Saturday, December 28, 2013

Washington N-Z

It’s the state that keeps on giving. If you thought the names last week were pretty crazy – well, you just ain’t seen nuthin yet.

10. Toppenish

In a toppen manner? Like or similar to a toppen? 

No, silly. It’s from the Sahaptin tẋápniš, meaning “protruded,” or “stuck out.” And that was from a landslide that happened along the river here. So obvious!

This major metropolis of 9,000 is just southeast of Yakima. It’s famous for its murals, a railroad museum, a Yakima Indian casino, fruit, and the American Hop Museum

Hmm, not sure what
happened to Canada

9. Skamania

What fans of certain Jamaican music suffer from?

Nah, it just means “swift waters” in the local Indian language. That’s a pretty apt description, by the way, as the town is located along some former rapids on the Columbia River.

Skamania’s the name of the county too. It looks like a beautiful area. It’s 90% forested and includes Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, parts of the Columbia River Gorge, and Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

By the way, it’s pronounced skuh-MANH-ee-uh.

8. Washougal

Early settler Archibald MacDougal wanted to honor both the father of his country and himself …

Well, actually, that’s not totally correct. The name’s from the Chinook, and means "rushing water," or perhaps "small rocks and pebbles," or possibly even "land of plenty.” Sheesh! What is it already? Make up your minds! 

Washougal, like Skamania, is right on the Columbia River. It’s got a lot more people though, coming in at 14,000. It’s also a lot closer to Portland.

It was once known as the “prune capital of the world.” Everything you could ever possibly want to know about its history you can find right here.

It appears to be mostly known 
for its motocross track however

7. Sedro-Wooley

Alone, they’re a little odd. Probably not Honorable Mention odd … But put ‘em together, and it’s a whole new ballgame!

Yup, Sedro-Wooley did indeed start out as two towns. Sedro is actually from cedro, the Spanish word for cedar. (It was originally called Bug, from the many mosquitoes here.) Wooley is from railroad honcho Phillip A. Wooley. 

Today, S-W is a metropolis of 10,000. It’s located in the wonderfully named Skagit County, about an hour north of Seattle, and about halfway to Vancouver.

Historically, it’s known for Tusko, the circus elephant, who escaped here and laid waste to the town before being recaptured. In more modern times, S-W is known for the Loggerodeo, which features a carnival, foot-race, log drive, old-time logging show, championship rodeo, various parades, and an invitation-only chainsaw log carving competition.

Okay, that’s kinda weird

6. Nooksack

A sack for your nook?

Actually, no. This one is from a tribe, but also a river. It means “always bracken fern roots.” Now, that doesn’t exactly make a whole lot of sense, but I did find it on this pretty reliable-looking site, so … 

This town of 1,300 is not too far from Vancouver (Canada, not Oregon), and actually calls itself a “bedroom community.” It’s in the interestingly named Whatcom County. Hmm, couldn’t find much else out there that’s about the town, and not the tribe …

Nooksack Valley School District,
Transportation Department

5. Walla Walla

This one’s here purely on repetition alone. By itself, Walla wouldn’t even make it in this post. Add another Walla though – pure poetry!

What’s it mean? Well, walla is Sanhaptin for “water,” so walla walla of course means lots of water. Seriously. BTW, it was originally named Steptoeville.

WW is home to 30,000, three colleges, and the Washington State Penitentiary. Despite that last item, it was named USA Today’s 2011 “friendliest small town in the US.” Indeed, WW’s motto is “The City So Nice, They Named It Twice” (whuh???). It’s also got a couple of interesting famous sons, including:
  • Former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe
  • Former batman Adam West
  • Softball god Eddie Feigner
  • Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas

By the way, Washington also includes a Wallula.

You are here(abouts)

4. Puyallup / Tulalip

Do a coupla puyallups. They’s a-good for your musucules.

So, the first one actually means “generous people,” and is – of course – from an Indian tribe. P-town has 37,000 people and is just east of Tacoma. They’ve got their share of “famous” sons and daughters as well, including Nathan Chapman, Harriet A. Hall, Kelly Sullivan, Chester Victor Clifton Jr., Natasha Curry, Nick Harmer, Brock Huard, Damon Huard, and Brandon Gibson (Whuh??? Who???).

Tulalip? Another tribe. The name is from a Salish word for "small-mouthed bay" or “purse-shaped bay.” We’re talking about 1,500 people, pretty close to Seattle. Big time casino.

I am so depressed
(the "city" is Puyallup)

3. Tumtum / Tumwater

Got an ache in your tum tum? Try some tum water!

Tumtum is from a Chinook word meaning “heart/soul.” I’m sure there’s a good story behind this one. I just don’t know what it is. The town is in the far east, near Spokane. It looks like a couple of dozen houses along the Corkscrew Highway and Long Lake.

Tumwater was originally Tumtum Chuck. And that’s Chinook for “waterfall” (literally, “heartbeat water.”). It’s on other side of the state, not too far from Olympia, the capital. It’s got a whopping 17,000 people, is the oldest permanent settlement on Puget Sound, and was the former home of Olympia beer.

The original tum water 

2. Snoqualmie / Snohomish / Skyhomish / Suquamish

And I’m sure there’s also a Skyqualmie, and a Suqaulmishie, and a Skyhomiequalmish, and a …

Snoqualmie is from the Lushootseed s•dukwalbixw, which means "ferocious people.” It’s got 11,000 of these ferocious types and is just east of Seattle. 

Snohomish is a town of 9,000 in the same general area. It’s from the name of another tribe, the sdoh-doh-hohbsh. The meaning of that is “disputed,” but I figure it’s got to have “people” or “ferocious” in it, right? Baseball Hall of Famer Earl Averill is from here.

