Monday, November 26, 2012


I’m sorry, Colorado.  I hate to say this, but you’re a little, well, boring.

I had all these Wild West visions of colorful prospectors and cowboys and desperadoes, with towns named things like Last Chance Gulch and Four Flusher Flat and Black Bart Butte.  Instead, I had to really scrounge around just to come up with these ten. 

C’mon, Colorado!  Step up your game!

10. Hygiene

Cleanliness is next to godliness, but I’m not sure I’d want to name my town after it.  Unless, of course, the alternative is to name your town after the local TB asylum.

And, yup, that’s just what they did.  Hygiene was named after Hygienic House, a former sanitarium for tuberculosis patients.  The little town is just north of Boulder.

It’s big enough to have its own elementary school.
Go Hawks!

9. Paradox

I have no idea where this name comes from.  It a complete … um …a total … er … conundrum? … no … mystery? … unh … enigma?

Apparently, the name comes from the paradoxical course of the Dolores River.  Instead of flowing down the length of the valley where Paradox is located, the river cuts right across it.

The whole valley was once known for it lawlessness.  In fact, it was called the “Slaughterhouse of the West.”  There were range wars, outlaws, murders, and a particularly gruesome beheading – all encouraged by the valley’s remoteness and inaccessibility.

I understand things have cooled off a little today.  In fact, Paradox itself is pretty much a ghost town these days.

Paradox Valley from space – QED

8. Sugar City

Sounds like the name of a bad disco band from the ‘70s. 

It’s actually named for the sugar beet processing factory that operated here from 1900 to 1967.  Who woulda thunk it?

Sugar City is in the flat part of Colorado.  The town’s website calls it “a quiet bedroom community” – though it looks like a two-hour drive to anything even approaching a real city.  Population: 279. 

Like I say, flat

7. Stringtown

Not to be confused with Twineville, Strand City, or Ropeburg …

There are a number of Stringtowns scattered across the U.S.  Most got their names from being strung along a road or highway.  I’m sure that’s where this one came from too.

It’s another semi-ghost town, by the way, with the few remaining buildings having been completely absorbed by the nearby burg of Leadville.

6. Security-Widefield

Move over, Alsace-Lorraine!  Watch out, Austria-Hungary!  Make way, Schleswig-Holstein!  There’s a new kid in town.  And its name is Security-Widefield. 

Security-Widefield is big time.  It’s got over 30,000 people, is a true bedroom community (of Colorado Springs), and was even the topic of a film:

Andrew Gillis' debut feature, simulating a documentary film with its use of handheld cameras, was awarded an official certificate for following Dogme 95's rules for "cinematic chastity." Following college, Karen relocates to Security, Colorado, to be close to boyfriend Paul. With an apartment and a job in a record store, her life is in order, so she then embarks on her dream of becoming a writer. However, her job is unfulfilling, and when she spots a theft in the store, she doesn't report the shoplifter but instead attempts to befriend her. Unable to relate to life around her, Karen has a growing dissatisfaction with her existence, and an unusual psychological portrait emerges as she attempts to deal with everyday realities and find security in Security. (

By the way, the "Security" part of it was named after the land developers, Security Development Corp.

5. Swink

A verb describing a way to swindle someone?  A certain kind of loot?  Slang for a stool pigeon in prisons?  Another word for nerd?  The name of a 1950s men’s magazine? 

This town was actually named for George Swink, a local notable.  Supposedly, the surname is from the Gaelic suibhne, and means “pleasant.”  A common related name is McSweeney. 

So …  Why didn’t they just call it “Pleasant”?  That’s a lot more pleasant sounding than “Swink.” 

 Rhett Larsen,
Colorado 4-H, District 6,
President & Treasurer
(and one super swinky dude!)

4. Sawpit

“A pit over which lumber is positioned to be sawed by two men with a long two-handed saw” ( kind of says it all, don’t it?  Well, I’m going to go out on a ledge here and assume there was a little lumbering here.  Any more I cannot say.

Sawpit’s main claim to fame is its being the least populous incorporated town in Colorado.  And what that means is a grand total of 25 Sawpitites ...  Sawpitians? ... Sawpitters?

3. Toonerville

It’s a great name all by itself, but would you believe it was named after a comic strip?

