Cover image for Storyville, USA
Storyville, USA
Peterson, Dale.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Athens : University of Georgia Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
viii, 299 pages : map ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E169.04 .P48 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



What is a Storyville? Whether you're in Toast, North Carolina, Monkey's Eyebrow, Kentucky, or Winner, South Dakota, a Storyville is a real town you can find on a map, with a tale behind its quirky name. Covering 20,000 miles of U.S. roads, Dale Peterson drove with his kids, Britt and Bayne, from Start, Louisiana, to Deadhorse, Alaska in search of small-town America in the "garage sale of the open highway." Along the way they explored open spaces, wild places, and country back roads and met people who weren't afraid to talk to one another.

Together, they discovered the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of nearly sixty small towns, as well as the zany stories behind them, guided by an AAA Road Atlas, expert local storytellers, and lots of curiosity. They dipped into Caddo Lake and the everglades of Uncertain, Texas, went a little crazy in Loco, Oklahoma, and learned about bee colonies in Climax, New York. Conversations with townsfolk range from the refrigerator at the center of Noodle, Texas, and the hazards of Accident, Maryland, to issues of civil rights, religion, and environmental preservation. Collected here are the landscapes, landmarks, faces, thoughts, and conversations of a sentimental, idiosyncratic, and often hilarious American odyssey. Storyville, USA is a long, winding trip into the back roads of the country and a longer one into the hinterland of our own hearts.

Author Notes

Dale Peterson is also the author of "The Deluge & the Ark" & "Storyville" & is the coauthor with Jane Goodall of "Visions of Caliban" & with Richard Wrangham of "Demonic Males". He resides in Arlington, Massachusetts.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This book evolved from a travel game Peterson invented for his son and daughter to explore small towns with odd names that provoked curiosity about the story behind the town and its name. They set off on an actual journey across the U.S. from Start, Louisiana, to Roads End, Alaska, recounting the colorful people and customs of nearly 60 towns along the way. Peterson has an appreciation for places off the beaten path and an eye for the minutiae of everyday life, e.g., a jar of pickled pigs lips in Hot Coffee, Mississippi. He records regional oddities and doesn't neglect unflattering local history, such as remnants of discrimination in the South. The collection of quirky small towns and the stories behind them include Uncertain, Texas; Bug Scuffle, Arkansas; Monkeys Eyebrow, Kentucky; and Zigzag, Oregon. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

Peterson (coauthor with Jane Goodall of Visions of Caliban: On Chimpanzees and People) embarks on a 20,000-mile road trip asking the question: "Where did the name of that town come from?" Accompanied by his 11-year-old son, Bayne, and 14-year-old daughter, Britt, and armed with the AAA Road Atlas, Peterson unearths the stories behind the names of small towns across America. From Start, La. ("Well, we're the first people that started the post office here... why don't we just name it Start?" said the young daughter of the town's founder), through Nothing, Ariz., to Roads End, Ala., the tales that emerge concern not only town names but also town residents, their ancestors and the landscapes that surround them. Peterson describes how mechanization has changed the lives of tobacco farmers, explains the difference between various Mennonite groups and, on the way to Jerry's Climax Hotel in the Catskills, offers a lengthy treatise on bee-keeping. Musings on welfare and segregation, both overt and hidden, are offered by ordinary people whose lives continue to be shaped by these issues. The author revisits his own rural upbringing in Corning, N.Y., and narrates the evolution of the name of his hometown. Town names are often used as starting points for running jokes, puns ("It seemed to me that Feeding Hills [Mass.] would be a fine place to eat") and various literary devices. Peterson can get carried away with these contrivances, but more often than not he offers a wonderfully evocative picture of often forgotten towns. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

What a Happy (TX) book this is, and what a Treat (AR) it will be for all Readers (WV)! Peterson, the author of several books on Africa, looks in his own backyard to come up with this humorous and often insightful exploration of some of the unique names given to American cities. Together with his son and daughter, Peterson set out on an over 20,000-mile tour of such places as Hot Coffee, MS; Monkeys Eyebrow, KY; and Nothing, AZ, pausing long enough to talk to residents about the origins of the names and to get a sense of what small-town America is really like. Some of the places are mere specks on a map; others cling proudly and firmly to their weird monikers. Either way, much of the history of the United States can be found in the names given to settlements. Peterson has produced a unique work that is reminiscent of Steinbeck's Travels with Charley and Charles Kuralt's America; do your patrons a favor and offer them this witty, totally charming book.ÄJoseph L. Carlson, Lompoc P.L., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

How It All Beganp. 1
Leg 1 Start (Louisiana)p. 7
Uncertain (Texas)p. 13
Cut and Shoot (Texas)p. 19
Humble (Texas)p. 24
Noodle (Texas)p. 25
Loco (Oklahoma)p. 33
Little City (Oklahoma)p. 37
Hogeye (Arkansas)p. 38
Bug Scuffle (Arkansas)p. 44
Greasy Corner (Arkansas)p. 46
Alligator (Mississippi)p. 55
Hot Coffee (Mississippi)p. 64
Equality (Alabama)p. 68
Between (Georgia)p. 77
Harmony (North Carolina)p. 79
Toast (North Carolina)p. 89
Pinch (West Virginia)p. 90
Left Hand (West Virginia)p. 98
Accident (Maryland)p. 100
Detour (Maryland)p. 107
Bird-in-Hand (Pennsylvania)p. 107
Intercourse (Pennsylvania)p. 112
Climax (New York)p. 113
Leg 2 Sunshine (Maine)p. 125
Sunset (Maine)p. 129
Feeding Hills (Massachusetts)p. 130
Index (New York)p. 132
Painted Post (New York)p. 136
Big Shanty (Pennsylvania)p. 147
Echo (Pennsylvania)p. 152
Twinsburg (Ohio)p. 154
Crooked Tree (Ohio)p. 159
Getaway (Ohio)p. 163
Subtle (Kentucky)p. 166
Monkeys Eyebrow (Kentucky)p. 169
Muddy (Illinois)p. 175
Goofy Ridge (Illinois)p. 180
Normal (Illinois)p. 185
Embarrass (Minnesota)p. 189
Sleepy Eye (Minnesota)p. 194
Winner (South Dakota)p. 200
Wounded Knee (South Dakota)p. 208
Recluse (Wyoming)p. 215
Ten Sleep (Wyoming)p. 221
Echo (Again) (Utah)p. 223
Big Rock Candy Mountain (Utah)p. 226
Mexican Hat (Utah)p. 233
Nothing (Arizona)p. 235
Leg 3 Hallelujah Junction (California)p. 245
Likely (California)p. 250
Boring (Oregon)p. 256
Zigzag (Oregon)p. 257
Discovery Bay (Washington)p. 260
Chicken (Alaska)p. 263
Old Man (Alaska)p. 274
Coldfoot (Alaska)p. 279
Deadhorse (Alaska)p. 285
Roads End (Alaska)p. 293
Acknowledgmentsp. 295