Monday, June 17, 2013

New Mexico

The Land of Enchantment.  And also the home of green chili cheeseburgers, Roswell aliens, frito pie, the Very Large Array (think Jodie Foster, in Contact), and the birthplace of Buddy Holly and resting place of Billy the Kid.  

Oh, and also some genuinely weird town names …

10. Truth or Consequences

I really debated including this one at all.  Sure, it’s a riot.  At the same time, though, it’s also cheating.  Here, let me explain …

Back in the ‘50s, there was a popular radio show called “Truth or Consequences.”  As a publicity stunt, the show offered to broadcast from any town in the US that changed its named to that of the show.  Hot Springs, NM stepped up to the plate … and the rest is history.

It’s a good story, but this blog is really about unintentional humor.  What I like are the ones where the town fathers thought they were coming up with a real winner, but we can’t help but get all snickery and snarky about it today.  And that’s why Joe, Montana is not in here, nor is DISH, Texas.  Everyone’s heard of T or C, though, so I thought it at least deserved a mention (plus I had to introduce this diatribe somewhere).

As for the town itself, it has 6,500 citizens, is in the southwest part of New Mexico, and actually does have several hot springs (and spas).

Two for one!
(see below for Elephant Butte)

9. Pep

Wishful thinking or pure, unadulterated irony? 

Well, it turns out it’s the former.  Storeowner Edward Cox came up with the name in 1925 to encourage the town’s growth as a “lively, energetic” and up-and-coming place.

The irony comes in when you consider that the Pep of today is not exactly Manhattan (New York or Kansas).  I count about seven buildings at a crossroads in the middle of absolute nowhere.  It does have its own post office though.

There’s a Pep, TX, by the way – right across the border.  It doesn’t look too peppy either, I’m afraid.

Said post office

8. Dusty

Talk about stating the obvious …

Dusty is that … and not much more.  I count a couple of buildings on a dirt road a little northwest of T or C. 

By the way, there’s also a Dusty, WA and a Dusty, Tajikistan.

Dusty is as Dusty does

7. Chilili

Not to be confused with Chili, another NM town; or chile, the state dish; or chilly, what you can become in the NM mountains.

Our Chilili has about 100 people and is about an hour southwest of Albuquerque.  It’s actually got a quite a history.  It was originally an Indian pueblo, then a mission, was abandoned in the 17th Century, and then came back to life in the 1840s. 

Chilili is actually one of the oldest names in NM, having first been recorded in 1581.  It’s from the Tiwa chiu alle, and means “sound of water barely trickling.”

It’s famous for a cemetery where all the tombstones are made of tin (and worth a tip in Roadside America).

Is it measure once, cut twice?
Or cut twice, measure once?

6. Flying H

As in, “I don’t give a …”?

I’m assuming it’s named after a local ranch. 

Looks like a couple of houses / farms strung out along a canyon road in the middle of nowhere.  Elk (see below) is nearby.  The closest real towns are Alamagordo (nuclear bombs) and Roswell (aliens). 

5. Weed

Named for the local area’s particularly potent strain of cannabis sativa

Naah …  Don’t be too surprised that this teeny burg was named after a Mr. Weed (in particular, one W.H. Weed, a local merchant).  Weed Heights, NV has much the same problem, as does Weed, CA.  The surname has a couple of possibilities – from an ancestor who:
  • Lived in a weedy place
  • Had a name that began with “wid” – Widalt, Widulf, Widbert (okay, I made that last one up)
  • Liked to smoke dope (okay, okay - I made that one up too)
This particular Weed is in the south central part of New Mexico, not that far from Flying H.   
Though there are only 40 people, the town does have its own rather robust website.

Stoned ponies, 
Weed, NM

4. Organ

1.  n., a keyboard instrument in which sets of pipes are sounded by compressed air and produce a variety of timbres.  2. n., bodily parts performing a function or cooperating in an activity.  3. n., the male … um … repro …. uh …. oh, never mind.

This one comes from the local Organ Mountains, whose pinnacles early Spanish explorers thought resembled organ pipes.

This town of 300 is just northeast of Las Cruces (which is itself not too far from El Paso, TX, which is right on the Mexican border).  Originally a mining camp, it now provides homes and services for White Sands Missile Range workers.

Actually, not who you think
(Slumbering Mountain Cemetery, Organ NM)

3. Pie Town

Yes, they do have a festival!  And, yes, it does feature pies!

