I picked up a new dictionary at a bookstore recently. Remember bookstores? They were places that sold important literature by authors like Dickens, Tolstoy and Trump.
As for dictionaries, they were volumes containing loads of words such as “loads”, “of” and “words.”
But I noticed that the dictionary I picked up the other day was far heavier than those I remembered. It was nearly hernia inducing.
A condition in which part of an organ is displaced and protrudes through the wall of the cavity containing it.
I had picked up the heavy reference book to look up the word ‘historical.’ I figured the definition must be pretty obvious, but wanted to confirm it:
Causing unrestrained laughter. Very funny.
Oh, wait a minute. I’d accidentally looked up ‘hysterical”—as in, “hysterical joke.” Example: “Parallel lines have so much in common. It’s a shame they’ll never meet.”
(Yes, I actually found that cited as an example of a hysterical joke.)
But back to ‘historical”—and/or ‘historic.’ I wanted to be clear on their meanings because I see one word or the other posted in nearly every small town, burg and road stop in our state.
From “Welcome to historic West Seattle” or, “You are entering historical Burien”—it seems that every town in this country is worthy of attention, historically speaking.
This is different than towns that simply try to grab your attention as you approach.
For example, here is an actual—and intriguing—one:
1640 friendly people and one grouch.
I parked my car in downtown Kettle Falls and walked into the grocery store. The man behind the counter started yelling, “You can’t park THERE!”I knew in an instant he must be 1641. NOTE: Turns out his name is Roy. Meanwhile, in the town of Roy, you can pretty much park wherever you want.
But travel anywhere and you will discover that almost every town, every place claims to be a significant repository of past events.
Raymond in Grays Harbor County has three downtown buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. That’s pretty cool. But it also the town where the band Nirvana played their first ever gig. Cooler.
Dayton, near Walla Walla, has the oldest train depot in the state. I found the brother of Roy from Kettle Falls sitting in there. He was also in a bad mood. He’s been waiting for the southbound for three years.
Speaking of Walla Walla, part of its historical significance may be because it is the state’s only town named twice. It is said to have come from a typing error in the 1800’s—and they decided to just go with it.
Some places are not only historic, but also linguistically noteworthy. La Conner, for example, means “the Conner.” La Center means “the Center.” Lacey means “the Cey.”
And so on.
If you ever travel to Cape Flattery you will quickly discover why it’s called that. A woman named Doris will walk up and compliment you on your shoes.
Your treatment at Cape Disappointment will not be nearly so gracious.
The point is that our Puget Sound neck-of-the-woods is filled with rich history—loads of it. (Another digression: Wouldn’t “Neck-of-the-Woods” be a great name for a town? Especially located not far from “Stomping Grounds?”)
Besides small towns, a traveler can also stay plenty busy checking out all the state’s historical road markers. I pulled over to read one last week just outside of the town of Manson. It said: “You’re almost to Manson. And no, we’re not named after that guy.”
Perhaps there’s a road marker with this inscription: “ACME Road Markers. We make all kinds. Visit acmeroadmarkers.com.”
Meanwhile, somewhere, there must be a place that admits to no historical importance—a place without bragging signage, notable heritage or a local museum.
It would be that rare hamlet where nothing ever happened: “Welcome to Glimpton Falls. You might as well keep going. Nothing to see here.”