Yup, the town changed its name from Red Rock to Toonerville, after the then-popular comic strip "The Toonerville Trolley."  There was a little train that ran through the town.  Other than that, though, I’m not sure just what was motivating these folks. 

Today, it’s pretty close to a ghost town.

Toonerville today

2. Tincup

Okay, this is more of the crazy Wild West stuff I was expecting.  Turns out prospector Jim Taylor named the area Tin Cup Gulch after he came back to camp from here with some gold nuggets in his drinking cup. 

Tincup was originally called Virginia City.  Seems, though, there were just too many damn Virginia Cities out west (Nevada, Montana).  Voila, Tincup!

 Well put

1.  Stoner

“Friends around the campfire and everybody's high …”

I’m sure there’s a Mr. Stoner behind all this.  And for him (or at least some ancestor lost in the mists of time), there are a couple of possibilities:

  • He worked with stone
  • He lived near a stone
  • He liked to get stoned
Okay, I made that last one up.

Trucker Hat, $12, CafePress
Stoner Hats & Caps

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Colorado Springs, Colorado City, Commerce City, American City, Center
  • Short & sweet – Hale, Rand, Wray, Lay, Loma, Vona, Ault, Ione, Eads, Joes, Kim, Kutch
  • Just a little out of place – Idaho Springs*, Frisco*, Austin, Kokomo, Ohio City, Louisville, Jamestown, Trinidad, Oxford, Black Forest, Genoa, Florence, Lebanon, Delhi
  • Orthographically challenged – Nunn, Carr, Devine, Peetz
  • Numerically oriented – Firstview, Twin Lakes, Two Buttes, Ninemile Corner 
  • Just a little off-color – Bust, Climax, Dick
  • Unconventional verbs – Rush, Brush, Bond, Burns, Masters, Marvel, Cope, Divide
  • Atypical adjectives – Rustic, Golden (Buffalo Bill grave & museum), Gothic, Hasty
  • Abnormal nouns – Empire*, Vigil, Sunbeam, Snowmass, Skyway, Falcon, Dinosaur, Bedrock (if only there were a Flintstone), Basalt, Boulder, Granite, Silt, Monument, Model, Rifle, Gunbarrel, Powderhorn, Parachute, Severance, Crook
  • Fun to say – Vancorum, Ft. Lupton, Pitkin, Bondad, Boncarbo, Idalia, Fruita (home of the Headless Chicken Festival), Naturita, Nucla, Niwat, Yuma, Yampa, Yoder, Tabernash
  • Just plain weird – Red Wing, Federal Heights, Commerce City, Spar City, East Portal, Fairplay (model for TV show South Park), Last Chance, Powder Wash, Silver Plume, Silver Cliff, Slick Rock, Steamboat Springs, Cripple Creek, Crested Butte, Punkin Center, Utleyville, Sphinx Park, Mayday, Towner, Bachelor City, Lulu City, Jimtown, Chromo, Yellow Jacket, Pea Green Corner, Buckskin Joe, No Name
  • I'd like you to meet – Dolores, Tiffany, Beulah, Craig, Mack, Otis, Rocky Ford, Virginia Dale, Ken Caryl, Kit Carson, Montezuma
  • Ghost towns –  Old Hundred, Capitol City, Engineer City, Massive City, Parrot City, Tasmania, Tomboy, Trump, Tuttle, Roses Cabin, Smuggler, Upper Camp Bird, Wild Irishman, Pie Plant

* - author has visited

Monday, November 19, 2012


It’s a big state.  I was thinking I’d have enough material for two posts for sure. 

I’m afraid, though, that the Golden State came up a little short.  Seems the Land of Fruits and Nuts has fewer crazily named towns than such much smaller (and more prosaic) states as Alabama, North Carolina, and West Virginia. 

Looks like California’s got some great themes, though (as well as lots of great little places that didn't make it onto the map).  Check below to see what I mean.

10. Earp

“Where ya from?”  “Earp.”  “Excuse me?”  “Earp.”  “Well, I never …”  “Earp.”  “You should be ashamed of yourself!”  “Earp.”

Yup, Earp’s named after Wyatt, who lived in the area for a few years.  Earp’s main claim to fame is having a post office further away from the county seat (San Bernadino) than any other town in the U.S.

