Saturday, June 11, 2016

Fireflies and Not Fireflies

Mississippi Comparisons

Growing up in southern New Mexico meant that I had never seen a firefly in real life until I was an adult and living in Maryland. I didn't see them again, until I moved to Columbus, Mississippi, and the whole subject of fireflies brings me to a need to get to know Mississippi by revealing what it is and what it is not—at least based on my experience. This is the "deep" south; make no mistake about that. On one side of the state is the Mississippi Delta, on the other side is the Tom Bigbee River, and small lakes and streams and creeks.

Jackson, Mississippi, the state capital
Indirectly, I have gleaned that Mississippi is close to three million people. And the other thing is, it only has two towns larger than 50,000 people. Jackson is the only true city. Small towns abound.  So my "conclusion" is that Mississippi is a rural state. Here are two links to a description of some of the notable small towns: Twelve of the small towns  and Seven of the most beautiful small towns in Mississippi. Compared to New Mexico, which is three times the land size of Mississippi, Mississippi has a million more people. These are large give-or-take statements, but the population in New Mexico is concentrated in just a few towns far apart. It has several towns larger than 50,000, and Albuquerque is over half a million people and a metro area of almost a million; second to that is Las Cruces, NM with over 100,000 people and a metro area of over 200,000. So the difference is that New Mexico's population is concentrated in towns and cities; Mississippi's population is scattered throughout the state in mostly small towns.

Even though Mississippi is only around 50,000 square miles, it has 82 counties. By comparison, New Mexico is over 120,000 square miles but only has 33 counties.

Mississippi has fireflies; New Mexico doesn't.

Mississippi has lots of surface water; New Mexico doesn't. Mississippi has creeks that seem larger than New Mexico's largest river, the Rio Grande. These kinds of comparisons, however, are not that exciting, but kind of necessary to give me a feel for the state.

Because I know that Mississippi has a lot of small towns, I would expect to be able to take day trips and stop all along the way, in the summer at outdoor fruit and vegetable stands, enjoy lunch and coffee in small independently owned cafes and diners. In New Mexico this is becoming less and less the case. New Mexico towns of any size have given over to fast-food chains, and the independent diners of yesteryear, where you could stop for coffee and a delicious hamburger have been replaced with McDonalds. While this is also true of some towns along major roads in Mississippi, some towns are isolated enough that locals depend on locally owned businesses.

Then there's the matter of the heat and humidity. It really comes down to July and August, according to some of the locals in Columbus. They say these are the two worst months of the year. It's the same in the part of New Mexico I come from. Mississippi has much higher humidity. New Mexico doesn't. In the hot months of the year it's just a matter of whether you're in a sauna (Mississippi) or an oven (New Mexico). One boils you, the other broils you.

My house, my car, on my street
Here in Columbus, I live in a pretty conventional looking neighborhood, with the exception that all the houses along my street are around a hundred years old. There are neighborhoods in Las Cruces, New Mexico, that are tree-lined and the yards have grass, rather than gravel, and if you squint, you could believe you're in a lush city and not see the overwhelming desert all around. Here in Columbus, it is lush and green, and there are fireflies. That's the difference. There are not fireflies in New Mexico.

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