Weekend in Bug Tussle

There are many mysteries associated with life in Texas: Why does it always rain the week of the trail ride? Why did the Oilers stop sucking only after they left town? And how did the town of Bug Tussle get its name?

Author and "student of history" Don Blevins can answer that last question and many more like it. He spent the last 25 years investigating the history of unusual U.S. town names and published a book on the subject in 2000, called Peculiar, Uncertain and Two Egg. As anyone who's looked closely at a map of the state might guess, he had piles of material left over from his research on Texas. This month, Blevins published Texas Towns, which focuses on the origins of the strange names you'll see driving down any old side road in the largest state in the lower 48.

"Say you're taking I-10 out of San Antonio," said Blevins. "You're gonna see a sign for the town of Welfare. I hope most folks'd take a drive out there. You won't see a whole lot, but just think about what it might've been at one time." Blevins pictures history buffs and other curious types keeping a copy of his book in their glove compartments, thumbing through it as they bump along farm roads and park roads, looking for the real Texas.

The book divides the town names into loose categories, such as "Animal Kingdom," "Religion" and "Edibles and Drinkables." Most interesting are the uncategorizable towns at the end of the book, in the catch-all section "There Are Such Places." That's where you'll find Blowout Community, which got its name when lightning struck the mouth of a cave that local bats had been using as an outhouse, causing a major bat guano explosion. Fort Spunky, on the other hand, was named for the rambunctious reaction of the citizens when they were awarded a post office.

And Bug Tussle? That name stems from the ice cream socials the town held back in the day, when there was nothing to do after the festivities but sit around and watch the bugs fight over the leftovers.

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Lisa Simon