Saturday, October 26, 2013

South Dakota

I’m kind of surprised SD has enough people to even get in this blog. They do have more than their neighbors to the north though. Yup, SD’s got over 800,000, while ND has less than 700K. So there! Take that, North Dakota!  

10. Carlock

How old is this place? And why did they name it after a remote you’d use to open your car in the first place?

Actually, would you believe it’s from somebody’s name? I’m not sure exactly whose, but Carlock is a surname. tells me it’s probably an Anglicization of Gerlach, which is German for “spear play.” Now, why anyone would want to be called Mr. Spearplay ...

The township of Carlock is 35 sq. miles in area, and includes 65 Carlockians. It looks very flat and very spread out. You can find every possible bit of data that you’d ever want on it right here.

I do, though, have to question the average value of a home in Carlock in 2009. The site has that at $4,006,890,000. How can that be? I mean, the 2000 average was only $63,300. That’s a 63,299% increase. Who moved there? Is J.K. Rowling shacking up with Queen Elizabeth?

Google Image Search = “carlock sd”

9. Wall

The townsfolk were so proud of their new wall. Sometime in the future, they hoped to build others. Heck, if things kept going well for their little settlement, they might even put in some doors and windows – maybe even a roof or two.

Wall, of course, means Wall Drug. You may be familiar with their billboards, or perhaps their bumper stickers.

Just in case you’re not, though, Wall Drug is a shopping center in the middle of nowhere that somehow manages to generate $10 million from two million visitors every year. It includes a western art museum, a chapel, an 80-foot Apatosaurus, free ice water, and 5¢ coffee. It employs a third of the town’s 700-some population. Oh, and its billboards and bumper stickers are ubiquitous. has a full article on it right here.

The town’s isolation is actually pretty relative though. It’s on I-90, on its way west into Rapid City, and is only about an hour away from Mt. Rushmore.  

Oh, the name? It comes from the geological formation known as the High Wall, in Badlands National Park.

C’mon, dude, crack a smile!

8. Red Shirt

I have a couple of these in my closet. I’m not sure I’m ready to name a town after them though.

This petite burg of two dozen homes or so is on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Its inhabitants are Oglala Sioux.  

RS in the southwest part of the state, in the Badlands, and – once again – not too far from Rapid City and Mt. Rushmore. There’s a geological formation nearby with the wonderful name of Red Shirt Table.  

Ah, yes, the name … It’s just some chief. His main claim to fame seems to be being part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

Yes, it’s red.  
Yes, it’s a shirt …
(thanks for nothing, Google Images)

7. Oral

Lawyer:  "And lastly, Gary, all your responses must be oral.  Okay?  Now, what school do you go to?"
Young Witness:  "Oral."
Lawyer:  "How old are you?"
Young Witness:  "Oral."

Thank you, Richard Lederer.

Now, back to our town … Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a whole heck of a lot on this one. It’s in the southwest part of the state – again – and looks like it has maybe a couple of dozen houses and businesses.  

As often happens with towns named (seemingly) after odd adjectives, search results often produce some rather interesting combinations. In our case, we’ve got:
  • Oral weather
  • Oral news
  • Oral pianists
  • Oral roofers
  • Oral singles

Where does the actual name come from? Haven’t a clue. My guess, though, is it’s a surname. This site tells me that the surname’s probably from a town named Orell, in England. Who knows, Oral Roberts and Orel Hershiser may be distant relations.

Get it?

6. Pringle

I’m not sure which is worse – naming your town after an article of clothing or naming it after a brand of potato chips.

Well, we’re still in the southwest part of the state for this one. Though it’s only got 112 people, Pringle has actually been in the news quite a bit.

Turns out there’s a compound of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints nearby. You know, Warren Jeffs? Ten most wanted list? Bunch of older guys creating harems of underage girls? The place even made The Daily Beast.

The town was named after one Anna Carr Pringle, a local farmer gal and host for railroad crews. They were so grateful for her hospitality they named the budding town after her. Pringle is an English name – once again, after some town. The author once knew a Winny Pringle. Poor thing.

Chis? Cii is? CII 15?

