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Rebecca Rule brings Yankee humor to Warren

Rebecca Rule brought her entertaining Yankee humor to Joseph Patch Library in Warren last Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
April 03, 2019
WARREN – New Hampshire's renowned humorist and storyteller Rebecca Rule paid a visit to the Joseph Patch Library in Warren last weekend, where she brightened the end of a long, snowy winter with fun tales and some interesting background on Yankee humor.

"That Reminds Me of a Story" was the theme of the program, and during the course of her presentation, Rule encouraged people to share their stories with her, too.

"Wherever I go people tell me stories and I write them down so I can go tell them in the next town. It's a total racket," Rule said with a big grin.

Having been at Joseph Patch Library for her "Moved and Seconded" town meeting humor in the past, she briefly reviewed some favorite quick stories, like the one about a three-legged pig ("With a good pig like this, you don't want to eat it all at once," the farmer said.) before delving into longer tales she has collected over the years.

"You know these types of stories — this is Yankee humor," Rule declared.

A favorite story she heard just a year ago was about two men in Sunapee named Frank and Walter. It went something like this.

Frank was driving his truck with a bit of a "lead foot" when they passed what he thought might be a police officer.

"Was that a cop we just passed?" he asked Walter.


"Did he pull out on the road?"

"Yup," said Walter.

"Is he following us?" Frank asked his friend, again hearing "Yup" as the reply.

Finally, Frank asked Walter if the officer had his blue lights on and Walter responded by saying, "Yup, nope, yup, nope, yup, nope."

"Think about it. You might not get that one until tomorrow," Rule said with a wink.

Yankee humor is a dry humor, she explained, that sometimes takes people a moment, or even a day or two, to understand. She said the origin of Yankee humor comes from Great Britain, more specifically the area of Yorkshire where humor was low key but funny all the same. She recounted a Yorkshire tale where a young couple was seated on a bench and the woman asked, "Don't you think it time we married?" Her beau replied, "Yes, but who would have us?"

As the room erupted in laughter, Rule said simply, "That's Yorkshire."

Throughout the afternoon she shared other stories she collected from Danbury, Canterbury, Northwood and Greenville, as well as other towns. One from Colebrook referred to a gentleman speeding through town who was stopped by a Colebrook police officer. As he fumbled for his license and registration, he told the officer he was from "Pittsburg." The officer replied, "Well, now I know you're lying. You have Pennsylvania license plates."

Rule reminded the crowd, "We all have to laugh at ourselves now and then."

In fact, despite having told these stories many times over the years, she herself still breaks out in laughter as she tells them.

Warren residents agreed with her premise and took time to share a bit of their own local humor. Curious about the Redstone Rocket that graces the town common, she asked if anyone knew the story of how it came to be erected in the town. While no one present could deliver the full details, one woman said her husband always told their children and grandchildren, "It's an inter-county missile. If we get attacked by another county, we're good!"

Another resident pointed out, "Since we've had that rocket here in Warren, no one has attacked us yet!"

John recalled his move to Warren. When he told all his friends in Connecticut that he would be adding a barn to the home he and his wife purchased, they were excited for him. Thinking nothing of it, he soon informed his New Hampshire neighbors of his plans.

"They all said, 'You mean, you don't have a barn?"

With a smile, Rule made a note of those statements so she could pass that information along to the next town.

For 10 years, Rule hosted "The Authors Series" and currently hosts "Our Hometown" on New Hampshire Public Television, which delves into the culture, history and people of New Hampshire. She also joined other Yankee humorists like Tim Sample for a presentation of the famed "Bert and I" tales at L.L. Bean in Freeport, Maine, a place she called "The Mothership " of Yankee Humor.

She is also an author, penning several books on the humor of New Hampshire. Among those are "Move and Seconded," "N is for New Hampshire," "Live Free and Eat Pie," and "Headin' for the Rhubarb!: A New Hampshire Dictionary (Well, Kinda)."

Rule's presentation at Joseph Patch Library last week was made possible through a grant from the N.H. Humanities Council, which Librarian Veronica Mueller said helps the library hold a couple of special events each year. In addition to those events, the library also hosts a Common Ground Forum at 6 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month. The forum brings people together to discuss varying current topics in a friendly and informative manner where views from all sides are encouraged.

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Varney Smith
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