Monday, February 25, 2013

Kentucky, L-Z

There sure is no shortage of oddly named places in Kentucky.  Last week, we looked at ones from A to K.  This week, it’s L to Z.

So, where does all this creativity come from?  I kind of like the theory proposed by the book Weird Kentucky:

Kentucky’s town names can obtuse the best of them.  In fact, the people who named these places must be bold surrealists, possibly hallucinating on squirrel brains and ‘shine.

10. Mud Lick

Mmm, mud! 

Of course, if that’s not what your tastes run to, may I suggest one of the following:

  • Sulphur Lick
  • Paint Lick
  • Deer Lick
  • Wolf Lick
  • Bee Lick
  • Beaver Lick
Yup, they’re all towns in Kentucky.

By the way, a lick is a natural salt deposit that animals (deer, wolves, beavers, bees?) like to lick.  Humans found them pretty valuable too.

These teeny places are scattered all over Kentucky.  Very little information exists on any of them however.  I was able to find that wrestler Hillbilly Jim claims to be from Mud Lick.  There is also a Mud Lick Flippin Road in nearby Tompkinsville.  Oh, and this …

You can get it on a shirt right here

9. Touristville

Quick way to get a jump on New York, Orlando, New Orleans, and San Francisco?

Well, you’d definitely need something to get the tourists here.  Not only is it in the middle of absolute nowhere, but there doesn’t seem to be anything there either.  What there is is in the eastern part of the state, just south from Lexington, and almost to the Tennessee border.

Kentuckians sure do love their ‘villes.  So, if Touristville doesn’t make you want to pack your bags, how about one of these instead:

  • Pleasureville
  • Shopville
  • Blandville
  • Fredville
  • Artville
  • Curdsville
  • Flingsville
  • Fearsville
  • Oddville

8. Sublimity City

I don’t know.  Settin’ the bar pretty high here, folks.  Might want to scale it back just a little bit.

Especially considering I couldn’t even find your town on Google Maps!  Now, I could find it on  MapQuest (MapQuest shows everything), but they called it something entirely different (Pine Grove)?!?!

Sublimity City / Pine Grove / whatever is in the southeast, about halfway between Lexington and Knoxville.  It looks like its right on I-75.

7. Tress Shop

You’re not going to believe this, but here’s another crazily named place with little to nothing on it.  Do Kentuckians just name every darn crossroads, grove of trees, and wide place in the road – and then move on and forget all about them?

So, I’m assuming they made tresses here.  Or maybe sold them.  Or maybe both. 

I’m also not too sure what they heck we’re talking about here.  According to the dictionary, a tress is a “long lock of a woman’s hair.”  Great.  Clears that right up.

My guess is it’s named after the surname Tress.  Now that one’s pretty mysterious in itself, but it may be related to the German first names Andreas or Teresa.  It’s also known in the UK (that’s United Kingdom, not University of Kentucky), plus there’s a Dutch Van Tress and a German Von Tress, none of which have a meaning ascribed to them.

6. Tyewhoppety

This is also know as Tywhapity – and, I would assume, Tiwoppity, Tiewhappetee, Tiwapiti, Tayewhhaehppyhyttiyie and pretty much anyway else you want to spell it.

It’s from the Shawnee, and means “place of no return.”  Interestingly, there’s a town of the same name in Missouri.

Our “Place of No Return” is in the western part of the state, north of Nashville.  I can make out a dozen buildings, without a single cross street.

(and God bless)

5. Oven Fork

What’s next?  Spatula?  Pizza Slicer?  Veg-o-Matic?

Okay, you knew this was going to be at a fork of the Oven River, didn’t you?  I feel like I’m finally figuring this stuff out.  That said, why anyone would want to name a river after a kitchen appliance is still totally beyond me.

Oven Fork is in Letcher County.  [snicker]  It’s got a cute country store, the Oven Fork Mercantile, and a church, Oven Fork Baptist.  We’re talking serious mountain country here.

By the way, Kentucky’s also got a Flat Fork, Forks of Elkhorn, Bent Fork, Forks of Ecstasy, Fork in the Road, and Fork It Over.  Alright, just those first two are legit.

Oven Fork Mercantile’s competition, J.D. Maggard’s
(that might be J.D. in the bottom left corner)

4. Mouthcard

Surely, they meant Mouthguard.  I mean, that doesn’t make a whole heck of a lot of sense either.  But it sure does beat Mouthcard.

