Irrational Connecticut pride

I’m trying to get my head out of the NCAA tournament this morning. Connecticut native — and big time homer — that I am, I picked UConn to win it all only to see the team crash and burn last night against Iowa State. Yeesh.

I’m generally a rationale human being until it comes to the place where I was born. Then it’s all, “Connecticut is great!” and “Nobody understands Connecticut,” and “Samuel Colt built this country!”


It is a beautiful place with foothills, a saltwater coast and a big, lovely river right down the middle. But because it sits between New York and Boston, it is perpetually overshadowed.

So sometimes we take irrational pride in the things we count as our own, like the Huskies or the (formerly) Hartford Whalers.

Mark Twain, a Hartford resident for many years, nailed this sentiment more than a century ago in his creative musings about the Charter Oak, Connecticut’s beloved state tree.

I went all about the town with a citizen whose ancestors came over with the Pilgrims in the Quaker City — in the Mayflower, I should say — and he showed me all the historic relics of Hartford. He showed me a beautiful carved chair in the Senate Chamber, where the bewigged and awfully homely old-time Governors of the Commonwealth frown from their canvasse overhead. “Made from Charter Oak,” he said.

I gazed upon it with inexpressible solicitude. He showed me another carved chair in the House, “Charter Oak,” he said. I gazed again with interest.

Then we looked at the rusty, stained and famous old Charter, and presently I turned to move away. But he solemnly drew me back and pointed to the frame. “Charter Oak,” said he. I worshipped.

We went down to Wadworth’s Atheneum, and I wanted to look at the pictures, buy he conveyed me silently to a corner and pointed to a log, rudely shaped somewhat like a chair, and whispered, “Charter Oak.” I exhibited the accustomed reverence. He showed me a walking stick, a needlecase, a dog-collar, a three-legged stool, a boot-jack, a diner-table, a ten-pen alley, a tooth-pick, a —-

I interrupted him and said, “Never mind — we’ll bunch the whole lumber year, and call it —”

“Charter Oak,” he said.

“Well,” I said, “now let us go and see some Charter Oak, for a change.”

I meant that for a joke. But how was he to know that, being a stranger? He took me around and showed me Charter Oak enough to build a plank road from here to Great Salt Lake City.

It is a shame to confess it, but I did begin to get a little weary of Charter Oak, finally, and when he invited me to go home with him to tea, it filled me with a blessed sense of relief. He introduced me to his wife, and they left me alone a moment to amuse myself with their little boy. I said, in a grave, paternal way, “My son, what is your name?”

And he said, “Charter Oak Johnson.” This was sufficient for a sensitive nature like mine. I departed out of that mansion without another word.

— Paul Tosto

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