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The Origins of Weird State Park Names (Part Three)

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When you see these names, you tend to say to yourself, "Does that mean what it sounds like?" In most cases, no.

Bong


You've seen the sign, if not from the highway in Wisconsin, then on the internet. And you've heard the jokes about "recreation" involving either a water pipe for marijuana, or more recently a funnel for drinking beer. But if you follow the signs, you'll find the name of the place is actually the Richard Bong State Recreation Area. Its namesake, Major Richard Ira Bong, was called the "Ace of Aces." He flew 200 combat missions in the Pacific during World War II, scoring 40 victories. Bong was presented with the Medal of Honor in 1944, on top of a number of other wartime medals. He then became a test pilot for the Air Force and flew the P-80, which malfunctioned during a flight in 1945. Major Bong bailed out of the plane, but was too close to the ground for his parachute to deploy properly, and he died on impact. The Richard Bong State Recreation Area is just one of many memorials to the flying ace.

Big Bone Lick


Big Bone Lick State Park in northern Kentucky is famous for its name alone. It should be more famous for its fossils, since the area was once a swamp and home to all kinds of huge prehistoric animals like mammoths, mastodons, and ground sloths. A salt spring in the area attracts animals, who would come and lick the salt that was difficult to get in the rest of their diet. Hence, it was a "lick", the same name that sticks with other such areas. Native Americans also got salt there, and passed this tip on to a French Canadian named Baron de Longueil, who explored the area in 1739. A 1744 map marks the spot as the "place where they found the elephant bones in 1739." By then, the bones found at the lick were used for all kinds of purposes. Image by Wikipedia user Mattguyver.


When John Filson published the a map of Kentucky in 1784, the lick was labeled, as well as Big Bone Creek and "Salt Springs and Medicinal Spring the large Bones are found here."

Saddleback Butte


Saddleback Butte State Park near Lancaster, California might give you pause when you see the sign. When I saw this state park listing, the name struck me as a medical condition along the lines of tennis elbow, since the last time I spent all day in a saddle my butte was quite sore. It could also be a descriptive term for the appearance of a person's posterior, although not a flattering one. But this butte is pronounced beaut, which Americans should know because of the small city of Butte, Montana. It's a term for a geological formation, a hill distinguished by steep sides and a flat top, like a large rock set on a relatively flat plain. Those who've been to Saddleback Butte (or who've seen the pictures) say it looks nothing like a saddle and is hardly a butte. Someone lost to history thought up the name. Still, the park offers hiking trails up the hill to an elevation of 3,651 feet, with the reward of a spectacular view. Image by Wikipedia user Matt Jalbert.

Big Bottom


Big Bottom State Memorial Park in Stockport. Ohio is a park that commemorates the Big Bottom Massacre of 1791, a skirmish between Wyandot Indians and Ohio Company settlers that resulted in the deaths of 14 settlers. The Native Americans attacked in part because they resented the settlers encroachment upon the large fertile area on the Muskingum River. A "fertile area" on a river floodplain was commonly called "bottom land", and since the floodplain was extensive, the settlers called it Big Bottom. However, in the modern usage of the term, you don't want to pose with the sign if you are insecure about your weight.

Nimrod


Nimrod State Wildlife Management Area is named for Nimrod Lake in Arkansas. The lake was built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1940-42 by damming the Fourche LaFave River. They named the lake after Nimrod, the grandson of Noah, who, according to the Bible, was a mighty hunter. The area surrounding Lake Nimrod has plentiful game. Little did they know that the name Nimrod would later be a slang term for a clueless person.

Bogus Basin

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Bogus Bason State Park in Boise County, Idaho, is one of those names that, yes, means exactly what it sounds like. Bogus Basin was once a destination for gold miners. However, that gold was actually pyrite, or "fool's gold," which led to the name. Miners warned others away with the name, but colorful tales sprung up to explain the exact circumstances. In one, "Pan Handle Pete" and "Jughead Jake" sold the mining rights and skipped town in a hurry. Other legends have hucksters planting gold dust in the mines or broadcasting their nugget sales to fool other prospectors into buying a claim. Image by Flickr user Disodium.

Ha Ha Tonka

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Ha Ha Tonka State Park is near Camdenton, Missouri. If the name were spelled Hahatonka, we would all assume it has native origins like Minnesota or Mississippi. But the real story is even more interesting. Land speculator Robert Scott bought up a lot of Missouri wilderness in the 1890s, and wanted a better name for the area than Gunter Springs, so, inspired by the Longfellow poem "Hiawatha," he came up with Hahatonka. Scott said it was an Osage Indian name meaning "laughing waters," but there is no evidence to back up his story. Wealthy Missouri businessman Robert Snyder purchased 2,500 acres from Scott in 1904 and started building a castle, intending it as a resort area. But Snyder died in 1906, and the castle (completed in 1922) burned in 1942. When the state park was founded in 1978, the state Parks Division put spaces in the name, either to distance it from the fake Osage term or to highlight the laughing waters idea. Or both. Image by Flickr user Amazing Brian.

