Whether your a Wisconsinite or self-proclaimed Cheesehead; a Illinoisan, Michiganian or Michigander (Yooper or Troll); an Indianian or Hoosier; an Ohioan or Buckeye; a Pennsylvanian or Pennamite; or a New Yorker (Knickerbocker) we all have at least one thing in common. We belong to the ‘Rust Belt.’ If being accused of belonging to the rust belt isn’t regal enough sounding, then this article is meant for someone else. Meant for anyone rougher around the edges whose homes are possibly adorned in weathered wood, fish mounts, or industrial rustic accents.
The official term of a pseudonym or moniker for State or territory identity is actually a ‘Demonym.’ If you’re like me and you’ve never heard the expression demonym (prior to googling ‘the name for someone who lives in…’) rest assured, you’re in good company. Demonym or gentilic is a word that is used to identify groups of people who are all from the same area, state, or region. Moniker, the word I prefer, is simpler. Moniker means name or nickname.
This all begs the question: What is the best moniker for those of us who call the rust belt home? Are we ‘Industrial-Midwesterners,’ ‘Post-Industrialist-Ferriers,’ ‘Hopelessly-Dystopian,’ ‘Sprite-like-Reboundinites,’ or are we simply 'Rust Belters,' 'Goiter-Belters' (Thanks Morton Salt for the iodized salt assist on that one)? Whatever your predilection, we have the economic erosion of the post industrial era in common. To that end, we should celebrate with a ‘tighten your belt and suspenders’ moniker of our own. Rust-Beltians! That’s it.
We Rust-Beltians, like our parents and grandparents before us, are benefactors of living in a region lush and bountiful. If not for WWII we may not even have the moniker rust-beltian. But we do. We have our ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps, Entrepreneurialize when the going gets tough’, moniker. For those of us who have lived in the rust belt, and lived THE RUST BELT, you know how great we are at taking ownership of these expressions. In reflecting on this history, we are reminded that Democracies may wax and they may wane. Equally we are reminded that we Rust-Beltians didn’t ‘find’ or ‘discover’ these world-class fisheries we find ourselves in either.
There is little doubt that by the time our forebearers met pre-existing tribes of First Nations peoples, those communities hadn’t already discovered the rich, natural, aquatic life we still find ourselves writing about to this day. The rich fisheries of Greenbay and Milwaukee already discovered by Menomini and Ho-Chuck (i.e. Winnebago). The incredible hatcheries in Northwestern Michigan near ‘Big Point’ already known to the Ottawa and Ojibway. The magnificent waterways of Lake Saint Clair, the Detroit River surely known to the Potawatomi, the Council of Three Fires, as well as the Fox who settled there. The fabulous Western and Central basins of lake Erie found in Northern Ohio already known to the Wyandotte and Erie people, and to the north, the Kickapoo tribes. Finally, the indelible waters of the Eastern isles of lake Ontario were certainly derobed before the Seneca, Cayuga, and Onondaga First Nations.
My own son (7) and daughter (5) are Rust-Beltians through and through. They walk through feet of snow to use an outhouse at deer camp in the fall. They ice fish in their float jackets, and clear ice from holes with their bare hands in the winter. They help us plant hundreds of conifer sprouts in the spring through thawing soils. They wade knee high into pond muck to catch and release bullfrogs in the summer. They rip brassicas from our food plots and brush and eat the root bulbs raw. They help process venison and filet fish. They tell their parents that they are old, look pregnant, and could use some eye care to clear up those orbital bags. They’re incredibly patient with their ‘old-ish/fat-ish’ parents who drag them around the Midwest to hunting and fishing expos and fishing tournaments up and down the Great Lake coasts. We are proud parents. Proud to be parents raising children with and among families from Rust Belt, USA.
“The knower is an actor, and co-efficient of the truth on one side, whilst on the other he registers the truth which he helps to create.” - William James
Article written by Mike (Rust-Beltian) Hiller