There are very few places in the world that have never sent a visitor to Twelve Mile Circle in the several years since I started the site. Nonetheless I check my access statistics for any new arrivals occasionally along with all the rest of my borderline obsessive-compulsive reader behavior examinations. I conducted the last comprehensive check for first-time countries in April 2013 and I expected few additions. A handful of locations continued to cling stubbornly to the No Visitors list. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I’d added seven new locations since that time as the map slowly nears completion. I’d observed a couple of them when they arrived while the others somehow slipped past my attention. The most recent additions were Burundi, Cape Verdi, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Norfolk Island, Saint Helena and South Sudan.
I was particularly pleased by the African additions. I’ve attracted very fewer readers from Africa per capita most likely for a variety of reasons, probably involving the rate of Internet penetration in some of the less affluent corners of the continent combined with large percentages of people speaking languages other than English. A site such as mine oriented towards geo-oddities primarily within North America and Europe and written completely in English would be less relevant to much of that audience than perhaps to other topics.
The Burundi hit may have been the most interesting of the new batch from Africa. The reader appeared to have a fascination with U.S. county boundaries as displayed on Google Maps. What was the story behind the story? What unusual set of circumstances led that reader to 12MC? Was this the sign of a budding County Counter? An American expat planning a return trip to a native land? Those are the kind of topics that run through my mind whenever I spot a visitor anomaly like this one.
The hit from South Sudan was also a great pickup. I’d already captured Sudan, the larger version, before South Sudan seceded in 2011. I’m sure that people of South Sudan had bigger issues on their mind than the hole their independence created on my African visitors map. Nonetheless a large empty spot appeared that day and it took two years to finally fill it back in.
I also continued to capture various islands although they didn’t have quite the dramatic visual impact on my map since they were so small and widely scattered. A couple of them fit both the African and island definitions, though. Cape Verde is an archipelago off the coast of western Africa originally settled by the Portuguese. Also, Equatorial Guinea includes both an island component and mainland component, and it’s one of the few areas of Africa where Spanish has been among its official languages. I can’t comprehend why my visitor from Equatorial Guinea wanted to take a ferry from Maryland to Virginia although that’s what he or she apparently hoped to do, so best of luck on that idea. It’s not an easy feat to complete even for those of us living in close proximity.
Then I got to the truly crazy catches: Norfolk Island, a largely self-governed area of Australia; and Saint Helena, part of a British Overseas Territory. Granted, English would be an official language on either island and that should increase the odds of attracting readers, however Norfolk had only 2,300 residents and Saint Helena 4,200. That led me to speculate whether one or both may have involved a regular 12MC visitor on holiday who happened to know I enjoyed hits from odd places. It’s happened before so a big Thank You if that’s the case.
The 12MC family likes to go to the beach in the Winter. I realize that sounds completely counter-intuitive, to put it nicely. However, the crowds are gone, hotels are available and at much cheaper rates, and I don’t enjoy lying on the sand in the sun anyway. Sitting in a single spot actually increases my anxiety. We went to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for the weekend, returning early on Sunday morning to avoid an ice storm.
16 Mile Brewing Company
What does that have to do with anything?
That allowed us to chart a course through Georgetown, Delaware, the location of an article I posted called 12 Mile Circ… no wait, 16!. I love it when I’m able to visit a place in person that I’ve featured online.
It also combined two things of interest to me, geo-oddities and beer. Georgetown was the home of the 16 Mile Brewing Company, a microbrewery (not a brewpub). There I enjoyed a beer sampler at their attractive tasting room. That’s a fairly recent trend, by the way. Microbreweries used to not cater much to beer tourism. They’ve become more like vineyards in recent years, learning from their wine making cousins that tasting rooms serve as excellent advertising and as a means to cut-out the middleman.
Of course, my mind was drawn to a large map posted on a nearby wall explaining the significance of the 16 miles, which matched with what I reported in the earlier article. I’ll note that I was the only person standing in front of the map, gawking. Everyone else seemed happy to sit at the bar or at a table and sip their samples.
Naturally I stopped at Dogfish Head’s brewpub Rehoboth Beach, which I’ve visited several times before, although the shark adorned festively with a Santa hat was a nice holiday touch.
As always, I enjoyed my brief visit to Delaware, the tiny state with more geo-oddities per square mile than any other place on the planet.
