By Christopher Cudworth
Those of us who run and ride tend to visit a few towns along the way.
And that can be interesting.
Whenever you enter a new town there is often a sign stating the “town motto” of one sort or another.
Today while entering the town of Hampshire, Illinois I noticed a town sign that said something on the order of “Pasteurizing the Past…and a Promising Future.”
It didn’t really say that. I made that up. But that’s about how much sense most of those town sayings actually make.
What’s a Whip-Pur? We may never know…
Hampshire is a nice enough little town. Here’s what Wikipedia says about the school mascot. Hampshire’s mascot is the Whip-Pur. A whip-pur Is a cat like a panther and it got its name from white and purple.
Seriously. That’s what it actually says. The sentence just kind of ends where the explanation is supposed to begin. See, Wikipedia is a sort of fact-sheet by committee. So you should expect those kinds of mistakes. Committees always come up with shit like that. Bad grammar. Mashing thoughts together.
A few nearby Illinois towns also have pretty interesting high school mascots. The Genoa-Kingston Cogs. The Rochelle Hubs. One must suppose people have had sex with farm implements in those communities.
Is There a Cure for Valeria?
What the hell is a Railroad Romance? Is that a new sex position? And if not, it should be, especially if one of the partners has a nice caboose. Chugga chugga whooot whooot!
Who makes these things up?
People on these committees assume that everyone else in the world knows what the hell their little signs are actually talking about. Committees work like that. They go deeper and deeper into Cover Your Ass mode as the process continues. Suddenly you have some phrase that doesn’t even make sense to the mayor of the town.
But there it is, up on the sign where everyone entering town gets to read it and scratch their heads as they try to figure out what pack of dunces came up with that one.
Honesty is probably not the best policy
But what if we required actual honestly about the nature of some of these towns? Here are a few Made Up Mottos that show what that might be like.
Welcome to Wendalia: Our Water Tastes Like Sulphur
Mankato: Don’t Worry, That Nuclear Power Plant is Safe
Arquette: The Varicose Vein of Ohio
Silverstone: He Who Smelt It Dealt It
Dilgerville: If You’re Here, You’re Probably Lost.
That last town of Dilgerville is somewhere I’ve been on the bike a few times. On long rides it is possible to choose the wrong route and wind up following farm roads that take you further and further from your desired destination.
Then you finally see a water tower and ride into the ass-end of some small town you’ve never heard about before. Where has it been hiding all these years?
And still there’s a sign greeting you at the edge of town, making some outrageous claim to fame, or flame.
Turnington: This Place Burnt to the Ground in 1849 Thanks to Fred Turner.
Heres a few more that could be real, but aren’t:
Franklinville: Someone’s Got to Live Here
Prairie Center: Center of Nothing.
Stowmaker: We Build It. The Bank Tears It Down.
Far Out Places
Having run some races in pretty far out places such as Amboy, Illinois, I can testify that the events held in these crazy little villages can be as strange and obtuse as their town mottos.
Years back I entered a 5 mile race in Amboy. When the gun sounded I took off at 5:00 pace. There were about 100 people in the race, but I never saw any of them again. The course quickly entered a massive cornfield and then made a couple quick turns on farm roads. It was so quiet you could hear crickets chirping and birds flying around in the corn stalks. I never heard or saw another runner again.
Heading back into town with a huge lead, I followed the eerily silent police car with one yellow light atop its cab.
There were only three people out to watch the end of the race, and none of them clapped.
I finished in first and collected the trophy as I walked past the registration table. Then I trotted down the empty section of Main Street past the race finish line and got into my car and drove away.
I’m not sure if I dreamed what I read on that sign on the way out of town or not. But I think it was so banal and forgettable it did not sink into my brain. It was something like: Amboy: Where People Come to Live.
And below that motto someone had written. “And Die.”.
At least it told the truth.