FRANCONIA, N.H. (AP) – As one story goes, several young men working in Franconia Notch in 1805 looked up to an astonishing sight: the granite profile of a man’s face jutting from the mountain side.

Fast forward to Saturday morning.

Two young women working in Franconia Notch looked up to another astonishing sight: the profile was gone.

In 1805, they say Nathaniel Hall forgot about the birds he was hunting and rushed to tell fellow workers of his unbelievable discovery.

Saturday, Amy Cyrs and Cynthia Savoy forgot about the trash they were picking up and rushed to tell their supervisor of their unbelievable discovery.

“We looked at each other and said ‘He’s not there’ and we sidestepped a little and looked up again and he was not there,” said Cyrs, 38.

“My stomach dropped,” she said.

So the state parks trail workers, dressed in uniforms with the ‘Old Man’ on their shoulder patches, jumped into their state truck, with the “Old Man’ decal on the door, and sped down the road to tell their boss.

Cyrs’ braided pony tail probably bobbed side-to-side from under her park’s department hat, with the ‘Old Man’ patch on the front, as she and Savoy craned their necks to look again at the profile’s perch.

“I kept saying, ‘Oh my God, he’s not there,”‘ as they sped away, Cyrs said.

Added Savoy: “We weren’t sure it was real and Amy said ‘I think we’re having a dream’ so I punched her in the arm and said ‘No, you’re not dreaming.”‘

They burst in on their supervisor, Bill O’Conner.

“We went running in and said ‘Bill, you won’t believe this. The ‘Old Man’ is gone. He’s fallen. No joke,” said Cyrs.

They went back north with binoculars to confirm the bad news and saw pieces of rock, with cables where the face had been.

Cyrs said on one level, the ‘Old Man’ was a lot of granite hanging out in the air. But to her, and many others, it was much more.

“If you live here, it’s just what you are,” she said. “In New Hampshire, we not only like to think of ourselves as tough, most people are.”

David Nielsen is as tough a New Hampshirite as they come. He’s a police chief who has seen plenty of sad sights. But the loss of the ‘Old Man’ brought him to tears.

“The oldest person in my family just died,” he said.

Nielsen is the official state caretaker of the ‘Old Man.’ He took over from his father, who dangled over the profile, 1,200 feet above Profile Lake, every year from the early 1960s to 1989 to check cables and fill in cracks to try to keep water from seeping into the profile and damaging it.

“My dad used to tell everyone he gave the ‘Old Man’ a shave and a haircut,” Nielsen said.

His father died in 2001, and per his wishes, the family put his ashes in the ‘Old Man’s’ left eye, David Nielsen said.

Geologically speaking, Nielsen said the water they fought each year finally made its way behind the profile and pried it loose.

But, he said, that’s not the only explanation.

“My dad used to say “God put him here and when he gets good and ready, God will take him away.”‘

“I guess that’s as good an answer as any,” he said.

AP-ES-05-03-03 1924EDT

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