Sunday, April 28, 2013

geographical hors d'oeuvres

Watching a television show called "How the States Got Their Shapes," I felt as if I were eating potato chips and just couldn't stop as small fact heaped on small fact, salty and deliciously addicting. The ones that stuck with me included ....

-- That Florida, that southern clime claimed by Disney World and babes in bikinis and garish wealth, was home to the largest cattle ranch in the United States. That the Spanish had brought cows with them when they colonized the area in the early 16th century. The cows ran wild and only later were hunted for food. And for that reason the men who tended cattle in Florida became known and prefer to be known as "cow hunters." They used bullwhips in their hunts, cracking them as a means of moving and controlling the wayward beasts. And from this cracking of whips, the now-pejorative word "cracker" evolved. It did not mean a doltish redneck back then ... these were hardy, hard-working and honorable people. There was and remains a community called Crackertown in Florida.

-- That northern Maine is not served by U.S. utilities, but rather gets its power from Canada. Northern Maine contrasts with the southern areas where the "Massholes" have taken up space along the coast. In the north, cell phones and GPS systems are useless. Northern Maine, once home to a booming logging industry, is in many ways, literally and metaphorically, off the grid. It does not take kindly to the fact that Maine was once part of Massachusetts. It was a tantalizing and simultaneously somehow frightening thought ... going to a place that, like much of the earth, simply has no wireless communication. No wireless communication and people get along just fine, thank you very much.

All this and more like it touched my mental taste buds and then disappeared. Totally useless information that made me feel somehow lighter and brighter.

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