Humbug Mountain

Humbug Mountain State Park, Oregon

Humbug Mountain State Park in Oregon takes its name from the mountain. It was first known as Sugarloaf Mountain until Captain William Tichenor brought a group of explorers and settlers in the 1850s. He sent out an exploratory party with instructions for climbing the mountain, but they disregarded his directions and became lost. The men named the hill Tichenor's Humbug (according to Tichenor) "to palliate their gross failure." The name was later shortened to Humbug Mountain. Image by Flickr user Mark Hillary.

Frozen Head

Snow on Frozen Head Mountain

Frozen Head State Park in east Tennessee is named after Frozen Head Mountain. There are no corpses associated with the place name, despite stories told to children of the area. Settlers name the mountain Frozen Head because the peak is 3,324 feet high, and the top is covered with ice and snow in winter -unlike smaller hills in the area. Image by Flickr user Michael Hodge.

A couple of notable suggestions for this post should be included, even though they are not state parks. Head-smashed-in Buffalo Jump is a Canadian provincial park and a UNESCO World Heritage site. A buffalo jump is an area in which buffalo were herded over a cliff to their deaths by hunters. The only reference to the name Head-Smashed-In I found was an unsubstantiated legend about a Blackfoot who was killed by falling buffalo through his own foolishness. Then there's Beaver Dick Park in Rexburg, Idaho, which is a county park, so you can read the story of the name on your own.

See also: Part One and Part Two of this series.

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10 Famous Birthdays in May
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Some of our favorite historical figures were born in May. We couldn't possibly name them all, so here are just a few of the notable people we'll be celebrating.

1. SIGMUND FREUD: MAY 6, 1856

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Sigmund Freud is known as the Father of Psychoanalysis. The Vienna psychiatrist developed a theory of the unconscious mind, where the id, ego, and superego struggle to balance each other out in the human psyche. Freud attributed his patients' neuroses to childhood trauma, often cloaked in a sexual conflict. His work was at first deemed perverted, but his ideas started to spread after a series of lectures in the U.S. in 1909. After Freud's death in 1939, Freudian theory was hailed as genius in mainstream culture. But beginning in the 1960s, Freud's theories started to fall out of favor in academia and are largely discredited today. However, his attempts to map the psyche gave us the language we still use to discuss personality and mental health.

2. FRED ASTAIRE: MAY 10, 1899

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Fred Astaire began dancing when he was just four years old. Soon he and his sister Adele were in a performing arts school and started dancing professionally. First came vaudeville, then Broadway, and when Adele married, Fred headed to Hollywood. Producers were at first reluctant to cast Astaire as a leading man because of his looks, but his dancing soon won them over. Astaire appeared in dozens of films between 1933 and 1981, 10 of them with with dance partner Ginger Rogers. Although his later films did not revolve around dance numbers, Astaire was seen dancing in an episode of Battlestar Galactica as late as 1979, when he was 80 years old.

3. MARTHA GRAHAM: MAY 11, 1894

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Martha Graham wanted to dance from an early age, but her parents disapproved, so she didn't study dance until college. Her wildly emotional dancing led her to performances in New York, and in 1926 she established the Martha Graham Dance Company. Through the company, Graham promoted modern dance as a spiritual and emotional outlet. Over time, she came to be seen as a genius of the genre. Graham danced until she was in her '70s, and continued to choreograph dances until her death at age 91.

4. KATHARINE HEPBURN: MAY 12, 1907

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Katharine Hepburn caught the acting bug in college and headed to the stages of New York upon graduation. She was spotted in a Broadway production and was offered the lead in RKO's 1932 film A Bill of Divorcement. That kicked off a movie career of more than 60 years, in which she was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won four. Hepburn was a certified box office draw, but off screen she refused to behave like a Hollywood star. She spoke her mind, wore pants, and even appeared in public without makeup occasionally. Hepburn was also known for her devotion to the love of her life, actor Spencer Tracy, who was separated from his wife but refused to divorce her. The last of nine films they made together was Guess Who's Coming to Dinner in 1967, just before Tracy died. Hepburn continued making movies through 1994, when she was 87 years old.

5. PIERRE CURIE: MAY 15, 1859

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French physicist Pierre Curie is often overlooked in favor of Marie Curie, his brilliant student and later wife. Together they discovered radium and polonium, and did extensive research into radioactivity. Pierre, Marie, and Henri Becquerel jointly won the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics for their research. Curie might have gone onto many further discoveries, but he was killed in 1906 when a horse-drawn cart ran over him in Paris. If he had lived longer, Curie might have also succumbed to illness caused by radiation, as did his wife, daughter, and son-in-law—all Nobel Prize winners.