Excuse me

9. Tarzana

Yes, Tarzana was named after Tarzan.  No, it wasn’t given that name just because some early settler loved to read books about feral children in Africa.  Tarzana was actually the site of Tarzana Ranch, owned and named by the Tarzan author himself, Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Today, Tarzana is basically just a swanky suburb of LA.  Famous inhabitants, present and past, include actress Lisa Kudrow, singer Selena Gomez, actress Blake Lively, and singer/actor Kevin Federline.  A veritable cultural mecca, in other words.

The first return on Google Images for “tarzana”  
 Probably not what we were looking for

8. Likely

According to legend, local residents debated long into the night on a name for their new town.  One of them pointed out that they would likely never agree upon a name.  Some wag thereupon nominated the name "Likely," and the rest is history. 

Not too bloody well likely, if you ask me.  Let’s leave this one as TBD.  "Likely" is also a Scottish surname, BTW.

Wikipedia lists Betty Reid as a famous native daughter and points out that Betty was “known for having the most complete autobiographical sheep herding stories.”  Come again?

Downtown Likely

7. Nice

Please don’t pronounce this like the city in France.  Even though that’s what it was named after.  Google Maps shows me there is a Nice Frostie and a Nice Grocery. 

 Nice people know how to party
(Halloween Party, Robinson Rancheria, Nice, CA)

6. French Camp, Chinese Camp, Angels Camp, Happy Camp

I guess Californians are really into the outdoors. 

You may have already guessed that each of these towns were in mining regions.  And for the first two, you can probably guess who was hanging out at that particular locale.

I guess you could use a similar argument for Angels Camp, but I doubt it.  Turns out it was named after an early shopkeeper, Henry Angel.  Boring.  It is, however, the location of Mark Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calevaras County,” as well as the present-day Jumping Frog Jubilee.

Happy Camp?  Seems that the settlers, "At a time of celebrating their survival of the hardships of the trip up the treacherous Klamath and of having found a spot where 'the pickings' seemed so promising, they named it 'Happy Camp'" (some obscure local history I fond on the Internet).  

 Probably not the French Camp we were looking for

5. Lots and Lots of Various Cities

Wow, ten cities with the word “city” in their names.  Now, that’s imaginative.  Here’s what I could find out about each one:

  • California City – created in 1958 with the aim of becoming California’s “next great city” (it didn’t)
  • National City – from Royal Ranch (El Rancho del Rey), which was changed to National Ranch (El Rancho de la Nacion), which somehow became National City (and not ranch)
  • Studio City – from a studio that Mack Sennett built on ground that the developer donated
  • Cathedral City – at the mouth of Cathedral Canyon, so named for a peak in said canyon that looks like … you guessed it … a cathedral.  Sonny Bono is buried here.
  • Temple City – after Walter P. Temple, first settler.  Officially, the City of Temple City.
  • Holy City – built by cult-leader William E. Riker, who advocated celibacy, temperance, communal living, and white supremacy (more here)
  • King City * – named after founder Charles King; formerly Hog Town and City of King
  • Highway City – named by the incredibly imaginative fig grower J. C. Forkner, of Golden State Highway Fig Gardens fame
  • Plaster City – well, it is owned by the United States Gypsum Corporation
  • Project City – named after the Shasta Dam construction project
  • City of Industry – created in 1957 for the sole purpose of industrial development.  Site of the mall parking lot from Back to the Future.
  • Yuba City – possibly from uva, the Spanish word for "grape"

And here's a shout-out to Summit City, Sierra City, Silver City, Sun City, Sand City, College City, Junction City, Midway City, Big Bear City, and Butte City.  Also be sure to see all the villes and towns below, under "Honorable Mention."

 Ask for Francis I

4. Rough and Ready

Contrary to popular legend, this town was not named after the local leather bar.  Instead, its namesake was the Rough and Ready Mining Company, which was in turn named after Zachary Taylor, 12th President of the United States, Mexican-American War hero, and holder of the nickname “Old Rough and Ready.”

Rough and Ready is most famous for seceding from the Union.  (The main issue was taxes.)  The townsfolk came to their senses and rejoined the Union three months later, right in time to celebrate the Fourth of July.  Nowadays, they celebrate an annual Secession Days festival.

Some funny links off of a Google search include:

  • Rough and Ready Hotels
  • Rough and Ready Homes for Sale
  • Rough and Ready Repairs
  • Rough and Ready Wayside Chapel

Bret Harte wrote a short story about Rough and Ready, by the by.

