“Shoot if you must this old gray head,

But spare your country’s flag,” she said.

— From “Barbara Frietchie,

by John Greenleaf Whittier

I live on a quiet, pleasant street that spans the border of Hallowell and Farmingdale. Gardens are lovingly tended and lawns are manicured. There are no ostensible signs of wealth, just the quiet prosperity of those who have worked hard, saved, set aside, had modest successes.

My house is for sale; I plan. to move closer to the Saco area, which is where my youngest daughter and her family live. I’ve invested money, energy, untold sweat equity, time and patience into rehabilitating this turn-of-the-last century farmhouse, and my efforts have paid off: The house is warm, comfortable and inviting.

I have taken particular pride in flying the U.S. flag from my front porch. I am by no means an über-patriot, but I admit to a quiet satisfaction in seeing the flag flapping in the breeze.

It lent color to a monochromatic façade and gave life to an otherwise static scene. It echoed the red of the geraniums in my window boxes and was a welcoming beacon as I drove in from my errands. And, yes, it expressed my love for my country, flawed though that country may be.

Now the flag is gone, victim of mischiefmakers who swap For Sale signs from my yard to another’s, move flower pots, rifle cars and knock down mailboxes. My tranquil neighborhood has been sabotaged.

The woman in the poem, Barbara Frietchie, and I don’t have a lot in common, except old gray heads. I fervently hope nobody ever shoots me, and I’d never stand up against Stonewall Jackson. But I’d sure like to have my flag back.

Hilda Grant Jones

Farmingdale

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