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Why California, Arizona, and Minnesota are all the West

I'm a Western man. I've never lived anywhere except the West. And that includes Minnesota, where I was born, Arizona, where I am right now, and California, where I spent my twenties. These places are: the Old West, the West, and the Midwest.

Minnesota is the Old West of Jesse James. Arizona is what most people think of when they picture a geographically Western state. And of course California is on the West Coast. So if you tell someone that you're going out West, you may have to do a bit of clarifying.

Luckily, the name of the Old West to describe places like Minnesota, Iowa, and Kansas is rarely used nowadays and instead the term Midwest is used. Very few people question how a state that's about in the middle of the country could be described as Midwest, but it's just to differentiate that area from the Far West back when most of the population of the United States lived east of the Mississippi River.

And the West runs deeper as a culture. It's associated with cowboy hats and boots, with people saying "Howdy", with wide open spaces, open prairie and cactus. And so the first thing that really should spring into your mind for that is Arizona. And unless you're a real Western history fan, you probably don't associate places like Minnesota as being "the Old West". So it's fine to call Arizona part of the Old West, or just the West, even though there's a whole 'nother state to the West of it.

Image at the top of this post: sunset in Phoenix, Arizona. That's Encanto Park in the 1950s. You're looking west, from the West.

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