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What is a State After All?

Y’all! I realize I don’t get out much, but I’ve just discovered that Michigan—a state—is made up of two noncontiguous land masses. The Upper Peninsula, or “The UP” as they call it, isn’t even attached to the rest of the state. It’s the top of Wisconsin. But it’s, you know, part of the state of Michigan. How did that happen, you ask? Well, hold onto your hats because I’ve discovered the mythic War Between the States.

It wasn’t fought in the South.

It was fought between Michigan and Ohio. They both wanted Toledo (right, times change.) That led to a war. Michigan against Ohio (no wonder the Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry is so fierce). Actually, it wasn’t much of a war—some guy got killed in a bar fight. But to settle the “Toledo War,” Michigan swiped the UP from Wisconsin. Poor ‘ol Wisconsin was only a territory and couldn’t defend itself. My husband says, “Everyone takes advantage of the cheeseheads.”

So now the UP is sitting up there on top of Wisconsin separated from the rest of Michigan like Hawaii floating off to the side of the United States. A woman in downtown Mackinac Island (which is where I am, which is how I learned of this geographic anomaly—I mean, everyone knows what a state looks like. It’s a blob. Various shaped blobs, but still a blob. Apparently not. In the case of Michigan, it’s a blob plus another state’s wind-blown toupee), she said the UP periodically threatens to secede from Michigan and become its own state.

Well, no s**t. I mean, what if Arkansas up and claimed Mud Island for its own self (“So, Memphis, I see you’re not using that land mass; why don’t we just say it’s part of The Natural State?”) and Tennessee let them do it. If that happened, Mud Island would probably say, to hell with both of y’all—we’re now the grand state of Mud Island.

The UP folks (“Yoopers,” they call them, which I don’t think is a slur, but “Trolls,” which is what the Yoopers call the rest of Michigan—because they live under the Mackinac Bridge—sure sounds like one) would be the State of Superior. Which seems to me like a pretty awesome name for a state.

Secession would serve Michigan right. They’re all over that “we look like a mitten, aren’t we so cute?” business. But what about the UP? Could be a dog sniffing a mitten, I guess. Don’t tell my husband this—it will, without a doubt, lead to him telling you about a drunken disaster of a fraternity float: “Watch the Snowman Catch the Dog.”

I knew this trip had its perils (When I first met my husband, he told me two things: (1) don’t be bringing those beef ribs into this house, and (2) don’t be telling this STAX boy nothing about that pretender Motown.) But it was worth it to venture to the island my grandmother summered in to escape the heat of the Mississippi Delta and revivaled in when Moral Rearmament experienced its heyday.

Little did I know it would shake my faith in what is—or isn’t—a state.

Visual evidence of how weird they do states up north

Mackinac Island, The Toledo War, The Upper Peninsula

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