It was one of those stories that make me cringe.
Just after New Year’s it came across the wire: a farm house in Vermont, the Homer Noble Farm house to be exact, was trashed in a New Year’s Eve party to the tune of more than $10,000. Furniture was broken and burned, bottles, cans and drug paraphernalia were found scattered about. You can imagine some of the other things they did inside…
Breaking and entering was bad enough, and trashing someone else’s property was also entirely distasteful. What really stung, however, was that the Homer Noble Farm house is a place where Robert Frost, one of America’s greatest poets – if not the greatest – spent his summers. In the town of New Haven it’s a well-known historic site, and a draw for poetry lovers throughout New England and the nation.
It was not just the callous disregard shown by the partiers for the property, but also the unabashed sullying of a place that holds a hallowed place in American letters. I hoped, only, that swift retribution would be coming and the perpetrators would be brought to justice.
That wait was, gratefully, short. Within three weeks 28 people were arrested in connection with party, and the property’s stewards are already revamping site security.
The thing is, it should never have come to that. I’m not saying that security should already have been tighter. Rather, there should have been no need for security at all. The legacy of the farm house should have been enough to inspire the respect and adulation of all who live in the area, as well as the country. The very thought of breaking into the house, partying there and trashing it should have been so morally repugnant to those misguided kids that the thought should have been dismissed as soon as it arose.
I know that sounds naive; we don’t live in a society so enlightened – that’s just the facts. Very few of us are beyond reproach for the stupid things we’ve done in our lives. I’ve done my share of mine, but I always – always – had enough of a moral compass to know when I was crossing the line.
Clearly, those who thought the Homer Noble Farm house would be a fun place to trash for New Year’s Eve had no such compass and could see no such line.
What is heartening about this situation? The swift action of the New Haven police, for one. The fact that the break-in got national attention for another. The Homer Noble Farm house has gotten an influx of cash as a result, and the name of Robert Frost entered the minds and crossed the lips of thousands of Americans who probably haven’t thought much about him since they had to read “The Road Less Traveled” in high school. I would also reckon that there will be a few more visitors to the farm house this spring and summer when Vermont thaws. These are all good things, as is – ultimately – the fact that a few of the kids who did the deed, when confronted with it, admitted their complicity and led authorities to the rest of the culprits. I hope, sincerely, that none of those kids will be so foolish again.
Nothing can bring back what was destroyed that night – priceless American material culture is gone forever – but perhaps Frost’s legacy, in all its forms, will now be more closely guarded and more respected, both figuratively and literally.