Body Parts

On October 5, 2017 · 2 Comments

The more I thought about it, apparently body parts influenced an awful lot of geographic names. It seemed natural though. People liked to name things after familiar objects. What could be more familiar than the flesh right there in front of them? From head to feet and practically everywhere in between, I found spots on the map that shared those names. I focused on a small sample of some of the more interesting references.

Foot


A Portage to Freedom
A Portage to Freedom via TradingCardsNPS on Flickr (cc)

The name that began this latest search appeared in Pennsylvania. Imagine living in a place called Foot of Ten (map). Within this unincorporated village stood the Foot of Ten Independent Baptist Church. Its website solved the mystery.

The Pennsylvania Legislature authorized construction of a canal between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in 1826. This would do more than simply connect two cities, it would open a trade route between the eastern seaboard and the frontier. Pittsburgh offered direct access to the Ohio and Mississippi River watersheds. However, builders faced a problem, the Eastern Continental Divide atop the Allegheny Mountains. Tunnels or locks would not be feasible on such a massive scale.

Instead, the builders borrowed an idea from England, the use of inclined planes. I mentioned such structures in Tunnels, Bridges, Lifts and Inclines a few years ago. Here the solution became the Allegheny Portage Railroad. Barges loaded onto rail cars and went through a series of ten inclined planes; five uphill and five downhill. Then they resumed their canal ride on the other side. Pulleys and ropes helped move loaded rail cars between inclines, up and over the ridge. They named each incline numerically, from one to ten. A little village sprouted at the foot of Incline Ten. Not being terribly original, the village became Foot of Ten.


Knee


Wounded Knee South Dakota
Wounded Knee South Dakota. Photo by Adam Singer on Flickr (cc)

Wounded Knee leapt immediately to mind as I considered noteworthy examples. Wounded Knee Creek flowed into the White River in southwestern South Dakota (map). The name originated exactly as I thought. Rival groups of Native Americans clashed at that spot somewhere in the long forgotten past and one of the men suffered a wound to his knee. Thus, Wounded Knee. Those events happened well before Wounded Knee entered the lexicon for an entirely different reason.

Historians used to call an infamous 1890 incident the "Battle of Wounded Knee." More contemporary interpretations labeled it the "Wounded Knee Massacre." The exact sequence of events will likely never be known. By one account it began when U.S. Cavalry soldiers attempted to disarm members of the Lakota tribe at their encampment. One member of the tribe, being deaf, did not understand the soldiers’ intent. A struggle for his rifle and a possible accidental discharge began a shooting spree on both sides. The soldiers didn’t stop firing until 150 Lakota, including unarmed women and children, lay dead upon the frozen ground.


Backbone


Devils Backbone - Outpost
Devils Backbone – Outpost. My own Photo.

In Virginia, the small Devils Backbone brewery grew quickly, eventually large enough to be purchased by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2016. I’ve been to both their original brewpub location in Roseland and their "Outpost" production brewery outside of Lexington during my beer wanderings. Naturally I wondered about the unusual name. Did it come from the geography of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains?


JeffFryDetail
Fry-Jefferson map” of Virginia (1751) via Wikimedia Commons, in the Public Domain

Actually, the name did indeed and it tied to a rather notable colonial-era accomplishment. The brewery’s website explained further.

On September 25, 1746, eight years before the French and Indian War, a party of forty set out from Bear Fence Mountain in the Blue Ridge on one of the most legendary land surveys in American history… Their task was to carve and measure a straight line, eighty-miles long through the wilderness, connecting the sources of the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers. This line was known as "The Fairfax Line."

I visited the northwestern terminus of that line at the Fairfax Stone last year.

The Geographic Names Information System listed several different Devils Backbones just in Virginia alone. Looking at the Fry-Jefferson Map of 1751, the one inspiring the brewery seemed to be the ridge on the western flank of the Shenandoah Valley (map). The survey line crossed what they called "The North Ridge alias the Devil’s Back Bone." not too far west of current Mount Jackson, the town with the awesome water tower.


