Sunday, April 11, 2010

Toad Suck and Booger Hollow

QUESTION: What do the following three lists have in common?

LIST #1 – England, Scotland, Sweden, Denmark, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Jerusalem, Damascus, London, Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Dallas, Houston, Hollywood, Delaware, Kentucky, Kansas, Washington, Northern Ohio

LIST #2 – Ain, Alf, Aly, Amy, Apt, Ard, Bay, Ben, Coy, Day, Fox, Gid, Hon, Ida, Imo, Ink, Ivy, Joy, Kay, Keo, Meg, Rex, Roe, Rye, Tag, Tip, Ulm, Uno, Van, Wye

LIST #3 – Toad Suck, Oil Trough, Marked Tree, Booger Hollow, Greasy Corner, Turkey Scratch, Three Way, Lick Branch, Old Joe, Old Jenny Lind, Point Peter, Hog Jaw, Gum Log, Half Moon, One Horse Store, Number Nine, Twenty-three, Fifty-six, Morning Sun, Evening Shade, Possum Grape, Monkey Run

ANSWER: They are all towns in Arkansas.

Arkansas is known as the natural state. It's also the state where naming towns ranks very high on the Weird-O-Meter.

Many years ago, a Polk County schoolteacher sent out notices to suggest names for the new post office, requesting that they “write in ink” – thus the town of Ink came into being.

In 1811, a group of hunters camped along the White River near Batesville. They killed over 100 bears for their oil, a valuable commodity at the time. When they ran out of buckets to accumulate the oil they fashioned troughs to store it until shipment downstream could be arranged. Thus the community of Oil Trough was born.

On the bank of the St. Francis River in Poinsett County a large tree once contained slashes marking the best place for early settlers to cross the river. In 1890, the tree was washed away in a flood, but the town of Marked Tree still exists. Nowadays, most folks usually cross on the bridge.

In early America, “Boogie-man” was a term used by people who had the parenting skills of a head of lettuce and wanted to scare their kids. In the mountainous region of northwest Arkansas, the term was eventually changed to “Boogie-bear” and later dropped to “Booger.” Whoever named Booger Hollow obviously didn’t want any kids snooping around. They probably didn’t want any revenuers poking around either.

There was once a steamboat landing on the Arkansas River where a popular tavern attracted many river boatmen to suck whiskey until they swelled up like toads. The eventual name of the town, Toad Suck, was derived from a French term meaning “a narrow channel in the river.” Since no one full of whiskey could understand French anyway, the name "Toad Suck" stuck.

Arkansas is a land of rocks. You will discover this if you ever try to dig a posthole for your mailbox. Thus many towns are named after rocks, such as Black Rock, Calico Rock, Flat Rock, Galla Rock, Gray Rock, Little Rock, North Little Rock, Sulphur Rock, White Rock, Rock Hill, Rock Springs and Rocky Mound. Madison County has a town named Rock – the guy who had the list of adjectives was probably missing during the meeting to name the town.

Like most other states in the USA, many town names carried over from the language used by the original Native American inhabitants to refer to the area. In Arkansas, these include Okolona, Ogenaw, Osceola, Pawheen, Wabbaseka, Washita, Watalula and Wampoo. If I'm not mistaken, Watalula means "white man move in and spoil the neighborhood."

Three Way is an interesting name for a town. I remember a long weekend I had many moons ago with a couple of twins from Lick Branch named Bertha and Beulah, the Butt sisters. Every time one of us had the urge to do something different (such as change channels on TV or whatever), we would yell “Tag Hon” -- turns out that Tag and Hon are Arkansas town names too. Go figure.

It’s a strange world full of coincidences and synchronicities. I even know a woman from Scotland and Hollywood. Both are Arkansas towns but she is from the real deal, in different lifetimes. In Scotland, you’re born with a sense of honor. In Hollywood, you’re born with a sense of make-believe. In Arkansas, you’re born with a sense of raising chickens.

I've lived in Arkansas for nearly 20 years now, a few miles outside of Salem in Fulton County. There is also Salem in Lee County, Salem in Pike County, Salem in Saline County and Salem in Ouachita County. Apparently, there's a rule in Arkansas that you can't use the same name for towns more times than you have fingers on your left hand.

In Arkansas, the value of your pickup truck goes up and down depending on how much gas you have in the tank. If you think that’s weird, wait until you meet some of the folks who live there. And be sure to drive carefully through Greasy Corner.

Quote for the Day -- “It depends on what the word is is.” Bill Clinton (famous Arkansan)

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and is midway between Scotland and Hollywood, as the crow flies. His blogs appear on several websites, including

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