Sunday, November 17, 2013

Texas O-Z

Last week, we covered Texas towns from A to N. This week, we cover those from O to Z. 

I did, though, want to make a special call-out to Texas’s counties. There are no less than 254 of them, and some of them are real beauts. Here are my faves:
  • Jack
  • Wise
  • Real
  • Coke
  • Colorado
  • Motley
  • Winkler
  • Glasscock
  • Jeff Davis
  • Tom Green
  • Jim Hogg
  • Deaf Jones

10. Tom Bean

Texas actually has a bunch of these. There’s Seth Ward and Leon Springs, Marshall Ford and George West (as well as the four counties above). And let’s not forget the wonderfully alliterative Ben Bolt. There’s something about the short, laconic, down-to-earth, somewhat peculiar nature of Tom Bean, though, that really strikes my fancy.

Who was Tom? Well, it sounds like he was a wealthy landowner who gave away some acreage so the railroad could come through – and make him even more wealthy. What a guy!

Now, why they didn’t just call it Bean, or Beanville, or Beantown, I just don’t know. Well, except for that last one, that is – I think that one’s already been taken

TB is in the northeast part of the state, and has just over 1,000 citizens. According to Wikipedia, the local area, including Sherman and Dennison, is sometimes called Texoma or Texomaland (by the local space aliens, I would assume).

It was either that or the Beanie Babies

9. Personville

I understand it’s populated by people!

Yup, all 50 of ‘em. 

Interestingly, the name is from some guy, one D.B. Person, the first to settle the area. He was from North Carolina, which has its own Person County. Person is actually not an uncommon surname, and is probably just an alternate spelling of “parson.” 

By the way, the townsfolk also considered the much more evocative Lost Prairie. Weird in its own way, but no way near as weird as Personville.

We’re just a little east of Waco, by the by.

Hey, it’s historic!

8. Veribest

Texans aren’t really known for their subtlety. Some other over-the-top Texas town names includes Best, Sublime, Stellar, and Peerless.

As for Veribest, it’s a town of 40 in the center of the state. It’s also a dry cleaners in San Diego, an automotive products company, a doughnut shop in Georgia, a manufacturer of lithium battery chargers, and – in general – just kind of a cheesy way to try and market something. 

The town seems to be primarily made up of a high school. Their team mascot happens to be a falcon. And that makes them the Veribest Falcons in the whole world.

Touchdown celebration
or disco dance move?

7. Rio Frio

In English this would be the boring Cold River. In Spanish, though, it becomes the exotic, poetic, and slightly ridiculous Rio Frio.

Yes, there is an actual Frio River. It – like the town – is a little west of San Antonio. And, yes, it is cold. 

It’s also mentioned in the George Strait song All My Ex’s Live in Texas. According to Wikipedia, the river also figured prominently in the movie Race with the Devil, and is “where the scene of the sacrifice took place.” Interesting. I’ll have to look that one up on Netflix. Nothing makes a movie, in my opinion, like a good sacrifice scene.

It actually looks like real pretty country around there. In fact, there are several tourist sites out there for the area and the town.

By the way, there is also a Frio Town. The two seem to be at the opposite ends of the river, 
though – a good two hours apart. Hey, it’s a big state!

Wow! They weren't kiddin'!

6. Sour Lake

It’s not something I usually associate with lakes. Big maybe. Long, yes. Perhaps even green or sandy or south … But sour?

Well, would you believe this one truly is “descriptive”? Seems there are some sulfur springs that feed the lake. I guess you could call the smell of sulfur “sour.” I wonder, though, if the locals ever considered naming their little body of water Skunk Lake, or Rotten Egg Lake, or Really Nasty Fart Lake?

The town of Sour Lake began – interestingly – as a health resort. The sulfur, though, also pointed to oil, and the little burg quickly became an oil boom town around the turn of the 20th Century. At its height, the town supported 10,000 people (there are 1,800 today), and was the birthplace of Texaco.

By the way, we are in the far southeast part of the state. 

Catchy, no?

