Monday, March 7, 2016

March 7, 2016 - The More Things Change . . .


If you park your car in a place where it is unlawful to do so, one of two things will happen.  It will either be towed and impounded at your expense, or a “boot” will be put on one of the wheels and you will have to pay a fee to have it removed.  Either way, you must pay for your negligence.

But you have heard the old saying that the more things change, the more they stay the same?  Here is one of a handful of “cattle pounds” still left standing in Maine.  It was built in 1818 by John Tyler, who was paid $50 to do so.  The Town of Pownal commissioned him to build it in 1817, just nine years after the town’s incorporation.  It seems a pound was already necessary by then.

Cattle pound, Pownal, Maine.

A cattle pound was used to hold stray livestock (sheep, pigs, cattle, geese, etc.) that had gotten away from negligent owners who did not keep their property boundaries or animal pens in good condition.  Usually, the stray animal would wander on to someone else’s property and cause damage or eat crops.  The owner of the property on which the animals had strayed was called the “impounder.”  He would bring the animal to the pound where it would be kept until it was claimed by its owner.

In the meantime, the animal had to be fed and watered, and this was done by the pound-keeper, also known as the “tallyman” because he collected the fee from the animal’s owner.  The fee included damages done to the property of the impounder as well as food and care given to the animal by the pound-keeper.  If the owner didn’t claim the animal within a reasonable amount of time, it was sold to cover the costs of the impounder and the tallyman.

Good stone walls or sturdy wooden fences properly kept could go a long way in keeping an animal on its owner’s property.  Well-kept animal pens could do the same thing with much less material than enclosing an entire homestead.  But it was and is the responsibility of the owner to keep his property where it belongs.

And the more things change, the more they stay the same.  “Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.” - Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, Les Guêpes, 1849.

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