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Perusing the Yankee Index

Perusing the Yankee Index
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Yankee has been publishing stories since 1935. Occasionally the need arises for us to go back and find one in particular. This is always a nightmare.

The trouble is that Yankee Magazine doesn’t have a single, comprehensive index. For the years 1935-1978, we have a slick, professional, hardbound index that is the envy of the modern staff. Between 1979-2002, it appears editors compiled their own rough indexes on a yearly basis. Printed out copies of these (God only knows where the original files are) can be found in two white binders that are revered and guarded like the treasures they are. For stories later than 2002, our only resource is the memory of our editor, Mel Allen.

All three of these sources have significant blind spots (sorry, Mel), and the likelihood of actually finding what you’re looking for is about 50/50. These wild goose chases have a redeeming quality, however. It turns out that the Yankee indexes are gold mines of unintentional humor. For instance, here are a few samples entries found under dog.

Dog

Chris, dog that could predict future, do math, spell, June 87, p. 126

His fall through the ice breaks the ice for his owner, who makes new friends, Jan 98, p. 112

Trained to seek termites and ants in buildings, May 86, p. 14

Newfoundland, found swimming in ocean, psychic ability of, June 57, p. 38

As little sense as these entries make, as a Yankee editor, I know exactly what these stories are. These are what we politely refer to as “Yankee Stories.”

Not every story that runs in Yankee is a “Yankee Story.” The term is reserved for stories that are a little bizarre, a little cryptic, or those that are just plain crazy. My recent feature, “The Memory Keeper,” fell into this category. When I originally pitched the idea at one of our meetings, I had a hard time explaining it to my co-workers. “It’s like genealogy, but…you know…exciting!” Yankee Story. I had a similar experience with my short profile on FetchStix. “It’s great guys, they sell maple sticks as boutique dog toys!” Yankee Story.

Yankee Stories are the stories that other magazines won’t run. They’re the ones whose appeal is not immediately self-evident. They’re the risky ones, the ones that might fall apart, the ones we know we should say no to, but we just love too much. In order to understand and appreciate a Yankee Story, you have to really engage with it and trust the writer enough to allow them to take you to some very strange places, all with the promise that it will make sense in the end. The only reason we’re able to get away with running these is that, unlike many magazines, we have a readership that actually enjoys reading (thanks for that, by the way).

These are the stories that make Yankee unique. They’re compelling, thought provoking, daring, and, unfortunately, hard to summarize. As a result, our index is littered with entries like

Ghost, dead woman’s slipper found by bicyclist at Mass. Inn, Oct. 66, p. 66

and

Justin Shatwell

Author:

Justin Shatwell

Biography:

Justin Shatwell is a longtime contributor to Yankee Magazine whose work explores the unique history, culture, and art that sets New England apart from the rest of the world. His article, The Memory Keeper (March/April 2011 issue), was named a finalist for profile of the year by the City and Regional Magazine Association.

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