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Fazil J
Posted: Saturday, October 27, 2018 9:05:42 AM
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The following is from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain’s.

“Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board fence nine feet high. Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a burden. Sighing, he dipped his brush and passed it along the topmost plank; repeated the operation; did it again; compared the insignificant whitewashed streak with the far-reaching continent of unwhitewashed fence, and sat down on a tree-box discouraged.”

Can you tell me what a “tree-box” is?

FounDit
Posted: Saturday, October 27, 2018 10:22:12 AM

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Fazil J wrote:
The following is from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain’s.

“Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board fence nine feet high. Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a burden. Sighing, he dipped his brush and passed it along the topmost plank; repeated the operation; did it again; compared the insignificant whitewashed streak with the far-reaching continent of unwhitewashed fence, and sat down on a tree-box discouraged.”

Can you tell me what a “tree-box” is?



Tree-boxes come in many forms and are sometimes called planter boxes. They can be built around trees planted in the ground, or may have the tree planted in the box itself. Here is one example:




We should look to the past to learn from it, not destroy our future because of it — FounDit
Fazil J
Posted: Saturday, October 27, 2018 2:57:04 PM
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Thank you, FounDit.
thar
Posted: Sunday, October 28, 2018 4:01:39 AM

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Really? In the street next to the fence TS is supposed to paint?
I know it says there is a sidewalk but this seems a bit modern and gentrified for the time and place! Think

Maybe I have the wrong mental picture.
Romany
Posted: Sunday, October 28, 2018 6:39:14 AM
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I think I share the same mental picture as you, Thar. A 19th century sleepy little town by the Missisippi - dusty dirt streets, wooden houses, outdoor toilets...

The idea of a planter plonked down there seems extremely incongruous and somewhat jarring, doesn't it? They were still making towns in America then - the idea of prettying them up with Municipal(Government?) funds for things like planters only came about in the second half of the 20thC.

I did do a cursory internet search and could find no reference to tree-boxes anywhere. Perhaps an anotated copy of the book made for schools would tell one? Or is the story of the book being banned in schools now actually true? In which case you might find a copy on-line.
Fazil J
Posted: Sunday, October 28, 2018 7:57:24 AM
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Romany wrote:
A 19th century sleepy little town by the Missisippi - dusty dirt streets, wooden houses, outdoor toilets...

… the only town pump everyone had to go to in order to get water;

not a single building with a tin roof;

a little frame school building;

a graveyard, which “had a crazy board fence around it, which leaned inward in places, and outward the rest of the time, but stood upright nowhere”.

ozok
Posted: Sunday, October 28, 2018 9:58:40 AM
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Quote:
...and sat down on a tree-box discouraged.


one artist's book cover impression of a 'tree-box'- but Tom is not looking 'discouraged'.





just sayin'
Romany
Posted: Sunday, October 28, 2018 3:02:26 PM
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FazilJ,

And in which nothing much had changed 60 years later when:

Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.

Harper Lee is the other person who etched the sleepy old Southern towns of days-gone-by deep into my understanding. I can conjure up, from my own childhood, women exactly like that! To me it immediately gave me an image of country towns in so many places.

thar
Posted: Sunday, October 28, 2018 3:16:13 PM

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ozok wrote:

Quote:
...and sat down on a tree-box discouraged.


one artist's book cover impression of a 'tree-box'- but Tom is not looking 'discouraged'.






This is after he has successfully conned everyone else into painting the fence for him. Whistle
Fazil J
Posted: Sunday, October 28, 2018 4:43:53 PM
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Another thing that I can't understand is why the board fence around Tom's aunt's poor little house should be nine feet high. What was it supposed to protect her from?
Romany
Posted: Monday, October 29, 2018 11:03:01 AM
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I think that's down to Huck's hyperbole, isn't it? (Been a while since I read it). Is he not simply exagerating because it SEEMS that high to him when asked to "waste" his time painting it?
Sarrriesfan
Posted: Monday, October 29, 2018 11:24:26 AM

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Romany wrote:
I think that's down to Huck's hyperbole, isn't it? (Been a while since I read it). Is he not simply exagerating because it SEEMS that high to him when asked to "waste" his time painting it?


To take an alternate view this was still a time when people rode horses and drove livestock through towns, a 9ft high garden fence would help protect your land being trampled by them.

If I think about my garden and those of my neighbours there are plenty that have fences that are 7-8ft high to provide a modicum of privacy to people in them.

I lack the imagination for a witty signature.
Fazil J
Posted: Monday, October 29, 2018 12:38:06 PM
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Sarrriesfan wrote:
This was still a time when people rode horses and drove livestock through towns, a 9ft high garden fence would help protect your land being trampled by them.

Well, it makes sense, but how could an eight-nine-year-old boy climb it?

“The lad fled on the instant, scrambled up the high board-fence, and disappeared over it."

“Before Aunt Polly could collect her surprised faculties and sally to the rescue, six or seven clods had taken personal effect, and Tom was over the fence and gone.”


And why other people in the town had low fences?

“As he was passing by the house where Jeff Thatcher lived, he saw a new girl in the garden.”

“She (Becky, an eight-nine-year-old girl) tossed a pansy over the fence.”

Romany
Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2018 7:55:05 AM
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Sarries -

I don't think 19thC residents in small towns in America had any need of 9ft fences for 'privacy'; they were, after all, sociable places where everyone knew everyone and chatted over garden fences. As, at that time, were English towns where the only person with a high wall would have been Gentry! I've certainly never seen any paintings, photos, drawings of rural USA showing a 9ft fence. As to livestock being driven through - are you a city-boy, mate?Dancing What good would a wooden fence - whether 9ft or 4ft - be against a herd of cattle?

