the mystery of the sign on henry street

I don’t know how long it’s been there, but on Henry Street there is a sign perfectly situated for the shortest readers among us.


Unfortunately, readers of any level might have trouble figuring out what the sign is actually trying to communicate.


I’ve spent a while puzzling this over. My first thought was, of course, “Do not sap on the trees.” But what does it mean to sap on a tree? Don’t trees sap all over themselves without any help from us? Do not bring your sap left over from your weekend maple syruping trip to Vermont and drizzle it all over this tree? Watch out–this tree is dangerous–do not inject it with sap or it will mug you for the rest? No, no.

Clearly, it is “Do not step on the trees.”

Problems quickly arise. First of all, it’s just one tree. Secondly, how would I step on it anyway? I may be taller than this sign’s author, but not that tall.

Either way, the first part could probably be easily puzzled out if only the rest would fall into place. But what does the rest say? The middle part I’ve decided to skip. It baffles, and the sturdy tie bisecting the words certainly does not help.

The final line seemed tricky. I’ll admit that when I first passed this sign I got no further than “TSS” before giving up. However, on further examination,


resolves itself into, “There is plastic in the soil!” A sign written by a budding environmentalist? A warning to barefooted city children looking to wiggle their toes in the small patch of available dirt? We may never know.

Readers, please help. Only when I understand its meaning can I follow its instructions. Help me be the good neighbor I’d like to be. I might be really pretty dense, or maybe just not well versed in child writing. There must be some elementary school teacher out there who can tell me what this says. Suggestions welcome.

To conclude, this gem of a sign closes with, I think, the most eloquent bit of all:



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