1 Sep 2011, 2:37pm

Comments Off on A little weirdness on the road to Central Arkansas

A little weirdness on the road to Central Arkansas

Downtown Heber Springs, Ark., a beautiful, friendly town that swells from 6,000 to 30,000 during tourist season.

Heber Springs, Ark., a friendly town of 6,000 that tourists swell to 30,000.

Driving through the pine forests of East Texas, on the way to Central Arkansas, you pass signs for places like New Boston, Pittsburgh, Mount Pleasant and even Paris.

It’s almost like pioneers started running out of names¬†by the time they got to Texas.¬†

But things get a bit more imaginative once you arrive at the Arkansas border. Names there start off with morphed incarnations like Texarkana, and later dish up tidy permutations such as Arkadelphia. 

The one that¬†snapped me¬†to attention¬†on my trip last weekend was “Okolona.”

You know, Oklahoma’s just a short jog to the west, I thought. Could it be? Is this some sort of¬†an Arkansas¬†localism? Perhaps it was pranksters?¬†¬†

Nope, not pranksters,¬†a¬†crisp exit sign down the road soon confirmed ‚Äď Okolona was sure enough real.¬†But where’d the name come from? Does it have anything to do with Oklahoma? I could only wonder.

Later, I checked the web, and it turns out the name is yet another clone. A number of U.S. places share the name, including some in Mississippi and Kentucky.

This site says¬†it’s an Indian name meaning “much bent.”¬†Hmmm … another mystery.

Oklahoma, meanwhile, comes from the Choctaw Indian words okla and humma, which means red people, according to this website.

As interesting as all that is, there was one name that trumped them all. 

Cruising through Central Arkansas on lanes sluicing through thick woods, admiring how the towering trees shot up like ripe green walls along the undulating highway, the strange name suddenly popped up. I looked several times. I could see nothing else.

The sign¬†said, “Toad Suck Park.”

So I dropped that one into Google too. Toad Suck is indeed a community, with a¬†name that’s¬†somewhat of a puzzle.

Yes, OK, I thought in amazement,¬†I’m not in Texas any more.

Look, no frontage roads on this Central Arkansas freeway! But plenty of tall trees.

Look, no frontage roads on this Arkansas freeway! But plenty of tall trees.


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