Playing Games

On October 6, 2016 · Comments Off on Playing Games

Twelve Mile Circle felt like playing games. More to the point, I’d collected a few town names tied to games that I wanted to share. I did something similar awhile ago with the sport of Lawn Bowls, a particularly popular choice for names. Atlantic City also made the cut with Monopoly although the town inspired the game rather than the other way around.

Show Low, Arizona

Cooley and Clark card game statue
Cooley and Clark card game statue. Photo by TJ from AZ on Flickr (cc)

Show Low got me thinking. I’d spotted the town in eastern Arizona’s Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. I figured it hid an interesting story given its strange name and indeed it did. Two ranchers, Corydon Cooley and Marion Clark, owned a large property jointly in 1876. They discovered, however, that it wouldn’t support both of their families. Neither wanted to leave so they let fate pick the winner with a poker game. As the Town’s website explained,

Show Low was named after a marathon poker game played between two early settlers. They decided there wasn’t enough room for both of them in the community and agreed to let a game of cards decide who was to get the 100,000 acre ranch and who was to move on. According to the story, one of them said, "If you can show low, you win." The other one turned up the deuce of clubs and replied, "show low it is."

Nothing could go lower than the deuce of clubs so the game ended. Cooley won. He renamed the ranch Show Low to commemorate his victory and the town later adopted it. That seemed fitting in the Old West where stories like those abounded. The town embraced its history too. They called their primary road, a segment of U.S. Route 60, Deuce of Clubs (map). Lots of local businesses used the name and the town logo featured an appropriate playing card.

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Ralph Edwards park gazebo. Photo by Tim Kuzdrowski on Flickr (cc)

The map said Truth or Consequences although locals called it T or C (map). Either way, it definitely seemed like an odd name for a town. I thought I’d mentioned this one before, however it seemed that it never actually made it into a 12MC article. Loyal reader Peter did mention T or C in a comment about a year ago referring to its old name, Hot Springs. Well, Hot Springs certainly sounded normal, so what happened?

I supposed with a relatively common name like Hot Springs, the town wanted to try something a little bit more unusual. A radio program popular at the time, Truth or Consequences, offered a contest. Its host, Ralph Edwards, would broadcast the show’s 10th anniversary episode live from any town that would change its name to match the show. Hot Springs jumped at the chance and the broadcast took place on April 1, 1950. The town impressed Edwards so much that he returned every May for the next half-century for an Annual Fiesta. T or C returned the love, naming an auditorium and a park for Edwards.

Poker Flat and The Shores of Poker Flat, California

Bret Harte (by Sarony, 1872)
Bret Harte (by Sarony, 1872). Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain

Bret Harte wrote colorful stories of the California Gold Rush in the second half of the 19th Century. He published one his most famous short stories "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" in Overland Monthly magazine in 1869. Go ahead and read it. This shouldn’t take more than about ten minutes. I’ll wait for you until you get back.

A community called The Shores of Poker Flat claimed to be the inspiration for the story. It even included a Bret Harte Drive (map). However, evidence seemed to point to another Poker Flat found elsewhere in California (map). That one became a ghost town many decades ago.

You didn’t read the story, did you? Let me synopsize. A gold rush town wished to rid itself of negative influences. They hanged a couple of miscreants and exiled four others. The exiles left town, warned to stay away forever. They trudged into the mountains and met a couple traveling in the opposite direction. Tired, the expanded group set camp in an abandoned cabin as it began to snow. They remained trapped for several days as provisions waned and stakes became increasingly desperate. One of the prime characters, the professional gambler John Oakhurst, was found dead at the end of the story. He’d committed suicide "with a Derringer by his side and a bullet in his heart." There he sat beneath a pine tree, with "the deuce of clubs pinned to the bark with a bowie-knife."

There was that deuce of clubs again. He showed low, his luck ran out.

Where’s Waldo?

On August 10, 2016 · 4 Comments

I selected US Route 23 through Ohio as we drove back from Michigan. This would have been a long detour in normal circumstances. However I wanted to count a few new counties so I cut through a quiet slice of the state. Hours passed, boredom hovered nearby and I invented little non sequiturs to pass the time.