Sometimes a game isn’t just a game, like when it involves the championship of a beloved sport. My recent "Whole Other Country" observations created more spinoff story opportunities than I would have imagined. For instance, it led me to Buffalo, Texas, a town named for large bovine that still roamed the plains when a railroad came through in 1872. Those creatures were actually bison although I promised to ignore that issue and let it slide. Thus the settlement in Texas came to be known as Buffalo.
What I didn’t mention was that Buffalo also changed its name temporarily in the late 20th Century not once, not twice, but three times due to championship games in two different sports. It reminded me a little of the time that Ismay, Montana became Joe, Montana for awhile in honor of an American Football quarterback. I noted the situation simply to stress that people took this stuff seriously. Sports fandom(¹) can lead to odd behaviors in its extreme forms.
Buffalo (aka Blue Star, Green Star), TX
Twelve Mile Circle felt compelled to examine the situation from an historical perspective, although not going back as far as usual this time. This story began in January 1993 with Super Bowl XXVII, the American Football championship between the Dallas Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills. There was a problem. Buffalo, Texas, barely a hundred miles south of Dallas and certainly within the strong pull of Cowboys country, shared a name with its Super Bowl rival. The Bills even featured a buffalo (bison, whatever) on their helmets as a visual connection to their home. The name of the city in New York, by the way, had a disputed etymology although I didn’t want to get into that today. There were never grazing herds of wild bovine near the eastern edge of Lake Erie in post-Columbian times however let’s not confuse the story any further. Rabid Cowboys fans from Buffalo, TX couldn’t stand to share a name with their opponents vying for a Super Bowl title.
Buffalo, the one in Texas, changed temporarily to Blue Star to reflect a key feature of the Cowboys logo. The Cowboys beat the Bills 52–17 in Super Bowl XXVII. Consequently, I guess the town felt emboldened or compelled to do it again the very next year when the Cowboys met the Bills in Super Bowl XXVIII for a rematch. Buffalo, TX switched to Blue Star for a couple of weeks and once again Dallas claimed the Super Bowl championship, this time 30–13.
Dallas and Buffalo haven’t met in a Super Bowl since then. However, the municipal sports rivalry continued. The Dallas Stars opposed the Buffalo Sabres in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup championship series in 1999. Texas doesn’t come to mind immediately when I think of a stereotypical place where ice hockey might dominate the local sports culture. Am I right, Canadian 12MC audience? Buffalo, TX probably wouldn’t have blinked had Dallas fought for the Stanley Cup before those two Super Bowl titles. Dallas didn’t even have an NHL major league hockey team until 1993. Nonetheless, Buffalo, TX renamed itself Green Star this time (Texas does love its Lone Star, regardless of color), and the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup series four games to two.
They Weren’t the Only Ones
Washington (aka Steeler), PA
I stumbled upon a similar situation as I continued to research Buffalo further. This one happened a little more recently in Super Bowl XL, February 2006. The Pittsburgh Steelers went up against the Seattle (Washington) Seahawks. As described by the Seattle Times,
WASHINGTON, Pa. — Just to make sure there’s no confusion about which team they are pulling for in Super Bowl XL, the mayor and council voted unanimously to change this city’s name. Welcome to Steeler, Pa. The name change for the city of about 15,000 people south of Pittsburgh will last through Super Bowl Sunday.
The result? The Steelers won 21-10. Apparently towns should change their names temporarily if they wish to guarantee a home team victory (ignoring the issue of small sample size). Genius! Why haven’t more places tried this? Well, for the Super Bowl at least, there were surprisingly few opportunities to do that. I went back through the list and didn’t find much. These would have been some of the more promising opportunities:
- XLVII (2013): Baltimore (Maryland) Ravens vs. San Francisco (California) 49ers. I found California, Maryland (map) although it fell within territory more appropraite to the Washington, DC football team that must not be named.
- XXXVII (2003): Tampa Bay (Florida) Buccaneers vs. Oakland Raiders. There’s an Oakland, FL outside of Orlando about a hundred miles from Tampa (map).
- XXXV (2001): Baltimore (Maryland, again) Ravens vs. New York Giants. A rare double opportunity! I found a New Baltimore, NY south of Albany and a Maryland, NY west of Albany (map).