Skyhomish is not too far away from the first two, but only has a population of about 200. The Skyhomish are yet another tribe, with their name meaning “inland people.” Huh! There goes my theory about Snohomish.

Suquamish? Another tribe. It’s actually the tribe of Chief Seattle, who is buried here. The name? It means “place of clear water.” The town? 4000 people, on the other side of Puget Sound from Seattle, on the wonderfully named Kitsap Penisula.

Don’t you want to live in Snoqualmie too?

1. Twisp / Pysht / Queets / Gleed

Just try one of these in your next Scrabble game. Say it’s something like an Anglo-Saxon unit of measurement, or a plant that grows only in Iceland, or an old Scottish pastime played with sheep testicles.

Twisp probably means “wasp,” or “yellowjacket.” It’s got about 900 and is the north central part of the state, in a valley in the middle of the Northern Cascades. There’s also a Twisp River. They’re both in the wonderfully named Okanogan County.

Pysht is also the name of a river. This one means “against the wind” or “against the current.” Pysht is on the very northern part of the Olympic Penisula, just a little ways from the Strait. Pysht is a “near-ghost,” with just a handful of houses left.

Queets is another small town named after a river. It’s got almost 200 people, almost all of them Native American. “Queets” supposedly means “dirt,” and refers to a local Native American origin myth. It’s on the coast, about halfway between Cape Flattery (the tip of the Olympic Peninsula) and Grays Harbor.

Oddly, there is no river Gleed. Couldn’t find much on it, but it’s probably someone’s last name. And that name appears to mean “kite” – “probably applied with reference to the bird’s rapacious qualities.” It’s got 3,000 people, and is in the center of the state, just northwest of Yakima.

Honorable Mention: 
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Valley
  • Short & sweet – Paha, Oso, Omak, Yelm, Yale, Ruff, Sauk, Usk
  • Just a little out of place – Vancouver, South Bend (world’s largest oyster), Toledo, Rochester, Normandy, Orient
  • Orthographically challenged – Sequim, Touchet
  • Numerically oriented – Three Lakes, Seven Mile, Nine Mile Falls
  • Native American mouthfuls – Tukwila, Tillicum, Tonasket, Skamokawa ("smoke on the water"), Onalaska, Okanogan, Washtucna, Wauconda, Wahkiacus, Wenatchee, Wellpinit
  • Abnormal nouns – Rice, Republic, Plaza, Sultan (tiny church), Tiger, Nighthawk, Whites, Vantage, Outlook, Opportunity, Startup, Possession
  • Atypical adjectives – Plain, Scenic, Royal, Rainier, Stuck, Quilcene
  • Unconventional verbs – Robe, Shine, Park
  • Fun to say – Orting, Steptoe, Spangle, Toutle (Mt. St. Helens miracle survivor car), Zillah (Church of God - Zillah), Poulsbo, Nisqually, Synarep, Satsop, Panikanik
  • Hard to say – Semiahmoo, Spokane ("sun people," the name of the tribe), Yakima (“runaway,” another tribe), Nespelem, Skamokawa, Utsalady, Wawawai
  • Just plain weird – White Swan, White Center, Sunnyside, Sunset, San de Fuca, Soap Lake, Oysterville, Ritzville, Royal Camp, Paradise Inn, Pataha City, Navy Yard City, Tokeland
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Olga, Stella, Roy, Ronald, Raymond, Sappho, Othello, Otis Orchards
  • Ghost towns – Ruby, Sherman, Tokio, Tono

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Washington A-M

Wow! What an awesome place. I have never run into a collection of such wacky stuff. 

It seems like we can thank the Native Americans for most of this … though they’re certainly not alone.

Of course this state merits two posts.  A-M this week, N-Z next week.

10. Cosmopolis

Yup, this small town of 1,600 in the Grays Harbor area does, in fact, translate as “city of the universe.” No false humility among these folks, no sirree.  

“Cosi” (what the locals call it) is the oldest city in the area, dating back to 1852. It’s just up the Chehalis River a little bit from Aberdeen and Hoquiam. As with the rest of the cities in this area, thing look pretty industrial here. In fact, there’s a huge sawmill in town that seems to dominate everything.

Oddly, not referring to the same place

9. Medical Lake

I’m not going swimming in there, I don’t care what you say.

Ironically, the lake was named for the medicinal healing quality of the lake water, first recognized by the local Native Americans. Today, unfortunately, a name like that just brings up images of floating syringes. 

ML is in the far west of the state, on the border with Idaho, not too far from Spokane. There are 5,000 Medical Lakers. The big attraction in town seems to be a state hospital.

So, is this the best time to point out that Washington also features a Loon Lake?

This movie was filmed here

8. Dollar Corner / B Z Corner

Corners are not that uncommon. It’s what you put with them that really makes your town stand out. And I thought these two definitely stood out.

Dollar Corner (sometimes called Dollars Corner) owes its name to one S.L. Dollar, who built a gas station on an intersection here in 1924. C’mon, who’s named Dollar, right? It is legit though, and is probably from the German name Thaler, which denoted someone who lived in a valley, or thal. DC is actually part of the larger, real town of Battle Ground. Dollar Corner’s got about 1,000 people.

B Z Corner owes its names to one William Biesanz. That surname was a lot for the locals to get their tongues around, so eventually it just became B Z.  Like DC, it’s in the south part of the state, near the Columbia River. A nearby neighbor is the interestingly named Husum. Both are in the wonderfully named county of Klickitat (see below).

7. George

Get it? No? Go ahead. Think about it. It’ll come to you.

Got it? Alright! And, yes, the name is, indeed, a “respectably humorous salute” to the Father of Our Country. 

George finds him/itself in the dry, flat middle part of the state. There are about 500 Georgians. Interestingly, the town only dates back to 1957, when it was founded by some guy named Charlie Brown. George serves primarily as a center for the many local farms. It’s also close to the Columbia River George … er, I mean, Gorge. 