Lame Dad Joke

Where's Waldo?
Where's Waldo? Photo by Barbara Friedman on Flickr (cc)

Lame Dad Jokes became routine. I’m a trained master of Dad Jokes, the worse the better. Each new attempt drew eye rolls from the back seat and only encouraged me more. Then I found Waldo (map). I rarely spotted Waldo in those puzzle pictures. My brain didn’t work that way. Even so I clearly noticed a large sign pointing to a highway exit for Waldo, the township in Marion County, Ohio. A repeated string of "Where’s Waldo? — There’s Waldo" left my lips as I pointed to the sign to the kids’ complete indifference. Barely 300 people lived in Waldo although that made little difference. I only needed that large green side along a lonely highway as entertainment for the next fifteen minutes.

According to The History of Marion County, Ohio (1883), "Waldo was laid out in 1831, by Milo D. Pettibone, and named after his son Waldo." I felt sorry for a family with a Milo and a Waldo. I supposed if someone named me Milo I’d also call my kid Waldo out of spite.

Waldo, Maine

Fort Knox
Fort Knox, Waldo County, Maine. My own photo.

The search for more Waldos began in earnest once I returned. I didn’t realize I’d already captured one, a big one, in Maine (map). Waldo County got its name from the colonial-era Waldo Patent, a land grant to an aristocratic military officer, Samuel Waldo. I traveled extensively through Maine several years ago. One day-trip brought me to Fort Knox — not the one with the gold — a different one. This Fort Knox perched high above the Penobscot River, protecting inland towns during the War of 1812. It sat adjacent to the very modern Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory. The views from the observatory deserved a detour.

Waldo, Florida

Florida, Waldo Police Department
Florida, Waldo Police Department. Photo by Abbott’s Patch Collection on Flickr (cc)

On the other hand, I’d probably try to avoid Waldo, Florida (map) although the situation improved recently. The Waldo police created quite a moneymaking operation at the height of their speed trap, one of the worst in the nation. CBS News reported that "Waldo’s seven police officers wrote nearly 12,000 speeding tickets [in 2013], collecting more than $400,000 in fines – a third of the town’s revenue." They also ran afoul of the law because they practiced a ticket quote system specifically prohibited by the State of Florida. Waldo disbanded its police force in 2014.

I’m still not sure I’d trust driving through there.

Waldo, Oregon

Some Waldos hid better than others. Oregon’s Waldo (map) disappeared by the 1930’s and quickly became a ghost town. It began with promise, even serving as the county’s seat of government during its heyday in the latter half of the 19th Century. Waldo depended on mining and the mines eventually played-out, and everyone left. Nothing remained except for a couple of cemeteries and an historical marker. The town started with a different name, Sailor’s Diggings, for the people who flocked there after the discovery of gold. They changed it to Waldo because of the most significant event in its brief history. The frontier hadn’t been mapped precisely. Nobody knew exactly where the border fell and residents assumed they lived in California. William Waldo, the Whig candidate for California governor thought so too. He came to Sailor’s Diggings to campaign in 1853.

Town officials with a sense of humor learned of the mistake and chose to honor Waldo, the man who courted California votes in Oregon.

Waldo Ballivián

The Waldo game could be played internationally too. A tiny sliver of Bolivia called Waldo Ballivián Municipality (map) existed in the Pacajes Province of the La Paz Department. Maybe a couple of thousand people lived there. I found a YouTube video featuring Waldo Ballivián. People danced, they packaged Quinoa and other Andean grains, they also talked a lot into a microphone. I couldn’t speak Spanish although they looked excited about something. Upon further digging and after liberal use of Google Translate it seemed they’d just received a new packaging machine. This would be quite useful in Waldo Ballivián, one of the poorest corners of the nation.