I’d be totally clueless on this one, if I didn’t notice that there is a Card Mountain nearby, as well as the mouth of Road Fork as it spills into the Levisa Fork River.  Card also happens to be a legitimate surname, related to the carding of wool, a major medieval occupation.  Just call me Holmes, Sherlock Holmes.

We’re back deep in the mountains again.  In fact, we’re talking Hatfield-McCoy territory here.  That said, this is a major metropolis compared to the rest of the wide spots in the road in this post.  I’m talking a bank, a dentist, and Lacy’s Factory Outlet (haven’t a clue what they make however - maybe mouthcards).

Well, there you go
(thank you, Google Images)

3. Pippa Passes

Passes what exactly?  Gas?  A kidney stone?  Seventh grade?

Would you believe this is a literary reference?  With my BA in English literature, I can confidently tell you that Pippa Passes is a poem by Robert Browning that was popular in the mid 19th Century.  It’s where the famous line “God's in his Heaven / All's right with the world” comes from. 

Pippa Passes, KY?  Well, one more time, we’re in the mountainous east.  PP distinguishes itself from all the other whacky towns up here by having its own college, Alice Lloyd College.  To tell you the truth, actually, it looks like there isn’t any more to the town than the college.  (Great piece of trivia … ALC has their own radio station, with the call letters WWJD.)

There’s an interesting story about Alice and how the town got its name (here, from Wikipedia):

The town had no post office when Alice Lloyd, founder of Alice Lloyd College, arrived in 1916. She solicited donations from the Browning Society to found the college and build a post office. The Browning Society suggested Pippa Passes as a name for the post office. The town was earlier known as Caney Creek and is still referred to as such by its inhabitants.

Proud prospective student

2. Tiny Town

To really appreciate this one, you may have to be familiar with this one:

The latter is arguably one of the worst movies ever made.  It’s a Golden Turkey, made the bottom 10 movies in the Book of Lists, and was featured on the Canned Film Festival.  It’s a pretty standard western … but with midgets.

The real Tiny Town is in the western part of Kentucky, right on the border with Tennessee.  There’s actually an historic stage coach inn here (with accompanying historical marker).  It’s also the home of two of the world’s most boring blogs:

Oh, there’s also a Tacky Town in the Bluegrass State.

1. Rabbit Hash

This is either the title of a book of surrealist poetry or a really unappetizing recipe. 

Well, as it turns out, it’s the latter.  The story goes that this town got its name after a certain recipe that helped the townsfolk survive a major flood.

The town, though there’s really very little to it, is rather well known.  In fact, the “downtown” is on the National Register of Historic Places.  RH is right on the Ohio, just down the river from Cincinnati.  It was founded in 1831. 

Almost forgot – the mayor’s a cat

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Lake, Oldtown, La Center *, South
  • Short & sweet – Lone, Lot, Load, Scale, Snow, Moon, Plank, Wax, Vest, Van, Tram, Job, Lair, Newt, Pig, Uz, Uno, Ono
  • Just a little out of place – Omaha, Pittsburgh, Memphis Junction, Texas, Nevada, Yosemite, Sacramento, Mexico, London (World Chicken Festival), Rome, Paris, Madrid, Moscow, Paradise
  • Numerically Oriented – Three Springs, Nineteen, Seventy Six, Number One, Million, Thousandsticks
  • Orthographically challenged – Sweeden, Loyall, Nuckols, Mousie, Mummie, Sublett, Peoples
  • Just slightly off color – Penile 
  • Atypical adjectives – Windy, Ready, Lovely, Loyal (though not Loyall), Little, Urban, Public, Majestic, Premium, Topmost, Subtle, Ordinary, Troublesome, Rowdy, Rugless
  • Unconventional verbs – Press, Rush, Stay, Select, Settle, Spears, Stab, Slaughters, View, Ogle
  • Abnormal nouns – Quality, Utility, Pride, Relief, Region, Raccoon, Wildcat, Terrapin, Turkey, Parrot, Viper, Spider, Talcum, Tobacco, Penny, Princess, Pyramid, Petroleum, Pilot, Lookout, Lackey, Lemon, Mayo, Mentor, Music, Mistletoe, Static, Sample, Soldier, Skylight, Quicksand, Vortex, Poverty, Ruin
  • Fun to say – Slade, Slemp, Smilax, Scalf, Scocho, Skibb, Strunk, Stites, Molus, Noctor, Nippa, Oppy, Penrod, Paw Paw, Pactolus, Paducah*, Verda, Lecta, Ulva, Wingo, Zula
  • Just plain weird – Stamping Ground, Softshell, Sideview, Mullins Addition, Redhouse, Ragland, Lejunior, Lovejoy, Lucky Stop, Possum Trot, Pumpkin Center, Marrowbone, Wolf Coal, Science Hill, Whoopee Hill, and - of course - Monkey’s Eyebrow
  • I’d like you to meet – Phil, Ned, Nancy, Polly, Susie, Mary Alice, Olive Hill

