There are many odd names given to American towns. Ruth and I have been to Show Low and Gila Bend to name a few. The 4 strangely named places I am documenting today all have a water connection.
Muscle Shoals is in the state of Mississippi in the Tuscumbia area. Muscle Shoals is a town of about 13,000 people. It’s on the Tennessee River and has the nickname “The Niagara of the South”. One of the theories concerning its name has Native American roots. Some of the Indian canoeists moving upstream found the current of the Tennessee River too strong. Not to be confused with mussels, it takes muscle to overcome a strong current, and shoals are under-the-water accumulations of sediment in a river. Hence, Muscle Shoals, MS.
Ruth and I have spent the night in Gila Bend. The best landmark in town is an outer-space-themed motel that has been around for a long time. However, the name of this town of fewer than 2,000 people about 70 miles west of Phoenix derives from a bend in the Gila River where tired travelers could rest before proceeding. A gila is a slow moving, poisonous lizard that is common to this part of the world. Gila is usually followed by the word monster.
Arkansas has a lot of colorfully named towns. There are towns named Little Flock, Pea Ridge, and Fifty-Six in this state. My very first travel destination was Pocahontas, AR. There is a town called Bald Knob where about 3,000 Arkansans live northeast of Little Rock on the White River. A bald knob can be the head of a hairless male or a stone outcrop along a river that becomes a natural landmark. I’m sure Bald Knob, AR has both.
Arkansas State also has a town called Smackover. It’s in the southern part of the state near El Dorado. This name, like so many others, derives from a misinterpretation of the French language. There’s a river near where I grew up in Missouri that we all called the Quiver River. It’s real name was Quivre. The Arkansas town of Smackover is on Smackover Creek. There were so many sumac trees or bushes in this area that the French settlers called the place Sumac Couvert, which overtime evolved into Smackover. Like dogwoods, Sumacs were plentiful in Missouri. The first sign of autumn was the sumancs turning red. I miss both plants in the Northwest. It has sumacs but they only grow east of the Cascade Mountains.
I’ll save Honeypot Glen, a real town in Connecticut, for another day.