The streets are all named after cherry varieties. Okay, I can think of Bing, and … um … er … There’s uh … Um … Did I mention Bing? (The others are Montmorency, Richmond, Windsor, Naden, Van, Nanking, and Royal Ann.) The townsfolk celebrate the 4th of July with a big festival and the “world’s largest cherry pie.”

The Gorge is also the site
of a really cool amphitheatre

6. La Center / La Push

Everyone knows putting a “la” before something makes it three times as classy. So, why be boring old Center, when you can be La Center? 

Why be Push, when you can be La Push? Push? Wait a minute. Why would anyone want to be Push in the first place, let alone La Push?

Okay, so La Center does indeed make some sense. A very informative website I found says that “the name was intended to convey, albeit in a mixture of French and English, the town's role as the center of commerce for northern Clark County.” It had been previously been called Timmen’s Landing and Podunk. It’s in the southwest part of the state, has 2,800 inhabitants, and relies on gambling for its economy.

La Push, on the other hand, makes no sense whatsoever. It does turn out, however, that this one actually is from the French. It started out as La Bouche, which means “the mouth,” and refers to the town’s location near where the Quileute River flows into the Pacific. It’s in the very northwest part of the state, not too far from the mouth of the Columbia. The town is part of the Quileute Indian Reservation, and is known for its whale-watching.

By the way, there is also a Dabob, WA.

(First Beach, La Push)

5. Cle Elum / Pe Ell

I’m assuming these two are meaningful in some ancient tongue like Midian or Phyrigian or Hittite. 

I was wrong! They’re just Native American.

The first one means “swift river,” from tle-el-lum, and was previously called Clealum. It has 1,900 inhabitants, is in the center of the state, and is known as the “Heart of the Cascades.” It seems to be known, primarily, for its disasters, including a fire that destroyed the town in 1918 and an explosion of blasting powder that killed nine in 1908. To continue the theme, its one famous son is Dick Scobbee, commander of the Challenger that exploded on liftoff.

Pe Ell supposedly comes from Indian locals’ inability to pronounce the names of an early French-Canadian settler. You pick which one:
  • Pierre, from Pierre Charles
  • Pershell, from Charles Pershell

It’s along the upper reaches of the Chehalis River. The town has 600-some people, mostly farmers and lumbermen. There’s a nice article on the place right here.

By the way, there is also a Sea Tac. But I think you already knew that’s simply from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Pe Ell Girls Top MWP for First District Title

4. Klickitat

I tawt I saw a Klickitat. I did. I did see a Klickitat.

This one comes, not from those geniuses at Warner Brothers, but from the Klickitat tribe. And that name happens to be a Chinookan word meaning “beyond [i.e., the Cascades].” The Klickitat actually call themselves the Qwû'lh-hwai-pûm, or "prairie people." 

Klickiat is also a river and a county. All are in the very south part of the state, with the county’s southern border actually being the Columbia River. The town has 400 people. There are some naturally carbonated mineral springs nearby, which resulted in spas and also Klickitat Pop.

You are here (somewhere)

3. Lilliwaup

“Waup” is a great syllable.  It’s a syllable that – in my estimation, at least – we simply don’t hear often enough. I highly recommend throwing a “waup” or two into your town name. I can guarantee you’ll gather lots of attention for your little burg.

Lilliwaup actualy means “little bay,” in some unknown indigenous language. 

The town is indeed on a little bay, where Lilliwaup Creek empties into the Hood Canal. It’s on the east side of the Olympic Peninsula, on scenic Route 101. Tourism and seafood (especially oysters) are the big attractions.

Downtown Lilliwaup

2. Kooskooskie

There was a young lass from Kooskooskie …

Kooskooskie started out as the original name of the Clearwater River. Supposedly, it means something along the lines of “strong water.”

What’s not so clear, however, is why Kooskooskie the town is about two hours from Kooskooskie the river – which is actually in Idaho!

Anyhoo, K-town is actually a bit southeast of Walla Walla, at the foot of the Blue Mountains. It looks like a couple dozen houses stretched out along a little windy road that runs along a little windy creek.

"Marjorie, Kooskooskie"

1. Humptulips

So, why are these people humping their tulips? 

Actually, this one has nothing to do with flowers being violated. It is, instead, the name of a local Indian tribe, as well as a local river. Competing explanations include “chilly region” and “hard to pole.” My vote is definitely for that second one.

This town of 250 is in the western part of the state, about a half hour from the coast. Its 15 minutes of fame came in Tom Robbins’ Another Roadside Attraction, where it served as a base of operations for an order of assassin monks. I probably didn’t even need to tell you that there was a band out there named Humptulips now, did I?

"Humptulips is a country band with a twist of rock 
from Washington State. To book Humptulips at your next event, 
contact" (Twitter)

