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We have become accustomed to Rhode Island being used as a unit of measure. You’ve probably heard it. You could fit 173 Rhode Islands into Texas. Florida could accommodate 42 of our state within its borders.
It might be small, but The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations does have the longest name. At 48 miles from top to bottom and 37 miles wide, it might be reasonable to assume if you come from here everybody knows everybody else. In a pocket-sized territory haven’t we all been every place and done everything there is to do?
Well, the Ocean State may be considered small (I prefer compact), but it’s not the backyard. Despite its 1,214 square mile size, Rhode Island has 400 miles of coast line which wend along the shore line and the meandering edges of our magnificent Narragansett Bay. There’s a lot more than meets the eye.
Yet, it sounds as if a life-long resident of the state has likely been exposed to all that matters . . . multiple times. However, as the cartoon character Little Abner was wont to say, “it hain’t necessarily so.”
In the present instance, for example, this writer has never been to Block Island. Nantucket, yes (several times), Martha’s Vineyard, uh-huh, Staten Island, yup, but never BI. Haven’t been to the Great Swamp either. Cedar Swamp, check. Great Swamp, nope.
Similarly, I have visited Rocky Point Park, Colt State Park, Roger Williams Park, Slater Park, and Wilcox Park in Westerly and a few others, but I never went to Crescent Park.
Been to Moonstone Beach (with my clothes on), Misquamicut with its legendary undertow, and many others, but not Matunuck. Went to the top of a couple of mountains in New Hampshire and Maine, but never hiked in (you go in from Route 6, not up) to Rhode Island’s highest peak, Jerimoth Hill in Foster.
Everybody who has lived here for any length of time has probably toured a Newport Mansion. Not me. I’ve gone to Blithewold in Bristol numerous times, visited the John Brown house in Providence, and the Smith-Appleby House right here in Smithfield countless times, but I haven’t crossed the thresholds of the famed “cottages.”
Staying with Newport, I have driven around Ocean Drive often, and once I walked dangerously far out on the surf -washed rocks off Brenton Point in Newport with a friend, but I haven’t done the Cliff Walk.
I tried skiing at Diamond Hill when you could do that, but I’ve never been to Yawgoo Valley. Have been a spectator at the Bristol Fourth of July Parade a few times, but not the Ancient and Horribles in Chepachet.
Given my background in journalism (with some side trips into academia) I have been on the campus of every college and university in the state except one. Sorry, Salve Regina.
Then there was the time I went to a church supper in Rice City. I’m pretty sure I’ve been to almost every city and town, but I can’t say I’m aware of ever having been in Wyoming, R.I.
Speaking of church-related things, I have been to the First Baptist Church in America in Providence, the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, the former Episcopal Cathedral of St. John, Temple Beth El, but never the very historic Truro Synagogue in Newport.
As for knowing everybody in a small state like ours, there is some truth to that. If you lived in Illinois or California or New York, you might never see your governor or senators or even your congressman or congresswoman unless you attended a campaign event.
Here you can run into Senator Jack Reed in a restaurant or the bookstore or see the mayor at a coffee shop. The late Buddy Cianci seemed to thrive on meeting people, as the saying went, “at the opening of an envelope.”
It probably isn’t good to use myself as a yardstick in this area, anyway. Due to the nature of my work, I probably interviewed every governor, senator, and congress person going back 30 years or more. Yet, even though she came from Smithfield, I have never met Governor Raimondo. Go figure.
Henry David Thoreau, the 19th century philosopher, essayist, and poet wrote: “I have travelled a good deal in Concord.” I bet there was a tavern or a fishing hole he missed, though.