Monday, October 17, 2016
The Lines That Divide Us
In 1767, on 18 October, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon complete their survey of the boundary between the colonies of Pennsylvania and Maryland. This boundary line also went through areas that would eventually become the states of Delaware and West Virginia. The British Crown demanded in 1760 that the border violence between settlers due to disputes of the boundaries end and the colonies hold to an agreement that had been reached in 1732. As part of the colonial adherence to royal command, Mason and Dixon were commissioned to determine the exact boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland. To add to the dispute, both colonies claimed the area between the 39th and 40th parallel. That boundary was finally settled at a northern latitude of 39 degrees and 43 minutes—and is now referred to as the Mason-Dixon line.
That boundary is still there, marked with stones bearing the crest of Pennsylvania on one side and the crest of Maryland on the other.
That line runs much deeper though. Cross the Mason-Dixon line to the south and things seem to change. I’ve noticed it every time I go to our little homestead in TN. Things seem to move a little slower. There is still what a lot of people consider out-moded behaviors: things like common courtesy, respect for elders, a belief that helping your neighbor isn’t ever supposed to go out of style. I find those things north of Dixie, too, but not as often.
Up North, if someone lives in a glass house and starts to toss rocks, people are apt to say that person is pretty stupid. Down here, folks will smile a smile that wouldn’t melt butter and say in the sweetest of tones, “Well, bless your heart.”
Yeah…that’s going to be my newest favorite saying.