Before going further, it probably would be in order to confirm Ashtabulas history in case anyone is unsure of how Ashtabula came to be. My sources reveal that the town was settled by a well-to-do Mormon who had two wives one named Rose and one named Beulah. The story goes that he always slept facing Rose!
Now, on we go.
When I stopped here recently, I asked around, but initially nobody seemed to know how this town in Central Florida came by its name, which is a sad treatise on the lack of affection for history. You dont have to be a storied professor to appreciate history. History is all around us. Even in the out-of-the way places.
For example, if you live in the South Georgia town of Attapulgus, wouldnt you want to know that the name is said to be derived from the Indian name itu-pulga which means boring holes in wood to make a fire.
Finally, a desk clerk at a convenience store suggested I read a nearby historical marker. I discovered, via the historical marker and the internet, that during the Civil War, the South won an important battle in the area, widely known as The Battle of Yeehaw Junction.
Town historians say the original name was Jackass Junction. That name came about in the early 1930s when local ranchers rode their burros to visit the local brothel, known as the Desert Inn. When the turnpike was built here in 1957, Floridas legislature felt a name change was in order. You really wouldnt want the name, Jackass Junction printed on all the maps.
As I reached for a Diet Coke and a pack of square cheese crackers, I chuckled aloud recalling a story about the Desert Inn and some of those ranchers who often gathered to swap tales. Seems that one evening, the talk got around to their offspring. The regulars got into a one-upmanship conversation about the number of children they had fathered, some legitimate of course.
My wifes pregnant again, one revealed. Proud of his virility, he said, This will make five. We are going to have a basketball team. Immediately, as you might expect, another rancher spoke out, topping the man with five. He was happy to say that he had six chilren. Why, that aint nothing, a guy standing next to him at the bar said. We got seven.
This went on and on until the oldest rancher in the room confirmed that he was the father of eleven chilren. Over in the corner there was a rancher with an oversized nose, who had naturally been nicknamed Big Nose.
Big Nose, had not said a word during the conversation, which somebody finally took note of, needling him about not speaking up.
Hey, Big Nose, you aint said nothing.
Come on Big Nose, tell us how many chilren you got?
After further cajoling and arm twisting, Big Nose, finally said, None.
None, the gang crowed. Whats wrong with you Big Nose?
Finally, he drawled, Well, its like this. My wifes got a big nose, too. Nobody dont sleep with her but me.
Loran Smith is a Johnson County native and contributing columnist to The Courier Herald. Write him at p.o. Box 469, Athen, GA 30601, or e-mail to email@example.com