As for the name?  Well, long ago, before there was any festival, there was a local store here, famous for its pies.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

This tiny town is in the west central part of the state, close to … well, pretty much nothing.  With only 35 people, though, it does claim two pie shops, the Pie Town Café and the Pie-o-Neer. 

Pie Town’s other claim to fame is appearing in a set of Dust Bowl photographs by Russell Lee.  Complete article on that from the Smithsonian magazine right here.

Yeah, right

2. Toadlena

What not to name your daughter.

Well, this one is a bit of a mystery.  As far as I can tell, this may trace back to the Navajo tohaali, which means … heck, I dunno.

Toadlena is actually pretty famous for its trading post (which happens to be, not in Toadlena, but in the nearby Newcomb).  Said trading post is famous for its blankets.

And that’s about all I can tell you about Toadlena.


1. Humble City

We are the humblest city in the whole darn state!  They’re ain’t nobody humbler than us!  We are to humble what Michael Jordan is to basketball, Picasso was to painting, and Donald Trump is to real estate!  Believe me, they’re ain’t nobody humbler than us!

Well, looks like these folks might actually have something to be humble about.  It appears that we have about a half dozen streets and maybe a dozen or so homes.  Oh, and it’s also in the middle of absolute nowhere, in the southeast corner of the state.

And that’s about as much as I could find on this place.  Too bad.  I really wanted to talk about the place’s humble police, and very humble mayor, and exceedingly humble beauty queens. 

I was able to find out that the town was named after the Humble Oil Company.  And that company just so happened to gets its start in Humble, TX.  And that town got its name in turn from one Mr. Pleasant Smith Humble, an early settler.  You may know Humble Oil, by the way, in its current, considerably less humble incarnation – as ExxonMobil, the largest corporation on the planet.

Oh, damn – it’s the one in Texas!

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Cliff, Field, House, Central, El Pueblo, Road Forks
  • Short & sweet – Elk, Jal, Tome, Bibo
  • Numerically oriented – Three Rivers, Five Points, Seven Lakes, Seven Springs, Seven Rivers, Sixteen Springs, Tres Piedras, Tres Ritos, Tres Lagundas
  • Just a little out of place – Las Vegas, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Sacramento, Folsom, Hollywood, Des Moines, Cleveland, New York, Monticello, Florida, Miami, Cuba, San Juan, Malaga, Madrid, Valencia, Milan, Sofia, Jordan
  • Just slightly off color – Elephant Butte, Beaverhead
  • Orthographically challenged – Gallup, Dunken, Texico, Nutt, Watrous
  • Miscellaneous mouthfuls – Ranches of Taos, Black River Village, Blanco Trading Post, San Felipe Pueblo, Santo Domingo Pueblo, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque
  • Unconventional verbs – Grants, Reserve, Turn, Hatch (after Gen. Edward Hatch)
  • Atypical adjectives – French, Loving, Bent, Tinnie
  • Abnormal nouns – Sunshine, Rodeo (Sp. for “enclosure”), Monument, Vanadium, Chloride (previously called Bromide), Queen, Counselor, Oracle, Coyote, Anaconda, Sedan, Lingo (probably from a surname)
  • Fun to say – Artesia, Tucumcari, Claunch, Carizozo, Escabogo, Vanderwagen
  • Hard to say – Tapiciitoes, Abiquiu
  • Just plain weird – Oil Center, Missile Range, Wagon Mound, Fence Lake, Radium Springs, Bread Springs, Waterflow, Sunspot, Cloudcroft, Shiprock (where NM, AZ, CO & UT meet), Loco Hills, High Rolls, Angel Fire, White Signal, Candy Kitchen
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Eunice, Nadine, Lucy, Dora, Roy, Floyd, Otis, Stanley, Tyrone, Moses, Solomon, Anton Chico, Juan Tomas, Luis Lopez, Bernardo Contreras, Charles R Ranch,
  • En espanol – Cebolla (“onion”), Porvenir (“future”), Tijeras (“scissors”), Tierra Amarilla (“yellow earth”), Ruidoso (“noisy”), Raton ("rat"), Mosquero (“fly trap”), Ojos Calientes (“hot eyes”)
  • Ghost towns – Holy cow!  New Mexico seems to have more of these than Nevada.  Looks like we’ll have to give New Mexico a post just for their ghost towns as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment