Saturday, January 10, 2009

Flags: State of Maryland

I'm going to take advantage of a special opportunity to write about the flag of a state in which I am currently sitting.

The flag of the State of Maryland is one of my favorites. It features the combined arms of the Calvert and Crossland families, ancestors of the Lords Baltimore, for whom the state's most populous city is named. I like the flag because its is distinctive, instantly recognizable, and steeped in the state's history.

A glance at the listing provided by the state archives reveals that Maryland has an awful lot of state symbols. Sure, many states have an official bird, mammal, or song, but the Free State has an official crustacean (the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus Rathbun), dessert (Smith Island Cake), exercise (walking), and horse (Thoroughbred). Oh, and did I meantion that the official state sport is jousting? How sweet is that? The Old Line State was the first to adopt an official sport, and they picked a doozy. I have yet to meet a Marylander who practices the state sport, though, so let me know if you know one. If it were up to me - and most citizens will probably be thankful that it is not - close gubernatorial races would be decided by a winner-takes-all jousting match.

The official state reptile is the diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin). This noble testudine is perhaps best known as the mascot of the University of Maryland College Park. I'm endlessly amused that Maryland fans often abbreviate "Terrapins" as "Terps." I also enjoy their "Fear the Turtle" athletic campaign.

Maryland is a land of geographical oddities, both natural and artificial. The state has no natural lakes, largely because it was not reached by the Pleistocene glaciation (see the Maryland Geological Survey lakes and reservoirs page for more information). West of Chesapeake Bay, the state is bounded on the north by the Mason-Dixon line and on the south by the Potomac River, except for a small section where the District of Columbia lies in between. As the Potomac snakes northward near the town of Hancock, the northern and southern borders converge until the state is less than two miles wide. Road nerds will also note that Hancock is the eastern terminus of Interstate 68.

Today, while visiting my cousin and her family in Calvert County, I was pleased to eat a rockfish sandwich. Rockfish (Morone saxatilis), known in other parts of the Union as the striped bass, is the official state fish. It is also delicious.

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