Monday, November 25, 2013

Utah

I’m sorry, Utah. You are just a very boring state. What? You already knew that? Well, did you know that your towns have very boring names as well? You did? Well, okay then.

That said, Utahans certainly have a sense of humor about the whole thing. If you don't believe me, check out this video

10. Gusher

Gusher is a town of many names. In addition to Gusher, it was also once known as Sober City (in jest) and Moffatt (after the guy the Moffatt Tunnel, in Colorado, is named after). 

Whence Gusher? Well, some developer – one Robert Wood, to be exact – thought for sure he would find himself some oil riches nearby. (He did not.)

Mr. Wood must have been rather ambitious. I count no less than 10 city blocks in Gusher, only four of which are occupied. Gusher is in the northeast part of the state.

No more postmarks from Gusher,
I’m afraid

9. East Carbon

East Carbon dates back only to 1973, when two struggling mining towns – Dragerton and Columbia – combined.

So, why isn’t this place called Columberton, or Dragumbia, or Coldrag? Well, it is in the eastern part of Carbon County. And we are talking about Utah here, right? I mean, this is basically saying the same as “East Part of County,” correct? And that is particularly catchy and imaginative, no?

This town of 1,400 is southeast of Salt Lake City, about halfway to Moab.

Your dream home awaits
 – in East Carbon, UT! 

8. Birdseye

No, this place wasn’t named after a sack of frozen peas. 

In fact, it was named after the birdseye granite that was quarried nearby. And that stuff got its name because it has lots of little o’s scattered about it (which, I guess – if you’re a really imaginative person, that is – might – on a good day – remind you – somewhat – of the eyes of a bird … maybe).

This place of who-knows-how-many people is south of Salt Lake City. There are a few attractions in the area, including the Five Star Ranch, which is a resort, and the Birdseye Boys Ranch, which is a “treatment center for youth who have been identified as having ‘inappropriate sexual issues’ or ‘highly sexualized behavior.’” Don’t confuse these two, okay?

Tell me this doesn’t
make you think ornithology

7. Gunlock

Would you believe this is after some guy? No, silly, there isn’t a Mr. Gunlock out there. “Gunlock” was some dude’s nickname. Here, let this local plaque explain: 

William Haynes (Gunlock) Hamblin, Born Oct. 28, 1830 Salem Ohio. Married Mary A., and Betsy Leavitt. Died May 8, 1872 at Clover Valley, Nevada from efforts of poison given to him before he could testify concerning a silver mine he had discovered and was selling.

But Truth crushed to Earth shall rise again, so we anxiously await for that day when men shall stand before the bar of justice and account for every word and deed.

He was the father of 17 children, and was given the nickname ‘Gunlock’ by George A. Smith, Apostle for whom he drove wagon across the plains. He also worked for him as a gunsmith. Gunlock, Utah was named in his honor.

He got his fame for his great marksmanship. At 50 paces, he shot the bottom from a pipe bowl without touching the rim. He won a $50.00 bet.

Pipe Springs, Arizona is in honor of that feat. He was an Elder in the LDS Church and served a mission to the Hopi Indians in 1855. He was a great hunter and scout for the church.

Good stuff, huh (especially that "truth crushed to earth" bit)? 

Gunlock the town is in the far southwest of Utah. It’s on the old Santa Fe Trail. They have an annual rodeo, one that’s been going on since 1945.

Young Mother and Son
Gunlock, UT
Dorothea Lange

6. Ticaboo

Any town name that rhymes with “peekaboo” is a winner in my book. 

It means “friendly,” in Paiute, by the way. The town is actually named after a creek of the same name. 

We’re in the far south part of the state for this one. In fact, we’re not too far from the Colorado River and Lake Powell. And that explains the various lodges, resorts, marinas, and real estate agents scattered widely about the area.

And mobile home parks too

5. Centerfield

Oh, put me in, Coach – I'm ready to move today / Put me in, Coach – I'm ready to move today / Look at me, I can live in Centerfield

Would you believe this place was originally called The Field? In a fit of whimsy, the locals changed the name to Center Field, to celebrate the fact that the settlement was in the middle of the Gunnison Valley.

Note that this valley is not to be confused with the Gunnison River Valley in Colorado. That’s really beautiful. This one, on the other hand, is very, very flat and pretty darn boring as well (and is on the Sevier River).

Centerfield has 1000 Centerfielders and is in – appropriately – the center of Utah.

Actually, this is the way to the cemetery

4. Panguitch

Here, have another panguitch. You want some syrup on that one?