* - visited by author

Monday, February 18, 2013

Kentucky, A-K

Bluegrass.  Basketball.  Bourbon.  Ashley Judd.  The Derby.  Louisville Sluggers.  Ashley Judd.  Colonel Sanders.  My Old Kentucky Home ...  Did I mention Ashley Judd?

What a place.  Would you believe they had so many crazy towns that I had to divide ‘em in two?  Yup, A to K this week, and L to Z next week.  Stay tuned!

10. Airport Gardens

It’s not two things I typically associate together.  Gardens: calm, quiet, natural.  Airports: noisy, stressful, polluted.  It’s kind of like Factory Park, or maybe Freeway Grove, or Manhattan Meadows.

Well, there does seem to have been an airport there once.  Now, though, aviation has given way to education.  The former airport is currently the home of Perry County Central High and Viper Elementary.  Yup, Viper Elementary.  Hmm, I wonder what their mascot is.  The bulldogs?

AG is close to Hazard (see below), on a bend of the Kentucky River.  In addition to the schools, there’s also a shopping center, several dozen houses, and a McDonalds.  In other words, Airport Gardens is big time!

Airport Gardens, ca. 1955 
(with nary an airport nor garden in site)

9. Future City *

Not to be confused with West Future City (real place), which is just to … to the … wait a minute … just to the … to the …  to the left of Future City.  Yup, that’s right.  Er, I mean, correct.

Don’t seem to be able to find much on either of these places.  Future City is home, however, to Leigh’s Barbecue, which actually got written up in Southern Living.  So, next time I’m in the area, I know where I’m headed.

Interestingly, Future City is right next to the Barkley Regional Airport, which serves Paducah.  I wonder if anyone considered the name Airport City?  

Just stick it over there somewhere, would ya

8. Krypton

Where Superman is from.  A small town in the mountains of Kentucky.  Everyone knows that.

Okay, we’ve got two possibilities here:

  • It’s Greek for “hidden.”  This makes sense as it’s in the very mountainous southeast corner of the state.
  • The railroad depot there used krypton light bulbs.  Yup, krypton’s a real element, an inert gas with the symbol Kr.

Interestingly, it was know as Glenn until 1918.  It’s on the North Fork of the Kentucky River, just down the river from Butterfly and Typo (see below).

Home of the Krypton Brethren

7. Fleming-Neon

Dallas-Ft. Worth, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Winston-Salem …  And now?  Flaming-Neon!  Excuse me, I meant Flaming-Neuron.  Er, Flammable-Neutron.  I mean …

So, I think we can all understand Fleming.  And also that these two started out as two separate towns.  It’s the “Neon” that’s causing me trouble here.

Turns out “neon” is Greek for “new one,” which may be the most likely source for the town name.  Of course, we can’t rule out possible light sources either.  

But would you believe that Neon was formerly known as Chip?  Chip, Glenn …  I wouldn’t be surprised there weren’t a Chad and a Skip out there in the Bluegrass State too.

F-N is in the southeast corner of the state.  We’re talking about 800 people here.  It does have one famous daughter, Martha Carson, a gospel and country singer.


6. Black Gnat

From what I could find on the Internet, black gnats:
  • Are “pesky, tiny gnats that REALLY bite”
  • Are “a type of fly that has the ability and urge to bite.  Not only do they bite humans, but also any type of animal, including pets and birds.”
  • “Put a welt on your neck that lasts 4 or 5 days”
  • Left “me with wounds that resemble small pox and itch like the dickens”
  • “Can cause allergic reactions such as nausea or difficulty breathing, in which case you'd need to get medical help right away”
  • “Also spread pathogens and have caused river blindness in Africa and parts of North America”
  • Are “one of the biggest annoyances we have to face”
Hey, what’s not to like?  I’m kinda surprised more towns aren’t named after them.

According to a University of Kentucky site, the town was “named for the black gnats that stuck to the sides of a newly painted white schoolhouse.”  Not totally sure I’d want to name my town after what sounds suspiciously like a biblical plague, but hey ...

Black Gnat’s in the center of the state.  I can make out about a dozen houses and one big Baptist church. 

