We’re watching the show “How the states got their shapes” and it’s been very interesting to learn about our national map’s strange squiggles and lines. Not surprisingly the shapes result from politics, money and power struggles among people who all eventually have to live together. In the face of a new country in Africa (South Sudan) who knows – maybe there are new states in our future as people in California and Texas decide to resolve their differences by drawing new boundaries to circumscribe their personal biases and prejudices.
As with shapes go names, at the state and local level. So many towns named after people influential in their founding or organization, or in recognition of some ancient people’s name for the place, or something as simple as a natural feature.
How many towns are in this country with the word “falls” in them? According to the 2000 Census Place Names directory there are around 100 or so cities with the word “falls” as a distinct part. That’s a lot of falling water across the country! I wonder how many actually have a falls in the city limits? And how many are counting 3 foot drops in a stream as a falls?
Well, I can speak to a recent experience that Sioux Falls, South Dakota is named after a very obvious natural feature. The city has done a great job of creating a space around their falls that tells the history of the area while offering a park where you can relax to the sound of rushing water. And there are plenty of rocks to scramble around on to see the falls from different perspectives.
Walking around the park I could see it as a destination people would reach right after World War II, right when the big highway building efforts were getting started and people were buying cars and starting to explore their own country. It was a time of collecting postcards to show your friends all the places you’d visited and every little place on the road went to the effort to have pictorial cards made up to display their scenic beauty. From that impression I put together this little piece of nostalgia.
Everyone have a great summer and see your country from new perspectives!