6. MARY CASSATT: MAY 22, 1844

Mary Cassatt via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Renowned American painter Mary Cassatt wanted to become an artist, but her parents objected and her Philadelphia art school didn't take women students seriously. So she went to Paris and studied privately under teachers from Ecole des Beaux-Arts, as the school did not admit women. Gradually, Cassatt's works sold and her reputation grew. She drew the attention of Impressionist Edgar Degas, and worked with him for years. By 1886, she left the Impressionist movement behind, and afterward refused to be defined by any art genre. Cassatt's body of work often featured women and children in their everyday lives. Her most memorable painting, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, broke with tradition by portraying a child in a naturalistic, casual pose instead of a formal portrait.

7. SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE: MAY 22, 1859

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Arthur Conan Doyle is best remembered for his many short stories and novels featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes. But Conan Doyle worked full time as a medical doctor until an illness convinced him he had to choose between writing and medicine. Years later, Conan Doyle volunteered with the British army to fight in the Second Boer War, but because of his age (40), he was only allowed to serve as a medical doctor. Upon his return from South Africa, he entered politics in Scotland, but he lost his only race. In 1907, Conan Doyle became involved in a real criminal case in which he helped George Edalji, a solicitor of Indian heritage, beat an animal cruelty conviction by employing the observational technique that Sherlock Holmes used. The fallout from that case led to the establishment of the appeals system in Britain. Conan Doyle also wrote a science fiction novel The Lost World, published in 1912. It was so successful that he wrote four sequels.

8. MARGARET FULLER: MAY 23, 1810

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Born in Massachusetts in 1810, Margaret Fuller was a precocious child who learned several languages but was not welcome at college because of her sex. She became friends with both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, who admired her philosophical thinking. Fuller became a literary critic for the New-York Tribune and a well-known intellectual.

In 1845, Fuller made history with Woman in the Nineteenth Century, often considered the first major feminist work published in the United States. This groundbreaking book began as an essay in Emerson's transcendentalist journal The Dial called "The Great Lawsuit. Man versus Men. Woman versus Women," in which Fuller argued that men and women must see each other as equals before they can transcend to divine love. Fuller reasoned that ignoring our commonality was the base of much of America's sins, from the slaughter of Native Americans to the slavery of African Americans.

Fuller went on to become a foreign correspondent and the first American female war correspondent, covering the Italian revolution. She also fell in love with an Italian man and had a child with him. On their return trip to the U.S. in 1850 aboard a merchant ship, a hurricane struck the ship near Fire Island, killing all three. Only Fuller's 20-month-old son was found.

9. SALLY RIDE: MAY 26, 1951

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In 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to travel into space, aboard the space shuttle Challenger. Ride was a nationally ranked tennis player when she was a teenager. Billie Jean King urged her to turn pro, but Ride went to Stanford University instead. She earned both a bachelor of arts in English and a bachelor of science in physics in 1973, and a PhD in physics in 1978. Ride then immediately applied for NASA's astronaut program. She flew two shuttle missions, in 1983 and '84, and was scheduled for a third, but that mission was canceled after the Challenger explosion in 1986. After leaving NASA in 1987, Ride devoted her life to encouraging students to study science—especially girls. She founded the organization Sally Ride Science for just that purpose, and wrote five children's books encouraging interest in science. Ride died of cancer at age 61 in 2012.

10. "WILD BILL" HICKOK: MAY 27, 1837

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James Butler Hickok was a farmer, soldier, stagecoach driver, spy, lawman, scout, sharpshooter, gambler, and Wild West showman. Many of those occupations came after "Wild Bill" Hickok gained publicity for killing three men in an 1861 shootout. The newspapers followed his exploits from that time on, often embellishing the details until Hickok was more of a legend than the adventurer he was. His various occupations took him to different parts of Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Wyoming, and South Dakota. Hickok was playing poker in Deadwood, South Dakota, when Jack McCall shot him in the back of the head and killed him in 1876. The hand Hickok was holding at the time—a pair of black aces and a pair of black eights—became known as the "dead man's hand."

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9 Bizarre Food Museums
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Idaho Potato Museum via Facebook

What’s your favorite food? Chances are, there’s a museum dedicated to it somewhere. You might want to include one or more of these museums in your next vacation road trip.  