- XXX (1996) and XIII (1979): Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Dallas Cowboys. The Pittsburg (no h), Texas that I also mentioned in "Whole Other Country" (map) versus Dallas, Pennsylvania (map).
I’m sure similar analyses could be conducted for other major sports. I did take a quick glance at the ("other" or "real" depending on one’s point of view) football, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup™. The problem here involved the multitude of languages. Nonetheless, examples might include Uruguay vs. Argentina (1930), with a border area of Argentina called Uruguay (map); or England vs. West Germany (1966), with a small hamlet labelled as England (at least according to Google Maps) in what was then part of West Germany.
Then I got bored with the whole concept and gave up.
(¹) Portmanteau alert! Fandom = FANatic + kingDOM; a subculture of particularly devoted followers.
If visitors to the Twelve Mile Circle come from a town with an odd name they’re automatically fodder for an article. I’ll dig until I find something memorable just on principle. Additionally, I’ll note that a single letter, the scant difference between Fire and Fir in this instance, could alter meanings considerably.
Maybe I should start at the beginning. I reviewed the visitor logs recently – as I like to do — and I noticed that someone dropped onto 12MC from somewhere called Feura Bush. Maybe a few readers already knew about that town? Maybe one of you lives there? I’d never heard of it.
Feura Bush, New York
It wasn’t too difficult to learn some basic Feura Bush facts even considering its diminutive size. It’s a hamlet south of Albany, New York, within New Scotland township. The Feura Bush postal area (ZIP Code™ 12067), which is actually larger than Feura Bush the town, had a population of only 1,500 according to the latest census. Honestly, Feura Bush wasn’t much larger than a crossroads near Conrail’s Selkirk rail yard and an Owens Corning plant that manufactured fiberglass building insulation.
However, none of that explained the etymology of Feura Bush.
Jerusalem Reformed Church, Feura Bush, NY
Feura Bush wasn’t even its original name. "New Scotland Township" published by the New Scotland Historical Association in 2000 explained that the area was once known "as Moaksville and later Jerusalem." Moaks was the surname of an early family that settled the area. Jerusalem was named for the Jerusalem Reformed Church which dated to 1791 (with the current structure built in 1825).
The town had to ditch the Jerusalem moniker for the usual reason: another Jerusalem already existed in New York when the town grew large enough to justify its own post office. The Postal Service required a unique name, and I guess the residents didn’t want to go back to Moaksville.
feura bush library by pollyalida, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license
Feura Bush also had an old single-room schoolhouse dating to 1885. It was converted to the The Feura Bush Neighborhood Library in modern times. That had nothing to do with the story, so feel free to ignore this section. I just liked the building.
I’m getting to an explanation. Bear with me. First, however, enjoy the fingers.
I applaud Google’s efforts to digitize books in a bold effort to place public domain documents online and available worldwide. There were bound to be a few mistakes with a project so grand. One of the books I consulted demonstrated that dramatically. Whoever was responsible for scanning pages that day must have been out drinking the night before because his fingers and hands appeared on random pages throughout the book. This one was my favorite. I loved the little finger stockings. Here’s another good one.
So, Fire or Fir?
Two distinct theories purporting to explain the Feura Bush etymology.
FIRE. The first one, favored by the previously-mentioned New Scotland Township book stated, "The name of Feura Bush, meaning ‘fire bush’ was chosen because sunlight reflecting off the pine trees made the hills appear to be on fire." The Feura Bush Neighborhood Association also favored that explanation and took it a step further, attributing the term to "an old native word."
An old native word? Probably not. Astute members of the 12MC audience may have already considered that this was once part of New Netherland. Feura Bush could have been a corruption of something Dutch, and indeed, several sources traced the etymology to vurenbosch (pronounced vürebosch). Drop that into Google Translate and vurenbosch became forest fires. Hold that thought for a moment.
FIR. An older source, the University of the State of New York Bulletin, 1914, claimed that vurenbosch was Dutch for "fir bush, or woods." I checked the Dutch Wikipedia page for Vuren (hout) which said "Het Nederlandse woord vuren is de genormeerde naam voor het hout van de fijnspar" translated, "The Dutch word vuren is the standardized name for the wood of spruce." An image search on "vuren" produced lots of pictures of pine lumber, and nothing related to fire. Either way, Feura Bush likely related to local conifers.
Are there any native Dutch speakers in the 12MC audience who can nail down the true meaning one way or the other?