Tennessee: The Shape of State Pride

Tennesseans, especially those prone to woodworking, are fortunate to live in a state with well-drawn boundaries. Here in the Volunteer State, we live inside a convenient parallelogram with two almost perfectly straight edges, connected by two shorter and cheerfully imprecise squiggles.

If you are a Tennessee woodworker endeavoring to craft something in the shape of your home state—say, a coffee table or a cheese board— you can basically get the job done with two chops of the miter saw and a couple nimble passes with the jigsaw.  The same cannot be said of West Virginia.

There’s a case to be made that the relative geometric simplicity of the land below Kentucky is to thank for both our above-average artisanship and our abundant state pride. At this winter’s Porter Flea market, a holiday shopping extravaganza of all things handmade, I can’t tell you how many Tennessee-shaped bulletin boards, bottle openers and ornaments I saw.

I recently crafted a state-shaped hat rack as a housewarming gift for my brother and sister-in-law, who are relocating from up North to hang their hats in Tennessee. Bless their hearts, they currently live in Massachusetts, with all its raggedy edges and tentacled coastline, so they’re probably not used to the surfeit of state-shaped kitsch that we enjoy down here in our green and pleasant convex polygon.

My idea was to create a hat rack that doubled as a geography lesson, with brass hooks representing major cities Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis and Chattanooga. I didn’t get the latitudes and longitudes exactly right, but the hats hang nicely.

And, I admit, my jigsaw and I played fast and loose with the squiggly boundaries along the Mississippi River and North Carolina.

You might notice that my freehand Tennessee is a little thicker than it should be. The same could be said of a lot of us Tennesseans. Last I read, we were the sixth most obese state in the U.S., at almost 35 percent. If you’re looking for a fit-and-trim state, you probably oughta stick with Colorado or Massachusetts, where less than a quarter of the population is obese.

But, as previously discussed, Massachusetts is way too complicated for freehand jigsawing. And if you live in Colorado, your state is a basically a rectangle. No squiggles or anything. That doesn’t make for much of a hat rack.

One thought on “Tennessee: The Shape of State Pride

  1. I love this! Wisconsin is a bit too complicated, although our county tourist information center has a jigsaw puzzle-like state map on the wall. It is made of bits of wood, each shaped like one of the 72 counties. Now that I think about that it boggles the mind.

    Liked by 1 person

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