By the way, Kentucky also features a Black Gold, Black Jack, Black Snake, and Black Bottom.


5. Dog Walk

So, I’m guessing “Please pick up after your pet” is the town motto.

Actually, I have no idea where this one comes from.  There’s just not a whole lot on – or to – this place.  In fact, I couldn’t even find it on Google Maps.  Had to go to MapQuest instead – and that didn’t show me much of anything.  I do know it’s in the center of the state.

Interestingly, Dog Walk was the site of a Civil War battle.  An obscure one – and one that is alternatively referred to as the Battle of Chesser’s Store, Dry Ridge, and Salt River – but a battle nonetheless.  In fact, that battle has its own historical association, the Lawrenceburg-Dog Walk Battlefield Association, Inc. (or LDWBA for short).

Perhaps I haven't got the right place here …

4. Hi Hat

Let me cut straight to the explanation I found on this one (as it makes absolutely no sense at all):

As in ‘hello’ and not way up in the sky

It’s in the mountains, in the east, right along Big Mud Creek.  South Floyd High School (go Raiders!) is pretty near by, as is the Left Beaver Rescue Squad.  [insert sophomoric joke about sloppy seconds here]

3. Gap in Knob

Now, that’s gonna hurt. 

No, no, it’s not what you think.  From Weird Kentucky: “This area’s name refers to a topographic feature of the local terrain, but it’s still hilarious to us.  We’re easily amused.” 

Now, you’re probably asking yourself why they didn’t just call it Gap Knob?  Sorry, haven’t a clue.

G-in-K is in the north central part of the state, not too far from Louisville.  Couldn’t find much on it, but it is the home of the Mullets in History Museum.  Hey, wait a minute.  Is that for real?


2. Falls of Rough

Now, that makes no sense. 

But when you realize that it’s just some falls along the Rough River, well then, it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?   So, here’s my question .. .  Why not just plain ol’ Rough Falls?  I mean, we do put the adjectives in front of the noun in English, don’t we?

There’s not a whole lot there, but the place does seem very pretty and historic.  In fact, I found a number of links, including a YouTube video:

Right purdy, ain’t it?

1. Head of Grassy

Now, that not good grammar. 

Well, you’ve probably guessed already that this is at the head of the Grassy River.  Well, you’d be right – except for one little thing …  H-of-G just so happens to be five miles downstream from that.  Go figure.

Also, this is not French we’re dealing with here, okay?  So, put that adjective first.  You know, like Grassy Head.  Sheesh!

Not a lot to ol’ Head of Grass, or Gassy Head, or Gimme Head, or whatever it’s called.  It’s basically the intersection of two mountain roads, with a couple of houses in the general vicinity.  I’m assuming it must have seen better days.  It’s in the northeast part of the state. 

This must be the place!

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Headquarters, Junction City, Centertown, Central City, Center, Farmers, Island
  • Short & sweet – Clay, Field, Bush (named after a George Bush), Bath, Bee, Bug, Drift, Dwarf, Dykes, Dice, Ice, Kite, Hare, Herd, Huff, Chance, Awe, Joy, Job, Jock
  • Just a little out of place – Boston, Anchorage, California, Cuba, Holland, Bagdad, Egypt, Korea, Asia
  • Numerically oriented – Halfway, Four Mile, Nineteen, Eighty Eight
  • Orthographically challenged – Baskett, Guage, Dizney
  • Atypical adjectives – Happy, Flat, Baptist, Confederate, Co Operative, Cerulean, Busy, Barefoot, Fisty
  • Unconventional verbs – Combs, Cranks, Ages, Charters, Access
  • Abnormal nouns – Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, Asphalt, Furnace, Firebrick, Kettle, Cracker, Grannie, Beauty, Dimple, Dukedom, Eminence, Cubage, Cyclone, Acorn, Dewdrop, Decoy, Index, Habit, Halo, Hazard, Jamboree, Bonanza, Battle, Beagle, Barrier, Bandana, Belfry, Butterfly, Goldbug, Honeybee, Hippo, Typo
  • Fun to say – Colo, Altro, Exie, Gratz, Duckers, Dongola, Awawam
  • Just plain weird – Lickskillet, Crowtown, Hardshell, Hot Spot, Gunlock, Goforth, Brightshade, Barnrock, Boardtree,  Ashcamp, Fishtrap, Fancy Farm, Fairplay, Fairdealing, Freewill, Flippin, Gravel Switch, Gum Sulphur, Coalgood, Closplint, Cutshin, Coat Run Village, Blue Moon, Blue Level, Berry Store, Burning Spring, Batchelors Rest, Big Bone, Big Clifty, Bell Parm, Beaver Bottom, Bear Wallow, Bugtussle, Kingbee, Apeyard, Diablock, Oddville, Jetson, Girdler, Gasper, Cropper (as in come a?), Crummies
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Jeff, Judy, Gabe, Gus, Clark Hill, Betsy Lane, Henry Clay, Daniel Boone
  • Hey, are these somebody’s initials? – Arjay, Kayjay