Ask for Rick Perry

3. Rancho Cucamonga

“Cucamonga”’s bad enough.  Put “Rancho” in front of it, though, and we’ve moved into some other dimension. 

It actually comes from an Indian language and means "sandy place."  “Cucamonga,” that is.  “Rancho” means “ranch.”

RC is actually quite a city, coming in at about 165,000 people.  It even has its own baseball team, the Class A Quakes.  The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes play in the Epicenter and have a mascot named “Tremor.”  Isn’t minor league baseball great?

 Hit 'im in the kidney, Tremor!

2. Forks of Salmon

I have a hard time even visualizing this.  It sounds like the title of a painting by Salvador Dali.  Or maybe the name of some obscure punk rock band from Iceland.

Needless to say, the actual explanation is very, very boring.  Basically, the town was founded at the confluence of the north and south forks of the Salmon River.  Sigh.

Once again, Google did not let me down, though, returning the incredible poetic and evocative “forks of salmon weather.”  Good name for a band, by the way.

Almost forgot …  There’s a Hayfork, CA as well.

1. Weed, Weedpatch, Skyhigh

I detect another theme here.  Get ready to be disappointed though.

Weed was named after Abner Weed, the founder of the local lumber mill.  The surname itself comes from Old English and basically means an “irascible person” (  Mt. Shasta is nearby, so the area gets a lot of tourists. 

Weedpatch was simply a low-lying, swampy area overrun with weeds and not fit for farming.  It was originally known as Alexander’s Corner which, though not all that exciting, sure beats Weedpatch.  It’s the site of the Arvin Federal Government Camp, a camp for Okies in the ‘30s.  The camp was featured in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, where it’s called “Weedpatch Camp.”

Skyhigh is a mystery.  It is, however, at over 7000 ft in elevation.

 Probably not the Skyhigh we were looking for

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Vista, Upland, Pond, Canyon, Forest, Home Gardens, Homeland, Centerville, Standard, Road Ends
  • Short & sweet – Elk, Day, Igo, Ono, Ojai, Noyo, Nord, Ione, Goffs
  • Orthographically challenged – Consumne, Terminous, Yreka
  • Numerically oriented – Twin Bridges, Three Rivers, Three Rocks, Four Corners, Five Points, Eight Mile House, Twenty-Nine Palms, Thousand Palms
  • A regular United Nations – Spanish Ranch, French Corral, French Gulch, Dutch Flat, China Camp
  • Just slightly off-color – Hooker, Ft. Dick, Shafter, Woody
  • Aytpical adjectives – Sage, Orange, Blythe, Blunt, Thermal, Cool
  • Uncoventional verbs – Challenge, Rescue, BendBray
  • Abnormal nouns – Boron, Mineral, Empire, Incline, Lookout, Arcade, Felicity (official center of the world), Tranquility, Rainbow, Rodeo, Trimmer, Knob, Needles, Hayfork, Viola, Volcano, Lotus, Shrub, Walnut, Peanut, Raisin, Strawberry, Honeydew, Aromas, Bivalve, Wimp
  • Fun to say – Fruto, Sloat, Solvang, Arbuckle, Glamis, Bodfish, Lompoc *, Sisquoc, Yolo, Yermo, Yorba Linda, Topanga, Pomona, Pismo Beach (giant clam statues), Petrolia, Betteravia (from the French for “sugar beet”), Calipatria (formerly Date City), Copperopolis, Thermalito, Sausalito, Sepulveda, Petaluma, Temecula, Coachella, Chowchilla, Biola (after the Bible Institute oLos Angeles – I kid you not), San Luis Obispo, San Juan Capistrano
  • Just plain weird – Emigrant Gap, Short Acres, Mineral King, Mormon Bar, Mad River (formerly Kuntz), Gas Point, Gasoline Alley, Fallen Leaf, Fig Garden, Pumpkin Center, Prunedale *, Avocado Heights, Cambrian Park, Burnt Ranch, Blue Canon, Bitterwater, Badwater, Buttonwillow, Coarsegold, Earlimart, Libfarm, Dunmovin, Fawnskin, False Klamath, Sucker Flat, Hellhole Palms, Hallelujah Junction, Doghouse Junction, Deadman Crossing, Death Valley, Devils Den, Scarface, No Mirage, You Bet, and – of course – Zzyzx 
  • Too many villes – Susanville, Dairyvlle, Farmersville, Vacaville, Smartville, Volcanoville, Bummerville 
  • Too many towns – Shingletown, Fiddletown (world's largest fiddle), Drytown, Whiskeytown, Tuttletown, Squabbletown, Secret Town
  • I’d like you to meet – Buck Meadows, Beverly Hills, Kit Carson, Jenny Lind, Lee Vining (upside down house), Hercules

Special Note: Ghost Towns!

