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Between rock and a heart place

Guitar When I was in college in western Massachusetts, I spent the better part of one evening trying to convince a new group of friends that Columbus, Ohio had all of the modern amenities one can find on the East coast... public transportation, people who made art and music, even modern marvels like indoor plumbing. The tavern we were sitting in, I pointed out to my friends, was close enough to a number of cows and sheep that we could give them nicknames and greet them daily if we wanted. This was not the case at my suburban Ohio home. I would have to take a drive to find a real farm cow.

After I felt I’d sufficiently disabused them of their stereotypes, we all retired to the living room of a campus apartment to watch David Letterman together. His number one comic bit that night? “Cow Cam,” featuring a lovely Holstein with a video camera strapped to her head that he introduced, then reintroduced and reintroduced as “Ludmilla the cow from Columbus, Ohio.”  Thanks, Dave.

I’ve found myself in that same conversation repeatedly over the years, usually as an editor covering my piece of the U.S. while networked with colleagues from other parts of the country. I’ve spent many a conference and conference call dispelling myths and exaggerations about the flatness of the state — both culturally and topographically.

Ohio may look simply pastoral from the sky, or even from the freeway, but it’s full of rusted out old factories, a boatload of colleges, tons of artists with families and a population that lives in mostly urban settings. We have scenic foothills in the east and south, lake beaches at the neckline and flattened plains from the navel westward.  

While Ohio has long been the victim of distorted perceptions, the biggest distortions usually come from Ohioans. Many of us are so used to being ribbed by our big-city counterparts or miscast by TV shows and talking heads that we simply internalize our stereotypes. (I’m the proud great granddaughter of an Ohio grain farmer mind you. I’m also the proud sister of an Ohio goat farmer. I celebrate that history too, but I feel strongly that our agricultural resources aren't the full measure of who or what Ohioans are.)

Recently, the moms who contribute to this blog tried to come up with a tagline for it - something snappy that would describe us. We went back and forth and over and around it, tossing out Wright Brothers and space references and debating whether or not anyone from elsewhere would understand it if we cast ourselves under the light of rock and roll, since we’re most often tagged as the heartland.

You can buy rock candy from the Amish here, but you can also thank us for rock and roll – and that’s something that plenty of Ohio natives don’t even seem to realize.

 We’re the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because this is actually where the genre was born. Cleveland radio deejay Alan Freed coined the term and promoted the world’s first rock concert here. He pushed it onto the global stage, inspiring young people in England, California  and all points in between to pick up a guitar. Record companies might have cashed in on the music elsewhere, but Ohio is where it started.

So next time you’re flipping your hair as you listen to Nine Inch Nails, tearing the roof off the mother because you’re feeling funkadelic, rocking to the Pretenders or grooving to Macy Gray, don’t forget to give thanks for Ohio.

This is an original Ohio Moms Blog post.

When she isn't campaigning for Ohio self-image reform Tracy Zollinger Turner reflects on things like motherhood, mean girls and outer space at her personal blog, Tiny Mantras.