* - author has visited

Monday, February 11, 2013


I don’t know.  These Midwestern states …  They’re just boring.  First there was Illinois.  Then Indiana.  Then Iowa.  And now Kansas.  I need a break.

10. Wonsevu

French?  Native American?  Just made up on the fly?  Particularly bad Scrabble rack?

As far as I can tell, this is Native American – and means something like running deer, or antelope, or thing that moves across the prairie quickly . 

It’s in the center of the state.  Not much there except for a cemetery, some farms, a closed church, a closed school, and a bunch of dirt roads that all run perpendicular to each other.

I actually passed pretty close by here last year.  I was out in Kansas on business, and was taking the scenic route from Wichita to Manhattan.  If I had known, I probably would have stopped by.

Downtown Wonsevu

9. Speed

The town fathers are considering changing the name to Meth.  You know, to keep up with the times.

Actually, I haven’t a clue on this one.  I did get a lot of Google results for it – but mostly for NASCAR, Internet service providers, and the Kansas State Police.

Speed’s in the north central part of the state, almost on the Nebraska border.  Looks like we’ve got a half a dozen streets and a couple dozen buildings, including a church and a grain elevator.

Probably the biggest thing to ever happen to this place came in 2008, when the Hot Wheels 40th Anniversary Cross-Country Road Trip held a special event here.  Over 10,000 people invaded this town of about 40.  Complete details right here.

“But, Officer, the sign said ‘speed!’
What was I supposed to do?”

8. Protection

I wonder if the high school mascot is a Trojan?

Alright, we’ve got two theories for this one:
  • A place for widely scattered homesteaders to get together for protection from Indian attacks
  • To celebrate protectionism (as opposed to free trade), a basic plank of the GOP back when the town was founded, in the late 19th century

This metropolis of 500 is in the south central part of the state, right on the border with Oklahoma.  It’s even big enough to have its own bank, the reassuringly named Bank of Protection.

The town had its 15 minutes of fame in 1955, when it was chosen as a test site to have all its citizens inoculated for polio.

In case you can’t read it:

In Tribute to Protection, Kansas

For leadership and inspiration to the nation as the first city or town to have all citizens under forty inoculated with the Salk polio vaccine.

Basil O’Connor
National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis
December, 1957

So, what're the people over 40 - chopped liver?

7. Liberal

In southwest Kansas?  You have got to be kidding me.

And if that isn’t crazy enough, would you believe calling someone “liberal” used to be a compliment?  The usual story told here is that an early settler made a name for himself by giving water to weary travelers – and not charging them for it!  And that was a good thing!  And people complimented him by calling him liberal and basically naming the town after him!  Strange times, huh?

Some fun facts about this huge conurbation of 20,000:
  • Gas, oil, helium, agriculture, and trucking are big, Big, BIG!
  • It’s the home of the Liberal Mid-America Regional Airport (wow, “liberal mid-america” – there’s a contradiction in terms)
  • It’s famous for its pancake races
  • In the movie National Lampoon's Vacation, Clark wants to take a detour to visit Liberal and see the world's largest house of mud
  • Poet William Stafford was born here

Oh, sorry ...
 It’s also Pancake Hub of the Universe!

6. Skiddy

I wish I could tell you some tall tale about a cowboy whose horse wouldn’t stop, or some train that overshot the end of the line, or something ...  Turns out, though, the town was named after a financier of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (KATY) Railroad – some guy from New York named Francis Skiddy, who most likely never came within 1000 miles of this place.

Well, the railroad giveth, and the railroad taketh away.  When the KATY pulled out in the early 1950s, Skiddy was well on its way to becoming a ghost town.  Today, the few residents are outnumbered by the weathered, abandoned structures that remain. 

It’s a popular place to take pictures.  This photographer couple have a ton of them. 

Some of their work

5. Medicine Lodge

No, this is not some fancy spa for hypochondriacs.  A medicine lodge is essentially a sweat lodge, sort of like a sauna for Native Americans. 