Honorable Mention: 
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Country Homes, Intercity, Centralia, Centerville, Midway, Home
  • Short & sweet – Irby, Ione, Doty, Adna, Ayer, Ewan, Elbe, Elma, Omak, Hyak, Keva, Mica, Malo, Mead, Lind, Fife, Bow, Blyn, Elk (toy robot museum), Mae, Hay
  • Just a little out of place – Burbank, Boise, Leavenworth (nutcracker museum), Des Moines, Davenport, Dayton, Littlerock, Central Park, Mt. Vernon, Annapolis, Bangor, Berlin, Milan, Melbourne
  • Just a little off color – Beaver
  • Orthographically challenged – Impach, Krain
  • Numerically oriented – Four Lakes, Four Seasons, Five Points
  • Native American mouthfuls – Entiat, Kahlotus, Ilwaco, Emunclaw, Cathlamet, Kalaloch 
  • Abnormal nouns – Dodge, Ford, Cougar, Clipper, Lacrosse, Aloha, Miles, Mineral, Glacier, Grotto, Forks (Twilight town), Carnation (statue to world champion milk cow), Cashmere, Creosote, Electron, Dynamite, Mold
  • Atypical adjectives – Concrete, Dusty, Metaline
  • Unconventional verbs – Monitor, Cook, Love
  • Fun to say – Monse, Methow, Gorst, Eltopia, Ephrata, Inchelium, Chimacum, Claquato, Kapowsin
  • Hard to say – Fragaria, Ardenvoir, Mukilteo, Disautel, Conconully
  • Just plain weird – Grapeview, Greenacres, Black Diamond, Beaux Arts, Lofall, Cathcart, Moclips, Airway Heights, Grand Mound, Goose Prairie, Kid Valley, Friday Harbor (world’s skinniest coffee shop), Federal Way, Bossburg (after C.S. Boss)
  • Just plain weird, cities – Electric City, Elmer City, Moxee City
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Juanita, Beverly, Holly, Amber, Joyce, Ethel, Lyle, Morton, Amanda Park, Heather Downs, Moses Lake, Clyde Hill
  • Ghost towns - Gettysburg (after Robert N. Getty), Bagdad, Farmer, Hover (after Herbert Hover - I kid you not), Index, Libertybond

Friday, December 13, 2013

Virginia M-Z

Carry me back to ol’ Virginny / That’s where the corn and the sweet potatoes grow / No place on earth do I love more sincerely / Than ol’ Virginny, the place where I was born

I can’t believe I can remember that much after all these years (and even if I didn’t get it all right). I’m not a native son, but I did spend most of my youth in the Old Dominion – in particular, in Purcellville, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, population 2,000 (at least when I lived there). 

This week, we’re featuring Virginia towns from M to Z. Last week, it was A to L.

10. Max Meadows *

So, who was this guy? And why did they name a town after him?

Well, we may never know. There’s just not a lot on this town of 500 or so in the southwest corner of the state. That’s surprising, as the place is right off the interstate, where I-77 and I-81 meet (I drive by it at least once a year on my way to go hiking, biking, or skiing).

I did find MM on the Virginia is for Lovers site though. And they recommended some high-end lodging options (Fort Chiswell RV Campground and Pioneer Village RV Park and Campground), as well as some excellent fine dining choices (Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Little Caesar). Things to do? How about Porter Furniture Restoration? Not your cup of tea? Well, there is always the Fort Chiswell RV Campground (which offers amenities such as a swimming pool, playground, basketball and volleyball courts, gameroom, and pay fishing pond).

It’s kind of odd, though, that they didn’t mention the Graham Mansion (a 19th Century landmark visible from the interstate) and the New River Trail State Park (an old railroad grade that was turned into a bike trail). I’ve probably been on the latter at least 20 times. Absolutely beautiful!

The Popes, Max Meadows
O. Winston Link, photographer

9. Stuarts Draft

It was just a draft. Stuart would go on to build a real town a few miles to the north.

So, the Stuart part of this is undisputed. Basically, some dude named Archibald Stuart was one of the original settlers in the area. As for the “Draft,” well, we’ve got two choices, including:
  • For the document drafting the land sale to Archibald
  • A reference to the nearby South River (“draft” being an old-timey word for a river or creek, and appearing several times in the local area)

This major metropolis of 9,000-plus people is in the Shenandoah Valley, just south of Staunton. This is where I-81 & I-64 meet, which may help to explain SD’s nickname of “warehouse capital of the U.S.” There’s also a Hershey’s Chocolate plant here. 

8. Spotsylvania Courthouse

Would it help if I told you the first part of this was a partial Latin translation of the surname Spotswood? No? Really?

So, who exactly was this Spotswood guy? And why did he translate half of his name into Latin?

Well, I can actually answer that last one for you. A full translation would have given us Maculasylvania Courthouse, which – you have to admit – is just a bit much. 

Anyway, Alexander Spotswood was a noted Colonial governor of Virginia, serving from 1710 to 1722. He had a county, then the county seat, named after him. 

Taking the county name and appending “Court House” to the end of it is actually pretty common in the Old Dominion. Other examples include Amelia Court House, Charlotte Court House, and the rather wordy King and Queen Court House. I’m not sure any other state really does that.

The town has about 4,200 inhabitants, and is just a little south of DC. It was the site of a major battle in the Civil War, with other nearby battle sites including Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Fredericksburg.

Battlefield tourists

7. Rustburg

Detroit? Cleveland? Buffalo? Pittsburgh?

Nope – it’s Rustburg, VA, town of 1,400 and seat of Campbell County. It’s real near Lynchburg, at the foot of the Blue Ridge. It’s also the home of Concrete World, the “world’s largest collection of cement collectibles,” and subject of this Roadside America page.

R-burg is actually named after – once again – some guy. In particular, I’m talking about one Jeremiah Rust, who donated land for the village in 1784. 

Now, why would someone be named Rust? Well, it’s probably Scottish, and basically denotes someone with red hair. Kind of like nicknaming somebody “Rusty.”

By the way, there is also a Brokenburg, VA.

Some of the “art” from Concrete World

6. Mangohick

Mango: a fleshy yellowish-red tropical fruit that is eaten ripe or used green for pickles or chutneys. Hick: a person who lives in the country, regarded as being unintelligent or provincial. Put ‘em together, and you get … um … er …You get … 

Why, a small crossroads of maybe 20 houses, just northeast of Richmond. It was named after a church that was built way back in 1730. 

What does it mean? Well, apart from that it’s obviously Native American, we’ve got another mystery on our hand, I’m afraid.

