By Anjali Nayak
During my visit to Alaska, one name ran omnipresent.
Bowen Banderson Boulevard. Bowen Banderson Preparatory School. Bowen Banderson Park. Every piece of public property in Alaska was another opportunity to herald the greatest Alaskinian to be born in The Last Frontier.
At least that’s what my tour guide Timothy told me.
In a moment of confusion, I raised my hand and asked a question that sent the rest of my group into a laughing fit — “Who exactly is Bowen Banderson?” Rather than answer my question, Timothy rolled his eyes and muttered “These goddamn Californians.”
After arriving at my hotel, I pettily ran to my computer with one goal in mind: learn more about Bowen Banderson. All it took was a quick trip to Wikipedia to learn more about Banderson’s greatness.
“Bowen Banderson. Famed Alaskinian cartographer best known for making Alaska larger on maps depicting the United States of America. “
I couldn’t help but chuckle. So much praise, and for what? A man doing his job?
The next day I left for the airport, unknowingly assuming Bowen Banderson’s name would never come up again.
A few years pass and I’m in Houston, Texas helping my younger sister Hope move into her new apartment. She was entering her third year at Rice University on a track and field scholarship. Any outsider would never be able to guess that Hope was originally from the West Coast. My sister now wielded a long, swinging southern accent, tucked her beach curls under a cowboy hat, and continuously defended the 2017 Astros. It was definitely something to get used to.
Eager to show off her favorite spots in Houston, Hope took me out for dinner. At the tacky Tex – Mex restaurant, my sister went on about her potential study abroad plans.
“Barcelona, Rome, Mexico City. The options are endless!” She gushed, making me insecure about my own travels.
“Hope, take the opportunity, I’m about to enter my thirties and I’ve never left the country. Alaska is the farthest I’ve gone, and that was hardly anything.”
I chuckled to myself remembering my time in Alaska. The name Bowen Banderson popped into my head and I smiled simply thinking about the revered legend.
“I actually learned something really weird about Alaska,” I said, picking at my meal, “everyone there is obsessed with this one guy who draws maps, Bowen Ban–”
Before I could finish, my sister reached over the table and put her hand over my mouth.
“What’s wrong with you?” she hisses. There is no cowboy in her tone.
Deafening silence encroaches upon the restaurant. I survey the room. All eyes are on me. The typical hustle and bustle of a standard Tex-Mex has come to a screaming, awkward, halt.
Attempting to alleviate the situation, Hope gets up and fights my battle for me. Shyly, she pushes her chair in and clears her throat — the cowboy is back.
“I’m so sorry, he’s not from here, he doesn’t unde-” Now it’s Hope’s turn to be interrupted.
“Do you have any idea what he stole from us Texans?” A large, burly man stands up, challenging Hope,“Before Banderson, Texas was the biggest. ‘Everything’s bigger in Texas,’ that’s our whole brand!” The rest of the restaurant clamored in agreement. It’s then that I finally realized what the whole kerfuffle was about.
I shake my head in complete and utter disbelief. “Wait, this is about Bowen Banderson? The map guy?” I say, a little too loudly, to Hope.
“Just some guy?” A new Texan emerged from the crowd, “I run a souvenir shop, I had to throw away so many goddamn shirts!” Clamoring ensues once again.
A tall, blond waitress approaches our table to escort my sister and I out of the restaurant.
We’re not allowed in Texas anymore.