During Agincourt’s sesqui-centennial, Howard Tabor wrote a year’s worth of local interest columns under the general title “A few figs from thistles…” Unless you’ve read a lot of 20th century American poetry, that sentence fragment probably doesn’t ring a bell. But a select few will recognize it as the title of Edna St Vincent Millay’s second book of poems published in 1920 and expanded the next year.
You’ll have to ask Howard why he chose that title. But I suspect two of Millay’s poems there are among his favorites, titled simply “First Fig” and “Second Fig” and hardly of Homeric sweep:
My candle burns at both ends; / It will not last the night. / But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends, / It gives a lovely light. And,
Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand. / Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand.
Mercifully, Howard’s columns are nearly that abbreviated.
The series began on Saturday, October 21st, 2006 and continued for fifty-two weeks until the actual celebration on Founders’ Day 2007. Each week treated some aspect of Agincourt and Fennimore county history — a person, a place, an event — in no particular order. Indeed, some of them were chosen based on some accidental encounter, a suggestion from one of his readers, or some nagging question simmering for some time in Howard’s faulty recollection. Within the framework of the city’s 150th birthday celebration, he allowed the topics to choose him. And, while they’re hardly of Pulitzer quality, they seem to have served their intent: to convince his readers that little things, things with unprepossessing modesty, can often tell a worthwhile tale far larger tham themselves.
You can use the site’s search window and the term “few figs” to call them up — all one hundred and sixty of them; yes, they continued after the sesqui-centennial had run its course — or you can patiently await a summary here.