A narrow strip of territory projecting from a larger, broader politically defined area is called a panhandle. This narrow strip, when seen on a map, resembles the handle of a pan. Alaska, Idaho, Florida, Oklahoma, Maryland, Texas, and West Virginia have panhandles. Some people even call the small piece of Nebraska that sticks out to the west a panhandle. A panhandle may claim its own history and politics and its own character distinctive from the rest of its state. People residing in such regions routinely identify themselves as “living in the panhandle,” and organizations and businesses name themselves after it: Panhandle Outfitters, Panhandle Bird Club, Panhandle Railroad Historical Society, Panhandle State Bank, Panhandle Windsurfers, White Sands Panhandle Band, Panhandle Powerwash, Panhandle Jam. Panhandles have become part of American speech and the American psyche, even though they are simply the creation of boundary lines drawn on a map. Carl Sandburg’s poem “Boy and Father” contains this line: “Buffaloes, blizzards, way down in Texas, in the panhandle of Texas/snuggling close to New Mexico.”

Pattiann Rogers