5. Box Elder

Before you waste any more brain cells trying to figure this one out, let me just point out that it’s a tree, acer negundo, a kind of maple. The English name comes from the wood’s resemblance to boxwood’s, and the leaves’ resemblance to those of elder, or elderberry, bushes.  

Box Elder the town is actually pretty big-time – at least for South Dakota. It has almost 8,000 people, is just east of Rapid City, and envelops part of Ellsworth Air Force Base.  

BE has its own website. Here’s the lead story for the day I checked it out:

There is a yard waste dumpster located in the gravel parking lot at 205 S. Ellsworth Rd to place your tree debris. When the dumpster is full please place branches in a neat pile near the dumpster so we can collect them easily.“

BTW, there are Box Elders in Montana and Texas as well.

I think it’s a bullet
(could be a nail, could be a condom)

4. Running Water

It’s what I always look for in a town – or a house, or a hotel, or a bathroom …

This little hamlet of two dozen houses is in the southeast part of the state, near the confluence of the Niobrara & Missouri rivers. In fact, that’s where it got its name. The meeting of those two rivers created a current that the French called L’eau Qui Court (“the water that runs,” for those of you who who do not parlez, like moi).

The town was also called Mineral Springs and Shannon, and appeared and disappeared, as settlers won (or lost) in their battle against drought, Indians, and grasshoppers. The railroad then came through, and things were put on a pretty permanent basis, with an important ferry operating at this site. The railroad (and the steamboats) later disappeared, however, leaving Running Water rather high and dry (at least figuratively speaking).

Everything you’d ever want to know about this tiny Podunk you can read right here.

Oh yuck!

3. Camp Crook

A teen dude ranch located in the beautiful northwest corner of South Dakota and emphasizing basic life skills for the future felon …

It’s gotta be after some dude, right? Well, we may never know. I couldn’t find anything on how this place got its name.  

My guess, though, is it’s named after one George Crook, a Civil War general and later Indian fighter. He operated in this area, and there are counties named after him in Oregon and Wyoming.

The surname isn’t what you think, though. According to, it’s either an “occupational name for a maker, seller, or user of hooks,” or a “topographic name for someone who lived by a bend in a river or road.”

This diminutive village of 63 is in the northwest part of the state. Wikipedia shares these fascinating tidbits about it:
  • Camp Crook is the birthplace of the famous bucking horse Tipperary. A depiction of the first ride of Tipperary can be seen in the Corner Bar and Cafe in Camp Crook.
  • Camp Crook is the hometown of music educator, composer and actor Benjamin E. Latham.
  • The town …  is the only town west of the Little Missouri River in South Dakota. 

By the way, there is a Crooks in SD as well. Additionally, Crook City is a South Dakota ghost town. Now, that’s a lotta criminality for such a small state, isn’t it?

I’m so confused

2. Spink

Which of the following represents a correct use of the word “spink”?
  • Ursula expressed considerable surprise when she found a small spink in her sleeping bag.  
  • Reg sure showed a lot of spink in taking on the Hell’s Angels, didn’t he?
  • You’re going to need a new spink, ma’am, if you’re going to get that toilet to work properly.

Spink, interestingly, is both a town and a county. The county is in the northeast part of SD, has 6,400 Spinkers, and comes in at over 1,500 sq. miles. It’s the home of the rather off-color Athol.

The town, oddly, is not in Spink County, but in Union, which is in the very southeast toe of the state (that little part that kind of just dribbles down there all by itself). It’s got 245 Spinkites. 

The entry in Wikipedia gives us some highlights of the town (heck, it sounds kinda like a short novel):

Toward the end of the 20th century only a few business remained in the community of Spink. The Spink Cafe was the center of life in the township and was still a place where farmers would gather to talk about the bean or corn crop and share a pot of coffee. Gary's Repair acted as a place where people could get the truck or tractor a little work and the old Co-Op that went by the name of Spink Oil was the town's gas station. Spink Oil closed in 1997 and today only the Cafe and Gary's Repair remain.

It's a crossroads with maybe 20 buildings. It’s not too far from Junction City, Akron, Vermillion (National Music Museum), and Le Mars.