Finger


Cayuga Lake
Cayuga Lake. My own photo.

So many interesting places existed throughout the world that I generally don’t travel to the same place more than once. I’ve made an exception for the Finger Lakes of New York. I’ve explored the region twice and I’d love to get there a third time. It’s that beautiful. These lakes earned their name for their appearance, like fingers pressed upon the earth.



Glaciation, as one might expect, created these lakes. Glaciers during the most recent ice age pushed down through north-south valleys. Their southward flow accentuated these valleys and left deep, broad troughs behind. They also pushed debris to their farthest extremes. When the glaciers retreated, those large debris moraines became natural dams. Water filled the troughs, and behold, the Finger Lakes appeared. Creeks and rivers left hanging after ice retreated created amazing waterfalls like Taughannock Falls, Watkins Glen and Buttermilk Falls.


So Many More

I could go on-and-on although it’s probably time to stop. Heads, teeth, mouths, elbows and lots of other body parts appeared across the landscape. I so wanted to add Liverpool. Unfortunately, Liverpool was not named for the liver. It came from the Old English word "lifer," meaning "thick, clotted water." Yuk. Even a liver sounded more attractive.

Center of the Nation, Part 4 (Terrain)

On October 7, 2015 · Comments Off on Center of the Nation, Part 4 (Terrain)

There weren’t a lot of people on the Northern Plains and their settlements appeared only sporadically. Out there amongst the expansive void a place of a thousand residents would be called a city and drivers might not see another one for an hour. I wondered, where did people even buy their groceries? That didn’t mean the space was lacking in interests. The terrain, so alien from my normal experiences became the prime attraction.

Mount Rushmore


Mount Rushmore

I treated Mt. Rushmore (map) as a do-over. Me and some friends rented a recreational vehicle and drove around the United States visiting many of its famous national parks long ago in 1992. I recounted a small portion of that journey in Crossing of South Dakota on Interstate 90 on my travel pages. It included a stop at Mt. Rushmore where I recalled feeling underwhelmed. The massive sculpture seemed so small and distant, a disappointment. And couldn’t they have cleared the debris pile? Would I still feel this way, an older and hopefully slightly wiser version of myself almost a quarter century later?

At least I brought a better camera. This was the best we could manage with a cheap Kodak Instamatic point-and-shoot film camera during the pre-digital days of my previous effort:


Visiting Mt. Rushmore
My Earlier Visit to Mt. Rushmore in 1992

I’d downplayed the experience so much that I created low expectations for my wife who’d never seen the sculpture. She felt we had to go there despite my minimal enthusiasm because she couldn’t conceive of driving directly through the Black Hills without stopping at Mt. Rushmore. It was one of those sites, she noted, that all Americans needed to experience at least once in their lifetimes. I grumbled a bit and muttered that she might be disappointed although I didn’t disagree with her logic. We drove up to the park, still mobbed with tourists even after Labor Day, and walked towards the viewing deck as we pushed past disgorging busloads. I didn’t have anything better to do I figured, while I tried to clear away my earlier impressions. Yes, it was better than my past experience although the entire notion of defacing a mountain in the middle of nowhere still seemed weird. My wife thought it was incredible, I’m guessing because the genuine version eclipsed the negative vibe I’d so carefully crafted ahead of time.


Crazy Horse


Crazy Horse

Several loyal Twelve Mile Circle readers suggested that I should visit the Crazy Horse Memorial (map), just a short hop from Rushmore. Sure, why not. People seemed to enjoy carving outcrops with giant sculptures in the Black Hills. I might as well take a peek at their handiwork.