Like any good Western state, California's got its share of ghost towns:
  • Numerically oriented – Second Garrotte
  • Just a little out of place – Michigan Bluff, New Chicago
  • Native American mouthfuls – Mokelumne City
  • Atypical adjectives – Masonic
  • Abnormal nouns – Cement
  • Just plain weird – Deadwood, Last Chance, Chloride City, Mullet Island, French Flat, Port Wine, Poker Flat, Crackerjack, Dogtown, Ragtown, Noonday City, Skidoo, Grub Gulch, Potholes, You Bet

* - author has visited

Monday, November 12, 2012


Arkansas …  Um, yeah, Arkansas …  All I can think of Bill Clinton, WalMart, and chickens.  Sorry.

10. Y City

Wikipedia says it all:

Y City is an unincorporated community in Scott County, Arkansas, United States. It is located at the junction of U.S. Routes 71 and 270 in the southern part of the county.

And that’s the whole entry.

9. Crumrod

I’m not totally sure this place ever existed.  All I can find on it is all the services that it doesn’t have on all those websites that were set up as service directories by simply creating a separate page for every stinking place in the U.S.  Here, here’s what I’m talking about:
  • Crumrod, AR Weather Conditions & Forecast
  • Crumrod - Find a Lawyer
  • Best Places to Live in Crumrod (zip 72328), Arkansas
  • Crumrod Banks
  • Latest Obituaries in Crumrod Arkansas
  • Crumrod, AR - Modular Homes
  • Find Crumrod Plumbers
  • Crumrod Urologists - Urology near Crumrod, AR (Arkansas)
  • Crumrod dating, Crumrod singles, Crumrod chat at
  • Wedding DJs in Crumrod, AR, Arkansas
  • Crumrod Balloon Twisters - Gigmasters
And none of these have anything listed for them (at least not in Crumrod).

As there seem to be other possible Crumrods in the US (Colorado, Kansas, Mississippi, Michigan, Montana, Tennessee, and Texas), I really want to get to the bottom of where this name might possibly come from.  Can you help me?  I’m stumped.

8. Arkadelphia

The town fathers were divided.  Some wanted New Yark.  Others opted for Chicarko.  And some favored Los Arkeles and Warkington.  In the end, though, Arkadelphia won out.

Believe it or not, Arkadelphia was named after another town, of the same name, in Alabama.  Stories conflict on the origin of that one, but it sounds like it was named after a nearby town called Ark, to which the “adelphia” of Philadelphia was added rather randomly.  Whether settlers of Arkadelphia, AR were originally from their Alabama namesake or whether it just seemed an especially good fit with their new state is something that likely will go disputed and unknown forever.

While we’re here, here’s a special shout-out to Texarkana, another terrible portmanteau word (but at least one that makes a little sense).

 When this is the “hero shot” on your website’s 
homepage, you know you’re in trouble

7. Dowdy

No surer way to attract business than to name your town something like Dowdy.  You could have a Dowdy Motel, a Dowdy CafĂ©, a Dowdy City Hall, and a House of Dowdy Fashion.  Unfortunately, I’m afraid there doesn’t appear to be anything in the actual Dowdy other than a bend in the road.

Turns out the town was named after a Mr. Dowdy, who is now unfortunately lost in the mists of time.  The name itself comes from the Irish O Dubhda (the Irish aren’t very good at spelling), which itself derives from the Gaelic word for “black.”

6. Flippin

Originally called Friggin, Flippin changed its name when the Post Office encouraged the local citizens to “tone it down a bit.”

Actually, Flippin is a last name, ultimately derived from the first name Phillip.  According to the town’s website,

Named for the Thomas Flippin family and incorporated in 1921, the town of Flippin welcomes its visitors, businesses and industries into their Flippin family.

Flippin yeah!

 Flippin right, Godammit!