5. Zunkerville

Put a z and a u together, and you’ve got a sure winner. Think zucchini, zumba, zuppa, and Admiral Zumwalt. Now, combine that with the ending “unker” – like in clunker, lunker, and spelunker – and things are really going to start to happen.

Of course it’s named after some guy. In our case, we’re talking about one H.R. Zunker – basically, the first settler. And what exactly is a zunker, you may ask. Well, in German, it’s a crag, so this name basically denotes someone who lived by some crag somewhere at some time a long, long time ago.

Seeing as there are only 15 people in this place today, there really isn’t that much on it. I can, though, safely assure you that it’s southeast of San Antonio.

4. White Settlement

Wow! Let’s just come right out and say it, shall we? No beating around the bush in this place, is there?

I was sure this was – once again – named after some dude. Interestingly, though, it is descriptive. Turns out there were several Indian settlements in the area and one white one. Not sure what happened to the Indian ones, but the white one’s still there and going strong. Way to go, white people!

In 2005, the townsfolk overwhelmingly voted down a proposal to change the name of the place to West Settlement. Don’t mess with White Settlement, huh? 

This place is basically a suburb of Ft. Worth. It’s got 16,000 whities … er, citizens. A naval air station borders it to the east.

By the way, Texas also features a Whiteflat and a Whiteface.

White Settlement is also home to the 
Texas Civil War Museum (coincidence?)

3. Tool

“Tool” means many things. On the surface, it’s a “device or implement, esp. one held in the hand, used to carry out a particular function.” It’s also slang for the male productive organ. And, finally, it can be also be used to describe someone who’s lacking in smarts or sophistication – as in, “You’re such a tool, Warren.” All of which make this a pretty darn funny thing to name a town.

So, would you believe Tool was named after some dude? Yup, one George Tool, to be precise. The surname is probably just a shortened version of O’Toole, which means “son of Tuathal” (and with Tuathal meaning “ruler of the people”). 

In other words, Tool has brevity on its side, if nothing else. I mean, seriously, who’d want to live in Son of the Ruler of the People, TX?

Tool has 2,275 inhabitants and is southeast of Dallas, on beautiful Cedar Creek Lake. Sounds like it’s a great place to retire or to buy a second home.

And Gun Barrel City is
right across the lake!

2. Oatmeal

I like the occasional bowl too (especially on a cold winter day). I can’t say I’ve ever wanted to live in a town named after it though. I don’t like it all that much.

Another dude. In this case, an early German settler named Othneil. Put that in your Texas translatin’ machine, and out comes Oatmeal. An alternative explanation is that it’s a direct translation of Habermill, the surname of another German settler (haber means “oats”).

Oatmeal is just a little northwest of Austin and has only 20 people. And, yes, they do have a festival, a spoof on the typical chili cook-off:

Chili cooks eat hot peppers. Oatmeal cooks eat boiled okra. Chili cooks have beauty queens. Oatmeal cooks have Ms. Bag, who is over 55, Groaty Oat, who is beyond description, and Miss Cookie and Miss Muffin, who are 4 to 8 years old. Watermelon raisers spit seeds. Oatmeal cooks kick cow chips.

1. Old Dime Box

This is implying that there is a New Dime Box as well. Heck, maybe there’s a North Dime Box and a West Dime Box and a Dime Box Station and a Rancho Dime Box and a ... I mean, Dime Box is such a common name for towns, I’m sure there are probably a dozen variants.

Well, there does so happen to be a just plain ol’ Dime Box. And that one is newer than Old Dime Box, so I guess it all makes sense after all. Case closed.

Oh, the Dime Box part? Haven’t a clue. 

No, seriously, I actually do have a story … Turns out locals used to use an old box at a crossroads here to send and receive their mail. And if you were sending something, you’d leave the piece of mail as well as a dime to cover the cost of postage. I’m afraid to admit it, but this story actually makes some sense.

ODB has a population of 200, and is a little east of Austin. Dime Box (i.e., the new town) was started when the railroad came through, about three miles away. The March of Dimes once kicked off its annual campaign from here (get it?).