Crazy Horse’s emerging presence on Thunderhead Mountain served as a fitting counterweight to the image of US presidents appearing on Mt. Rushmore. It represented the point of view of the original inhabitants, the Oglala Lakota of the Great Sioux Nation. Many of them resented everything Mt. Rushmore presented, the defiling of a sacred mountain with gigantic sculptures of their oppressors. The insult couldn’t be removed although they could commission an even bigger and better sculpture of their war leader Crazy Horse (~1840-1877) who resisted territorial encroachment and died battling US troops. It was more sensible than carving an oversized middle finger although I wouldn’t blamed them if they’d done that instead.

Work began in 1948. Much remains undone. The current sculptors dedicated Crazy Horse’s face in 1998 and moved on to the horse. When finished, Crazy Horse will sit atop his steed with arm pointed forward. The sculpture will stand 563 feet (172 m) high and 641 feet (195 m) wide, possibly the largest in the world. They have not accepted any Federal funding in order to maintain independence. The project continues to move slowly as money allows. Crazy Horse won’t emerge completely during our lifetimes and maybe not even in the lifetimes of our children at the current pace.


Theodore Roosevelt National Park


Theodore Roosevelt National Park

I mentioned earlier that I took a detour to Theodore Roosevelt National Park (map) mostly as a pretext to capture a couple of extra counties I’d never visited before. What a lucky decision. The park was practically empty, an otherworldly corner of North Dakota’s badlands. We hit the southern unit based in the town of Medora. I didn’t have much to say about Medora because it seemed like they rolled-up the sidewalks after Labor Day. I had a tough time even finding a sandwich for lunch. The place looked nice enough in a faux old-timey "western" kind of way although it resembled a ghost town in mid-September.

We drove into the park and took the 36-mile (58km) Scenic Loop Drive. A word of caution, when signs posted a 25 mph speed limit they meant every word of it even along the completely empty back section. Thank you Mr. Park Ranger for, ahem, letting me off with a verbal warning when I truly deserved a ticket. Much obliged.

The loop offered several scenic overlooks, some right by the road and others needing short simple hikes. My favorite was called the Wild Canyon Trail and it led to a bluff high above the Little Missouri River. The park was noted for its wildlife although we didn’t experience much of that other than a few prairie dogs and a small herd of wild horses. We didn’t see the famed bison although several hundred roamed freely there. It became a running joke for much of the rest of the trip until days later when our luck improved in the Black Hills. Instead we were left with the incredible scenery which more than held its own ground.


Bison
See! Pixilated Bison!

Ironically, as I leafed through photographs upon our return, I noticed a few black dots and zoomed way in. They were bison. The bison were always present during our visit to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and ready to be discovered if we’d only looked a little harder.


Devils Tower


Devils Tower

This was my second trip to Devils Tower (map), seen previously on that same epic journey as my original visit to Mt. Rushmore. In contrast I recalled being awed by Devils Tower, a thousand foot (300 m) remnant of an ancient volcanic plug. Once again I walked around its base, neck craned skyward in appreciation of the spectacle and searching for climbers working their way to the top. We didn’t stay overnight so I couldn’t confirm if the campground still screened "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" every evening or not. I bet they did.


Big Sky


Montana State Line

Most of the terrain lacked the dramatic flair of badlands, mountains and extinct volcanoes. There was a vast emptiness all the way to the horizon, hour after hour. I never got bored. The loneliness fascinated me. Once I drove a hundred miles (160 km) from the Montana border (map) to the town of Baker mid-afternoon with perfect weather. I never saw another car in my lane ahead of me or behind me the entire time. Maybe a half dozen cars drove past in the opposite direction. That was some serious Big Sky.


Center of the Nation articles:

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

Bogus

On January 21, 2015 · Comments Off on Bogus

The word "bogus" had a murky history. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it may have dated back as far as 1827, used in Ohio as a slang term for a counterfeiter’s apparatus. It was the name of a machine used to manufacture fake coins. Bogus came to mean counterfeit or fake in a more general sense, and alternately disappointing or unfair.

Some trace this to tantrabobus, also tantrabogus, a late 18c. colloquial Vermont word for any odd-looking object, in later 19c. use; "the devil," which might be connected to tantarabobs, recorded as a Devonshire name for the devil.

