THE NEWS FROM ONEIDA LAKE
by Jim & Sue Kelly
Jim and Sue confess to really enjoy living on the lake--so much so, apparently, that they’ve begun a series of humorous articles featuring "the news from Oneida Lake”.
Patterned after Garrison Keillor’s “News from Lake Wobegone”, Jim and Sue's articles provide a witty and welcome addition to our website. We’re privileged to have their permission to reprint their stories here, and we’ll keep them coming your way as long as Jim and Sue keep writing them.
NEW YEARS, 2001
It's been a quiet week up here on the lake. After the big boat parade and holiday festivities, everybody's pretty tired, so not much has happened the past few days. I thought I might take this opportunity to give you a little geography lesson about Oneida Lake.
For those of you who don't know, Oneida Lake is situated in north central upstate New York. It's one hundred miles north of the Pennsylvania State line, 65 miles south of the Canadian Border, 165 miles west of the Vermont State line, and 175 miles east of Niagara Falls. It's about 22 miles long (on an east-west plane) and about five miles wide (on a north-south plane). It was discovered over 1,200 years ago by the Oneida Indians, who gave it their name. The Oneida Indians don't do much discovering now-a-days. Under the leadership of Chief Turningstone, they own and operate the "Filler-up and Poker", a casino and discount gas station (where what you save on gas, you lose in the casino).
Oneida Lake has been called the Thumb (some have said middle finger) of the Finger Lakes, although it is not really one of the Finger Lakes at all. The Finger Lakes (which lie to the southwest) are rather young, having been created by glaciers during the last ice age. Oneida Lake is actually an ancient vestige of the Great Lake Ontario. Millions of years ago, Lake Ontario was much larger, and covered the area which is now Oneida Lake. Oneida Lake sits on an ancient fault line, which runs down its middle (from east to west). This ancient fault line is actually the juncture of two continental plates--the North American Plate to the south and the Canadian Shield (Canadian plate) to the north. There aren't many earthquakes these days, but there is talk that there will be a big one someday, at which point Oneida Lake and its surrounds will separate from the North American Plate and become part of Nova Scotia. (I'll believe that when I see it.) Ten to twelve miles to the south are the foothills on the back side of the Appalachian Mountains. To the east and north are the Adirondack Mountains and the Tug Hill Plateau. Although surrounded by hills and mountains, the land around Oneida Lake is rather flat.
For hundreds of years, the Oneida Indians lived in geographic peace and tranquility--that is, until the European settlers showed up and confused everything. Fifteen miles east of Oneida Lake is Rome, and ten miles west of Oneida Lake is Mexico. It takes about forty-five minutes to drive from Mexico to Rome, but you have to go through Cleveland. Cleveland is about half-way down the lake on the north shore. North of Mexico is Texas (naturally) and south of Mexico is Phoenix. Word has it that the western names were adopted by settlers who were heading west, but, because of the arduous journey, stopped here in upstate New York. To make themselves feel better (and not to lose face with their friends and relatives back in the east), they just named the places where they stopped with the western names. That way they could send word back east that they had made it to Texas, or Mexico, or Phoenix.
Wait, there's more ... North of Rome is Vienna (where they make sausages) and south of Rome is Verona (where there's more than two gentlemen). South of Vienna is New London and west of Verona is East Boston. There's also a Floridaville which is near Jacksonville (NY). And, that's the truth.
Other places of interest include Skaneateles which has its own lake of the same name (pronounced skin-ee-at-less). It was named after an Indian princess who was very thin and liked to draw maps. To the west on the Oneida River is Caughdenoy, which is actually named after a version of corduroy made out of caughds. There's also Oniontown and Canastota. Once again, Canastota is one of those towns founded by folks heading west, but decided to stop here in upstate New York. They named the town after their wagon (but spelled it wrong.)
Oh, by the way, Oneida Lake has the best fishing in all of New York and New England. It is very famous for walleye. If you're in the need of a good vacation, or just want a place to get away from it all, come on up and visit the lake. Ice fishing season starts soon, and boy, do they catch a ton of ice up here.
And that's the news from Oneida Lake, where all the women wear chaps and spurs, all the men wear togas, and all the children get an "A" in Geography.
Copyright © 2000, J. W. Kelly. All rights reserved.