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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn E. Cook

Texas: Myths, Legends, and the Real Deal

Part 19, What Kind of a Name is That?


Sunset in West Texas


How do cities and towns get their names? Most wind up with something very basic, christened in honor of a local leader or hero, such as Austin or Houston. Many have added suffixes, -ville or -ton or -burg. But some towns are dubbed the oddest things, especially in West Texas and the Panhandle. Gluck. Jolly. Best. Why? My theory, the people who settled out there had to be tough, hardy, and unafraid of a challenge. So they wouldn’t dream of naming their settlements something as common as Smithburg or Ranchton or Farmville.


Let’s start with the village of Jolly. It’s located near Wichita Falls, almost to the border with Oklahoma. Size-wise, it covers an area of one square mile and in 2010, the population was an enormous 172. Surely, there isn’t much of a rush hour to fight. And no long lines at the grocery, if one exists. I couldn’t find any explanation as to the name, but a good assumption would be that the people living in Jolly must like it and thus, they’re all JOLLY.


Next up, there’s the unincorporated hamlet of Lazbuddie. I admit, that name on the Texas map really caught my attention. Lazbuddie is in the Panhandle, close to the border with New Mexico. In 1924, two friends, Luther Green, nicknamed “Laz,” and Andrew Sherley, nicknamed “Buddie,” decided to go into business together. (You can see where this is going.) They opened a store and named it The Lazbuddie Commissary. Their intention was to stock supplies for the few farmers and ranchers in the area.


Gradually, a community grew around the Commissary, which then housed the local post office and the only telephone for miles around. A school was built and the local children were educated from grade 1 through high school. In 1939, Lazbuddie High School graduated 14. In 2022, the high school graduated – 14. Not a lot of population growth. Lazbuddie’s claim to fame happened on May 10, 1991, when three (!) tornadoes hit the area and several farmers caught the storm on film!


In West Texas (not a part of the Panhandle), on the high plains of the Llano Estacado, you’ll find the town of Earth, another name that grabbed my eye. Also in 1924, it was begun by William E. Halsell. He named his fledgling metropolis Fairlawn. I imagine he was quite proud of his new town. Settlers came, so it had a good beginning. But they didn’t get to keep that Fairlawn name. In submitting to the Federal Post Office, it turned out that there already was a Fairlawn, Texas.


To come up with a different name, a contest was held. Folks were asked to submit possibilities. Ora Hume Reeves, owner of the first hotel in town, suggested “Good Earth”, because of the fertile soil. The contest judges decided that was the winner. However, in this second submission to the Federal Post Office, Miss Reeves had described a sandstorm blowing through the town. The Post Office clerk replied, “The earth seems to move in your country. You will call your post office Earth.” In 2020, Earth had a population of 1109, a fact that could certainly be misunderstood.




Happy was and still is a very small village. At its beginning, it was located quite some miles from Amarillo, but Amarillo grew and nowadays, Happy is much closer. It's also located in both Randall and Swisher counties.


This little community’s history goes back to the 19th century. A team of cowboys were out rounding up cattle and the canteens were running low. The boys were likely worried about that. Then they came upon a draw with water in it. What relief and excitement! (In the West, the term draw  designates a small stream that flows through a narrow, steep-sided valley or canyon. And in this part of the country, anywhere that has water is an important place.) So the boys were very happy over their discovery and called the stream Happy Draw. Over time, settlers came and a village grew. They took the name Happy and nowadays, the town motto is “The Town Without a Frown.”


Downtown, Happy, Texas

 

My personal favorite in this group is Muleshoe. Located in Bailey County, West Texas, Muleshoe was established in 1913 as a shipping point when the Pecos and Northern Texas Railway put down tracks across the county. As a town grew around the depot, someone decided to name it for the nearby Muleshoe Ranch. That means the true origin of the name is unknown, and thus, it always leaves you wondering.


The town of Muleshoe grew and the people wanted to do something to commemorate the name, based on the early settlers’ extensive use of mules in their farming. Those animals were highly valued for their strength and stamina. The folks collected money and arranged for a statue of a mule to be constructed. Upon completion in 1965, it was placed in a city park, including picnic tables and flowers. Five years later, the town population reached 5160, and that makes Muleshoe a big, little town!




Last of all, the strangest name I came across in my search is the unincorporated village of Elbow, eight miles south of Big Spring. What kind of a name is that? Your guess is as good as mine.


 

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