This particular medicine lodge was used by the Kiowa people and was basically an arbor they used to celebrate their annual sun dance.  It’s also the site of an important treaty, and the name was used for a local river.  So, a pretty obvious choice for any settlement that was likely to grow up 'round these parts.

Today, this city of 2000 in the southeast part of the state is known as the “Gateway to the Gyp Hills.”  Sorry, come again?

By the way, prohibitionist Carrie Nation started her campaign here. 


4. Agenda

I don’t know what it is about this place.  Whenever I go there, they always seem to want something from me.  I just can’t tell what it is.  All the townsfolks, they’re just strange.  They all seem to have a …  I’m not sure what it is … a … an …

Well, whatever it is, it certainly isn’t an explanation for how their town got its name. The closest thing I could find was that there was an Indian agency here, and that these places were sometimes called "agendas."   

I was able to find out that this diminutive village of 70 is in the north central part of the state, right along the Nebraska border.

3. Gas

“You just passed Gas!”  “What?”  “You just passed Gas!”  “I did not!”  “Oh, yes you did.”  “Did not!”  “Did too!  We both did!”  “What???  Hey, I don’t know about you, dude, but I definitely did not pass any gas.”

This burg of 560 in the southeast part of the state was named for the abundant reserves of natural gas in the area.  It was originally called Gas City, and is officially known as the City of Gas.

I have a small library of books on humorously named towns, and one of my favorites is called Passing Gas, by Gary Gladstone.  He basically shows up at these crazily named places, meets some locals, takes some pictures, and writes up the experience.  Highly recommended.

Get it?

2. May Day

May day!  May day!  This town’s going down!

May Day got its name when it was founded on May 1.  Buncha commies, huh?

The original name was Stanton, but there was already one of those.  I can just hear the conversation ...  “Well, what’re we gonna do now guys?”  [long pause]  “Today’s Friday, ain’t it?  Why don’t we just call it Friday?” [long pause] "I don't know if that's gonna work, Vern." [long pause] "Alright, what do you propose, Homer?" [long pause] ...

Not much left today.  In fact, this place comes pretty darn close to being an out-and-out ghost town

Old May Day Schoolhouse

1. Zook

No, it’s not Zook Spur, but hey, what is? 

Couldn’t find anything on the origin of this name.  I’m assuming, though, like in Zook Spur, there’s a Mr. Zook lurking in the background somewhere.  It’s a German name, common among Amish and Mennonites, and particularly common in Kansas.  It comes from the Swiss canton of Zug. 

Though Zook definitely does exist, there’s not a whole lot to it.  I could find four streets – Main, Colgazer, Wilcox, Gilkison – and maybe as many buildings.

I understand they like this sport in Kansas
(Zook High Basketball Team, date unknown)

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Kansas City*, Campus, Trading Post, Plainville, Clay Center, Centerville, Centropolis, Opolis, Home
  • Short & sweet – Park, Woods, Maize, Rock
  • A bad case of the cities – Sun City, Lake City, Park City, Prairie City, Hill City, White City, Bird City
  • Too many mounds – Mound City, South Mound, Half Mound, Blue Mound
  • Just a little out of place – Arkansas City, Minneapolis, Duluth, Detroit, Denver, Erie, Scranton, Manhattan* (home of KSU), Long Island, Atlanta, Iowa Point, Michigan Valley, Lone Star, Toronto, Canada, Tampa, Havana, Cuba, Peru, Zurich, Stuttgart, Dresden, Bavaria, Denmark, Holland, Moscow, Lebanon (geographical center of the US), Paradise
  • Just a little off-color – Athol, Climax
  • Native American mouthfuls – Walulla, Oskaloosa, Tonganoxie
  • Orthographically challenged – Sublette, Studley
  • Atypical adjectives – Covert, Gross, Neutral
  • Abnormal nouns – Monument, Tribune, Walnut, Buttermilk, Beaver, Beagle, Soldier, Friend, Pairs, Tyro, Thrall, Moonlight, Sparks, Radium, Severance
  • Unconventional verbs – Reserve, Admire, Flush
  • Fun to say – Yoder, Le Loup, Olpe, Narka, Mingo, Zenda, Plevna, Piqua (Buster Keaton's birthplace), Petrolia, Bushong, Jarbalo, Wego-Waco
  • Just plain weird – Circleville, Silkville, Oil Hill, Pretty Prairie, Pen Dennis, Punkin Center, Jetmore, Shallow Water, Saxman, Smileyberg, White Cloud, West Mineral
  • I’d like you to meet – Rocky Ford
  • Ghost towns – Constant, Eminence, Santa Fe, Ohio City, Silica, Tweed, Teeterville

* - author has visited

Monday, February 4, 2013


Another boring Midwestern state.  At least next week I can start on Kentucky and Louisiana.  We’re talking Monkey’s Eyebrow and Waterproof and lots more.  Yeah!  