1. JELL-O GALLERY // LEROY, NEW YORK

Pearle Wait of LeRoy, New York, invented a fruit-flavored gelatin dessert in 1897 that he wife named Jell-O. Appropriately, the town is home to the Jell-O Gallery, a museum dedicated to the gelatin that took America by storm. Visitors will learn the history of Jell-O, see memorabilia and advertising from Jell-O history, and learn about cooking in the past century. The museums operated by the non-profit LeRoy Historical Society, and is not supported by Kraft/General Foods, which owns Jell-O. The museum is open seven days a week through December, and weekdays January through March.    

2. THE SPAM MUSEUM // AUSTIN, MINNESOTA

The Hormel company has its headquarters in Austin, Minnesota, a few miles south of Minneapolis. That’s also the home of the Spam Museum. Hormel opened a small company museum in the local mall in 1991, but quickly found that all their visitors cared about was Spam, so now that classic canned meat has its own building downtown. Exhibits include the history of Spam, cooking demonstrations, Spam memorabilia, and a soundtrack from Monty Python.

3. INTERNATIONAL BANANA MUSEUM // NORTH SHORE, CALIFORNIA

In 2005, the International Banana Club Museum was named by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “most items devoted to any one fruit in the world.” The IBC Museum was established by Ken Bannister and the club in 1975, and amassed its collection of 17,000 banana items from club members who gained “banana merits.” The collection was sold in 2010 and is now the International Banana Museum. It is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.   

4. WYANDOT POPCORN MUSEUM // MARION, OHIO

Wyandot Popcorn Museum via Facebook

Marion, Ohio, is the self-proclaimed Popcorn Capital of the World, due to the existence of the Wyandot Popcorn Company, which was based in the area since the 1930s. The company now focuses on chips, but its legacy is enshrined in the Wyandot Popcorn Museum, which boasts an extensive collection of restored antique popcorn poppers. These commercial poppers range from movie theater models to snack wagons to factory poppers, some over 100 years old. The museum shares space with the Wyandot Historical Society in the town’s historic former post office building. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. through October, and weekends only the rest of the year.  

5. NATIONAL DAIRY SHRINE MUSEUM // FORT ATKINSON, WISCONSIN

The National Dairy Shrine is a professional group formed in 1949 promote the milk industry. The National Dairy Shrine Museum is a place to learn about all facets of the dairy industry, from the history of midwest dairy farmers to the production of butter, ice cream, cheese, and other products. The Shrine also has educational programs, a Hall of Fame honoring leaders in the industry, scholarships and internships, and more. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

6. NATIONAL MUSTARD MUSEUM // MIDDLETON, WISCONSIN

Barry Levenson was once Wisconsin’s Assistant Attorney General, but his real passion is mustard. He’s been collecting different mustards since 1986, and eventually left his law career completely to devote his time to the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum he founded in 1992. In 2000, the growing museum moved to its permanent location in Middleton and became the National Mustard Museum. There you can see 5,624 different mustards and a collection of mustard memorabilia. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Admission is free, as the museum is supported by donations and mustard sales.   

7. INTERNATIONAL VINEGAR MUSEUM // ROSLYN, SOUTH DAKOTA

International Vinegar Museum via Facebook

The world’s only vinegar museum was founded by Lawrence "Vinegarman" Diggs to showcase the many  varieties of vinegar and its many uses. The International Vinegar Museum has 350 different varieties of vinegar, a test kitchen, and vinegar tastings for visitors. The museum is open during the summer only. If you plan to visit Roslyn, the best time would be in June during the International Vinegar Festival.  

8. THE IDAHO POTATO MUSEUM // BLACKFOOT, IDAHO

Idaho Potato Museum via Facebook

Idaho produces more potatoes than any other state, so it only makes sense that they would have a museum dedicated to the state’s crop. The Idaho Potato Museum is housed in the historic Oregon Short Line Railroad Depot in Blackfoot. You’ll learn about potato history, growing potatoes, and the importance of potatoes to Idaho’s economy. The newest addition to the museum is the Potato Station Cafe, which specialized in French fries, of course. The Idaho Potato Museum is open six days a week from April through September, and weekdays from October through March.  

9. HARLAND SANDERS CAFÉ AND MUSEUM // CORBIN, KENTUCKY

Harland Sanders fed travelers at his gas station on Corbin, Kentucky, during the Great Depression, and then opened a restaurant, where he developed his method of pressure-frying chicken, which he breaded with 11 herbs and spices. Kentucky Fried Chicken grew out of that restaurant, which for a time had a motel attached. Sanders set up a sample hotel room inside the restaurant so that travelers could see what the rooms looked like before making the decision to stay. The motel is gone, but that restaurant was restored as the Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum, with many of the original artifacts, including the sample motel room. There is a modern KFC outlet attached. Some of the museum’s artifacts are displayed at the fast food unit, and you can sit down and eat your chicken in the museum.

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