lovelocks. The debate over Mr. Washington's title occupied the senate for the first month of his presidency. Apparently, John Adams (Vice President and presider over the senate) led the push for more grand titles, e.g. "His High Mightiness" and "His Majesty the President." Washington's preference for simplicity ultimately won out.

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