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Small towns

Maggie Van Ostrand

Expatriates are way ahead of the game. They're already in the places other people want to be, small Mexican towns. Small Mexican towns provide interesting fare — one might observe a 10-inch wooden virgin make it rain in Ajijic (when she is politely asked to), or dance around Satan's bonfire with the Yaquis in the Bactete Sierra to see if one gets burned, or, in Nayarit in June, get one's hair cut with a machete. (They say the hair grows back even better if the chopping is done on a threshold.)

Since many expatriates are from small towns in the U.S. where people can be as nice as they are in Mexico, and since I am always eager to help, I offer the following generous selection of American small towns which might be enjoyed by visiting Mexicans.

There are jokes about American small towns, like "that town's so small, they don't have a village idiot, they have to take turns;" and "You can be in the center of town and on the outskirts at the same time;" and "They had to close the library because someone stole the book;" and even "That town is so small, the "Welcome" sign is also the "Now Leaving" sign." Certainly Victor, Colorado, is like that. The folks of Victor, Colorado, which calls itself "One of those places that time likes to forget," have an annual pothole update and all are invited to join in the count. Tourists are welcome.

Pioche, Nevada, snorts at claims by both Tombstone, Arizona, and Dodge City, Kansas, that they were the baddest of the wild west mining camps. Mind you, Pioche was "so tough we imported 20 hired killers each day" and "75 men were killed in gun fights and already buried in the cemetery long before anyone died of natural causes." The town was said to be peaceful only "if you stayed out of the way of the bullets."

Earlville, Illinois, claims to be the source of "The World's Best Dirt," though it's most eagerly anticipated event is the annual Find-A-Pig Contest held at The Crazy Horse Saloon.

Morehead City, North Carolina, hosts a Bald Men's Convention each September, which generously offers self-help sessions for the wives. The convention's motto is: "If you haven't got it, flaunt it."

Northfield, Minnesota (home of St. Olaf, of Golden Girl's Rose Nylund fame), annually celebrates the anniversary of an 1876 bank raid by the James-Younger Gang. The original event, referred to by locals as "The Seven Minutes That Shook Northfield," ended when the cashier stubbornly refused to open the bank vault. While in Northfield, tourists are encouraged to visit the "Kierkegaard rules" graffiti in the restroom of the Goodbye Blue Monday Coffeehouse.

Booger Hollow, Arkansas, Population 7 ("countin' one coon dog"), boasts the only two-story outhouse in the land. You can get a Boogerburger at the Trading Post.

Livingston, Montana, has a Duck Derby, where rubber ducks are released into the water for a two-furlong (1/4 mile) race, with a grudge match to be held in the event of a tie. Face off will take place at the pond.

Once known as the Fly Stomping Capitol of Nevada, Lovelock still boasts an "architectural jewel," in the only round courthouse in use in the country. "My wife and I were divorced in Lovelock," said a man from Winnemucca, "and we're still going around in circles." Travelers are invited to pause for a moment to admire the single stoplight dangling over Main street. It was once the last traffic signal traffic between San Francisco and New York.

Montpelier, Vermont, holds an annual Rotten Sneaker Contest, spotlighting "stinky feet." A search for the "best of the worst" in rotten sneakers, this Odor-Eaters-sponsored contest was created over two decades ago, and has become a traditional Rite of Spring in Montpelier.

The teeming metropolis of Park Falls, Wisconsin, is more than just the Ruffed Grouse Capital of the World. Residents are mighty proud of the fact that Park Falls is the only town in all of Price County with two traffic lights.

Jefferson, Texas, each year hosts a reenactment of the "Trial of the Century," based on an 1870's local murder trial. "Diamond Bessie" Moore, rumored to have once been a high-priced "soiled dove" out of Arkansas, was traveling with one Mr. A. Rothschild. Suspicians of foul play were aroused when Mr. Rothschild, who had left on a picnic with Bessie, returned alone that evening, sporting Bessie's diamond rings on his fingers. Two weeks later, Bessie's body was discovered and, it was graciously noted by the ladies of Jefferson, "She was very well dressed, considering the hole in her forehead." After fleeing to Cincinnati, Mr. Rothschild was subsequently returned by Ohio authorities to Jefferson where he unsuccessfully attempted suicide with the same BB gun he had used on poor dead Bessie, before standing trial for her murder.

Sandpoint, Idaho, annually hosts the Snagfallers' Ball, immediately following timber sports, which include the axe throw, choker setting, double buck, single buck, Jack-n-Jill Bucking, Jill-n-Jill Bucking, the horizontal chop, birling, and other local challenges. Last year's honoree as Timberfest's "Bull of the Woods," was Herman Mesenbrink of Moyie Springs who recalled, "I was flabbergasted."

Glen Rose, Texas, proudly referred to as the Whiskey Woods Capital of Texas, thanks to the many prosperous moonshiners who once flourished there, sent it's prized fossilized dinosaur tracks for exhibition at the Museum of Natural History in New York. Glen Rose is the only American town where you can get a Dinosaur Hunting License.

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is the home of Peeps, those marshmallow delights that have pleased our palates each Easter season since 1953. The mother company, "Just Born," is one of America's finest examples of equal opportunity employers,utilizing Peeps in yellow, pink, blue, lavender, and the ever elusive albino.

Finding oneself in Loda Cemetery Prairie in Iroquois County, Illinois, a visitor might partake of The Hairy-Jointed Meadow Parsnip.

Mike "Chainsaw" Elmer, of Pine Mountain, California, fondly remembers his youth in neighboring Sunnymeade where the local children found a unique way to fight boredom. They lifted up the eyelids of the bull sleeping in grandpa's pasture, then ran like hell. Can't really beat that for down home entertainment.

Small U.S. towns provide eager tourists with innovative entertainment, such as bareback ostrich races, pumpkin-flinging contests, tombstone tilting races, bayonet-polishing competitions, and the Byron, Illinois, Annual Turkey Testicle Festival. (All true, my friends.)

Just remember, no matter which side of the border you're on, with great small-towns in both countries, there's just no reason to sit home and watch TV.

Published or Updated on: June 1, 2004 by Maggie Van Ostrand © 2004
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