Oh hell!  I forgot all about Kansas …  Sigh …

10. Scarville

Sounds so much better than Scabville, don’t you think?

Actually, Scarville was named after somebody named Scar – town founder Ole Scar, of Bang, Norway.  That’s really not an excuse, though, is it?

Just had to repeat the following gem from the website of the Scarville-Center Lutheran Church in full:

It may not be big, but it remains the same town with the same faces, the same pride in community, the same sense of humor.  Those who have been acquainted with the town will always remember their time spent there.  In fact, people from all over northern Iowa and southern Minnesota still travel to Scarville, Iowa, every year for its 4th of July parade and celebration.  This may be the only town in which the parade participants delight their observers twice - first, going South on Main Street, and then circling around to pass by again in the opposite direction!

I can just see those parade participants now

9. Beebeetown

Originally called Officialredrydercarbineactiontwohundredshotrangemodelairrifle, the town was asked to come up with something a little shorter by the Post Office.

The name actually comes from the Beebee family, who settled the area in the 1840s.  The name is also spelled Bebe, Beebe, and Beeby.  It comes from the town of Beeby, in Leicestershire, England.  It means “bee town.”  So, in other words, Beebeetown really means Beetowntown.  How confusing.

This teeny crossroads is just north of Omaha, NE, not too far from the town of Missouri Valley (see “Honorable Mention,” below).

The Twisted Tale
(Biker Bar in Beebeetown)

8. Correctionville

Big prison?  Birthplace of the inventor of Wite-Out?

Actually, truth is stranger than fiction on this one.  According to Wikipedia:

The town name comes from the original survey of the town.  The site lies on a surveyor's correction line, which adjusts for the convergence of the meridian lines.  This keeps the section boundaries approximately 1-mile (1.6 km) apart, making all sections approximately the same size (approximately 1 square mile).  This correction line is aligned with 5th street through the downtown; there are no north/south streets extending straight past 5th street.

This burg of 800 is officially part of the Sioux City, IA–NE–SD Metropolitan Statistical Area.  It wins the prize for longest town name in Iowa, coming in at 15 letters.

Great old gas station (ca. 1934)

7. Sergeant Bluff

Sergeant Bluff, meet Colonel Klink.  Colonel Klink, meet Major Major.  Major Major, meet Sergeant Bluff.  Sergeant Bluff, meet …

Named after Sergeant Charles Floyd, the only casualty of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, who is buried nearby.  Historical names include Floyd’s Bluff, Woodbury, Sergeant’s Bluff, and Sergeant’s Bluff City.  To be totally honest with you, I really don’t see what’s wrong with Woodbury.

A neighbor of Correctionville, this town of over 4000 is known for its flatness and industrial blight.  As for the latter, I’m talking two coal-burning power plants, an ammonia fertilizer plant, and the Sioux City Airport.

City Hall!

6. Cylinder

“The surface generated by a straight line intersecting and moving along a closed plane curve, the directrix, while remaining parallel to a fixed straight line that is not on or parallel to the plane of the directrix.”  Or, for short … Cylinder.

Couldn’t really find anything on this one.  It is named after Cylinder Creek.  Not that that’s really helpful, of course.

This diminutive hamlet of 90 citizens is in the northern part of the state, not too far from the Nebraska border.  Google Maps shows me some grain elevators, a couple of dozen houses, and a few more commercial buildings of some sort or other.

Wait, are you sure this isn’t Scarville?

5. Lost Nation

Is this from Hemingway?  No?  Gertrude Stein?  Oh, no, no – that was “lost generation.”

As for “lost nation”?  I haven’t a clue.  It does sound like it might have something do with Indians however. 

But would you believe it’s not the only Lost Nation out there?   Others appear in New Hampshire and Vermont.

Our Lost Nation (population 450) is in the eastern part of the state.  It hosts an annual Rustic Days and Rustic Run (in, I take it, Rustic Park – see below).

Incredible set of photos right here.

City park!

4. Zwingle

Of course there was a Mr. Zwingle.  With a state with people with names like Scar and Beebee (and Zook – below), what else would you expect?