Supposing that, it might share a common origin with bogey which is known more familiarly as the root of bogeyman. A bogus bogeyman would be a strange contradiction, however.



It will reveal both my relative age and my level of maturity (or lack thereof) if I mention that bogus appeared prominently in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989). As in,

Evil Duke: Put them in the iron maiden.
Ted: Iron Maiden?
Bill, Ted: Excellent!
[air guitar]
Evil Duke: Execute them.
Bill, Ted: Bogus!

Apparently there was also a sequel called Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991). I never watched that one. Not every sequel can be like The Godfather Part II and the original Bill & Ted’s certainly wasn’t The Godfather. Keanu Reeves (Ted) of course went on to bigger and better roles. Alex Winter (Bill), well, hopefully he invested wisely and is leading a nice life somewhere.

That was quite a roundabout tangent even for 12MC. Hopefully it provided the necessary context to appreciate the absurdity of places named Bogus.


Bogus Basin, Idaho


Bogus Basin Panorama
Bogus Basin Panorama by Jim Larson, on Flickr (cc)

Bogus spots were confined almost entirely to the United States. I’m not surprised given the origin of the word. I first came across such a Bogus place when I traveled to Boise, Idaho a number of years and noticed references to the Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area. It was founded by a nonprofit organization "established by the Boise community in 1942." Its a ski resort operated by local interests, with 53 runs and a vertical rise of 1800 feet (550 metres).

Bogus Basin (map) came by the name honestly. It actually referred to fakery. The hills gleamed with gold, or more accurately gold-colored pyrite or "fools gold." There were tales of people who believed they’d found gold only to be disappointed after investing in mines. There were other stories of nefarious swindlers and their dirty tricks designed to defraud people. The Boise City Department of Arts and History mentioned,

Bogus Basin got its name from a group of con-artists in the late 1800s who created fake gold dust in the same area as the Bogus Basin recreation area. These con-artists would melt silver, sand and a small amount of gold and sell it for $14 an ounce.

Bogus Basin was a strange name for a ski resort albeit one with genuine historical roots.


Bogus Brook Township, Minnesota



Bogus Brook, Mille Lacs Co., Minnesota, USA

Bogus Brook Township in Mille Lacs (thousand lakes) County in Minnesota sounded promising. Indeed, a stream named Bogus Brook (map) ran directly through the township. It seemed strange that the township selected Bogus Brook for its name when the Rum River, a much larger body of water also ran through it. Maybe residents didn’t want to live in a place named for demon rum.

Actually the Rum River became rather controversial in recent years, leading to an organized name-change movement. The Lakota named the river Wahkon originally, the Great Spirit River, and it was considered a sacred body of water. Settlers of European descent thought it might be clever to create a pun by using spirit in the sense of alcohol and renamed it Rum River. Native inhabitants considered that usage insulting and profane.

Bogus Brook was probably a better choice for the township.


Bogus Elementary School, Montague, California



Imagine attending Bogus Elementary School in California (map). It seemed like the name might be a liability although the school sounded pretty interesting:

Is your child lost in a large class size? Bogus Elementary School has one classroom, one teacher, and 12 students… All children get to participate in our winter ski/snow board program for free.

There were a number of Bogus features nearby including Bogus Mountain, Bogus Creek and Bogus Burn. Any one of those could have inspired the Bogus name for a school. I also noticed it was located near one of those checkerboard patterns, which wasn’t particularly germane to this article, just an interesting fact I noticed along the way.

I found only three Bogus places outside of the United States, all in Canada: Lac Bogus in Québec (map); Bogus Lake in Ontario (map); and Bogus Hole in Nova Scotia (map). Information was scarce. The most prominent mention of a Bogus lake in Ontario led to "Lake Ontario Shark Video Is Just As Fake As It Looks." It reminded me of I Call Bull Shark.

I think it’s time to revive the word tantrabogus.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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