5. Ink

According to legend, Ink was named by the dumbest post master ever.  Seems this guy saw “write in ink” on the application to the Post Office for a town name form and simply did as he was told.

No one’s really sure why Ink was chosen.  It was actually the town’s second choice.  The first was Melon, but that seems to have already been taken.

Like many of the other towns here, there’s not a lot out there on – or, it seems, to – Ink. 

4. Old Jenny Lind

There are actually towns called Jenny Lind in North Carolina and California as well.  Turns out Jenny was a famous singer – the “Swedish Nightingale” – who toured the U.S. for two years in the 1850s.  I guess it was the antebellum equivalent of the British Invasion, with little burgs all over the place unable to resist associating themselves with this paragon of culture with a capital C.

Young Jenny Lind                                       Old Jenny Lind

3. Oil Trough

This sounds unattractive enough to begin with.  But when you learn that the oil was from rendered bear fat, you might want to avoid all of north central Arkansas just to make sure you don’t accidentally end up anywhere close to this place.

Wikipedia has almost nothing to say about Oil Trough except for the following:

Odell Pollard, a retired attorney from Searcy and the Arkansas Republican Party chairman from 1966–1970, graduated from Oil Trough High School.

“Hi, I’m Odell Pollard, and I’m from Oil Trough, Arkansas.”  Man!  What a way to go through life.

This babe lives in Oil Trough – and wants to meet you!
(from, a dating site for … 
are you ready? … farmers only)

2. Possum Grape

Except for the Arkansas flavor of “possum,” this just seems like someone thumbed through the dictionary to find two random nouns.  Kinda like “Cheese Cloud,” or “Kazoo Meat,” or “Memory Frog,” or “Stew Beard.”  Go ahead, try it yourself.  It’s fun!

Unfortunately, the real story is much less interesting.  Turns out there is a kind of wild grape, Vitis cinerea var. baileyana, commonly called the “possum grape,” and prevalent throughout the South (and particularly so in the western part of Jackson County, Arkansas, I would presume).

Downtown Possum Grape

1. Smackover

Would you believe it’s French?  This may be my favorite name origin story of all.  Turns out this place was originally called Sumac Couvert – Frenchie for “stand of sumac trees.”  Simple enough.  

Now, take that fine French phrase and run it through the Arkansas Hillbilly Translatin’ Machine™ for a good 200 years, and guess what you get?  Yup, Smackover.  I am not making this up.

Smackover got its start as an oil camp, and is now the home of the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources.  It’s also the hometown of Sleepy LeBeef, a rock-a-billy pioneer.

The local high school team is known as the Buckaroos.  Yup, the Smackover Buckaroos.  Why be something boring like the Falcons or the Eagles or the Tigers when you can combine your weird town name with an even weirder mascot?

This is a picture of the Buckaroos’ “beautiful girl cheerleaders” 
I found on Google Images.  They kind of remind me of the 
iCandy Dancers, at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino.

Honorable Mention:

  • Short and sweet – Rye, Roe, Rudy, Rena, Ida, Oni, Ola, Otto, Ozan, Oark, Ulm, Clow, Keo, Moko, Lono, Nebo, Alco, Aly, Amy, Huff, Tull, Ladd, Bay, Guy, Alf, Ben, Hon
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Little Rock, Arkansas City, Junction City, Midway, Centerville, Center Point, Central, Center, Camp, Burg
  • Numerically oriented – Three Corners, Three Brothers, Fifty-Six (after the local school district), Number Nine, Four Gums (I only have two), Figure Five, One Horse Store
  • Just a little out of place – too darn many
  • Just a little off-color – Fannie, Hooker, Beaver, Cooter, Pleasure Heights (too bad it wasn't Heights of Pleasure)
  • Orthographically challenged – Parkin, Furlow, Nuckles, Norfork, Tokio
  • Atypical adjectives – Rich, Strong, Marble, Rocky, Hardy, Hasty, Floral, Light, Calmer, Coy, Prim, Gravelly, Graphic
  • Uncoventional verbs – Hunt, Peel, Push, Tarry, Twist
  • Abnormal nouns – Empire, Joy, Delight, Romance, Ratio, Bonanza, Wing, Ozone, Forum, Driver, Vendor, Loafer, Umpire, Catcher, Cash, Cord, Nail, Saddle, Slovak, Snowball, Strawberry, Acorn, Caraway, Tulip, Tomato, Tyro, Possum, Pansy, Peanut, Stamps, Magazine, Story, Reader (there’s a theme to those last three)
  • Fun to say – Humnoke, Bodcaw, Botkinburg, Relfs Bluff, Sturkie, Drasco, Freck, Zent, Timbo, Tontitown, Tyronza
  • Just plain weird – Gin City, Sulphur City, Social Hill, Greene High, Hurricane Grove, Evening Shade, Sweet Home, Welcome Home, Lost Corner, Vanity Corner, Natural Dam, Natural Steps, Marked Tree, Back Gate, Ash Flat, Pencil Bluff, Big Fork, Board Camp, Blue Ball, Blue Eye, Birdsong, Birdeye, Buffalo City, Bee Branch, Bullfrog Valley, Hog Jaw, Hog Eye, Turkey Scratch (home of Band member Levon Helm), Little Flock, Goobertown, Hicksville, Yellville, Whiskerville, Hempwallace, De Queen, Overcup, Stinking Bay, Standard Umpstead, Needmore, Bald Knob, Dogpatch, and, of course, Toad Suck
  • I'd like you to meet – Tilly, Rosie, Ralph, Floyd, Harvey, Norman, Bruno, Bono, Ben, Ben Hur, Ben Lomond, Shannon Hills, Holly Springs, Old Milo
  • Stars fell on … Arkansas? – Evening Star, Morning Star, Red Star, Star City
  • Ghost towns – Peterpender, Paraclifta

Monday, November 5, 2012


The Grand Canyon State.  The Copper State.  The Extremely Hot State.  The But-It’s-a-Dry-Heat State.

10. Ak-Chin

Ak-Chin is from the O'odham word meaning "mouth of the arroyo.”  Which is also a good description of how I feel the morning after too many bottles of red wine and cheap cigars.

Ak-Chin is a Native American community of 700-some people near Phoenix.  And, yes, they do have their own casino.

The iCandy Dancers, at Harah’s Ak-Chin Casino

9. Wikieup

“Wikieup” is Mojave Indian for “shelter” or “home.”  It’s got about 300 people.  Wikieup is famous for Snoopy Rock, which looks “unmistakably like the head of Charlie Brown's famous mutt,” according to the site.  

Ohmigod that’s scary!

8. Mexican Water

Formerly known as Montezuma’s Revenge, Mexican Water changed its name to appeal to the tourist crowds that had previously passed it by.  Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to work either.

The story on this one was that some Mexican dudes dug up some wells here once.  Exciting!  The town’s on a Navajo reservation, in the very northeast corner of the state, and has a population of 3,500.  

Googling “mexican water” brings up stuff like:
  • Water supply and sanitation in Mexico (Wikipedia)
  • Don't drink the water: staying healthy in Mexico
  • Pirates shoot U.S. man in Mexican waters (MSNBC)
  • Mexican Boy Falls in Water (YouTube)
  • Mexican water monster (Wikipedia)

The Mexican Water Monster, Ambystoma mexicanum

7. Cowlic

It is a weird thing to name you’re town after.  Even so, you’d think they could at least get the spelling right.

“Cowlic” is actually Tohono O’odham for “hill.”  Dang.  That’s kinda boring.

Cowlic is in the very southern part of the state.  Population: 135.

6. Many Farms

This is a direct translation from the Navajo Da”ak”e Halani.  For which, I am extremely glad.

Many Farms has a population over 1,500.  It’s in the northeast of the state, on a Navajo reservation (see #8).

But it's a dry heat

5. Happy Jack

Happy Jack was not named after a song by The Who.  Actually, the name comes from its originally being a logging camp.  A logging camp – you know, with lumber jacks.  Get it? 

Happy Jack’s got about 600 people, and is in the mountains just south of Flagstaff.

I have no idea

4. Show Low

There are a number of stories about the origin of this name, all having to do with a poker game.  My guess – totally unsubstantiated – is that it had to have been named after a local ranch or mine.  These are things individuals could name, and they could pretty much come up with whatever they want.  Towns usually involve some consensus, which means a little decorum, which means very few named after poker hands.

