Friends of Pipeline DN and DW are going to the Northwest Angle, which I just recently learned is the name for that notch that sticks out of Minnesota and into Canada. The Angle, is it’s known to the locals, is one of three places in the lower 48 that you can only reach by going through Canada, the others being some land mass out in Lake Champlain in Vermont, and a tiny island way up by Vancouver that is split by the international boundary and as recently as 1973 featured an ugly turn in American/Canadian relations.
But that’s not why I care about the Angle, so much. I care because for all my life I’ve looked at that little notch that stuck out of Minnesota and wondered why anybody would bother creating a border like that. As with most situations involving a border irregularity or dispute, lawyers were involved in the Northwest Angle’s creation, this time resulting from an interpretation of the Treaty of Paris. Whatever the origin, the result is clear to anybody who looks at the map: We stuck it to Canada. Well, Britain at the time. But Canada ended up getting the shaft, as clearly the Northwest Angle (which is mostly part of the Lake of the Woods) should all be in Canada. Alaska’s galling to lose, sure, but the Russians were also involved in some way there. But the Northwest Angle? That’s just embarrassing, to have a little notch of your country taken away like that. A notch that doesn’t even matter; the U.S. just took it because they could.
Think that’s bad, though, look at Arkansas. Sure, you know Texas isn’t going to yield on the southwest corner. (And boy, is Texarkana happy for that…) But look at the way Missouri squeezes in up on the northeast corner. Have some pride, Arkansas. Even Oklahoma gets in on the act with that slanted border on the east side. Oklahoma has to take what it can get, though, and that’s pretty much what it did. You know you’re in rough country when you’ve got two panhandles beside each other, as with Oklahoma and Texas. I crossed into the Oklahoma panhandle once from New Mexico at high rate of speed on a sunny day in a Nissan Pulsar T-Top. Pipeline Person KR was at the wheel, Paul’s Boutique was on the stere, ere, o and for miles the sides of the highway were lined with deep green groundcover topped with bright yellow flowers. As we crested a hill a valley sank from the gently rolling prairie, and inside the valley was a furry, shifting sea of black cattle and the deep brown soil of their immense stock yards. Many cows, more than I thought possible. But once out of the valley it was back to the rolling prairie, and then Kansas. Sweet, sweet Kansas.
Clearly, though, no state has been so obviously wronged by another as Wisconsin has by Michigan. What would Michigan be without it’s beloved Upper Peninsula? Much smaller, for one. It would be a hugely significant loss of real estate and character. But anyone with eyes can see that the UP by all rights should be a part of Wisconsin, where it would be called Packerlander. There would be a giant festival there called Sausage Fest. And they would do Octoberfest for real, with the beer and the hearty serving wenches and the polkas. But no. It’s the UP instead. Thanks, Wisconsin.
The most egregious notch in the lower 48 is that of Delaware, which is really just a part of Maryland that was carved out. And yet Delaware was the first state, which makes it look like they didn’t know what they were doing the first time they tried it and had to go back for the rest to get it added on as Maryland. I am aware there is a history related to how Delaware got created, but I’m just talking about how it looks today on the map. And it looks to me like Maryland is doing Delaware a giant favor. I don’t know where, but somewhere along the line Delaware’s founding fathers let the people of Delaware today down, as demonstrated by this dramatization.
Caesar Rodney: “I say, you mean we can just carve out any piece of this vast tract of land on the map and call it Delaware? Jolly good. And we get to be the first state? Well, soil my knickers, Pierre, but what’s the right size for a state, do you think? Whatever it is we’re to be the first state, which is a big honor, so let’s think extra big. Not to mention, I’m going to ride 80 miles on horseback tonight, through a driving thunderstorm, to make all of this happen. So let’s not hold back on how big we want to make Delaware. Let’s go crazy. Jolly good!”
Pierre Samuel du Pont de Numours: “Hail, Caesar! There’s going to be hail in those thunderstorms; you’ll never make it to Philadelphia!”
But Caesar Rodney did make it, and as a result of large thinking today Delaware is the second-smallest state in the union and by the typology employed for our discussions here, a notch. Now to be clear, I think Delaware was already laid out and Caesar Rodney’s midnight ride was only involved in Delaware being the first state to ratify the Declaration of Independence, which still makes his feat both historic and badass and thus perhaps an entrant to my human feat contest. I merely used Caesar Rodney as an example of a famous Delawarian. Fellow Delawarian Ryan Philippe will play him in the movie version of this midnight ride, if he hasn’t already.
I will post pictures of the Northwest Angle if they’ll send them to me. Then we will debate which is better, the Northwest Angle or Four Corners.