A Natural Proposal

To me, one of the biggest pluses of migrating from the Keystone State six years ago was the promise of one of New Hampshire’s license plates emblazoned with “Live Free or Die” on my wee Metro.

“Live Free or Die” has to be the most kick-tooshie state motto in the lower 48, and anything that makes a Metro look cool is OK in my book. But with the ever-rising cost of gas coupled with the soggy spring that seemed to dampen literally each weekend in May and June, I’ve wondered if — for the state’s tourism industry, at least — “Live Free or Die” might be in danger of becoming “Live Moderately Priced or Die.”

And so, with apologies to Jonathan Swift, I would like to put forth a very modest proposal for keeping the “free” in “Live Free or Die.”

Oh, don’t worry. I am not about to advocate dining on the offspring of the poor as Mr. Swift did in his famous satire. Instead, I look to modern-day Americans and the passions that pump the red blood through their veins. I look to the ideals that make them rise in the morning to greet the day, from the smallest child in his cradle to the Boston Post Cane-holders among us. I look to the dreams of liberty, of equality or honor among men.

In other words, I look to NASCAR.

Stay with me, people.

New Hampshire boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in all of New England, even without the Old Man’s profile watching over us. In the hit song “Money,” the Beatles once sagely reminded us that “the best things in life are free.” They then sagely added, “but you can leave them to the birds and bees.” NASCAR on the other hand has shown us that the best things in life can be sponsored out the wazoo and plastered with patches and stickers boasting the names of famous breweries, candy-makers, home-improvement chains and, curiously enough, religions (the Scientology mobile will be making NASCAR tracks this summer, alas without Tom Cruise at the wheel).

Those companies don’t seem to care much about high visibility. Drivers are often walking billboards and there are nearly as many corporate sponsors represented in a typical race as there are Red Sox fans still grumbling about Pedro staying in too long during Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

Money may not grow on trees, as the old saying goes, but with corporate sponsorship, maybe it could. Think of it. What brings scads of tourists to our highways and byways each fall? What do bus tours insist makes a perfect New England jaunt?

That’s right, foliage. Every leaf a tiny canvas covered with nature’s art and awaiting only one thing: sponsorship.

There’s already a company that will imprint a corporate logo or Web site on the petals of a rose. Why couldn’t a paint company, a yard supply firm or a bus-touring business sponsor the leaves on some of the more prominent maples, oaks and birches in the state? Once big business hears of the number of leaf-peepers our fair state sees each autumn, state tourism will be (pardon the pun) raking it in.

Everyone wins. The tourists are happy. Our state coffers runneth over. And best of all, I get to keep the best state motto ever emblazoned on my Metro: “Live Free or Die — brought to you by our sponsors.”

Jen O’Callaghan lives in Manchester with her Metro, Bulldog, and a fat cat named Scootch. Reach her at jenocal@comcast.net.