Compared to the rest of the towns here, Show Low is practically a metropolis, with a population of over 11,000.  “Famous” native sons include George Takei (Star Trek), Dan Dueblein (Beverly Hills, 90210), Doug Mathis (Texas Rangers and Chibba Lotte Marines), and Mike Furyk (golfer Jim Furyk’s dad).

How it all started (maybe)

3. Tuba City

Tuba Town, Brassburg, Horn Hamlet, The Villages at Tuba Green – the town fathers just couldn’t decide what to call their little burg.  So they named it after some Indian chief, some guy named Tuuvi.  And, heck, they couldn’t even be bothered to spell it right.

Tuba City’s another big-time player.  They’ve got almost 9,000 people, a history of uranium mining, and some dinosaur tracks.

By the way, Arizona also features a Horn and an Octave.

Local Tubans piping in the dawn.

2. Why

I dunno.

I do actually.  This one’s literally from a Y in the road.  Population: 116.  Location: southwest corner of the state. 

Why indeed?

1. Tombstone

Everyone’s heard of this one.  That said, it still is an absolute gem.  Can you think of any name more likely to scare off potential settlers?  Grim Reaper?  Cadaver?  Death?

There actually is a great story on this one.  Seems some prospector by the name of Ed Schieffelin was planning to scout out the area.  Commenting on the dangers of the locale, one of his buddies told him the only thing he would find there would be his own tombstone.  After Schieffelin struck it rich, he waggishly named his mine “Tombstone.”

Yup, Tombstone is where the famous Gunfight at the OK Corral actually happened.  It’s also home to the Boot Hill Cemetery.  And lots of tourists.

I’m always a sucker for an old postcard.

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Arizona City, Plantsite, Center, Hard Rocks
  • Short & sweet – Ajo, Eloy, Naco
  • Orthographically challenged – Eagar, Peeples Valley
  • Native American mouthfuls (or, Who put their elbow on the keyboard?) – Hon Dah, Kaka, Gu Vo, Ko Vaya, Ali Ak Chin, Teec Nos Pos, Sikul Himatk, Sivili Chuchg, Gurli Put Vo, Tsintaa Yiti Ii, Vainom Kug, Vopolo Havoka, Wahak Hotrontk, Chuwut Murk
  • Numerically oriented – Secon Mesa, Double Adobe, Three Way
  • Just a little out of place – Colorado City, Peoria, Buckeye, Arlington, Vicksburg, Miami, Patagonia, Florence, Bagdad, Paradise
  • Aytpical adjectives – Mammoth, Superior (world's smallest museum), Continental, Blue, Carefree (world's largest sundial)
  • Abnormal nouns – Portal, Chlroide, Oracle, Cherry, Strawberry, Roll, Moccasin, Anthem, Organ Pipe (yeah, yeah, I know it’s a kind of cactus), Camel, Coffeepot, Surprise, Highjinks, Gripe, Nothing
  • Fun to say – Fredonia, Bapchule, Pirtleville, Copperopolis, Winkleman
  • Just plain weird – Cornville (John McCain has a home here), Bullhead City, Turkey Flat, Grasshopper Junction, Wide Ruin, Paul Spur, Pirtleville, Greaterville, Ft. Misery, Skull Valley, Robbers Roost, Tortilla Flat, Catfish Paradise, Pink Arrow, Burnt Water, Peach Pu, Big Bug
  • Just plain weird, crossing division – Apron Crossing, Booze Crossing, Chair Crossing
  • It’s too hot here for that – Snowflake (founded by Erasmus Snow and William Flake - I kid you not), Christmas, Santa Clau

Special Note: Ghost Towns!

These are all from this great site, which I highly recommend:
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Arizona City
  • Numerically oriented – Two Guns, Twin Buttes
  • Just a little out of place – Brooklyn Basin
  • Native American mouthfuls – Tuweep, Harqua Hala
  • Atypical adjectives - Stark, Silent, Tip Top, Cyclopic
  • Abnormal nouns – Signal, Gunsight, Silverbell, Planet, Clip, Humbug
  • Just plain weird – Brenda, Bundyville, Polhamus Landing, Pacific City (nowhere near any water), American Flag, Old Glory, Old Trails, Grand Gulch, Fools Gulch, Lost Basin, Angel Camp, Bumble Bee, Wolf Hole, Germa, Copperopolis, Snowball, Red Rover, Contention City, Vulture City, Owl Station, Pick Em Up, Total Wreck