SOUTHWICK -- This community has been called The Jog, The Dip, The Dimple, The Wedge, The Notch, and The Little Cutout. For a time, it even was known as Pocket Town -- because the southern third of the town looks like a lone pocket of Massachusetts surrounded on three sides by Connecticut.
Southwick sits in that odd little blip on the Bay State's otherwise essentially straight southern border, just beyond Springfield, where it takes a sudden and erratic plunge 2 miles into Connecticut. It's a cartographic anomaly, the site of one of New England's longest running land disputes, and a placid place for a weekend getaway, especially for someone with eccentric tastes.
To wit: Many locals can claim to have lived in four towns, three counties, two provinces, and two states -- without every having moved. The town's current boundaries also contain other curiosities -- such as an odd cave that may have been used for trapping wolves, a rare quaking bog, and an unusually large number of amphibians. The area also has more conventional attractions, including several hiking and snowmobiling trails, three golf courses, and three connected ponds called the Congamond Lakes, with opportunities for boating, fishing, and waterfront dining.
But Southwick's defining feature is its location. Its odd location. Locals on both sides of the border still dispute how the town got its shape.
The most common explanation, as head selectman David A. St. Pierre observes, is that the Southwick notch was necessary to hold Massachusetts in place, ''to keep it from sliding into the sea" -- which makes about as much sense as the historical record.
According to several history buffs, including the late Edward R. Dodge, a Southwick clergyman who wrote extensively on the topic, the problem began in 1642, when two Boston surveyors, Nathaniel Woodward and Solomon Saffery, were appointed to lay out the boundary between the provinces of Massachusetts and Connecticut. The Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony said that its southern border should run due west to the Pacific Ocean ''from a point three miles south of the most southerly branch of the Charles River."
Because the surveyors were lazy, afraid of Indians, or inebriated -- depending on whose account -- they decided not to walk the border, which would have been the expected practice, by traveling inland from that point near the Charles. Instead, they went by boat around Cape Cod, through Long Island Sound, and up the Connecticut River, intending to stop where it crossed the correct latitude for the new boundary.
But because they were still drunk, or hampered by faulty instruments or a Boston bias, or a bit of all of these, they stopped roughly eight miles too far south, establishing the border just north of Windsor, Conn. This meant that several towns that had been, and now are, in Connecticut -- including Granby and Simsbury -- belonged to Massachusetts.
Connecticut leaders protested for more than 50 years. Finally, they hired their own surveyor, who established a more northerly line in 1695. Massachusetts countered with another surveyor who confirmed the validity of Connecticut's complaint, though with a different boundary. There were more studies, but no two surveys produced identical results.
In 1713, lawmakers in the two states reached a compromise, but locals objected. Southwick residents petitioned to reside in Connecticut. But Massachusetts continued to levy taxes on the town, which it still claimed.
Exactly why this swatch of land was so tenaciously coveted remains a minor mystery. Some say the soil, which lured tobacco and vegetable farmers, was especially fertile. Others say water was the key, because the Congamond Lakes could be harnessed to power local grist and gunpowder mills. Still others say locals had an unusually feisty, independent spirit and resisted easy alignment.
Whatever the case, in 1804 a more acceptable compromise finally was reached. The southern section of Southwick was divided into two parts. The land east of the Congamond Lakes came under Connecticut's jurisdiction, and that west of the lakes, including the lakes themselves, joined Massachusetts. This westerly land is now known as The Jog, or The Notch, or . . . whatever.
But the border continued to be blurred in practice, and still is, according to Carol Laun, archivist and genealogist for the Salmon Brook Historical Society, in Granby. For instance, one local school had its main buildings in Connecticut and its outhouse in Massachusetts, she says. Many families have owned land on both sides of the border. Some live in one state and go to church in another. A few families have homes in Connecticut but can't get to them without passing through Massachusetts.
The drawback to exploring this border life as a tourist is that Southwick does not really try to accommodate travelers. Although it boasts lots of restaurants, it does not have a single lodging of any kind -- no motel, no hotel, not even a bed-and-breakfast.
Some of Southwick's other intriguing features, furthermore, are not accessible to the public. Near Goose Pond, for instance, there's a large and rare quaking bog -- ''a floating mass of vegetation that kind of pulsates," says Earl Murphy, a longtime resident who found his way there. But no trails or markers help a visitor to spot it.
Likewise, in a part of town known as Wolf Pit Meadows, some students recently discovered a cave that may have been used to trap wolves, or as a hideout for counterfeiters or draft-dodgers or pacifists, or perhaps it was some sort of Celtic or Indian ruin. It too sits on private property.
And much of the town, if truth be told, is not particularly picturesque. The main street -- called College Highway because, historically, it was part of the main route from Yale College in New Haven to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire -- is dotted by minimalls and nondescript little businesses. The town common is a tiny plot of land by the old Southwick Congregational Church, barely big enough for a war memorial.
But there's a new public pier, a public beach, and two public boat ramps on the scenic Congamond Lakes, which provide opportunities for year-round fishing and assorted water sports in summer. Several restaurants -- including Nora's, Crabby Joe's, and Louie B's -- offer lakeside dining, with pleasant water views and al fresco options when weather permits.
And travelers who venture south into former Massachusetts territory in Granby and Simsbury will find many more possibilities for things to see and do, as well as interesting lodgings. Three miles south of Southwick, for instance, sits the Dutch Iris Inn, in Granby, an 1812 home owned by Kevin and Belma Marshall. This friendly and helpful couple provides guests with all sorts of amenities, including wireless Internet access and privileges at a local gym with saunas, a whirlpool, and a climbing wall. And during tax season, they offer a special package for working twosomes: Stay two weekend nights for $399, or one weeknight for $249, and Kevin, a registered CPA, will do taxes for one or both parties, with no extra charge for the second tax return (unless it is unusually complicated).
For the Marshalls, like many residents of this blurry border area, The Jog or The Notch or whatever you call it has ceased to matter, except as a curious convenience. As Kevin Marshall puts it, ''When people are trying to find us, I always say: 'It's easy. We're right below that little dimple.' "
Judith Gaines is a freelance writer who lives in Boston.