You’d think they would have 
at least explained the name

5. Pungo

So, I think we’re pretty safe to say this one’s Native American as well. Yup, it’s from the Machipugo, a local tribe.

The town is part of Virginia Beach, but don’t let that fool you. Because VB is such a huge city (area-wise, that is), little places like Pungo can be part of the city yet still be surrounded by farm fields. 

Pungo does have more than its share of attractions however, including:
This last one is particularly interesting. Grace Sherwood was a local woman who was accused of witchcraft around the turn of the 18th Century. She was one of the few accused witches to survive a dunking. There’s a statue of her in Virginia Beach.

By the way, there is also a Pungoteague.

Strawberry Festival’s
First Lady, Mayor, and “Honorary Witch”
(yup, that’s what those sashes say)

4. Nutbush

I couldn’t find anything along these lines on Google, but wouldn’t this be a great thing to call somebody? “You total nutbush!” “What a nutbush thing to say!” “I’m afraid Leonard’s gone a little nutbush on us here.”

Interestingly, there is also a Nutbush in Tennessee, as well as North Carolina. The first one is famous as the birthplace of Tina Turner (who wrote a song called Nutbush City Limits). The second is famous for the Nutbush Address, a speech that helped guide the Revolution in that state.

Where’s do they all come from? Again, we have two choices. One, it could mean the hazelnut tree. Two, it could be somebody’s surname (and probably related somehow to said tree). 

The Virginia town? Well, it looks like a hour and a half southwest of Richmond. And that’s about all I could find on the place.

Oops, wrong state!

3. Short Pump

Is this like a “short fuse”?

According to Wikipedia, this town “was named for the short-handled pump beneath the porch of a tavern located there.” Why it was named after something like that is another question entirely.

The town, which is a suburb of Richmond, has a whopping 25,000 Short Pumpers. And that means all kinds of signs of civilization, like Cheesecake Factories, Apple Stores, Whole Foods, IMAX theaters, and Baby Gaps.

Shopping center logo,
Short Pump, VA

2. Meadows of Dan

Dan was known for his meadows. People came from miles around just to stare at them.

Actually, Dan was a river. And this place started out as some inviting meadows along said river. QED.

M of D is in the southwest part of the state, near the NC border, and almost right on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Mabry’s Mill, probably the most photographed place on the Parkway is just a mile away.

This teeny town has no less than four festivals, including a Folk Fair and Crafts in the Meadow. There are also three wineries nearby. In town, you’ve got a fudge shop, knife store, ice cream parlor, craft stores … 

… Ah! Run for your life! It’s a tourist trap!

Look familiar?
(I thought so)

1. Mouth of Wilson *

Pure poetry. Surrealist poetry that doesn’t make a lick of sense, mind. But pure poetry nonetheless.

Well, it’s another riverine feature, I’m afraid. Yup, M of W is where the Wilson River empties into the larger New River. So, you could think of this place as the mouth of the Wilson River. 

We’re in the southwest again – actually, less than an hour from Meadows of Dan on the Jeb Stuart Parkway. 

Unlike M of D, though, M of W is not a tourist trap. I’ve been through the place dozens of time on my way to have fun in the mountains, and I can vouch for the town’s isolation, scant number of inhabitants, crumbling building stock, and total lack of any pretension whatsoever. I love this place!

One thing I didn’t mention, though, is the nearby boys school, Oak Hill Academy. If you’re anything of a college basketball fan, you’ve probably heard of this place. Basically, they take all these talented kids from the inner city and plop ‘em down in the middle of nowhere. That way, they can stay out of trouble and eat, breathe, and sleep hoops. They’ve won seven national championships in the last 20 years. Alumni include Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo, Jerry Stackhouse, and Rod Strickland.

Of course it’s also the name of a band
(C’mon, what didja think?)

Honorable Mention: 
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Oldtown, Newtown, Newville, Northwest, The Plains, The Hollow, Virginia Beach*, Virginia Hills, Virginia City, Middletown, Middleburg*, Midland, Village
  • Short & sweet – Vera, Sago, Zuni, Nain, Nace, Pons, Snell, Stott, Wirtz, Zepp
  • Just a little out of place – Washington, New Baltimore, West Point, Yale, South Boston, St. Paul, Yuma, Tacoma, Monterey, Scotland, Vienna*, Verona, New Bohemia, Warsaw, Petersburg*, Moscow, Sparta, Troy, Syria, Shanghai, Osaka
  • Orthographically challenged – Tabb, Winfall, Shortt Gap, Phenix, Savedge, Purdy, Pardee
  • Numerically oriented – Seven Mile Ford, Tenth Legion
  • Native American mouthfuls – Meherrin, Mattaponi, Massaponax, Nottoway, Onancock, Wicomico, Wachapreague, Tappahannock, Nassawadox
  • Miscellaneous mouthfuls – Rockbridge Baths, Temperanceville, Greenbackville
  • Atypical adjectives – Wise, Major, Minor, Orange, Radiant, Tiptop, Studley
  • Unconventional verbs – Paces, Passing, Rescue, Narrows
  • Abnormal nouns – Wood, Wilderness, Raven, Pound, Painter, Pilot, Peaks, Prospect, Quarry, Mineral, Slate, Saltpetre, Supply, Snowflake, Sun, Moon, Dawn*, Orbit, Orchid, Valentines, Sharps, Soles, Skippers*, Sliders, Triangle, Triplet, Tyro, Topping, Mayo, Mollusk
  • Fun to say – Saxis, Nelsonia, Weems, Quinby, Melfa, Mustoe, Mobjack, Varina, Virgilina, Sylvatus
  • Hard to say – Occoquan, Quinque
  • Just plain weird – Sunnyside, Rural Retreat * (grave of Dr. Pepper), Mechanicsburg, Mechanicsville, Timberville, Locustville, Old Tavern, Republican Grove, Red House, Red Ash, Paint Bank, Newport News *, Sweet Hall, Sugar Loaf, Viewtown, Nicelytown, Quicksburg, Plasterco, Woolwine, Winterpock, Skipwith, Star Tannery, St. Joy, Ruther Glen, Modest Town, Tight Squeeze, Stinking Point
  • Whites only – White Hall, White Stone, White Marsh, White Gate, White Post
  • 100% natural – Natural Well, Natural Bridge (big-time tourist trap), Natural Tunnel
  • Possessive puzzles – Weavers Cave, Steeles Tavern, Solomons Store*, Toms Creek, Toms Brook, Singers Glen
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Susan, Maggie, Myrtle, Marvin, Norman, Stuart, Stanley, Mike, Prince George, Princess Anne, Patrick Springs, Vernon Hill
  • Ghost towns – Wash Woods

