It occurred to me as we finished up our recent trip in Colon MI, that Colon, is a very strange and slightly risque name for a town. Place names can be strange but since we grew up close to that lake town, I guess we never really considered how strange it is or why anyone would choose an anatomical part to name a town. I’m not sure about the answers to any of these questions, except that perhaps the town was named after Colon, Panama.

Well, OK, I confess. I got that from Wikipedi, and we all know how true and accurate that information is. It also occurred to me that we passed by a lot of interesting place names on this trip. At least they were interesting to me and so I decided to share them with all of my many fans. Some require a little extra information, but most are self-explanatory.

Show Low, AZ, is where our trip started and, according to legend, the city’s unusual name resulted from a marathon poker game between Corydon E. Cooley and Marion Clark. The two ranchers were partners in a 100,000 acre ranch and decided that the area was not large enough for the two of them. They’d decide who got it by playing poker, and the winner took all. After playing all day with no end of the game in sight, Cooley finally said, “If you can show low, you win.”

Clark won the bet by drawing a deuce of clubs, the lowest card in the deck and reportedly said, “Show Low it is.” There’s even a bronze statue of them in a little park downtown to commemorate the occasion.

Snowflake, AZ, lies just up the road a short way from Show Low. You may think you have an idea how this mountain town got its name, but you would probably be wrong. As it turns out, two Mormon pioneers, Erastus Snow and William Flake founded the town in 1878. In fact, Flake remains a pretty prominent name. Today, Jeff Flake serves as one of Arizona’s Senator in Washington D.C.

Heading East into New Mexico, we soon come to Pie Town. I don’t know much about Pie Town except there is a small store or restaurant there. And what else – they’re, reportedly, known throughout this part of the state for selling great pies. You’d better hope they also sell lunch, because this wide-spot-in-the-road is in the middle of nowhere!

Originally called Hot Springs, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, changed its name after the host of the radio quiz show, Truth or Consequences, announced that he would air the program on its 10th anniversary from the first town that renamed itself after the show. The people (or at least the mayor) of Hot Springs wanted to put the town on the map, so they submitted their claim, and Hot Springs won the contest. The name stuck. They’re still called Truth or Consequences.

Van Horn, TX…I don’t know…what? As opposed to truck horn? A car horn? A cow horn?

Kirby, TX…Nothing really strange about this name, except it made me think of our daughter who is married to Dennis Kirby and they have a whole passel of Kirbys who live around them. In fact, we tease them about living in Kirbyville. They do seem to have gotten around, though. There’s hardly a city that we’ve driven through that doesn’t have a street, avenue, drive or boulevard named Kirby.

Grosse Tete’, LA…Here again, if you’ve heard of the Grand Tetons, you probably think you know what this name means. But, unless you know French really well, you’re probably wrong. It has nothing to do with the female form, and simply means large head; nobody seems to remember to whom or what it referred. With a population of only 670, its only claim to fame used to be stuck in a cage at the Tiger Truck Stop.

place names Mike the Tiger
Mike the Tiger

Unfortunately, the famous and ferocious mascot that honors LSU died fairly recently, and animal rights activists have been successful at blocking them from getting another one.

Atchafalaya Basin Bridge in LA, is a 29 mile long bridge on I-10 that opened in 1973, with a name you would never guess how to pronounce. Let me just say…you really need to know your French if you plan to stay  in Louisiana, for very long, or no one will know where you want to go when you ask for directions. Like 80% of all Louisiana town names, this one’s not pronounced like it looks either. The locals know real quick you’re not a native if you call it the “Atch-a-fa-LAY-a” like we did when we first got there. So, unless you call it the “Chaf-a-LYE’-a” River, you might as well wear a neon sign that blinks and announces to the world you’re a TOURIST.

Tillatoba, MS…I really have nothing on this one. I just thought it was an interesting sounding name.

Senatobia, MS…I thought, maybe, this was where Mississippi senators come from. But, actually, it’s a corrupted Chickasaw word meaning, “white sycamore.”

Duck Hill, MS, has nothing to do with duck hunting. It is actually named for a large hill northeast of the town, where a Choctaw chief named “Duck” held war councils.

place names Bucksnort TN
Bucksnort TN

Bucksnort, TN, has to be one of my all-time favorite place names. This is a small community, and I don’t think you could call it a town, but from I-40, you can see a gas station and an “adult” bookstore. We did see a sign advertising a resort there, but I don’t think it was anywhere near the town. If you have ever heard a buck snort, you know it doesn’t last very long. I’d say just about as long as it takes you to pass through Bucksnort, TN.

Millersville, TN, makes the list just because I’m married to a Miller, and I think they established a town in about every state. That name seems to be about as prolific as rabbits.

Hickory Flat, KY…I’m not sure why this is included in my list, except, when I think hickory I don’t think flat, I think PAIN. As I child, I became intimately familiar with the hickory switches my ma used to keep handy.

Toad Suck Park, Mayflower, AR…I have no idea why anyone in their right mind would choose such a name, but I’m sure you can conjure up some thoughts. It does give rise to this question, though – do toads really suck?

Place Names, Lotawata
Lotawatah Rd

And then there’s Lotawatah Rd. in Oklahoma, just up the road a piece from a very big lake called Eufaula. I guess the message here could be “Careful! You fallah  into a lotta watah” – y’all’s on yer own!”

place names, Lake Eufaula
Lake Eufaula OK

OK, that’s my list, and there are TONS more. Feel free to comment and suggest your favorite additions.




  1. Grew up in PA…..Intercourse, PA
    Amish community. Have fun researching why the name.

    1. Yes Helen, brother-in-law Paul lives there. We’ve always had fun with that name along with a few others in Amish country PA. Thanks for reading..

  2. FUN! Am guessing that Climax, MI as well as Hell, MI probably would make the list!

    1. Hi Gwen, yes there are plenty of interesting names in MI. as well as unusual pronunciations like Mackinac and Sault Ste Marie. Thanks for reading!

  3. Very interesting piece. I have always wondered about place names as well. When we moved to MI, Colon was a puzzle to me, but I became used to it. Keep writin’. I look forward to reading next time.

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