WHAT’S IN A NAME?

We traveled from Birch Bay to Everett, Washington. It rained. We woke to more of the same this morning.  Climate change is seeking revenge everywhere. Never a better time to enjoy a good book and cook soup. And, make plans for next year. New Mexico is beginning to sound like a good bet.

The book I just finished, where William Least Heat Moon  followed  highways on the map that are blue lines, was filled with observations about place names.  He frequently asked locals why a particular town was named what it was;  he sought them through rickety taverns,  cafes with four calendars,  hotels; he asked gas jockeys,children, waitresses, fishermen, and roadies to understand why people congregated in one place rather than another, and why they stayed.  He swallowed and tasted the local food, wisdom, jargon, opinions,  and names with pleasure and shared them with his readers, often helping pronounce the unpronounceable. And, signs also piled high in his vision.

I had the same fascination with place names as I traveled 14,000 miles last year in the motor home and another thousand or more in the “toad”.  (Toad is the vehicle towed behind the motorhome). My penchant for making lists of rivers, sloughs, bridges, and unusual town names, plus taking pictures of signs,  left me feeling validated by Heat Moon’s story.  My sign for yesterday in Birch Bay was this one: “A meeting is an event  where minutes are taken and hours are lost.” (Couldn’t get the picture.)

One from Heat Moon at Ida, Kentucky: Welcome All God’s Children:  Thieves, Liars, Gossips, Bigots, Adulterers, Children. He said he felt right at home.

And, some towns Heat Moon passed through:

Bearwallow, Belcher, Subtle, Neon, Decoy,  and Bug, Kentucky; Defeated, Difficult, Shakerag, Chuckey,  Wheel, Turtletown, Peeled Chestnut, Only, Cooketown,  and Nameless,  Tennessee;  Snowcamp, Silkhope , Swanquarter, North Carolina;  Thicketty, South Carolina.  Strange sounding names…I think there is a song  with that line…It does make you wonder.

 

 

 

 

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