"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Today's lesson in Hystery

On our way back home from San Antonio last week, we decided to get off the freeway and take the more scenic "back route". This would mainly be Highway 21, which is designated by the Texas Department of Highways as the "Independence Trail". It roughly follows the path of the early pioneers as they journeyed from the central and southern portions of the territory to Nacogdoches, which for a time was the capitol of the new Republic of Texas.

Along this route are many Historical Markers. These are big slabs of granite with engraved iron plaques attached that tell a brief story of why that particular spot was historically significant. Since this area of the state is literally crawling with History, there is one of these markers approximately every other mile along the highway, representing spots where, say, some settler's wagon shanked a wheel and broke down in 1847, and it took so long to fix it back then that they had a couple of kids and a small town grew up around them before they were able to move on. The one pictured there on the right, for example, marks the location of a 150-foot-deep hole in the ground just outside of Marble Falls. No, I am not making this up. Grave-digging was a long, tough job back in those days, which made disposing of a body much more difficult than it is now -- especially if the person died under, shall we say, duress. One didn't just call the funeral home to "handle the arrangements". Therefore, according to the plaque, this particular very deep and Historical Hole became the final resting place for at least 17 individuals. Apparently, if you wanted to dispatch some frontier ne'er-do-well, you hung or shot him and then simply tossed his body in the hole. How very convenient. If Jimmy Hoffa had been around at the time, I'm sure he would be down there too. Now you see what I mean: isn't that an interesting and colorful slice of American History?

Someone with a true appreciation of our nation's History would want to stop at every one of these markers, take photos of it, and perhaps pause to thoughtfully contemplate the hardships that our forbearers had to endure as they struggled to survive in this wild, foreign land. Our homage to these hardy pioneers, however, basically consisted of me briefly taking my foot off the gas to slow down from 80 to 70 mph as we flew past, and the following exchange:

Mrs. Toast: Hey, there was another one of them hysterical markers.
Me: Huh!

To your left is an actual "live" screen capture taken of our vehicle (the little green arrow) on our GPS mapping program as we moved along our way. If you look really close at the image and zoom in on it, you might be able to make out our little tiny van. If you look really closely you can perhaps make out a little teeny tiny figure at the wheel wearing little teeny tiny glasses and an itsy-bitsy teeny tiny oxygen hose. You may even possibly be able to see that at the exact moment this image was captured, I am shaking my fist at the gigantic hay-hauling truck in front of me that is going 40 mph in a 70-mph zone. That is the disadvantage of taking the back roads: it's mostly two lane highway, and if you get stuck behind some smuff ("smuff" is my term for a S.M.M.F., which translates to "Slow Moving Mother Fu..." well, you know) the trip can take even longer than going via the freeway, which is 40 miles further in actual distance.

Anyway, as you can see, at this point in our journey we were passing by the Historic Texas Town of Dime Box. There's an interesting and colorful story of how Dime Box got it's name, and how significant it was in our history -- but frankly I haven't the slightest freaking idea what it is and (with all due respect to the 40 or 50 people who live there) don't really care. Texas has lots of oddly-named towns with similar interesting and colorful history, such as "Cut-N-Shoot", "Hoop & Holler", "Looneyville", "Uncertain", "Oatmeal", "Ding Dong", "Lollipop", "Gun Barrell City", "Chocolate Bayou", "Truth Or Consequences" (oh wait, maybe that one's in New Mexico), and "Dallas". Those last two got their names from popular 70's TV shows, the latter starring someone named "J.R. Ewing", who caused the nation much consternation when he got shot. I think before the show came along "Dallas" was simply known as "That Big-Ass Cowboy Town on the Trinity River".

Yes friends, you can count on this blog to be your definitive source for interesting and (mostly) accurate hysterical, er historical, information.


  • At 1/29/2006 02:48:00 AM, Blogger Wild*Hen said…

    I wonder about this Dime Box as I am loking for a Dime Bag.

    Thank you for the History/Geography lesson Professor Toast! :^)

  • At 1/29/2006 03:15:00 AM, Blogger Mr. Toast said…

    You are most welcome!

    I try to live up to my motto: "Befuddling American Minds Since 1958".

  • At 1/30/2006 11:22:00 PM, Blogger Jim said…

    they had to put a dime in the mailbox each time a letter was delivered --

    at some point a dispute arose among the citizens of Dime Box (about religion I think) and half of the residents jacked their houses up and drug them by mule to New Dime Box

  • At 1/31/2006 07:46:00 PM, Blogger Mr. Toast said…

    Thank you, Jim. You got me curious so I did some more research into this. The name "Dime Box" indeed comes from the practice of leaving a dime in a box at what was then known as Brown's Mill to get a letter delivered. When a Federal Post Office came to the town in 1877, they quickly discovered that a lot of mail being addressed to "Browns Mill" was being misdirected to "Brownsville". Ordered by the government to change the name, the townsfolk submitted Dime Box and it was accepted.

    It turns out that the formation of "New" vs "Old" Dime Box was for practical, not religious reasons. In 1913, the Southern Pacific Railroad came within 3 miles of the town and almost everyone moved for the convenience this afforded. Enough people stayed behind to require the two names.

    As a footnote, "New Dime Box" opened the 1944 March of Dimes Campaign and the town was featured in Life magazine. The Postmaster General even showed up to be photographed on the front porch of the town's general store.

    And there you have it: the interesting and colorful history of Dime Box, Texas. My freaking life is now complete. :^)


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