* - author has visited

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Virginia A-L

The Old Dominion.  Birthplace of Presidents.  Carry me back to old Virginny.  Virginia is for lovers.  
It’s a state with a lot of nicknames and a lot of slogans. It’s also a state with a lot of oddly named towns. That’s why we’ve got A to L this week, and M to Z next week. 

10. Amissville

There’s something wrong in Virginia, something not quite right. Something out of joint. I don’t know how to put it. There’s something … Something …

Now, I’m sure this is pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable, and it’s probably after some guy. But wouldn’t it be fun …

Well, as it turns out, there was some guy, and his name was Joseph Amiss, and he was the first settler in the area. And it is indeed pronounced “A-miss,” and not “uh-MISS.”

A-ville is in northern Virginia, at the foot of the Blue Ridge. Like most places in that part of the state, there were more than a few Civil War skirmishes in the area. These days, the emphasis seems to be more on wineries, B&Bs, horse farms, and such like.

At the same time, Amissville is also the site of the Hazard Homecoming, put together by Ben Jones, a.k.a. Cooter, from the 80s TV series The Dukes of Hazzard.

Havin' some fun now
at the Hazzard Homecoming
in Amissville, VA 

9. Bowlers Wharf

Wait, they get their own wharf? 

Well, I’m not sure they got anything else. Bowler’s Wharf looks like a half dozen fancy houses along the Rappahannock, about halfway between Fredericksburg and the Chesapeake Bay. 

Once again, we’ve got some early settler to thank for this one – in particular, one Thomas Bowler, who arrived in the New World in 1658. Interestingly, the surname has nothing to do with splits and gutter balls, but refers to someone who made bowls.

This must be the place!

8. Carloover

Virginia is for car loovers.

Carloover is up in the mountains, near the WV border. It’s a couple of dozen houses strung out along the Sam Snead Highway (the golfer was born nearby), just south of Tinkertown. It’s in Bath County. 

About the only thing I could find on this place was the autobiography of one Henry Wise Hoover, titled Henry Wise Hoover of Carloover, Bath County, Virginia, 1859-1948, The Autobiography and History of the Life and Times of a Bath County Farmer, Teacher, Photographer, Merchant and Postmaster. Unfortunately – and despite the wonderful rhyme – this tome didn’t help me uncover anything about how Carloover became Carloover.

7. Grizzard

Well, I’m pretty sure this one wasn’t named after Lewis Grizzard. You know, Kathy Sue Lowdermilk, I Love You; Chili Dogs Always Bark at Night; My Daddy Was a Pistol and I’m a Son of a Gun; Shoot Low Boys – They’re Riding Shetland Ponies … Classic Southern literature.

But maybe it was some long, lost relative. Indeed, the Grizzard surname is not that common. It’s French, and basically means gray. The English word “grizzled” has the same root.

The town is in the southeast part of the state, near the major metropolis of Emporia. It looks like it might not be much more than a handful of homes (including the historic Fortsville) and a couple of crossroads.

Unfortunately, this is in Georgia, not Virginia

6. Keezletown

But, of course. It’s where they made the keezles.

So, what exactly is a keezle? Well, would you believe it’s somebody’s name? Yup, this place was named after one George Keezell, an early settler. There aren’t a lot of Keezells out there, though, so I’m still not sure what the name means.

This one’s at the bottom of the Shenandoah Valley, just south of Harrisonburg. Massanutten Mountain – with a waterpark, ski slopes, a spa, golf, etc., etc. – is nearby.

A Keezle also appear to be
a band of some sort 

5. Bumpass

Once again, a lot depends on what sylLABle you emPHAsize. I’m sure it’s the first syllable for this one. But, you know, wouldn’t it be great …

I hate to sound like a broken record, but again, Bumpass is some poor schmoe’s name. In particular, we’re talking about one John Thomas Bumpass Sr., a local landowner. The surname’s from the French bon pas – literally “good step,” probably from someone who walked fast. Bumpus is a more common variant. 

Bumpass the town is known for odd things like alpaca farming and a former factory that made ice cream spoons and cocktail forks. It’s a little northwest of Richmond.

You can get your own decal here

4. Cuckoo

Yeah, I know. It’s a bird. It also, however, means crazy … nuts … out to lunch … off the deep end … bonkers … bananas …

You might have a hard time believing this, but there was not an early settler by the name of Cuckoo. This town is, instead, named after an early tavern, The Cuckoo. See a video on it right here.

In more recent times, Cuckoo gained national recognition by being the epicenter of a 5.8 earthquake that rocked the eastern US on August 23, 2011. I actually experienced the thing down here in Charlotte, NC – as did people in places as far away as Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Quebec.

By the way, there is also a Nuttsville in the Old Dominion.

And you can get this right here

3. Goochland

And this is where they grew the gooches. Totally obvious.

