American Consequences - June 2019

it off with a knife.” (The blue racer is not a constrictor, not aggressive, and the longest one on record is 60 inches.) Traversing the Black Swamp could take days. There was no road until 1827, and that was more of an in-line bog than a highway. Crushed stone and culverts wouldn’t come until the late 1830s. The swamp itself wasn’t fully drained until the 1870s. Westward expansion of the newly formed United States may have been destiny but – manifest meet mudfest – it didn’t extend to Toledo. When Ohio became a state in 1803, there were fewer than 60 families of settlers in the Toledo region. And they weren’t very happy. The place was nicknamed “Frogtown” and malaria was epidemic. In the early 19th century, an anonymous local poet wrote: On Maumee, on Maumee, ‘Tis Ague in the Fall;

at all, it’s because of Klinger on M*A*S*H , his beloved Tony Packo’s kielbasa hotdogs, or the 1974 John Denver song “Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio”... Saturday night in Toledo, Ohio Is like being nowhere at all. All through the day how the hours rush by, You sit in the park and you watch the grass die. (Which has become a sort of spoof anthem for the city.) Or maybe because of the Toledo Mud Hens Triple-A baseball team, 20 wins and 33 losses so far this season... but the best T-shirt in the league. Toledo was a failure even before it existed. The most prominent geological feature of this part of Ohio is mud. The land barely rises above the level of Lake Erie. What would become Toledo was blocked to the east and south by the Great Black Swamp – about 40 miles wide and 120 miles long and stretching from the lake along the Maumee River all the way to present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana. One American soldier who crossed it during the War of 1812 called it “the home of Satan.” Tales of peril abounded... A pouncing cougar that measured nine feet from tip to tail. (Possible, maybe.) A six-foot blue racer snake that chased a pioneer for 100 yards. (Unlikely, the snake has a top speed of four- and-a-half miles per hour.) And another that “wound itself around the body” of a farmer “and a man working in the field had to cut HOW THE MUD HENS GOT THEIR NAME

The fit will shake them so, It rocks the house and all. There’s a funeral every day, Without a hearse or pall...

THE FIRST BOOM... AND BUST

Nonetheless, Toledo had a land boom or, rather, a bubble. It was the first in a long series of Toledo boom-and-bust bubbles, in which the booms never swelled to the size that Toledoans hoped and the busts came right in the snout.

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