Welcome to Agincourt, Iowa

Home » Uncategorized » hinter • land

hinter • land


Byron Bay


1890, originally in geography, ‘a region behind and inland from a port city that is closely tied to it economically,’ from German Hinterland, from hinter ‘behind’ (see hinder (adj.)) + Land ‘country’ (see land (n.)). What in English would be called the back-country. George G. Chisholm, in ‘Handbook of Commercial Geography,’ translated the German word as hinderland, supposedly first in his 1888 edition, and Hinder-land also was used from 1881 by Richard Burton and others to translate an Egyptian hieroglyphic for ‘Syria.’ Hinterland came to prominence in the language of European colonialism in reference to an inland region behind a port along a coast that was claimed by a state.” — from https://www.etymonline.com/word/hinterland

If “hinterland” is related to Frederick Jackson Turner’s “frontier thesis”, then technically we haven’t had any for at least a hundred years or more. Rather, it seems a relative term. Yet I’m hard-pressed to imagine some place that doesn’t have anything “behind” it. From the viewpoint of the Twin Cities, for example, I live in its hinterlands. But I’m also able to glance over my shoulder and see even behind-er than where I stand. There are degrees of behindedness.

A couple of entries here are devoted to the notion of “lake life”, to leaving Agincourt’s relative urbanity for the leafy solitude of resorts along the shores of Sturm & Drang, the twin lakes about fifteen miles west of town but easily accessible after 1909 by a spur from the NITC mainline. Before then, places like Smith’s Hotel or Bagby’s “Last Resort” were comparatively remote, even rustic; telephone service was unavailable. So folks like Doc Fahnstock had to make special arrangements in the event of medical emergency. But as the resort area developed, it began to lose those qualities that had made it so attractive: peace, quiet, a slower pace, fewer demands on our time, remembering that here, too, all things are relative.

I recall being at a garage sale once many years ago, probably in the 70s, when a friend’s eye was caught by a set of cutlery with pastel plastic handles. “Oh, wouldn’t that make great lake stainless”. At that point in my life, lake life was only for the well-to-do, and I seriously wondered if there weren’t a place on the map labelled “Lake Stainless”, where the cabins were palatial, the lawns maintained to the standard of putting greens; where an Izod wardrobe was required, and all the accoutrements of city life had their weekend doppelganger—a doubling of everything at home replicated at “the lake”. Hence, lake stainless. I seriously doubt the plastic-handled stuff at the yard sale was up to standard.

One summer my friends the VerDoorn’s, Jim and Sharon, rented a cabin for the summer at a lake about forty-five miles east of our town. While they used it on weekends—to great advantage, I assume, since they were independent business people and needed the time away from the store—they were kind enough to allow me weekday access. So, while Highway 10 was clogged with “lake people” on the way back to town, I drove unimpeded in the opposite direction to a hinterland nearly drained of summer people.

The cabin was an icon of plain living: two rooms and a bath. But, significantly, there was no television (the computer hadn’t been invented then, and my phone was dumb, rather than “smart”); not even a radio. Neither was there running water. This turned toilet habits into a genuine ritual, requiring that I step outside the cabin, regardless of weather, to pump the bucket of water necessary to “flush” the commode. Forgetting had its consequences. Likewise for cooking and dish washing.

Having no communication with the “outside world”, and with my principal exercise limited to pumping buckets of H20, it was amazing what I accomplished. I read. I wrote. All by the light of a 40-watt bulb sans shade. I considered the sadly declining condition of human kind, which was considerably better then than it has become today, in the throes of impeachment. And my drive back to town, again against the grain of urban lemmings rushing to small scattered bodies of water so they could mow the lawn just as they’d just done at home, was unfettered. The difference was that I had relaxed more than I could possibly have imagined possible.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: