Can't Make It Up: The Reason Oklahoma's Shaped Like That

Why is Oklahoma?
Can't Make It Up: The Reason Oklahoma's Shaped Like That

The United States is a mess, and not just in the many intangible ways: The actual lines around the states look like they were drawn on an Etch-a-Sketch. We've got one shaped like a wang, another shaped like a boot, New England is a whole thing, and this? What the hell is this?

Scott Nazelrod/Wikimedia Commons
Stupid gun? Weird diving board?

The answer, of course, is the Oklahoma Panhandle, but why? Why is Oklahoma? Well, in 1820, the Missouri Compromise just completely shit the bed on a number of issues, one of which was deciding that slavery was only immoral above an extremely arbitrary line across the middle of the country. When Texas decided to join the Union in 1845, they stretched way above that line, so they just declared "We no longer exist up there" so they could enter as a slave state. It was maybe the most racist Jedi mind trick, and that's saying something.

For the next several decades, that strip of land was officially nowhere, belonging to no one and legally known unceremoniously as "Public Land Strip." For a few years there, it was a Randian paradise with no laws, where "outlaws ran rampant, and violence and mob justice were the citizenry's only recourse." It was full of moonshiners and brothels, especially in a town that was actually named Beer City, surely the one Guns N' Roses was actually singing about.

The squatters of Beer City and their neighbors in Public Land Strip (or, as they began to call it, Cimarron Territory) eventually realized why governments exist, though, so they organized their own, and it was exactly as chaotic. They elected one guy as their congressional representative, but then a rebel faction elected a different guy, and they all fought it out while the actual Congress couldn't be bothered. One of the guys actually showed up in Washington and demanded to be accepted into Congress, and they were like "No, you're not real."

Back home, the community tried to pass An Act to Organize the Territory of Cimarron (naming acts was among the many things they were bad at), but only about half of their elected legislators even showed up to vote on it. (They were, presumably, all hungover after a long night of being a Western.) By 1890, "failed crops, bad weather, no secure property rights, no law, and most importantly, no broad-based, national support" led more than 10,000 of its 14,000 residents to peace out, and finally, Oklahoma was like "Oh, my god, fine. We will take America's overgrown vacant lot." And the Oklahoma Panhandle never had any problems again.

Manna, regrettably, has a Twitter.

Top image: Public Domain, TUBS/Wikimedia Commons

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