Besides all of that - Huck was prone to exageration and hyperbole was one of his ways of expressing himself.Think

However, as it's been at least 20 years since I last read the book to my sons, can't remember how or where the "9ft" measurement came from.
FounDit
Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2018 1:15:05 PM

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Just musing here, but I can imagine that lower fences might be found between houses and neighbors, but high fences might be found on the street side of buildings and homes.

We have to recall that there was no air conditioning at that time, so windows would often be left open for air and cooling. Street traffic would include many horses, dirt and detritus which might blow into rooms with open windows.

I don't know that that was the case for aunt Polly, but it doesn't seem unreasonable to make such assumptions. So a high fence might be a perfectly reasonable thing to have along a street.


We should look to the past to learn from it, not destroy our future because of it — FounDit
Tyoma
Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2018 5:01:59 PM
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FounDit wrote:
I can imagine that lower fences might be found between houses and neighbors, but high fences might be found on the street side of buildings and homes.

In 1938 movie, aunt Polly's fence was about 6 ft tall and seems the tallest in the town. The rest were just waist-high picket fences.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbZuCrmSHN4
RuthP
Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2018 6:16:58 PM

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My guess (and that's all it is) is that "tree-box" is a degenerate form of "treen-box". The word "treen" no longer exists (at least not in AE). It was once used to describe something made of wood.

I am guessing the cover illustration shown is correct, and tree-box referred to a wooden box (as we would say today). Twain's use of tree-box probably reflects a terminology from the nineteenth century, which in turn is likely a degeneration from the seventeenth century "treen" box.

I, too, doubt the use of planter boxes at the time Mark Twain was writing, but I, too, was unable to find another "tree-box". Well, that's not exactly true. I did find several references to an in-ground tree-box intended as a diversion and filter for run-off street water, designed to keep polluted water out of storm drains, but that's a 21st century usage, not a Tom Sawyer usage.
Romany
Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2018 8:05:10 PM
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Edited to add:-
Woops. sorry, got carried away there with my own results; forgot to comment on the "treen" etymology. That really is a rather convincing theory. I wonder what Thar would make of it?


And I was reminded by a colleague that there is something far behind the scenes in theatres - 'techie territory - called a 'tree=box'. But neither of us knows what it actually is. I hazarded a guess that it was some sort of large box of electrical connections and she that it was something to do with moving scenery. Neither of which helped in this case in any way.

(But I'm still going to 'phone a friend' - who IS a 'techie - and ask them if they can tell me. Just because of my piqued curiosity.)
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Thursday, November 1, 2018 4:43:41 AM

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I like that suggestion from Ruth - it's much more likely (to my mind) than a Treebox eco-filter.

Hi Romany - a tree box in 'techie' is one of those 'multiple-choice' drop-down menus - but specifically one in which each item can be expended to several more choices - like branches and twigs.
Like this



Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
thar
Posted: Thursday, November 1, 2018 8:40:38 AM

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Yep, something is treen if it is made of 'tree' in the same way it is wooden if it is made of wood or golden if it is made of gold.


Old English
trēowen

(“of a tree, of wood, wooden”), from Proto-Germanic *triwīnaz, equivalent to tree +‎ -en.

Middle English
treen


Alternative forms
treene, treyn, tryen, tren, trene, trenne, treowene
Adjective
treen

Made of wood; wooden.
Pertaining to trees.
Noun
treen pl
(collectively) Items made of wood.


English
treen


Quote:
Adjective
treen (comparative more treen, superlative most treen)

(edit - it is difficult to see how something can be tree-ier than something else. It seems a sort of yes or no state of being made of tree!)

(Now chiefly dialectal) Pertaining to or derived from trees; wooden; made of wood.
Noun


Household articles made of wood.
(Now chiefly dialectal, Scotland) A large wooden platter.

(household articles made of wood): treenware


treenware:
Quote:
Typically the object is small and made from one piece of wood. These days, 'treenware' seems to be most often used to refer to wooden kitchenware. I tend to think of it as the wood counterpart to the word 'earthenware'. Earthenware is made of earth, and treenware is made of tree.



And because I am looking at tree - 'doru, taru, tre'

Quote:
Anatolian: *dōru-[2]
Hittite: 𒋫𒊒 (taru), 𒋫𒀀𒊒 (tāru)
Luwian: 𒋫𒀀𒊒 (tāru)


Never waste an opportunity to quote Hittite, is my motto. Whistle

Assuming 'tree' is dialectal 'treen' the question then becomes 'why did he feel the need to specify wood?'
In that context I would automatically assume any box to be made of wood, unless it was specifically described as metal (and very unlikely to be lying around outside). So does that further indicate solid planks, not slats? Or something like that? Or something solid like oak, not flimsy pine? Think

The Celtic origin is about strength, not just something that is made from a tree.

Quote:
Cornish
Noun
derow f (singulative derwen or derowen)
oaks

Welsh
Noun
derw f pl (singulative derwen)
oaks


Not suggesting it means 'made of oak' because clearly the word 'tree' in English is not the same as the Celtic word from the same distant root. But maybe some distinction between 'tree(n)' and 'wood(en)'? Think


Or maybe he just got wordy and wanted to say it was a wooden box - cheap pine slats and all. Whistle
FounDit
Posted: Thursday, November 1, 2018 12:35:42 PM

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It would seem extremely odd for Mark Twain to use a word that didn't fit what he intended. He is quoted as saying:

"The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
- Letter to George Bainton, 10/15/1888


We should look to the past to learn from it, not destroy our future because of it — FounDit
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