"Earth’s distant orb appeared the smallest light that twinkles in the heaven; whilst round the chariot’s way innumerable systems rolled and countless spheres diffused an ever-varying glory. It was a sight of wonder: some were hornèd like the crescent moon; some shed a mild and silver beam like Hesperus o'er the western sea; some dashed athwart with trains of flame, like worlds to death and ruin driven; some shone like suns, and as the chariot passed, eclipsed all other light." From "Queen Mab" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1813)

Monday, 22 February 2010

On The Origins Of Cactus County

Situated somewhere in the State of New Mexico is the fictional community of Cactus County. It’s the smallest county in New Mexico, smaller even than Los Alamos, made up of just three towns, Cactus, Darwin and Evolution.

Cactus County was established in 1900 by a community of rationalists, free thinkers, atheists and scientists who, a decade earlier, had settled in the small town of Cactus, a rest stop on a stage coach route set in what was to become New Mexico. They came from all over America and other parts of the world, looking for a place to reside where they could live and work free from the constraints of a society bound by religious dogma and entrenched thinking. Cactus seemed to be the ideal location for the settlement; out of the way, sparsely populated and with an ideal climate.

The existing residents were more than happy to have their little town bolstered by new inhabitants whose idea of a good time wasn’t to shoot the place up and steal everything in sight, as had been the chosen activities of many visitors to the area before now. Shortly after their arrival, the newcomers arranged a town meeting with the existing populous to explain who they were, what they believed in and what they hoped to achieve by moving there. Though unsure of many of their new ideas and uncertain about so many “religious free” people taking over, the locals were desperate for their own little community to survive, so they put aside any misgivings they may have had and warmly welcomed the newcomers.

In 1890 Cactus was comprised of little more than a small saloon, a small general store, a small blacksmiths & stable and a dozen or so small homes. A small silver mine a little ways outside the town had promised much but delivered very little in the way of silver. Some of the settlers located here rather than the town itself after finding evidence that the mine, though short on silver, was rich in other minerals. Finally, and a short while after the first two settlements had been established, a third settlement was built a short distance from both Cactus and the mine (later to be the town of Evolution following the discovery of ancient fossils in the mine), far enough away from the disturbance of general town life, where a large telescope could be built and operated. This became the town of Darwin, now the home of the county’s university.

By the end of the decade, Cactus became the administrative centre for the three towns and it was decided to declare the area a county in its own right. Thus Cactus County was born as a new century dawned. In honour of Charles Darwin, a great hero of the community for his discovery of the fact of evolution, the people decided to celebrate the area’s new county status by commissioning it’s first piece of public art, a statue of the great man himself. The county now boasts more statues of Darwin than anywhere else in the world.

Over the years the good reputation of Cactus County spread, drawing in new inhabitants who sympathised with the county’s philosophy and way of life. An unexpected benefit of the more relaxed atmosphere and open minded attitude of the populous was the attraction to the area of the artistic and creative as well as the more scientifically minded. The county began to gain a reputation for its art as well as it’s science, making for a more well rounded and generally more fulfilled existence for everyone.

There were some outside the locality who believed it their duty to bring religion to the “godless heathens” of Cactus County and filled with missionary zeal they preached and built places of worship. However, many of those missionaries became exposed to rationalism for the first time and found themselves convinced it was they who were mistaken in believing in the supernatural. Many became atheists. Those that didn’t found they made no headway at all and soon packed up and left, leaving a small number of empty churches, mosques, temples and synagogues, all of which in time found a more rational function, becoming libraries, museums, art galleries and even music venues.

Today the majority of people in Cactus County continue to live lives of rational, free thinking, atheists, keen on science, education and the arts, who see themselves as very patriotic Americans. Its citizens have a diverse ethnic and cultural background but most everyone shares similar rational philosophies. Many people work at Darwin’s university with its telescope and small but effective particle accelerator, or the mine or Carson’s Robotics Factory at Evolution, or in Cactus itself, where people go for entertainment and to purchase supplies. The county also boasts many fine artists, and with everyone encouraged to be creative, the area boasts a strong tradition of folk art.

I myself have been inspired to create some "outsider art" and I will display some of it here on this blog shortly.

1 comment:

  1. Having discovered the philosophy of Epicurus and the writings of Lucretius, I've changed the name of the town of Darwin to that of Ataraxia. This in no way negates the work of the great man or his inspiration to the people of Cactus County but instead incorporates their Epicurean philosophy into the county in a more substantial way.