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Where the GNOMES ROAM
Washington County Circuit Court Judge Gayle Nachtigal runs her Hillsboro courtroom with a firm hand, routinely sending convicted criminals off to prison. But Nachtigal has a soft spot: gnomes.
She received her first gnome as a gift, and now her collection features about 20 of the bewhiskered rascals.
Once you get one gnome, they seem to find you, explained Nachtigal, who also sports gnome key chains, earrings and socks.
She and her husband, Hillsboro City Councilor Fred Nachtigal, decided to bring along one gnome Clyde on a trip and have since continued that tradition.
Clyde, alas, fell off a railing at a German zoo and died, Judge Nachtigal said, but he was replaced by Clyde II, a veritable gnomad who has since traveled across the United States and Europe, from the Grand Canyon to Englands Parliament.
When you start taking pictures with your gnomes, soon people want to be in your pictures, Nachtigal said. Then you just meet all kinds of whimsical people.
Under Nachtigals watchful eye, Clyde will never end up in gnome-mans land.
If more of us had whimsical things like this, life might be a little brighter, Nachtigal said. Its hard to get angry or upset when youre with a gnome.
Becky Tengs doesnt just leave her gnomes in her yard.
She brings them inside her home. She takes them to weddings. She eats with them at nice restaurants, where they have their own place-settings (and very small portions served by indulgent waiters).
From outdoor décor to traveling companions to community builders to conversation ice-breakers, garden gnomes arent just funny figurines with hearts of stone. For local gnomeowners a Bald Peak resident, a Washington County judge, the entire Banks Country Garden Club theyre passions.
Theyre also steeped in folklore, history and popular culture, with roles in books and movies.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, gnomes were first named by Medieval scholar Paracelcus.
They were seen as mythical creatures much like trolls or dwarves, considered spirits in Renaissance magic and were penned into early fairy tales, such as the Brothers Grimm story, The Gnome.
Gnome statuettes started appearing in Germany in the 19th century to decorate and protect lawns from sorcery, and are still a staple in many a local yard.
Tengs has about 70 gnomes dotting her five partially-wooded acres near Bald Peak, and they all have what Tengs calls old man grandpa gnomenclature Carlton, Martin, Farney, Leigh, Jack.
Many were given to her as presents on birthdays, anniversaries, holidays or at the end of the school year.
Tengs preoccupation with gnomes is legendary at the Forest Grove Community School, where she teaches third and fourth grades. Students know her classroom doubles as a gnome sanctuary and have wallpapered it with gnome drawings. This year, one student even painted Tengs in the likeness of a gnome.
In her yard, Tengs mini-man menagerie is carefully arranged so there are always two or three huddled together in the shrubbery so they dont get lonely, she said.
Tengs is drawn to their docile faces, subtle charm and coy expressions.
They inspire my childlike imagination and wonder, she said.
Pick me, choose me
In Banks, the ladies of the Banks Country Garden Club also offer refuge to these unshaven gents. They rescued one particular sleepy gnome from the bleak shelves of a big store, christening him Gerome the Traveling Gnome.
He is so popular, at our meetings we have to put our names in a hat just to see who gets picked to take him home. Whoever gets picked gets to have him for a whole month, 30 days. We wait with bated breath; pick me, choose me, Banks Country Garden Club President Rita Hofsheier writes, describing Gerome as a gentleman that roams from woman to woman, garden to garden, never asking anything in return but a soft place to sleep.
Gerome composes a monthly update for the clubs newsletter.
I was placed under a very pretty Japanese maple in the front yard until I learned there was a large garter snake in residence there and I said, No way, Gerome writes under his gnome de plume while staying at Nancy Haskins house.
Does she think that gnomes hibernate just like a bear? Gerome complains at Dalice Sawyers house writing under a pseudognome, of course. She has kept me in the basement since she brought me home in October.
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