There was something very interesting in my AARP newsletter that I received yesterday. I put off joining AARP as long as I could, just so you know. They kept lowering the age for eligibility. I kept denying I was reaching it. I didn’t take advantage of senior menus, or senior discounts either. To the point of shaving off the goatee I sported for many years because someone at the “Big Bear” restaurant decided, without asking, that I was entitled to the senior discount one evening. A few years down the road and the goatee is back, the hair is grayer, and I demand any discount whether I think I’m entitled to it or not. So I signed up for AARP so that I can be kept informed of other posssible discount opportunities I might not be aware of, like cruise tickets and hotels in Italy. What I found interesting in the newsletter, the only thing really, had nothing whatever to do with discounts.
It confirmed something I already knew. That the state of Wyoming, where I grew up, has the second fewest average number of residents per square mile of any other state or US territory. You know how small it is? According to 2010 US Census data, the state of Wyoming has 5.8 residents per square mile on average. And there’s a lot of square miles in Wyoming, and a lot that don’t have anybody on them, for square mile after square mile. Then, occasionally, you’ll come upon a town with 33 of them. Residents that is.
I lived in Laramie for a few years, back in the 70’s, and the University of Wyoming is located there. There are some pretty serious football fans in Wyoming too, and the local airport would be crowded with private aircraft on game day. The stadium would be full. So full, that the 26,000 odd fans would become the third largest city in the state every Saturday. It just so happened that my apartment was across the parking lot from War Memorial Stadium and I would go to the games at half-time to get in free. They stopped checking ticket stubs back then, for whatever reason, during the halftime show.
So how does some of the rest of the West stack up with these Census numbers? Alaska has 1.2 average residents per square mile. Go figure. That would make them number one. Who the hell wants to live in Alaska anyway, except crab fishermen and oil workers? And I’ll bet they don’t even really want to live there.
Montana has 6.8 residents per square mile. Montana is where the famous “Battle of the Little Bighorn” took place. Just outside of Hardin, Montana. Hardin has a population of 3,532. Some of the “average” residents. Anyway, there seems to be a lot of belief out there that Sitting Bull put the final bullet into General George Armstrong Custer during that battle. A battle which took place on June 25, 1876. Known as “Custer’s Last Stand,” the US 7th Calvary was surrounded and out-numbered by thousands of Oglala Sioux under the command of Crazy Horse. Custer’s beloved 7th Calvary suffered a 52% casualty rate, 268 dead. Sitting Bull, a Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux, was too old at the time to fight. He was, however, the “holy man” who brought the tribes together to fight as one. “The Little BigHorn Battlefield National Park” is worth visiting if you’re ever up in that part of the world.
New Mexico has an average of 17 residents per square mile. Named the “Land of Enchantment” because of its scenic beauty and a history as rich. The oldest house in the United States is located in Santa Fé, New Mexico. Billy the Kid is buried in Ft. Sumner, population around 1,250 give or take. White Sands is there. Pure white sand stretching for miles on the horizon. The National Atomic Museum is in Albuquerque. The first atomic bomb was built in Los Alamos, north of Santa Fé, and detonated in Alamogordo, population 35,989. That’s just the rich history off the top of my head.
There are 56.3 residents per square mile in Arizona. Most of them are in Phoenix. Arizona is just hot. But it’s a dry heat. I know what that means now. One-hundred-five in Austin, Texas is not the same as 105 in Tucson, Arizona. In Austin you can’t breathe because of the humidity, which puts the heat index at 120. Hot. Hot. Hot. Arizona is real nice in January. I used to call up my friend in Indiana on New Year’s Day and tell him what I was grilling on the barbie. We once had snow on Easter Sunday, when I lived in Tucson, though, in the 90s.
Nevada has 24.6 average residents per square mile. Nevada is all about Silver and Mark Twain to me. Mark Twain was editor of the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise for a time. There is a museum in Virginia City devoted to that period of Mr. Twain’s life when he went in search of silver in “The Silver State” with his brother. Nevada still has working silver and gold mines,…and brothels.
I have been an “average” resident in all of those states at one time or another with the exception of Alaska. Like I said, nice place to visit in the summer maybe, but living there would be hell. As you can tell from the average of 22.1 in the five states I have lived, I don’t like crowds much. Open spaces are for me.
And the state or US territory with the biggest crowd per square mile? That’s an easy one. Really. Washington D.C. There are on average 9,856.5 residents jammed into a square mile.
Now I have to get back to my AARP newsletter and see if I’m missing out on any senior discounts I can use. WTF.