guess you know the true story behind the founding of Amarillo?”
asked my old friend Larry Todd.
Being a native son and having written
about the city’s history, I figured I knew the story of Amarillo’s
genesis well enough. Essentially, it has to do with cattle and railroad tracks.
But it sounded like Larry had a good tale to tell, so I said, nope, I hadn’t heard
the real reason Amarillo came
“Way back there,” he began, “a wagon train was crossing the Panhandle.
They stopped for the night in about the middle, 10 or 12 miles north of Palo
Continuing, Larry explained that the wagon master circled
the wagons as a protection against hostile Indians and to keep the livestock from
wandering off during the night. That done, the pioneers collected enough buffalo
chips for their cooking fires and enjoyed a hearty supper after a long, hard day
of travel in a relentless wind that stung eyes and chapped lips.
the evening meal, the wagon master (picture Ward Bond in the old black-and-white
TV series “Wagon Train”) called everyone together and said:
dang wind stops blowing, we’ll just stay here.”
soon as I quit laughing, it occurred to me that Larry’s story was only the second
Texas place name
joke I had ever heard. But surely, given the several thousand towns
and cities in Texas, there are more such jokes.
Oddly, the only other
Texas town-origin joke I know has to do with how another Panhandle
community got its name.
In the case of this particular town, a pioneer
and his wife had set out alone on their westward journey. Traveling slowly across
the sea of grass that constituted the Panhandle
before it saw its first plow, the couple proceeded until the woman declared that
she needed to answer the call of nature.
Reining in their team, the man
looked at his wife and said, “Anywhere you want, dear.”
Surveying the desolate
landscape from the seat of their wagon, the pioneer woman saw no outhouse or any
other structure. In fact, the vast openness stretched from horizon to horizon.
“Right here in plain view?” she said.
And thus came to be the county seat
of Hale County, Plainview.
there’s a third joke involving the naming of a Panhandle community – Mobeetie.
Originally known as Sweetwater, the Wheeler County town couldn’t keep that name
because there’s another Sweetwater
downstate in Nolan County. So, the story goes, someone asked a reservation Kiowa
Indian from nearby Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) what the Indian word for “sweet
water” was. He said the rough translation would be “mobeetie” and the town had
a new name that stuck.
Sometime later, the joke goes, one of the residents
of the newly named county seat was walking across the street when another friendly
Indian who happened to be in town pointed to a large and very fresh cow pattie
the fellow unknowingly was about to plant one of his boots in.
step in the mobeetie,” the Indian cautioned.
as it is, the Panhandle can’t
be the only part of Texas with jokes about how some of its towns got their name.
If you know any other Texas place name jokes, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
and I’ll share them with other readers.
A possible fourth contender, though
it doesn’t speak to how the town got its name, is the old joke about two men who
stopped for a hamburger in the Limestone County town of Mexia.
“How do you pronounce the name of this place?” one of the men asked the woman
at the cash register.
“I beg your pardon,” she replied. “What do you mean?”
“We’re from out of state. How do you say where we are?”
what the customer was talking about, she spoke as slowly and distinctly as she
Cox - December 27, 2012 column
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