More anecdotes on old institutions.

My two favourite anecdotes on this subject demonstrate the difference between renewable and non-renewable resources. First the non-renewable:

The congregation of a small stone church (in England?) decided that the stone which formed the step up to the front door had become two worn by its years of use, and would have to be replaced. Unfortunately, there were hardly any funds available for the replacement. Then someone came up with the bright idea that the replacement could be postponed for many years by simply turning the block of stone over.

They discovered that their great-grandparents had beaten them to it.

Now the renewable:

An entomologist at New College, Oxford ("New" because its only a few centuries old), discovered beetles infesting the oak beams supporting the roof of the Great Hall. It was fairly urgent that these be replaced before the roof collapsed--but anyone who has looked at the price of oak lately can tell you that this was not something the college budget was prepared for.

Since oak from a commercial supplier was out of the question, someone suggested that the college Forester be sent for. His job was to administer the various scattered tracts of land that had been deeded to the college when it was founded. The trustees hoped he might know of suitable trees on college land.

It turned out that there was indeed a suitable stand of mighty oaks. They had been planted when the college was founded, and down the centuries each Forester had told his successor: "You don't cut those oaks; those are for when the beetles get into the beams in the Main Hall."

Submitted by: calorman
Category: Essays and Articles
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