Well, considering that “panguitch” means “big fish” in Paiute, you may want to just skip that syrup.  
This town of 1,600 is in the southwest part of the state. It’s not too far from Bryce Canyon, as well as other natural attractions, so tourism is a big part of the economy. The Panguitchians like to call their town the “Center of Scenic Utah.”

The big tourist event in town is the Annual Quilt Walk Festival, where “local performers re-enact the story of the Quilt Walk” – whatever the heck that could possibly be.

Look, it’s a quilt walker!

3. Virgin

It works for airlines, right? And mobile phone companies too.

Now, I’m not sure what those were named after, but I do this one was named after the Virgin River. And that, in turn, was named after the Virgin Mary, by some Spanish Catholic missionaries.

By the way, I much prefer the old name for this place – the much more evocative Virgin City. Reminds me of Virginville, in Eastern Pennsylvania. By the by, Virgin was also formerly known as Pocketville.

This place has 600 Virgins, and is in the southwest corner of the state, not too far from Zion National Park. Interestingly, the town’s legend says nothing about Zion, but instead is “Gateway to the Kolobs.”

People are a little different in these parts. Virgin is one of a handful of towns in the US that have a law dictating mandatory gun ownership. And that’s what was responsible for Virgin’s 15 minutes of fame, in Michael Moore’s movie Bowling for Columbine.

By the way, there is also a La Verkin, right next door. It’s an Anglicization of the Spanish La Virgen. Sheesh! Nice try, gringos.

Unbelievably quaint

2. Shivwits

“Way to go, Shivwits!” “God, Bernie is such a shivwits.” “You shivwits!”

Of course it’s Native American! In fact, it’s the name of a branch of the Paiutes. The word itself means “eastern people.” Alternate forms are Shi'-vwits, Sübü'ts, and Sebit – as well as the wonderfully evocative She-bits.

We’re way back down in the southwest corner of the state again. As far as I can tell, Shivwits is a couple of buildings (and some ruins) strung out on Old Hwy. 91 just west of the major metropolis of Ivins (7,000 people). 

More ruins than buildings, unfortunately

1. Mexican Hat

Could someone please tell these folks they’re called “sombreros”?

No, no – not the people who live there. They’re Mexican Hatters. I mean the Mexican hats themselves. Sombreros. They’re called “sombreros.” The hats, that is.

So, there’s got to be a good story behind this one, right? Well, would you believe we can put this one down to “descriptive.” And if you don’t believe me, just look below. Wow!

We’re in the southeast for this one. This town of 260 is, once again, surrounded by lots of natural beauty. In particular, we’ve got the Valley of the Gods, Gooseneck State Park, and – of course – the Big Sombrero itself.

Ole!

Honorable Mention: 
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Meadow, Junction, Midway, Centerville, Central, Plain City
  • Short & sweet – Mona, Moab (cliff from Thelma and Louise), Orem, Lehi, Loa, La Sal
  • Just a little out of place – Boulder, Riverside, Santa Clara, Cleveland, Syracuse, West Point, Plymouth, Washington, Monticello, Charleston, Wales, Modena, Naples, Mt. Olympus
  • Just a little off color – Beaver (birthplace of Philo Farnsworth, inventor of TV)
  • Orthographically challenged – Sevier
  • Atypical adjectives – Sandy, Tropic, Vernal, Bountiful, Mutual
  • Unconventional verbs – Echo, Bluff, Hatch
  • Abnormal nouns – Enterprise, Granite, Sunset, Promontory (Golden Spike spot), Bonanza, Hurricane (100-year-old fruitcake & bacon), Helper, Dinosaur
  • Fun to say – Altonah, Aneth, Nephi, Neola, Upalco, Ucolo, Kanosh, Koosharem ("edible tuber"), Paragonah
  • Hard to say – Kanab, Callao, Scipio, Ibapah, Lynndyl, Peoa, Tooele
  • Just plain weird – Mountain Home, Soldier Summit, New Harmony, Fountain Green, Wanship, American Fork, Dry Fork, Big Water, Rubys Inn 
  • Just plain weird, -ville division – Orangeville, Snowville, Honeyville, Sugarville, Wellsville, Circleville, Orderville
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Roy, Francis, Grover, Dutch John, Faust, Elmo, Hiawatha
  • Ghost towns – Kiz, Fruita, Telegraph, Boston Terrace, Duncan’s Retreat, Dragon, Dividend, West Dip, Highland Boy, Consumers, Devil’s Slide


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