The name? Well, S.L. Spink just so happened to be Secretary of Dakota Territory when the county and the town were founded. What could that surname possibly mean? Why, “chaffinch,” of course. And what the heck is a “chaffinch”? Why, a little bird. Everyone knows that. Now, why would somebody be named after a little bird? I don't know - you got me.

A SD hunter with a brace of spinks

1. Bonesteel / Firesteel / Thunder Butte / Iron Lightning

Wow! Were these all named by DC Comics? It’s the South Dakota Four! Out to save farm subsidies, Wall Drug, and the High Plains way of life!

Bonesteel  is in the south central part of the state and has about 275 inhabitants. It was named after H. E. Bonesteel, an early area freighter (i.e., he hauled stuff in his wagons). The surname comes from the German for “beanstalk” (really!), and denotes someone who grew beans or was as skinny as one.

Firesteel is in the north central part of the state and is a “near ghost.” It was a coal mining community at one time (and the only one in the state). The name comes from Firesteel Creek, which is a translation of an Indian name denoting their ability to find flint there.

Thunder Butte is in the northwest, on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, and probably has 100-some people. Its named after a landmark that sticks out in the flat land roundabouts. The name? Well, it’s a butte alright! And seeing how isolated it is, I’m guessing it attracted more than its share of lightning.

Iron Lightning sounds kinda like a random combination of other themes in this entry, but it’s really named after a Lakota chief. It’s pretty close to Thunder Butte.

Honorable Mention: 
  • Short and sweet – Lane, Vale, Zell, Agar, Mina, Nora, Iona, Tea
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Wood, Meadow, Midway, Hub City, Hill City (tiny church!), Central City, Centerville, Center Point
  • Just a little out of place – Dallas, Gary, Gettysburg, Mt. Vernon, Buffalo (Bison too), Utica, Woonsocket (see the real Woonsocket right here), Roswell, Provo, Burbank, Toronto, Scotland, New Holland, Baltic, Stockholm, Vienna, Florence, Naples, Corsica, Volga, Carthage, Troy, Lebanon, Bethlehem, Alexandria, Sinai, Eden
  • Just a little out of place, swank schools division – Groton, Andover, Amherst, Yale
  • Just a little off color – Letcher, Gayville
  • Orthographically challenged – Maurine, Harrold, Kenel, Lemmon (statue of cowboy riding dinosaur), Tripp, Betts, Sanator
  • Numerically oriented – Twin Brooks
  • Native American mouthfuls – Minnekahta, Owanka, Wakpala, Pukwana, Okobojo, Keyapaha
  • Atypical adjectives – Ideal, Scenic, Interior, White, Blunt, Mystic (formerly Sitting Bull)
  • Unconventional verbs – Lead, Orient
  • Abnormal nouns – Faith, Reliance, Chance, Bath, Farmer, Badger, Antelope, Java, Hammer, Victor, Winner, Kidder, Parade, Porcupine, Epiphany, Polo, Igloo, Fedora (a guy's name)
  • Fun to say – Nunda, Wasta, Bowdle, Vetal, Tuthill, Mosher, Peever, Zeona, Cuthbert
  • Hard to say – De Smet (Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead), Athboy, Wanblee
  • Just plain weird – Silver City, Green Grass, Mud Butte, Potato Creek, Pumpkin Center, Big Stone City, Hidden Timber, Cactus Flats, Lower Brule, Lodgepole, Rockerville, Redowl, Swiftbird, Spearfish, Deadwood (world’s largest chair), Highmore, Cresbard, Holabird, Bullhead, La Bolt, Crazy Horse (big unfinished memorial), Wounded Knee, Red Scaffold 
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Opal, Hazel, Irene, Ramona, Rowena, Marty, Henry, Howard, Sherman, Marvin, Chester, Frederick, Virgil, Roscoe, Pierre, Pedro, Nemo, Dante, Tolstoy
  • Ghost towns – Texas Town, Spokane, Moon, Weta, Etta, Elmore, Dewey, Hillhead, Flatiron, Gopher, Hooker, Teddy Bear

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