I liked Coshocton very much, and if I find other places as nice, that would be good. I am, now, in Wisconsin, which means I have done a lot of driving today.
I drove through Chicago with Ol’ Blue Eyes on full volume, and on ‘repeat’, singing ‘My kind of town, Chicago is…’ over and over again.
But after an early breakfast in Jerry’s (same meal as yesterday except with wheat toast instead of rye toast) I did some writing (this isn’t a holiday you know) and then headed to the Ohio Historical Society Museum in Columbus. I’d have gone sooner but it it doesn’t open until 10 and it isn’t open on Monday or Tuesday so Wednesday at 10:15 I arrived.
There were lots of those lovely evocative yellow school buses arriving too. And they were full of excited kids – so I fitted in well. I paid my $10 entrance and asked the nice man whether he knew where I could find a passenger pigeon to look at. He thought it might be just down the aisle, but if not it would be in the natural history section.
It was in the natural history section in a case with other extinct species – Carolina parakeet, ivory-billed woodpecker and blue pike. There she was – ‘Buttons’ – the last wild passenger pigeon that was shot by a lad in Pike County (in March 1900).
Given her age and her manner of death I thought Buttons looked pretty perky really. Although the unbiased might have said slightly dull and tatty. But this was the last wild specimen of the most abundant bird on Earth. Hardly anybody else gave her a glance. She suffered from there being a stuffed bison just down the way and that got a lot of attention.
But I stood for a while and looked at her while young excited Ohioans rushed past.
I thought this was an excellent museum. Not stuffy at all. Light and airy in decor and design and light and friendly in interpretation. Here are some things I learned about Ohio relevant to the passenger pigeon story.
In 1800 9.5% of Ohio was forest but in 1900 that figure was less than 0.5% (a 90% reduction) and has now bounced back to around 3%.
In 1860, 1880, 1900 and 1920 the rural human population of Ohio remained fairly constant at 1.9, 2.2, 2.2 and 2.1 million whereas the urban population went from 0.4 to 1 to 2 to 3.7 million in the same periods.
Given that the passenger pigeon went extinct in the wild in Ohio, and on this planet, in 1900 it was interesting to see that other species went extinct in Ohio in the following years; bison (1803), red deer (or elk, 1838), wolf (1848), mountain lion, lynx, fisher, marten ( all 1850), trumpeter swan (1860 – being reintroduced), black bear (1881 – coming back from W Virginia on its own), snowshoe hare (1900), raven (1900), porcupine (1906) and prairie chicken (1934).
A very interesting museum indeed.
I was still thinking about all that when I listened to Frank Sinatra in traffic going through Chicago. The Wrigley Building is still the most beautiful part of the skyline but not by any means the tallest these days. Things change.
And now I am just in Wisconsin – ‘home’ of cheese (there are cheese factories, cheese adverts and restaurants offering cheese curds everywhere).