Well, actually, they named it after some guy named Zwingli – Ulrich Zwingli, to be exact.  If you’re not up on your church history, Zwingli led the Reformation in Switzerland.  You may know him from his disputations, the Kappel Wars, or the Marburg Colloquy.  What?  No???

This bantam borough of 90 is in the eastern part of Iowa, not too far from Lost Nation and just south of Dubuque.  Its main claim to fame is being the last community, alphabetically, in the whole state.

Tiny post office!
(though not as tiny as Muddy’s)

3. Gravity

Yeah, I’m a big fan too.  I’m not totally convinced we need to name a town after it though.

But wait!  Here’s an “explanation” (from some obscure site on the Internets):

The new town was named after the Old Gravity Post Office situated 1 1/2 miles west.  It being an old landmark, having stood there for many years.  It was at this place that Rev. A.E. McKay met with an accident that caused him to lose his arm.  This misfortune resulted from his arm being caught in the belt of a threshing machine while at work there.

Now, let me make sure I’ve got this straight …

This community of almost 200 is in the southwest part of the state, practically on the Nebraska border.

The abovementioned site (a history of the town) include a couple of double-takes: Gravity Express (a newspaper), Gravity Bank, and Gravity Cemetery.  A quick search of Google gives us some more: gravity news (it’s still working!), gravity jobs, and gravity weather (rain and snow? - they come down!).


2. Zook Spur

Sounds like something Robin would say: “Zook Spur, Batman!  The Joker really has us now.”

Turns out Zook Spur was at the end of a short rail line that ran from the main line to a coal mine.  Said coal mine was operated by the Scandia Coal Company, under the management of none other than one H. Zook.   I’d love to know what the H stood for.  Horatio?  Helmut?  Habbakuk?  Hyacinth? 

It’s in the middle of the state, just above Des Moines.  Google Maps shows it at the intersection of Zook Spur Road and Zook Spur Lane.  I count about three houses, maybe ten in the greater metropolitan area. says it once had a population of 500.  Can’t see much left other than cornfields now.

They stole that from Tombstone,AZ by the way

1. What Cheer

According to what I could find, this is simply just a very old-fashioned way of saying hello, or welcome.  Today, What Cheer would probably be called Wassup or Yo or maybe ‘Sup. 

This town of 650 is southeast from Des Moines.  Like Zook Spur, it’s an old coal mining town, and actually produced a past president of the United Mine Workers, Frank Hayes.  It’s also known for antiques, and has a harness race track as well.


Honorable Mention: 

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Big Rock, Homestead, Old Town, Farmersburg, Prairieburg, Iowa City (world's largest wooden nickle), Iowa Center, Center Junction, State Center, Centerville (world's largest town square), Middle, West
  • A bad case of the cities – Albert City, Stone City, Orange City, Sac City (world's largest popcorn ball), May City, Prairie City, Promise City, Story City
  • Short & sweet – Church, Wood, Fern, Coin, Colo, Rake, Prole
  • Just a little out of place – Little Rock, Missouri Valley, Cincinnati, Harpers Ferry, Scranton, Brooklyn (the Community of Flags), Delaware, New Virginia, Key West, Nevada, Wyoming, Dakota City, California Junction, Pacific Junction, Ontario, Jamaica, Panama, Brazil, East Peru, Geneva, Madrid, Lisbon, Wales, Norway, Denmark, Paris, New Vienna, Moscow, Persia, Manila
  • Numerically oriented – Seven Ponds, Ten Mile, Tenville, Thirty
  • Native American mouthfuls – Keokuk, Titonka, West Okoboji, Oskaloosa (only known mule cemetery)
  • Atypical adjectives – Quick, Mystic, Stout, Diagonal, Cool, High, Manly
  • Abnormal nouns – Walnut, Carbon, Confidence, Defiance, Unison, Bunch, Soldier, Rubble
  • Fun to say – Dubuque, Exira, Cresco, Fiscus, Struble, Popejoy, Jackson Junction, Swaledale
  • Just plain weird – Balltown, Otterville, Red Line, North English, South English, Coon Rapids (famous rotating ear of corn), Mediapolis, Little Mermaid
  • I’d like to introduce you to –  George, Edna, Floyd, Burt, Arthur, Carl, Craig, Mark, Elvira
  • Not to mention – Grace Hill, Troy Mills, Vernon View
  • And the whole Grove family – Ida Grove, Buck Grove, Lin Grove
  • Ghost towns – Indianapolis, Terre Haute, Illinois Grove, New Philadelphia, Peoria City, Klondike, Motor, Crab Town