Great Lake
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Wouldn't you know? They give me a great subject for an essay, and as soon as I get it written they yank it out from under me.

In early March, 1998, Lake Champlain was designated the sixth "Great Lake". Three weeks later, the designation is revoked, and it's back to being just a great lake. Seems the folks out in the Midwest were concerned about their identity. That's OK, Michigan, we agree. The whole thing seemed a bit out of whack from the start.

As un-topical as it is now, you're still welcome to read it.

When I was a kid (I'm talking grammar school here) I learned the names of the five Great Lakes with a simple acrostic: HOMES. It helped me remember Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. Thinking back on it, having an acrostic made it a lot easier than memorizing the nine planets (not required, but it suitably impressed Sister Margaret Timothy) or the seven dwarves (useless except for trivia games).

thelake1I've been out of daily contact with school age children for a while; maybe they still do it that way. The last I heard, knowing the names and whereabouts of the Great Lakes and other significant features of our world is not something to which much attention is paid any more. In my day (I never thought I would say that!) we actually studied something called Geography, at least a couple of times a week. Today we have to deal with questions like "What state is Vermont in?"

At any rate, it's all moot now. Whether or not it was still being done, it can't be done any more. Now that Lake Champlain has been designated a Great Lake, there are six of those puppies, and we're going to have to come up with a new learning aid.

So why is Champlain suddenly a Great Lake after all these years? It's not proximity: the closest of the "Big Five" is halfway across New York, about 130 miles away. It's not size: at around 500 square miles in area, Champlain is one fourteenth the size of Erie, the previous smallest. Look at a map. It's a runt compared to the others and nowhere near them.

The answer, of course, is Money. I confess, I don't know the whole story, but as I understand it, there's a rather large fund earmarked for researching the Great Lakes (no, I don't know what kind of research). The short version is that those research funds can now be spent on studying Lake Champlain because somebody convinced somebody else to add it to the list. Other than that, it serves no real purpose.

There is apparently a lot of controversy over this whole thing, of which I can't say I have a full understanding. I'm of a mind that if someone has to study a lake, it might just as well be Champlain. Whether the research contractors who will end up with the money are from communities on or near the lake in New York or Vermont remains to be seen. More likely, they'll be from Chicago, Buffalo or Detroit, the rationale being that folks in those places already know more about Great Lakes than we.

On the other hand, I can appreciate the sentiment expressed by one of the national weekly newsmagazines: What's next? The Tidal Basin?

My real gripe? Allow me to explain. My wife and I are about to be parents again. In a few years, I'm going to have to help my son (taking Dr. Thabault's word for it) study geography. And yes, if school doesn't place any importance on it, I will; a knowledge of geography is a useful thing.

My problem is the acrostic. HOMES was easy. It's a real word. What are we going to use now? The only one I can come up with is MCSHOE. Hopefully, the folks over at The Golden Arches (Chicago again) won't give us any grief over it. Beyond the immediate, what happens if someone starts eyeing the Great Salt Lake?

March 11, 1998

PS: Thanks to Leslie Paul Davis for suggesting SCHMOE.
PPS: Caleb Matthew Wills (everybody said Dr. Thabault was never wrong) was born April 28, 1998, weighing 6 lb., 14 oz.
PPPS: Joseph Matthew Wills (Dr. Thabault was right again) was born November 11, 1999, weighing 7 lb., 15 oz.

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