For those of you who don’t know a gnome from a dome, a gnome is a cute, though sometimes creepy little leprechaun-like spirit creature. Gnomes have inhabited the worlds of L. Frank Baum (The Wizard of Oz), C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia), J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit), and J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter). They are cute little creatures though they shy away from humans, and who can blame them?.
Remember the ever-famous quote from the movie Field of Dreams, “if you build it, he will come.” They were talking, of course, of the famous baseball player Shoeless Joe, but the quote caught on and has been used in all sorts of situations. Which brings us to Pennsylvania, Little Buffalo State Park, to be exact, north of Harrisburg. A retired gentleman, one Steve Hoke, walked daily in the park and from time to time he would see gnomes though I believe he thought they were everyday elves at the time. Mr. Hoke, newly retired, needed something to occupy his time, and he was pretty handy with a saw, hammer, and some nails, so he thought he would build a house or two for the gnomes. He only ever saw one at a time, so he was unaware how many gnomes were living in the park at the time, but later discovered, quite by accident, that there were over 100! After giving the matter much thought for an hour or two, he built a cute little house, then another, and went to place them in the park in the general vicinity that he had seen the gnomes.
A few days later, as Mr. Hoke was walking through the park after a heavy rain, he passed by one of the houses he had placed and saw, much to his amazement, a whole group of gnomes hanging out on the front porch of the teeny-tiny house. He tried counting them, but they all looked so much alike, then as soon as they noticed him, they took off back into the woods. Well, Mr. Hoke has a heart of gold and a lot of time on his hands these days, so he went home and started building even more little gnome homes. In all, he built 38 of these little houses, painted them in bright, cheerful colours, even put little teeny-tiny signs on the teeny-tiny doors.
Now, there are quite a few hiking trails in Little Buffalo State Park, and it wasn’t long before people started to notice the little gnome homes. Word spread and pretty soon children from all around the area were putting down their joystick controllers, turning off their televisions and begging mom and dad to take them to the park! What a great side benefit to the little homes Mr. Hoke had built! Children and adults alike delighted in seeing the little homes and sometimes, if they were very, very quiet, they even got a glimpse of a gnome or two!
You would think this is a good thing, yes? Children out experiencing nature, families spending time together, hiking, picnicking, swimming, and enjoying their park. Yes, a very good thing indeed. But alas, like most good things, this too has an ending and a tragic one at that. You see, the Park Manager, a Mr. Jason Baker, apparently didn’t like the gnomes nor their homes. (I believe his heart is made of chrome.) Or perhaps he doesn’t like children. I’m not sure, but he said that either the gnomes or the children were packing down the dirt in the park and bothering the wildlife. HUH??? What is the purpose of a park, then, if not to give children an opportunity to learn about nature (which includes dirt and animals)?
Long story short, Mr. Baker evicted every last gnome, told Mr. Hoke to take down the gnome homes else they would be destroyed, and now there are no more gnome homes in Little Buffalo State Park in Pennsylvania. To make a sad story even sadder, as he was taking down the last gnome home, with deep sadness in his heart, he encountered a little girl who had just finished her first round of chemotherapy, and she asked her father if they could go to the park and see the gnomes. But alas, Mr. Hoke had just removed the last of the gnome homes, and the little girl saw none.
What became of the gnomes, you ask? I cannot say. Initially, I thought that perhaps they were still in the park, living in knotholes, hollow logs and the like, but the more I thought about it, the more I think they probably moved on. I mean, who wants to live in a park where they are not welcome because they might pack down the dirt? Someday, somewhere in Pennsylvania, somebody will spot a gnome. I hope that person remembers this story and calls on Mr. Hoke to come set up some gnome homes for them.
Disclaimer: Parts of this story are based on the following actual news story that I hope you will read: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/27/us/gnomes-harrisburg-park.html