Thursday, February 7, 2013

That's a tree name?

(Photo courtesy of Krystle Fleming)
 The other day I was doing some research for my upcoming book series Hellfire Ranch. It's an eight book series set in the Hill country of Texas about a group of ex-marines turned cowboys, sheriffs, FBI agents, etc. The first book is Two Cowboys in her Crosshairs and comes out in April.
I am a Texan and like most other Texans, I love my state with a passion that teeters on banana bat-shit crazy pants (to borrow a phrase from Prof Fish. We won't discuss the fact that he was talking about me when he used it).
I love America.I bleed red, white and blue. I am as patriotic a person as you will meet. But there's just something about being a Texan that is just awesome.
Okay, so, back to the research... This series is set in Texas and my fictional town of Freedom was founded by a disparate group of people seeking acceptance and a bit of anonymity. They came from different walks of life and had their own trials and tribulations. This small group drifted from town to town and never really fit in. Finally they hit upon the idea of creating their own piece of personal heaven. They scoured all of Texas, which at the time was still a Republic, and finally settled upon a little slice of green rolling hills, fertile soil and wide open spaces. They named their newly formed town Freedom and declared that any who should come seeking refuge would be welcome with open arms and closed mouths. No questions, no probing, no judgement.
They didn't realize just how popular this concept would be and soon the town was populated with people from all walks of life looking for a fresh start. The town grew in leaps and bounds. In fact, it grew so fast they  didn't do a whole lot of smart street planning. The center of town where the courthouse used to stand isn't a square as is the normal. Instead, it's called the Hex. It's a six sided monstrosity that is ringed with shops, restaurants and offices. Smack dab in the center is a wonderfully out-of-place giant Neoclassical structure called the Hitching Post. It's become a destination wedding spot for many in Texas. It drives a lot of business to Freedom and its businesses and they play it up for all their worth.
Because there are eight books in the series, I had to create this town from scratch and make it come alive in my mind's eye. I have drawings and floor plans scattered all over the place. But it wasn't until book two was nearly finished that I realized I'd never named the six streets that create The Hex.
I decided I wanted them to be named after trees native to Texas.
Oh, boy. I had no idea what I was getting in to.
I scoured the interwebs and found this incredible site run by Texas A&M University's horticulture agency. It provided me with hours of entertainment. I giggled like a fool because my mind is dirty (a shocker, I know) and I was surprised by some of the names that people came up with for trees. TREES, people. Here is a sampling of some of my favorites:

Beaverwood - Really, any explanation necessary? I also find it giggle worthy that it's known alternately as Sugarberry. As an erotic writer, I've often written that beaver is extremely sweet.

Bullnut - This is a hickory tree that grows large and does well in a dry landscape. TAMU reports the fruit is a small, sweet nut encased in a four valved husk. I think anything named bullnut can't be small.

Cowlicks - Of course this had to come after bullnuts. Cowlicks bullnut, isn't that how they propagate?

Devil's Claw - I get the feeling some of these names are intended to ward off unwanted visitors. This particular tree also goes by the name of Una de Gato which makes me sing In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,. Baby.

Elderberry - come on, say it with me "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!" Thank you, Monty Python for your comic genius. This tree is very rare in Texas which makes it even cooler in my opinion.

Farkleberry - no, it's not a dice game, it's a real tree. A real tree!

Hognut - just to show we're both a cow AND pig equal rights state.

Inkberry - I love this name. Makes me think of all sort of creative ways people of the old days might have used the fruit it bears. Did they squash them up and use them to write papers while trapped in the Alamo? Maybe. You never know.

Lady's Leg - Um, huh? It doesn't look like the leg of any lady I've ever seen. Another name is also Naked Indian. <squints> Nope, still not seeing it.

Manzanillo - Say it loud and echo out that last o like you're the announcer at a wrestling match. Sounds good, doesn't it? But you have to draw out every syllable for maximum effect: Maaan-zaaa-kneeee-ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Fight!

Nutall Oak - Cows, check. Pigs, check. Everything else? Throw 'em in the nutall!

Punk Oak - I can imagine a lynch mob forming around this tree with their victim. "Feelin' lucky, punk?" Except they're talking to the tree, not the criminal they're about to hang. Hey, Texas justice was brutal, remember?

Shittamwood - No, actually, I'm not kidding. Just... wow. Does a bear...? Well, does a bear use this tree if he does?

Sparkleberry - because this tree is Fabulooooooous! And pretty and sparkly and glisteny!

Tickletongue - Alternate names for this tree confuse me: Toothache Tree and Prickly Ash. Neither of those would tickle my tongue.

Wahootree - contrary to popular belief, this tree does NOT have money coming out of its wahoo nor is it a cherry kind of tree.

So, those are some of my favorites. Is it any wonder I love Texas? Our sense of humor rocks.

Do you think I used any of these names for the streets of The Hex in Freedom? You'll have to read the series to find out! Stay tuned!

Happy Reading,