The other day, I heard Madera described as “one of those Podunk towns along Highway 99 in the San Joaquin Valley.” I certainly disagree with that description. Oh, I am in full agreement with the assertion that our fair city is along Highway 99. In fact, Highway 99 runs right through it, as do two major railroads and one major river, the Fresno, which on Wednesday didn’t happen to have any water in it, but it is a river nevertheless.
What I disagree with is the characterization that we are a Podunk town. Podunk is defined as dull or insignificant, and why I don’t know, since it also refers to an area in southern New England, which I would not call dull or insignificant at all. Actually, right now, the real Podunk may be the center of the Great Frozen Vortex, which has New Englanders staying home in droves.
Speaking of centers, though, we are a center ourselves — the exact geographical center of California. If that isn’t exciting, I don’t know what is. Of course, not all here agree just exactly where the center of the center is.
Some say it is out near Avenue 12, on the Highway 99 median, marked by an evergreen tree and a palm planted next to each other, to signify that we are part of both mountain and valley climates. Others maintain the center isn’t in Madera at all, but in North Fork, somewhere not far from the service station.
Still others say the exact center of California is on the corner where they live, or is designated by concrete markers that resemble miniature Washington monuments.
However, critics of those indicators point out that none of the stelae, as these monuments are called by people smarter than I am, is inscribed with anything having to do with the center of the state. In fact, they are said to have been hitching posts for horses at one time, and nobody has bothered to remove them. Is that exciting, or what? It isn’t Podunk, that’s for sure.
Personally, I believe the exact center of the State of California may be in my front yard. The person who built our house about 40 years ago had a sizable boulder brought in for landscaping purposes, and while there is no inscription on it, who could say it wasn’t put down to mark the state’s exact center? There aren’t any other boulders in our neighborhood, so why was that one set where it is? The reason has to be that the exact center of the state is in the middle of our lawn, which soon will be turning brown as we start cutting back on water use.
Who says Madera isn’t exciting? It isn’t Podunk at all.