First timer? In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-three-or-four days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48). I call this “landing.” I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near. I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.
Landing number 2208; A Landing A Day blog post number 636.
Dan: After landing in a USer that is barely a USer (CO; 74/75); I landed in an even edgier USer (now a PSer) . . . MO; 50/50; 6/10; 2; 149.7. And my Score is back where it belongs (below 150).
Here’s my regional landing map:
And my local landing map, showing that I had little choice but to select Poplar Bluff as my titular town:
You can see the Black River on the above map, and yes, that’s my watershed (10th hit). Here’s a streams-only Street Atlas map showing that the Black discharges to the White (26th hit); on to the MM (861st hit):
Here’s my Google Earth (GE) spaceflight in (from a slightly different angle). Click below and hit the back button after viewing:
GE Street View coverage is pretty good – I’m only a half mile away from my landing:
Here’s what the orange dude sees (OK, minus the big black arrow):
I must admit to some consternation. I mean, really. I’m sure that Popular Bluff is a great little city (pop 17,000). It’s in a pretty area, bills itself as the “Gateway to the Ozarks.” The city website includes a message from Mayor Betty Absheer, extolling its virtues. Here are some excerpts:
Welcome to the official website of the City of Poplar Bluff!
As you learn more about Poplar Bluff you’ll see it is a great place to live and raise a family, with a population of nearly 17,000 friendly residents. Poplar Bluff is the county seat and is centered in the middle of beautiful Butler County. Poplar Bluff is the gateway to the Ozarks nestled in southeast Missouri, in between St. Louis and Memphis.
The City of Poplar Bluff is a growing, dynamic environment in which new homes are popping up and businesses are thriving. As well as being an economic center, Poplar Bluff is also an entertainment center for the area.
I could go on about the many great attributes of Poplar Bluff, but our greatest attribute is our PEOPLE. That is what makes Poplar Bluff so special. It is an honor to serve as the mayor of this wonderful city.
I am absolutely sure that Poplar Bluff is a great place to live and work. But as my regular readers know, I’m looking for a hook. A story. Something to grab my readers’ attention. Well, Poplar Bluff, I fear, falls short in that regard.
So how did the town get its name? From Wiki:
Poplar Bluff takes its name from a bluff that overlooks Black River. When first settled, the bluff was covered with tulip poplar trees.
Here’s a lovely shot of a tulip poplar leaf (from RitaKarl.net):
And a lovely shot of tulip poplars in my home state of NJ (Woodbine, to be more specific), from LouisDallaraPhotography.com:
And the first white man to come to the general vicnity? Hernando De Soto. I’ve heard of Hernando, but know essentially nothing about him. From Wiki (not a bad looking guy!):
Hernando de Soto (1496 – 1542) was a Spanish explorer and conquistador who led the first European expedition deep into the territory of the modern-day United States (Florida, Georgia, Alabama and most likely Arkansas and Missouri), and the first documented European to have crossed the Mississippi River.
A vast undertaking, de Soto’s North American expedition ranged throughout the southeastern United States searching for gold, silver and a passage to China. De Soto died in 1542 on the banks of the Mississippi River in what is now Guachoya, Arkansas or Ferriday, Louisiana.
Prior to exploring North America, de Soto was part of the ruthless take-over of parts of Central and South America (on behalf of Spain). Way to go Hernando!
He went back to Spain and organized an expedition to explore North America. More about this trip, from Wiki:
Historians have worked to trace the route of de Soto’s expedition in North America, a controversial process over the years. Local politicians vied to have their localities associated with the expedition. The most widely used version of “De Soto’s Trail” comes from a study commissioned by the Congress of the United States. A committee chaired by the anthropologist John R. Swanton published The Final Report of the United States De Soto Expedition Commission in 1939.
Here’s a map from Wiki (which, incidently, doesn’t show him going as far north as Poplar Bluff. Oh, well):
The expedition began in 1539 in Florida, ran out of steam with de Soto’s death in 1542, and ended when the remaining members tried to get back to Mexico City (the blue and green routes above). Here’s what Wiki has to say about his demise:
De Soto died of a fever on May 21, 1542 on the western bank of the Mississippi River, in what is now Northern Louisiana or Southern Arkansas.
Since de Soto had encouraged the local natives to believe that he was an immortal sun god (as a ploy to gain their submission without conflict, though some of the natives had already become skeptical of de Soto’s deity claims), his men had to conceal his death.
The actual location of his burial is not known. According to one source, de Soto’s men hid his corpse in blankets weighted with sand and sank it in the middle of the Mississippi River during the night.
The expedition really fell on hard times after de Soto’s death. From Wiki:
De Soto’s expedition had explored La Florida [what they called the entire region] for three years without finding the expected treasures or a hospitable site for colonization efforts. They had lost nearly half their men, most of the horses had been killed, the soldiers wore animal skins for clothing, and many were injured and in poor health.
The leaders came to a consensus (although not total) to abort the expedition and try to find a way home, either down the Mississippi River, or overland across Texas to the Spanish colony of Mexico City.
They decided that building boats would be too difficult and time-consuming, and that navigating the Gulf of Mexico too risky, so they headed overland to the southwest. Eventually they reached a region in present-day Texas that was dry. The native populations had thinned out to subsistence hunter-gatherers. There were no villages for the soldiers to raid for food and the army was too large to live off the land.
They were forced to backtrack to the more developed agricultural regions along the Mississippi. They began building seven brigantines. They melted down all the iron, including horse tackle and slave shackles, to make nails for the boats. Winter came and went, and the spring floods delayed them another two months, but by July they set off down the Mississippi for the coast.
Taking about two weeks to make the journey, the expedition encountered hostile tribes along the whole course. Natives followed the boats in canoes, shooting arrows at the soldiers for days on end as they drifted through their territory. The Spanish had no effective offensive weapons on the water, as their crossbows had long ceased working. They relied on armor and sleeping mats to block the arrows. About 11 Spaniards were killed along this stretch and many more wounded.
On reaching the mouth of the Mississippi, they stayed close to the Gulf shore heading south and west. After about 50 days, they made it to the Spanish frontier town of Pánuco. There they rested for about a month, before continuing on to Mexico City.
Of the initial 700 participants, between 300 and 350 survived (311 is a commonly accepted figure). Most of the men stayed in the New World, settling in Mexico, Peru, Cuba and other Spanish colonies.
From the point of view of the Spanish, de Soto’s excursion to Florida was an utter failure. They acquired neither gold nor prosperity and founded no colonies.
There you have it.
I’ll close with a couple of Panoramio shots from town. First this (by Drowsy) of the Rodgers Theater:
The art-deco theater was built in 1949 and could seat over 1100 people. It closed in 1999, and is now owned by the City. They are working hard to getting it restored to its former glory, getting funds by renting it out for shows and parties.
I’ll close with this funky shot of a railroad bridge over the Black River (by Timpel):
That’ll do it . . .
© 2015 A Landing A Day