Honorable Mention: 
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – West, Wall, Woods, Orchard, Thicket, Plateau, Plains, Sand, Yard, Round Rock, Texas City, Universal City
  • Short and sweet – Orla, Voca, Vega, Tira, Toco, Watt, Whon, Vick, Rusk, Rye, Tye, Pep, Plum, Pluck, Pleak, Poth, Shep, Zuehl, Zorn
  • Just a little out of place – Oklahoma Lane, Omaha, Paducah, Peoria, South Bend, Pittsburg, Princeton, Rochester, Scranton, Saratoga, West Point, Washington, Richmond, Selma, Santa Fe, Reno, Oakland, San Jose, Pasadena, San Diego, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Scotland, Paris (Eiffel tower with cowboy hat), Riviera, Roma, Sudan, Palestine, Saturn, Venus, Paradise, Utopia
  • Orthographically challenged – Texon, Rhome, Tokio, Patrich, Sargent, Priddy
  • Numerically oriented – Three Rivers, Three Leagues, Tri Cities, Trinity, Seven Oaks, Seven Sisters
  • Native American mouthfuls – Pontotoc, Waxahachie (replica Munster Mansion)
  • Atypical adjectives – Orange, Olden, Sharp, Wealthy, Placid, Polar, Petty, Pointblank, Salty, Uncertain
  • Unconventional verbs – Rule, Run, Post, Point, Park, Tow, Tell, View, Speaks, Slide, Spade, Spur, Staples, Scurry, Sprinkle, Wink (Roy Orbison Museum), Ponder, Panhandle
  • Abnormal nouns – Security, Star, Sparks, Sundown, Sunray, Raisin, Quail, Peacock, Turkey, Telegraph, Telephone, Tradewinds, Wayside, Valentine, Rugby, Royalty, Regency, Poetry, Pumpkin, Pancake, Thrall, Tuxedo, Shiner, Shafter
  • Fun to say – Waco (dog collectibles museum), Waka, Wamba, Spurger, Spofford, Splendora, Purves, Pidcoke, Pantex, Peaster, Patroon, Poteet, Twitty, Yoakum, Van Vleck, Von Ormy, Pflugerville, Winkelman, Throckmorton
  • Hard to say – Ovalo (what syLABle do I emPHAsize?)
  • Portmanteaus – Texline, Texhoma, Texarkana, Oklaunion
  • Just plain weird – Reklaw (Walker backwards), Rising Star, Star Route, The Colony, Old Glory, Old Ocean, Study Butte, Ropesville, Pumpville, Spanish Camp, Streetman, Skidmore, String Prairie, Sugar Land*, Tigertown, Tiki Island, Weedhaven, Possum Kingdom
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Winnie, Otto, Sheldon, Seymour, Sylvester, Tarzan, Robert Lee, St. Hedwig, Sam Rayburn, William and Penn, Tomball
  • Ghost towns – Pringle, Tuckertown, Tee Pee City, Sher-Han, Savage, Red Barn, Old Gomez, Samfordyce, Palafox, Sulphuria (formerly Rustler Springs), Zella

* - author has visited


  1. It'll be ages til I get to travel back in (blog) time and read all the entries for all the states, but I just have to chime in and say what a kick I get out of all this information :) I *love* weird town names so it's just such a kick to see a new entry in this lineup. (I grew up on Long Island in NY surrounded by town names such as Quogue, Hauppauge, Sagaponack and Ronkonkoma--not to mention Hicksville--and now live in Washington, home of such wonders as Humptulips, Walla Walla, Skookumchuck, and Snee Oosh, so there's no end to these cultural wonders.)

  2. Hi Christina:

    I'm glad you like the blog. I'm sure you can find a couple of hours to totally waste going through all the old posts. ;^)

    If you want to cut to the chase, though, you can find 3 entries for New York back in July of this year. Can't remember if Sagaponack is in there. I might have to add it.

    Can't wait to do Washington. I, of course, had heard of those first two. The last two are new. Give it a month or two.

    - Cliff

  3. Washington is definitely in there. 2 whole entries!