What’s a gooch? Yup, you guessed it – some poor dude’s last name. Sir William Gooch was Virginia’s governor, from 1727 to 1749. He actually named the place for himself.

Goochland is both a town and the county the town is located in (and, to top it all off, the town is the county seat). Once again, we’re a little northwest of Richmond, along the James River. 

Not sure why Virginia has so many people with strange surnames …

2. Chuckatuck

Careful how you say this one … That's a lotta "ucks."

The town was named after a nearby creek. Couldn’t find out for sure, but it sounds like the name of the creek may be from a Native American word for “crooked.”

Like many places in southeast part of Virginia, this area was settled a long time ago – in our case, in the early 1600s. Today, we have a library, fire department, post office, a 7-Eleven, and lots more. It has a population of a little over a 1,000. Everything you could ever possibly want to know about the history of this place you can find right here.

Did you know that everything in VA 
has its own historical marker?

1. Forks of Buffalo

I remember these guys. Heavy punk influence. Pretty good shows. The bassist was a chick …

Nah, that’s not it. Now, what’s really scary about this place is that the explanation for it actually makes sense. Turns out the town is located where the Buffalo River divides, into a North Fork and a South Fork.

So, you may be wondering why a river in Virginia was named after buffalo. I mean, don’t those things live out west? Well, would you believe that they once roamed all over the US? Yup, even as far east as ol’ Virginny.

On Mapquest, F of B looks like a handful of buildings and houses strung out along Rte. 60, on the way over the Blue Ridge to Lexington. Looks like good kayaking, hunting, and fishing country.

Downtown F of B

Honorable Mention: 
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Camp, Forest, Grove, Beach, Big Rock, Flat Rock, Central Plains, Centerville*, Centralia, Central Point, Halfway, Homeville, Home
  • Short & sweet – Ante, Alma, Cana, Gala, Bula, Leda, Edon, Elon, Elam, Elmo, Ivor, Ida, Karo, Coke, Fox, Fife, Dye, Ark
  • Just a little out of place – Broadway, Long Island, Boston, Cleveland, Dayton, Green Bay, Key West, Dublin, Edinburg, Glasgow, London Bridge, Hague, Holland, Hamburg, Damascus*, Lebanon, Alexandria* (Natl. Inventors Hall of Fame), Guinea
  • Just a little off color – Gaylord, Dyke, Climax, Ballsville
  • Orthographically challenged – Diggs, Deel, Lipps, Ladd, Goode, Handsom, Elevan
  • Numerically oriented – Four Mile Fork, Five Mile Fork, Five Forks, Centenary
  • Native American mouthfuls – Accomac, Kiptopeke, Appomattox, Chincoteague*
  • Miscellaneous mouthfuls – Hampden Sydney, Harmon Maxie, Isle of Wight, King and Queen Court House
  • Atypical adjectives – Gray, Ebony, Aqua, Hardy, Lively, Ordinary, Bland*, Bleak
  • Unconventional verbs – Love, Counts, Culls, Breaks, Bandy, Check, Drill, Hustle, Huddle, Hurt, Dooms  
  • Abnormal nouns – Boulevard, Colony, Crosswind, Cascade, Caret, Glass, Dawn, Comet, Eclipse, Base, Hood, Acorn, Dendron, Dolphin, Cardinal, Crows, Grottoes (oldest commercial cavern in US), Lackey, Java, Fries* (actually pronounced "freeze"), Gore, Exit
  • Fun to say – Bloxom, Dwale, Darvills, Dumfries, Dinwiddie*, Lucketts*, Fentress, Franconia*, Favonia, Arvonia, Culpeper, Critz, Brodnax
  • Hard to say – Ca Ira
  • Just plain weird – Horse Pasture, Bowling Green*, Brandy Station, Burnt Chimney, Cluster Springs, Indian Neck, Fancy Gap, Fancy Hill, Free Union, Front Royal*, Birdsnest, Jolivue, Lightfoot, Ladysmith*, Goldbond, Figsboro, Adwolf, Clinchco, Dugspur, Disputanta, Double Tollgate, Bremo Bluff, Big Vein, Gross Junction, Standard Garage, Goose Pimple Junction
  • Possessive puzzles – Carters Branch, Adkins Store, Kents Store, James Store, Cootes Store, Boswells Tavern, Benns Church, Bacons Castle, Georges Fork, Jennings Ordinary
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Gladys, Carrie, Henry, Floyd, Duane, Alfonso (museum dedicated to Washington’s mom), Dante, Casanova, King William, Daniel Boone, Ben Hur, Bonny Blue, Holly Brook, Craig Springs, Frederick Hall, Glen Wilton

* - author has visited

Saturday, November 30, 2013


Ice cream. Hippies. Cows. Socialists. Cheese. I mean, what else is there to say?

10. Chippenhook

After the dancers, right?

Actually, no. We do have several choices for this one though:

  • “Great steep banks" in Algonquin
  • Abenaki for "extended run of water" 
  • From the Dutch "Shippen's Hoek" 

Other than that, there’s not a whole lot on – or to – this place. Looks like a number of houses strung out across several crossroads just a little southwest of Rutland (i.e., not too far from the center of the state).

By the way, Vermont also features a Chittenden, Checkerberry, and Chiselville.

9. Adamant

Adj, “refusing to be persuaded or to change one's mind.”

Hmm, do you think this was what they really had in mind? Sounds like a fancy synonym for intransigent, rigid, stiff, stubborn, inflexible …

Well, of course, this is a quality that call also be admired, giving us determined, resolute, and unshakable. It all depends on how you look at it, I guess. Indeed, the town’s Wikipedia entry states that the place has no set boundaries or government and is, in fact, “a state of mind.”

Give all that, it’s also something that you might say of rocks. Hard rocks. Like granite. And this place was once famous for its granite quarries. 