Rise and Fall of Idahome

On January 17, 2016 · Comments Off on Rise and Fall of Idahome

Interesting things pop-up unexpectedly as one searches for completely different topics. I wanted to find every town with a state name, a laborious manual process undertaken for Geographic Matryoshka with US States. Dutifully, I entered each name into the Geographical Names Information System (GNIS) one-by-one and tallied the results. My search for Idaho produced towns such as Idaho, NY; Idaho, ND; Idaho, OH; Idaho, PA and Idaho, TN. However there were other results on the screen because the values weren’t truncated. That’s when I noticed what I thought might be one of the better place names in the United States, the remarkable Idahome in Cassia County, Idaho.

Goodness knows I’ve always been captivated by a solid portmanteau. This was one of the best, a remarkable combination of Idaho and Home. There’s no place like home! I couldn’t think of any similar state combination. I supposed Utahome came close or maybe twist it a little more to create Ohiohome. Maybe the Arapaho tribe of Native Americans could create a place called Arapahome. Still, Idahome actually existed and it had been recorded as a placename by the U.S. government.

Idahome, Idaho

I should clarity that point. GNIS said Idahome existed. Boots on the ground might argue with that point. Sure it existed — in the past tense — although it existed in its current form only as a ghost town with a derelict grain elevator and the faint footprints of a few former residences.

Abandoned town site of Idahome by Linda Paul on Flickr (cc)

What could have possibly happened to a place with such a noteworthy name? An historical marker placed on Highway 81 at the old townsite (map) provided a nice summary:

After wheat crops flourished in this dry farm area, Idahome sprang up here in 1916 as a railroad terminal. Irrigation projects boosted its economy. When wheat farms disappeared and highway traffic replaced rail service here, Idahome became a ghost town. Its grain elevators, lumberyards, stores, airport, oil company, school, newspaper and people are only past memories. An elevator and a few building foundations mark its site.

Wikipedia also had a minor Idahome entry although it contained an unsubstantiated claim. "The community was named by a railroad surveying party that found a bag labeled ‘Idahome Flour Co.’ at the site; the railroad made the place a stop with the flour company’s name." That sounded fine although in apocryphal terms. Evidence contemporary with the flourishing of Idahome in the early Twentieth Century contradicted the formative fable. Imagine that. An assertion made on Wikipedia without attribution proving to be wrong.

IdaHome Flour Building
IdaHome Flour Building by Nicholas D. on Flickr (cc)

Idahome was an obscure locale even when it thrived although it left a small paper trail in its wake that was captured by Google Books. Idahome wasn’t the name of a flour company originally, it was a brand used for wheat flour by the The Twin Falls Milling & Elev., Co. of Twin Falls, Idaho, as noted in the January 1912 edition of Northwestern Miller. Another publication of the period, The American Miller and Processor, elaborated further.

WHERE IDAHOME FLOUR IS MADE. The new plant of the Twin Falls Mill and Company, located at Twin Falls, Idaho, was started but a short time ago. The company is in possession of a new 400-barrel mill electrically operated, located in a brick building 36 by 64 feet, four stories high. The mill is thoroughly equipped with the latest mill machinery, eight stands of rolls, cleaners packers and all the various machines. The mill is so arranged that the capacity can be increased to 600 barrels if trade demands, and has been made for the adding of a plant to manufacture breakfast food of all kinds. A months before starting, the company held a contest offering a prize for the most acceptable name a flour, and as a result have accepted and patented the two names "Idahome" and "Shoshone Mist."

More important, the railroad didn’t name Idahome for a discarded bag, it was developed specifically as a terminal to serve the Idahome brand of flour. By 1918 the N.W. Ayer & Son’s American Newspaper Annual and Directory noted that Idahome had become a town of 300 people complete with the short-line railroad, telephone service, a bank, the mill and a sugar beet factory. It was also a local center for lead and silver mining as well as for agricultural pursuits including the grazing of sheep and cattle. At some point the name of the company did change to Idahome Grain & Produce Co. although that happened after the mill had been established and in any case the end was near. In 1919 the company moved to nearby Burly. Soon one of the best named locations in the nation began on its path towards oblivion.

It was too good for the name to simply die, though. Its memory lived on in Idahome Road, leading from the old town site to Interstate 84 (street view). There were also several likely unrelated mentions:

Most inexplicably, and I’m sure completely coincidentally, there was an Idahome Street in West Covina, California (map)

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