[The following is an excerpt from a unpublished travel log written by an anonymous Pennsylvania man. Its historical value, as a documentary exemplar of the times, ought to be self evident.]
…and already we’d abandoned the familiar hills and dales, the pleasant faces of those we knew and loved. We entered the little, and yet somehow vastly unknown, state of Mary Land before the sun’s zenith had been reached. It was a strange principality, filled with weird place names, road markers, and no people. Nary a soul was to be seen by either myself or my traveling companion, on this road and life’s turnpike. Perhaps, as some of my fellow Keystonians theorized, the origin of the Mary Lander’s reticence at the sight of strangers is a result of the great Civil War that raged here in the distant, but still felt, past. You can see the marks of that great human cataclysm everywhere. The terrain vibrates before you, as if in the throes of combat. The sky, grayed as if in furled brow, finds no succor in the deadly panorama wrathing below it. You can see forests and hills that must have been the scene of many a combat, many a bloody deed. The hills do not roll into each other in smooth transitions; no, they heave abruptly out of the dark earth, in struggle’s breath, gasping for oxygen amidst the memories of explosions and shrapnel bursts.
Whatever the reason, we passed through this tiny section of the map without serious incident.
West Virginia we crossed into with the sun at highest beam. Like its neighbor, it was a dark, foreboding place, carrying no doubt its own battle scars. We made camp for a spell at one of their highway stops. and there admired for the first time natives of a region not our own. In skin color they are not unlike Pennsylvanians, which is to say light. Many were tanned with the work of the farm, the work site, or the Martian field; although I confess that I know too little of their foreign affairs to know if they are engaged in any current wars, except to say that our two states are at peace. They looked to be of hearty stock, broad of shoulder and sloped of brow, fit to till rather than to rule. No wonder after their secession from Virginia during the Civil War they amounted to little, especially in comparison to the might of our own nation.
I must say, and my companion noticed this even before me, the wind seemed as violent as the history here. It howled, screamed even, personifying the frustrations of a state that has hardly amounted to any glory in the centuries since its independence; and perhaps also expressing a jealous hatred at a pair of innocent foreigners whose birthright is an example of that lost national dream.
Of interest, I should think, is the very real, and quite steady, decent in the quality of the roads as we moved farther and farther afield. One should not expect less mighty and prosperous states to be possessed of roads on par with those of Pennsylvania. We have been blessed, as you well know, by a hearty and loyal population, a wealth of resources deserving of a body politic willing to dig, till, and build, and an abnormally efficient and just government. As a result, we have the most extensive highway system in the inhabited world, excepting of course those mythical turnpikes made real only by the storyteller’s predication (California being the setting au courant of such fables).
At any rate, while Mary Land made an admirable attempt to emulate the engineering marvels of her northern better, I am compelled to report that Western Virginia, true to form, connects its little towns and settlements with a primitive, if technically functional, series of byways. Turned away from the wisdom of tolled roads by some misguided leader, council, or animal’s augury, they instead rely, I have little doubt, on the donation of the foolish, or the pillage of the weak (as is the custom of the less civilized) to fund their roadways. Indeed, they lack anything more than the most basic of provision centers along the side of these roads. When we made camp, my companion and I fully expected the availability of fuel; reality disappointed us with little more than latrines. It is a wonder they were divided between genders, a practice I am given to understand originated in our fair state. If only we had the time and resources to proselytize other innovations of our vigorous civilization!
After another hour on these roads the pangs of hunger proved too staunch a foe. We took our caravan off the main route and stopped at a local village, intent upon the local cuisine. I admit to a level of trepidation at the thought of eating the native fare. Who could fault me this? Every educated man knows that a strange dish is as likely to prove disastrous to the digestion as not. This, so far as my medical knowledge permits me to judge, is the result not only of our more polished methods of food preparation; this acts in tandem with the human body’s proclivity towards adaptation in times of hardship, and the solidification of habits in times of stability. My digestion, used to the food of its home, would likely adapt to foreign agents soon enough, provided I lived through the experience. It is probably also fair to say that if a barbarian were to sample the food of Pennsylvania, he would find it just as upsetting to his constitution as I his. Uncivilization has its price–and a fearful one at that.
As luck would have it, a vendor of foods found in my land was close to hand, busy spreading our enlightened diet to the foreigner. We dined there and ate heartily. Reinvigorated, we set ourselves upon the road once more.
Despite my nay saying, there is evidence of progress in this land. Several road markers indicated learning centers of some sort. I very much doubt students of the Keystone State would find much to gawk at, but these facilities probably suffice for the simpler needs of a simpler people. One cannot begrudge education; it is a universal, if unevenly distributed, boon.
There was also evidence of religion, that great upholder of social order. As a patriot, I am a vocal proponent of my state’s brand of Godhead, but my more worldly compatriots inform me that the religions of these outer regions do not differ substantially from our own. They have within them the same common core, even if the ritual surrounding might strike me as ungainly. To wit: we passed a church on our foraging expedition. It did not have the grandeur, nor the durability of our own churches. At the same time, its local color bespoke a level of community sorely lacking in some of our own congregations. I will refrain, unlike Tacitus, from lionizing the virtues of others as a method of highlighting areas of improvement (as he did in writing about Germany for the benefit of Rome); I would only point out that every culture has its bright spots, however dim; and even the most advanced and prosperous peoples are not without their faults.
At length, we emerged from the wilderness that dominated Western Virginia, and came finally into Kentucky, our destination. I must say, with all due candor, it was a land full to the brim with breathtaking vistas, vigorous terrain, and majestic skies. Heretofore, my companion had been charged with navigating our way through the unknown. Succumbing at last to just fatigue, we exchanged position, thus putting me in direct control of our fate.
What struck me more than any other single feature about this state was its supreme sense of history. Alas, we in Pennsylvania, enamored of our modern success and power, have too little sense of the achievements of our forefathers. Not so Kentucky. Her highways overflowed with museums, monuments, and sundry historic sites. If memory serves, this makes a great deal of sense, as Kentucky was the unhappy home of some of the most crimson days of the Civil War. It would not be an exaggeration to say that for a generation the majesty of this state’s blue grass was stained red in the face of that failed amputation.
I observed, through travelling several hundred miles through this land, only a single police unit patrolling their many highways. This I found quite extraordinary, as in both Pennsylvania and Mary Land the vehicles of the police abounded. Indeed, in traversing Mary Land, police seemed hidden behind every rock, around every corner. This robust police presence in our home state is the result of vigorous legislation, preemptive in nature. In Mary Land, it is my understanding the police are the active, albeit belated government reaction to the terrible brigandage that plagues that land. Western Virginia, it must be said, had little in the way of police; however I attribute this less to moral virtue and more to demographic reality: it has too few people to require a large police force. Kentucky alone had a large population and little in the way of highway police. Why might this be? I can offer little in the way of explanation. It serves simply as an example of those anthropological mysteries that one is not unlikely to encounter during foreign adventures.
Through many an uncrowded road we traveled, pleasantly enjoying the setting sun. I made good time, taking full advantage of the lack of comtravellers. At long last, after half a day’s time, we came to the last stretch of our journey. Signs pointed towards the little town towards which we drove. The sun at this point was hide amidst ominously darkening clouds. Several cars began to gain on us a sudden….
[It is at this point that the document breaks off. The first editors to come across this text assumed it was written more or less simultaneously with the details it describes, and blame native interference for the sudden silence. The academic community is currently divided on the issue.]