Wednesday, July 10, 2013

You Can't Lick The Beaver State


When you live in the Beaver State, you are attuned to state symbols. Ours are respectable, mostly: Douglas Fir, Oregon Grape, Western Meadowlark. Then you look over the list and notice that the state beverage is milk. The state beverage in the biggest and finest hop-producing beer-brewing territory in the solar system is milk. And you begin to suspect that dark forces are responsible for the naming of state symbols, sometimes. Like Big Milk. The poor sarsaparilla lobby never got a foothold. Some symbols, though, seem to have come about as a result of a class project. Mrs. Wormwood's fourth grade class decided to get a bill passed as a civics lesson. Nothing else can explain why our State Hamster is Mr. Fluffy.

We're used to states having symbols. All of them have a state animal, a state flower, and a state bird. But there's been symbol creep. Massachusetts has a state dessert (Boston cream pie), a state dog (Boston terrier), and a state bean (Boston baked bean). Oregon doesn't stand a chance in this contest. Our biggest city doesn't have anything named after it but Portland Cement. Our second-biggest city is no better off. We could have a State Conductor (Eugene Ormandy) or a State Socialist (Eugene V. Debs), but they're not from here.  Third-largest city, same problem. The only thing named after that is Gresham Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM.

A Boston Terrier of my acquaintance
And it would be silly to have a State Cement. Or it would be, if we didn't already have a state soil (the Jory soil). It's a special volcanic soil occurring in only a few legislative districts and is conducive to growing many iconic crops such as the hazelnut, but not necessarily good for crops in other legislative districts, and many senators were grumpy about giving it an official shine. But when the sponsor of the bill to name Jory soil the state soil pointed out that he was willing and able to hold up health care legislation, the virtues of Jory soil became clear to all.

Only some of the symbols are mandatory. You're supposed to have a state bird. Not a lot of thought needs to have gone into it. From what I can tell, small groups of legislators in each state talked about it over whiskey and cigars back in the last century. "How about a robin?" one would ask, depleting his personal cache of recognizable birds, and the others would demur, puffing thoughtfully. "Every other state is going to have the robin," they'd say, flicking ash onto the floor. "I know! How about a cardinal?" Smiles bloomed on the legislators' faces as they each realized they could recognize the natty, bright orange bird, if not his mate. "Cardinal it is!" Thus the cardinal was enthroned as the official state bird of everywhere east of the Rockies. Western states felt bereft. Oregonian legislators, unaware that there was such a thing as the Oregon Junco, punted. "We're in the west--western meadowlark?" Done. I've never seen one, but then again, we only have one Miss Oregon at a time, too.

There is some hope that we can overcome the Milk ignominy by the recent naming of our State Microbe. Right there, we've got something distinctive. No other state has managed a state microbe. Our state microbe is Brewer's Yeast. Streptococcus got no traction at all. The only problem with honoring brewer's yeast is that it is also a fungus, and we already have a state fungus (the chanterelle mushroom). It's like having both a state tree (Douglas fir) and a state leaf (Douglas fir needle). But this sort of dithering hasn't stopped other states. Mississippi has State Mammal #1, State Mammal #2, and State Mammal #3. Now they're bickering over a state gravy.

Here, when it comes to mammals, we have modestly confined ourselves to the beaver. Although we also have a state seal.

49 comments:

  1. Hey Murr! BIG MILK? Yes, those are suspicious characters, I'll grant you. Tho of course, during my presidential run last year, I was accused of being in the pocket of BIG PIZZA, but that was only because they found my shopping list in Eichmann's pocket. But ooooh, a state GRAVY? Now you're talking... mmmm, gravy...

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    1. I'll agree that these days political foes have no compunction about making stuff up, but dear, you totally are in the pocket of Big Pizza.

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  2. Washington has a totally rocking' state song ("Louie, Louie" by Paul Revere and the Raiders) How come we don't have a cool state song? "Oregon, my Oregon" doesn't have much beat and it's totally impossible to dance to. I'd give it a minus 6.

    Hey, why don't you form a band - Murr and the Brewmeisters - and come up with a state song that will hit the top ten? You could do it. You know you could. Murr, you could popularize the electric slide accordion if you wanted to. Go for it!

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    1. Well. Now. Louie Louie is not their OFFICIAL state song. Washington, My Washington is. I am thinking about doing a post on stupid state songs. I'm not sure, but I think there are fifty of them. And Washington's starts out typically: "This is my country, God gave it to me." Welll, la-dee-dah!

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  3. I started off laughing at the title, and then got completely sidetracked when I read "Mrs. Wormwood's fourth grade class decided to get pissed as a civics lesson".

    My dyslexic brain wins again. Think I'll go get pissed...

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    1. I really enjoy your dyslexic brain, and channel it kind of often. And I don't even read fast.

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  4. I think all of these are bought and paid for and state citizens do not get much of a voice. I agree with Roxie on the state song...good idea.

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  5. think about how much fun it would be if we could rename all the state icons for Texas.
    the Ol'Buzzard

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    1. State animal: roadkill! Okay, now you.

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    2. state flower - pucker brush

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    1. Look at this, would ya? A BEAVER Bottle Opener made in OREGON! (sorry, they won't let me post the image itself.)

      http://www.castofcharacters.com/bottleopeners/bobeav.jpg

      Or the Wall Mounted sort:

      http://www.castofcharacters.com/WBONew/wbonbeav.jpg

      I propose this should be our State Bottle Opener.

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    2. I can't see anything beating that for the state bottle opener. Loves the feets!

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    3. Does that come with beer, or is that separate?

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  7. Let's see... Mississippi state animals. Animal #1 Possum, Animal #2 Hog, Animal #3 Leroy. I can't quite get my head around a state fungus, but then, isn't Oregon the place where they've discovered a 300-acre, 1,000 year old, underground thingy that's thought to be the largest living thing on earth? What?! You haven't heard about it? You had better move while you can.

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    1. Sir, I hab done not only heard about it, I hab done writ about it.

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  8. Being a Canadian, I have very little knowledge of state anythings, so this was all new landscape ... I feel just now like I got caught in a current and then in a whirlpool and swirled round and round and round and finally spit out on the bank. Whew! What a ride it is to follow your brainwaves, Murr!

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    1. Oh, and by the way, you done stole OUR NATIONAL SYMBOL, THE BEAVER :)

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  9. Is that Chet Baker? I am in love with Chet Baker. You've actually met the fellow? JEALOUS!!

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    1. Met him? I've swapped spit with him! I didn't mean to, but...

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  10. I neither have seen a Western Meadowlark in Oregon. And I have spent a good deal of time bird watching.. I have see plenty of them in Utah. Utah's state bird is the Sea Gull for reasons of Divine Intervention. Its sure not because they have an ocean.

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    1. Well, they DO have that disreputable brine bucket of a sea. Oh, if only divine intervention ever happened here! We'd have a fine bird. Not that the mythical meadowlark isn't a fine bird, or would be.

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  11. I neither have seen a Western Meadowlark in Oregon. And I have spent a good deal of time bird watching.. I have see plenty of them in Utah. Utah's state bird is the Sea Gull for reasons of Divine Intervention. Its sure not because they have an ocean.

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  12. Maybe our state song should be RAINDROPS KEEP FALLING ON MY HEAD. Or RAIN DANCE by the Guess Who.

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    1. How about "I Like Beer" by Tom T. Hall?

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  13. Not to be outdone by the USofA it turns out Canada also has its provincial symbols - most of which are quite boring. See? Not being outdone that way either.

    Just to show I'm not kidding here's the chorus of the official Nova Scotia song:

    Farewell to Nova Scotia, the sea-bound coast,
    May your mountains dark and dreary be.
    For when I am far away on the briny ocean tossed,
    Will you ever heave a sigh or a wish for me?

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    1. You are solidifying my intent to research official songs. Good lord. May your mountains dark and dreary be?

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    2. That was written just before WWI, and was basically a lament by a sailor about to go off to war (apparent from the verses, not so much from the chorus). Little wonder it was rather dark. Nobody has proposed any update to it in the, oh, almost full century since then ... but we could never be accused of flaunting tradition now could we?

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  14. Luckily down here in mainland OZ there are only 5 States and 2 Territories but although that should make it WAY easier to remember all the symbols, no one can. I blame politics - making your mark by picking a symbol is WAY easier than making your mark by making a difference! I hope you take comfort in knowing I shall never think of Oregon again without thinking of MILK - oh, and beavers!

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    1. I can't think about OZ without thinking about potoroos, so I certainly hope one of your segments has an official potoroo. Or is it bandersnatch?

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    2. Potoroos, huh?? I don't think any OZ worth their salt (whatever in hell that means) spends much - actually ANY - time thinking of potoroos ... Sadly, I don't even think we've made a BIG potoroo - YET! But if I find one, you'll be the first to know!!

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  15. Clearly the selection of American state symbols is a pretty random and irrational process. In Northern Ireland we've avoided the randomness and irrationality by not having any state symbol at all. Unless you count the Giant's Causeway or Titanic Belfast. We're lucky if our perennially squabbling politicians can agree on what to have for lunch, never mind such a tangled issue as a state symbol.

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    1. Wow. Your politicians eat lunch together?

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  17. Milk. That's just weird. Also, the whole state symbols business makes little sense in states with a lot of variety. My state is very long, so it ranges from Mississippi Delta to the Smoky Mountains. What can symbolize that?

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    1. We have a ton of variety. We have one state with a line down the middle and the weather, topography, flora, and fauna are radically different on each side. And it's the western side that everyone assumes is typical. Works for me because that's where I live, and almost everyone else--but the folks on the east side get pretty ticked off that their votes never count for anything.

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  18. Well shoot - we (Massachusetts) have an historical state rock (Plymouth) and a reptile (garter snake), too. Who knew? Our state drink is cranberry juice. At least you can add vodka to it. Maybe that's what our legislators were drinking when they came up with the symbol list...

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    1. I think most states have a state reptile, but hardly any of them have a State Bean, as yours does.

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  19. A state "seal." Now that's funny, right there. And the last photo is a picture of Oregon's state curmudgeon?

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  20. Maybe some enterprising soul could make an ice cream beaver on a stick then everyone could lick the Beaver State!

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    1. I simply cannot imagine that it hasn't been done already!

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  21. We in Texas have the State Governor's Pastime, which is the highly celebrated Executioner, easily recognized by its simultaneous insensitivity and strutting. We honor the Executioner better than any other state, by golly. But I'd personally rather see us designate a new State Governor's Pastime -- we could convert from the Texas State Executioner to the Texas State Cow Patty, which we would toss around a stake, like horseshoes. Plus, we would have far less crap on our hands.

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    1. Lordy, lordy, lawsy, how sensible people suffer in Texas!

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  22. I always thought it was very Canadian to have the humble and industrious beaver as our national animal. No roaring lions for us, just a hard-working rodent. But when we billeted some 16 year old lads from Scotland on a rugby exchange and they went into snickering paroxysms of laughter over our national symbol, I learned that some other folks attribute a whole other meaning to the word. The beaver is on our nickels, so these lads pocketed as many of them as they could to take home. It gets worse: our national bird is a goose.

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