Sunday, June 16, 2013

Missouri Historian?

I am not a historian. I don't aspire to be one. I never really wanted to be a historian.

But I am Missouri Historian, Micah Fletcher.

As a freshman in college, I took History of Missouri. I didn't really like the class very much. The professor was... interesting. A comic book and Star Trek loving two-eyed, muggle mad eye moody, he was really enthusiastic but a little dry. At the same time, I respect him a lot. He wanted to encourage us to understand that history isn't confined to textbooks and household names.

History is always there whether you care or not. It's like silk; if you have only a few threads the construction is as weak and ephemeral as human memory. But if you reinforce it with more threads, thoughts, papers, blog posts, history becomes an incredibly resilient, beautiful web. You can survive ignoring that web, disregard the past and forget the spider that lies on it, but you'll undoubtedly get a mouthful of silk (and perhaps a homeless spider) if you don't watch where you're walking.

Anyway, one of our assignments was to write a "Hometown Dossier," a historical summary of our hometown. Since I've lived in Columbia MO, the home of the University of Missouri and many of his  students were born and raised in Columbia, I wanted to give him something a little different.

There's always a place in our hometown that is distinctly yours. It's not your house or your street, your subdivision or your township. It's where daily life takes you; down that road, up this one, to this school, through that park. It's the names that you hear most, the streets and people and buildings. That is where you live. That is your corner of the universe.

I wanted to showcase my corner, as an example of the magic that you can discover when you take a moment sit down a while and really study a single spider web. Only after you understand (or understand that you won't understand) that one web, will you understand the scope and beauty of all the webs, all the stories, beginnings, ends as a whole.

Ok, before I slip even deeper into a philosophical rant, I'll finish my story.

I took my time, really delved into the history of southern Columbia. I spent hours searching the web looking for clues, tidbits, threads that I could hang on to. When I was done I felt a dorky sort of pride and decided to post my work as a note on Facebook.

It got a few likes, it got even fewer (full) reads I'm sure, and it got a different sort of attention as well.  One day I was visiting home and my mother told me that a professor she new at a nearby liberal arts college had recognized my name in some assignments in her class. Apparently, two of her students had cited my paper, calling me Missouri Historian, Micah Fletcher. I do not know these people, I do not know how they know me. How that managed to find my Facebook note escapes me. Even after announcing my new official title and explaining the situation in a Facebook status, no one came forward to claim responsibility.

But that title, Missouri Historian, was awesome. It has nothing to do with who I am, what I've done or want to do with my life. It's just something, some undergrad tacked on to my name to make me seem more legit.

Here's the paper that started it all. If you want to learn more about spider webs, here is an educational video that you might find enlightening.

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