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Lee Pitts: Dunmovin’ In Ten Sleep

I collect things and one of the things I’ve collected over the years are names of small town’s I’ve either visited or wanted to. For example, I’ve been in Greybull, Wyoming, Bull Run, Oregon, and Bullhead City, Arizona but I’ve never been to Bulltown, West Virginia, Bull, Wyoming, or Cowford, Florida. I spent quite a few days in Bovina, Texas, which was previously called Bull Town.

You’d be surprised to find just how many small towns drew their names from the cowboy lexicon. For example, New Mexico has had five towns in its history called Corral, which I’d think would have gotten confusing when the boss man said to take the herd to Corral. “Which one?” you might ask? Further complicating matters is the fact that there’s a Cowpens in South Carolina.

There used to be a town called Ox Bow, Nebraska, but for some reason they changed their name to Angus in 1886. This was years before sporting venues sold naming rights like the ScotiaBank Saddledome, KFC Yum! Center, Tony Macaroni Arena, and Smoothie King Center, so I doubt the Angus Association paid for the name change in Oxbow. Keeping with the cowboy theme there is a Saddle River, New Jersey, Saddlestring, Wyoming, Lariat, Texas, and a Roundup in both Montana and Texas.



Some small towns have such soothing names you want to go there like Cool, California, or Briny Breezes, Florida, while others seem to be trying to scare you away with names like Bake Oven, Thermal, Stinking Water, or Sweatman. The hardest job in the world has got to be being head of the Chamber of Commerce in Hell, Michigan, although it would be no picnic in Boring, Oregon, or Dull, Tennessee either. And who in their right mind is gonna say, “Back up the moving truck Martha we’re moving to Humptulips, Hogeye, Hogaw, Punkin Center, Okay or Ordinary.” I think these are all places you actually have to have been born there to get there.

When I’m talking small towns I’m referring to places where there’s five cows and three sheep for every person and no politician has ever visited there. I’m talking about places you’d never think of stopping in unless you broke down. Places like Crooked River, Coldass Creek, Waterproof, Possum Grape, Scratch Ankle, Sweet Lips, Cheesequake, Greasy Corner, Lick Skillet, Wide Awake, Tightsqueeze, Monkey’s Eyebrow, Potato Neck, Cut and Shoot, Breakabean, Smackover, Pie Town, or Stifleknee Knob. These are places where there’s more people IN the Fourth of July parade than are actually watching it. It’s where good folks leave their doors unlocked and one speeding ticket can double the town’s yearly income.



I love everything about Wyoming especially the fact that people are so honest there. Who else would name a town Dead Bastard Peak, Crazy Woman Creek or Maggie’s Nipples? I’m told Ten Sleep, Wyoming, got its name from the Indians because they said the distance between two places was 20 “sleeps” away, or 20 nights, and Ten Sleep was therefore half way.

Some small towns named themselves like Bear Wallow, Arsenic Tubs, Happy Valley, Mud Lick, Wagon Mound, Burning Well, Crooked River, Iron Mountain, Dripping Springs, Oil Trough, Goose Lake and Dunmovin’. I can only imagine how Relief, Kentucky, got its name. Did someone have to pull over the wagon train to pee and decided that would be a good place to start a town?

I can’t think for the life of me why anyone would name their town Why, Arizona, or Why Not, Mississippi. Or Ding Dong, Texas, for that matter. I’ve been to towns called You Bet and Truth or Consequences, which was actually named after a TV game show. And I’m being truthful when I say there’s a town in Texas that shall go Nameless. Really, that’s its name… Nameless. I think the name Recluse, Montana, was named after me, but it existed long before I was born.

Pennsylvania sounds like a land of perverts when you consider some of their town names like Intercourse, Climax, Blue Ball, Virginville, Lover and Noodle Doosey. Some towns just want to be cute like Fountain, Penn., Noah’s, Ark., and Tin, Kan., but my favorite town name in my collection is Zzysx, California, which supposedly just wanted to be the last word in the English language. So I guess it’s only appropriate I let them have the last word.

Lee Pitts

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