The Republic Masthead

Column: Yard signs in lawn means more work to be done

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''Politicians Heart Harry'' signs adorn Harry McCawley's lawn Dec. 5 after Mayor Kristen Brown personally staked them there. PHOTO BY HARRY McCAWLEY
''Politicians Heart Harry'' signs adorn Harry McCawley's lawn Dec. 5 after Mayor Kristen Brown personally staked them there. PHOTO BY HARRY McCAWLEY

ONE of the nice things about announcing you are going to retire before you actually retire is that people give you things.

Many of the things I’ve gotten since telling everyone that I would be stepping away from my day-to-day activities with The Republic after Jan. 3 deal with food and have been delicious. Those items not intended for my stomach have been truly gratifying.

And then there were the gifts presented to me by Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown and State Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus.

Yard signs.

I will credit my mayor and my state rep for their creativity. There aren’t a whole bunch of retirees who get yard signs. On the other hand, I don’t think there are many who would want them.

Both elected officials, who regrettably use yard signs when they’re running for office, gave me their gifts at a remarkable going away party at The Commons last week.

In their remarks each alluded to my ongoing and futile campaign against the use of yard signs in Bartholomew County. They made their presentations in a good-spirited way, giving due credit to the printers who supplied the creative touches. Maybe they were actually shifting the blame.

They also held their signs aloft for several minutes so that everyone in the audience could get a good look at them.

Milo’s yard sign asked people to vote for me as “Retiree of the Year” and contained the disclaimer that it had been printed by Tony London. The mayor’s sign had a lot more color and proclaimed that “Politicians Heart Harry.” The artwork on her sign was by the folks at QuickSigns.

I accepted it all in good nature, especially since there’s not much I can do in retaliation after Jan. 3. However, it was after I had returned to our home, enjoyed a good night’s sleep and headed to work the next day that I realized that the mayor had not stopped at a simple sign. Spread out before me in my yard was a garden of “Politicians Heart Harry” signs.

I stood there in a daze for 15 seconds. I walked back into the house and asked my wife, Julie, if she knew something about the new additions to our landscaping. She smiled and told me that they were the work of the mayor, literally. She had personally placed the signs in our grass.

There’s something to be said for being honored in such a way. How many retired newspaper people get yard signs personally staked in their yards by a mayor?

I considered removing the signs, but after thinking the matter over I recalled another important moment in my battle against yard signs. It was quite early and followed publication of a column that pointed out the environmental danger to dirt from yard signs.

Actually, I have no idea whether yard signs pose an environmental danger to dirt or anything else, but I thought it might agitate the “greenies” around town to join my campaign.

It did have an effect but not exactly what I had in mind. The next morning I awoke and looked out the window to our front lawn. I couldn’t see any grass. Spread over it like a bunch of umbrellas were a couple of hundred yard signs.

Someone had spent a good part of the previous night pounding stakes for a couple of hundred yard signs into my yard. Obviously, I’m a sound sleeper.

The night-time stake pounder was an ambitions sort. He/she/they didn’t limit themselves to one or two signs copied multiple times. I was greeted by dozens of different signs promoting candidates for offices ranging from president to township advisory board member. There were even some out-of-state candidates.

The pounders didn’t stop at the current election either. As I went through the array I came across signs for elections past. There was a Barry Goldwater placard and one for a smiling Richard Nixon. Some were for local candidates who ran in the 1960s.

Aside from the appalling mess in my yard, I began to think that there might be a financial opportunity in my newfound garden. I thought about the value of some true antiquities (How many Barry Goldwater yard signs are still around?) and even inquired if there might be a pawn shop in Columbus willing to make a deal.

I’ll shorten the story to report that there’s not a great deal of interest in yard signs, period — antiques or not.

The yard signs in my front yard and the ones presented to me at the going away party have served to remind me that my battle against them has not been won.

On the other hand, I’ll still be writing a weekly column for the Opinion Page after Jan. 3.

Who knows, yard signs might pop up in them every once in a while.

Harry McCawley is associate editor of The Republic. He can be reached by phone at 379-5620 or email at

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