Life is a Highway… To Borrow a Saying…

Since I have a front differential seal blown out and can’t get it fixed until Monday, I decided to do a blog entry instead of spinning my proverbial wheels worrying about the load I missed for this weekend.  One thing about trucking, nothing ever goes exactly the way one expects and I’m learning to sort of roll with the punches.  There are little bumps like this in every road that have to be dealt with on a daily basis.  Which got me thinking about roads in general…

In this business life really is a highway.  Or, to be more specific, a lot of highways.  Highways are interesting to me.  Not just because I’m in the trucking biz, but also because I inherited this internal mapping thing from my Daddy.

Once I’ve been over a road, I generally don’t forget it.  I pay attention to details along the road and somehow, my brain puts them in place along my mental map so when I go back through any particular area I’ve already seen, I can pretty well find my way around without having to consult a map.  It’s sort of like a big interconnected batch of lines in my head with landmarks that pop up for me pretty much on demand.

Along the way, I’ve noticed that every one of those highways has a personality of it’s own.  Not only that, but every state has some interesting place, road, creek, and river names that one might see while traipsing around on those highways.

Now, I like words, and I tend to like unusually named things.  Like Peculiar, Missouri for example.  How the heck did they come up with that one?

Well, I checked on that.  Evidently, one of the first postmasters wanted to call Peculiar by another name.  And that name, and others that were submitted for approval were rejected.  In the end, this frustrated man finally said something to the effect of, “I don’t care what you call it as long as it’s a peculiar name.”  So Peculiar it became, and the name stuck.

A lot of places especially in the old Indian Territory have Indian sounding names.  Chickasha, Wapanucka, Tishomingo, well, you get the idea.  Now some of these names actually are Indian words and tribe names, while others are misspellings or sound-alikes.

Chickasha is said by some to mean “rebel”  but could also be just a misspelling of  the tribe name, Chickasaw.

Wapanucka is supposedly derived from the Algonquin word, “Wapanachki”  which was the name the Algonquins called their neighbors, the Delaware Indians, who settled near a creek in Indian Territory.  That creek became known as Wapanucka Creek which actually gave the town of Wapanucka its name.  Today the creek is called Delaware Creek which sort of takes the whole name thing around in a neat and tidy circle.

One of my personal favorites in the road name world is Bugscuffle Road down southwest of Bowie, Texas.  Who came up with that one?  I guess a lot of people like it, since there are similarly named places in Tennessee, Arkansas, New Mexico, and other parts of Texas.  What the heck does it mean?

Well, according to modern internet sources, it is a public argument between two people of low character (particulary between so-called “celebrities,” and I’m picturing reality TV people having a loud, obnoxious, embarrassingly stupid spat in a high profile restaurant in LA…)

Somehow I don’t think this was the original meaning.  I mean, can you imagine anyone wanting to live anywhere with a place name that had that connotation?   Then again, maybe it wasn’t the original residents who named it, but their higher-falutin’ neighbors down the road dissing on them…

Naw,… I think the most likely origin of this particular place name is probably from the old story that people were standing around waiting for something, and someone noticed a couple of dung beetles fighting over a dung ball.  In their boredom the people decided to bet on which bug would win the scuffle.  Once the story got around, people referred to that particular spot as the place where the bugs scuffled, and it got abbreviated to just “Bug Scuffle.”  Now, I may be wrong, but  I’m operating on the old law enforcement theory that the simplest explanation is likely the true one.   Explanations don’t get much simpler that this one.

Then again, maybe they do.  Some place names are perfectly descriptive of the place without any frills.

A good example of this is “Stink Creek”.  There are Stink Creeks all over the place.  Apparently there are a lot of stinky waterways cris-crossing this country and people who named them just called them as they, well, smelled them.

And people were no less descriptive in naming the many “Muddy Boggy Creeks” that I’ve seen all over the south.  I can picture some farmer trying to free his mud bogged wagon spitting out some choice words to go along with the “Muddy Boggy” descriptors…

My sister was nice enough to provide me with her favorite place name, Toad Suck, Arkansas.  I had to look up the origins of this one!  The “official” story is that men from the boats would stop at a tavern near this spot waiting for the river to rise or fall, and they drank so much they swelled up like toads.  Hmmm… I don’t know if I buy that one, but that’s Arkansas’ story, and they seem to be sticking to it.

I also like places with names that my family shares.  I’m a genealogy buff, so when I see a Calfee Road, Billingsley Road, Burt Mountain, or any place with Harper included in the title it sets me to wondering.  The only two of these I can actually trace back with family connections are Billingsley Road in southern Maryland and Burt Mountain in Stephens County Oklahoma.

The Billingsley family made their start in the pre-revolutionary era in the new world in Maryland and my particular ancestor from this clan eventually settled in Alabama.  The Burts were from that same area in Alabama and came out to Indian Territory around 1886, and Burt Mountain (not mapped, by the way, just known by a handful of old locals) was called after two brothers (one was my 4th great-grandpa) who built a store and post office on the site for the man who owned the land.  Back around the turn of the last century, there was a farming community in the area and it was known as Burt, I.T., and later, Burt, Oklahoma.  There’s nothing much left there today.

Which brings me pretty much back to my original point.  Every highway leads to a place that means something to someone, and marks the passage of our ancestors who spread out over this land and left their mark on it.

I suppose that’s why I get off the interstate every chance I get.  I like driving on all of the little highways and poking around exploring places that are new to me.  There’s always something interesting to see and learn, which keeps my imagination going.  It also makes the time I spend getting from one place to another more than just another run.  It makes my work, well, a whole lot more like fun.


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