Poles can make a differenceI wonder who invented the first pole. Were they Polish? Whoever it was, I do know that we’d be hard pressed to live in this world without them, given all that they’ve done for us.
By: Kevin Holten, The Dickinson Press
I wonder who invented the first pole. Were they Polish? Whoever it was, I do know that we’d be hard pressed to live in this world without them, given all that they’ve done for us.
Just imagine a world without a light pole or fishing pole, flag pole, tent pole or ski pole. Or without pole vaulting, pole bending or pole dancing, which almost became an Olympic event.
Of course, we’d really be lost without a North Pole or South Pole; since then we’d have little clue as to which way is up or down and no one could be from “down south” or “up north,” which is kind of an entertaining cultural distinction in the Oil Patch these days.
Yet, did you know that the North Pole is not even at the North Pole? That’s right, because there are the geographical poles, which are located at the exact northern and southern-most points on the globe and then there is the magnetic North Pole, the one that your compass points to, which is at a point in Canada that is 1,300 miles away from where the geographical North Pole is. Thus, one has to wonder, where does Santa Claus really live?
My niece was a North Dakota state champion pole-vaulter a few years ago, which surprised me because I thought you had to be the size of an ant and just as strong proportionally to propel yourself over a crossbar hanging many feet above your head but apparently not.
You see, she’s at least 5-foot-10 inches but as her former coach explained to me, you need to be fast and strong, both of which she is, and therefore she was an ideal candidate or she had a great coach, which he was. At any rate, she won the crown, which made us all very proud.
It’s hard to say when the first fishing pole was invented but there are chiseling’s in Egypt that are about 4,000 years old showing people fishing with poles way back then, apparently without a cooler of beer, which was clearly missing from the chiseling.
There’s also an early Roman or Greek Kylix, which is an ancient drinking cup that dates back to 500 BC, that shows a boy on a rock with a fishing pole, revealing that people were using poles at that time, plus maybe the Kylix filled with Hamm’s, Pabst Blue Ribbon or Grain Belt beer, because I think all of those brands were around at that time.
If there were no poles in the world, the three that we’d most miss are the barber pole, firemen’s pole and foul pole. Can you imagine going to a barber shop without a spinning pole outside or knowing that a fireman answered an alarm without sliding down a pole or that an umpire simply guessed at whether a baseball had landed in foul territory or not rather than relying on a pole? That’d be grossly un-American.
Interestingly, while a professor of arts and design at New York University in 1835, Samuel Morse proved that signals could be transmitted by wire and thus he invented the telegraph. He then gave a public demonstration in 1838, but it was not until five years later that Congress funded $30,000 to construct an experimental telegraph line from Washington to Baltimore, a distance of 40 miles.
“So, you want to put wires on poles all over the country?” they asked Morse.
“That’s right,” he said.
“You’re nuts,” they replied, but Congress funded it anyway.
Of course, a lot of things that really are poles, or at least close cousins, have been mislabeled as something else, like fence posts, steel beams, porch pillars, basement beams, goal posts, street lights, traffic lights, chair and table legs, canes and bridge supports.
But without question the finest poles in the world are totem poles designed by Native Americans in the great Northwest. Because these works of art do a lot of things, like recount familiar legends, record clan lineages or notable events, celebrate cultural beliefs, work as part of mortuary structures, illustrate stories that commemorate historic persons, represent shamanic powers, and even provide objects of public ridicule.
Some of the figures on the poles are reminders of quarrels, murders, debts, and other unpleasant occurrences and others are all about well- known tales.
Still one in particular reminds us to treat the Earth well because, as these Native Americans believe, we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, but instead we borrow it from our children, which is kind of a sobering thought.
I think that just might be the world’s best pole.
Holten is a freelance columnist and cartoonist from Dickinson.