Well, however it came about, it certainly beats what the town was originally called – Sodom. Yup, they petitioned the state legislature for the name change way back in 1905.

Adamant’s just a little northeast of the state capital, Montpelier (i.e., in the north central part of the state). It claims the state’s oldest co-op, a prestigious music school, and an experimental theater.

Having some fun practicing

8. Winooski

This suburb of Burlington was named after The Big Winooski, a Cohen brothers film starring Jed Bridges as an unemployed Seattle slacker and avid mahjong player, nicknamed "The Guy." 

Nah, nah. It’s just some Indian name. It’s from the Abenaki, and means “where the wild onions grow.” There’s a river of the same name (and which was originally called the Onion).

Winooski is an old mill town, busily trying to revitalize itself. It had its fifteen minutes of fame for some hare-brained scheme to erect a dome over the whole place back in the ‘70s. There are 7,000 Winooskians.

An artist’s rendition

7. Queechee

I remember this stuff. It was real popular back in the ‘70s. It wasn’t all that bad actually. They spelled it a little differently back then though.

The town’s actually named after a nearby river, the Ottauquechee. Which is how you say “swift mountain stream” in Natick, by the way.

This place has 650 people, and is just west of White River Junction (where 89 and 91 cross, on the Connecticut River). The local claim to fame is the Queechee Gorge, “Vermont’s Grand Canyon.”

Said Gorge Canyon

6. Weathersfield Bow

It’s all so simple, when you think about it. Weathersfield Bow is a part of the larger town of Weathersfield, along a bow in the Connecticut River. Really, that’s all there is to it.

I count about 20 buildings. There’s a cute, old, very New-England-looking church there, as well as a cemetery that seems to be very popular with genealogy types. It used to be big-time sheep country.

God, it gets cold there
(yup, that’s the Connecticut)

5. North Hero / South Hero

This one is equally straightforward as well. Basically, the area was granted to Revolutionary War heroes, Ethan and Ira Allen. It was originally called Two Heroes.

We’re way up in the northwest for these two, on some islands in the middle of Lake Champlain. South Hero is double the size of North Hero (1,700 to 800), but North Hero is the county seat. SH also claims a Miss Vermont and a Nevada governor. North Hero? Nobody!  And guess who has the airport, huh? Yup, Allehnholm Airport is in South Hero.

And where is the 
4th of July parade held, huh?

4. Joes Pond

Well, I guess this is an improvement on the original name – Sozap Nebees. “Joe’s Pond,” though, is merely a direct translation from the Abnaki – Sozap is Abnaki for “Joseph,” and nebees means “pond.”

It was named after a Micmac Indian named Joe who was friendly with the early settlers. They named a neighboring pond after Joe’s wife, Molly.

The denizens of Joes Pond are famous for something called the Ice Out. Basically, they bet on when the ice on the pond melts. They take it all very seriously.

If this isn’t proof of global warming,
I don’t know what is

3. Passumpsic

This is from a Native American term meaning “backed-up septic tank.”

Actually, it means “flowing over clear, sandy bottom,” which is really kinda the exact opposite. The name was originally applied to the nearby river.  

The town is in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, and is just south of St. Johnsbury. Anne Morrow Lindbergh once lived here.

2. Tinmouth

Isn’t this what they call kids whose parents send half their paycheck to the orthodontist?

This one’s probably after Tynemouth, England. And that merely refers to a town at the mouth of the river Tyne. By the way, both are pronounced “TIN-muth.”

This town of 600 or so has somehow managed to produce a couple of governors, a senator, and Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence

(Solarfest, Tinmouth, VT)

1. Pompanoosuc

Just in case Passumpsic wasn’t enough for ya.

This baby is from the Abnaki, and means “mushy, quaky land.” It’s from the Ompompanoosuc River.  

The town is located where said river meets the Connecticut. It’s is just up the river from Hanover, NH, home of Dartmouth College.

BTW, if you go Googling for this place, most of your hits will be for Pompanoosuc Mills, a big custom furniture company. Their factory is up the river a little ways, in the interestingly named town of East Thetford.

… in Pompanoosuc, VT!

Honorable Mention: 
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Middletown
  • Short & sweet – Ira (after Ethan Allen’s brother), Ely, Jay
  • Just a little out of place – New Haven, Albany, Rochester, Newark, Washington, Baltimore, Richmond (round church), Charlotte, Charleston, Georgia, Jacksonville, Kansas, Texas, Bakersfield, Jamaica (from the Natick word for “beaver”), Peru, Holland, Berlin, Moscow, Florence, Athens, Corinth, Troy, Jericho, Jerusalem, Egypt, Eden
  • Just a little off color – Gaysville, Smutty Corners
  • Orthographically challenged – Bragg, Fairlee (drive-in movie motel)
  • Atypical adjectives – Orange, Wilder
  • Unconventional verbs – Prosper 
  • Abnormal nouns – Victory, Downers
  • Fun to say – Alfrecha, Hortonia, N. Pownal, S. Pomfret, E. Poultney, Putney, Ascutney, Lympus
  • Just plain weird – Warners Grant, Dummerston Center, Underhill Center, Chimney Point, Derby Line (library split between US and Canada), Morses Line, St. Rocks, Hartland Four Corners, Hardscrabble, Puckershire, Westminster West, Butternut Bend, Lost Nation, Notown, Podunk, Bread Loaf, Smugglers Notch, Averys Gore, Brimstone Corners, Satans Kingdom, Skunks Misery
  • Just plain weird, ville division – Hectorville, Cuttingsville, Tarbellville, Beansville, Mosquitoville 
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Pearl, Sharon, Sheldon, Vernon, Warren, Randolph, Rupert, Ferdinand, Mary Meyer, Warren Gore