The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Karl Terry

Interesting stories lie behind odd place names


November 12, 2017

As I drove east past the road sign that read Roundup, Texas, my mind wondered about the name, wandering off into thoughts that it might have something to do with the chemical Roundup. No, it probably was just a site where the annual cattle roundup started or culminated — maybe a rail shipping point.

After passing through Muleshoe and seeing the turn to Earth, Texas, it will start you pondering how place names came to be.

I know how Portales takes its name from the springs east of the town that looked like Portales, or porches, in Spanish.

I am told Clovis got its name from a railroad official’s daughter who was studying about a king named Clovis. No, the town wasn’t named after Clovis man, who lived in the area over 12,000 years ago. That culture took its name from the watering hole of Clovis, also known as Riley’s Switch.

I’ve long wondered how Pep, New Mexico, and Pep, Texas, ended up just across the state line from each other. Drop me a line if you know. It can’t be a coincidence.

Ever been to House, New Mexico, and wondered which house they named it after? Ever wonder why someone decided to actually build a house way out there in House?

I know all about the “Legend of Tucumcari” and the two star-crossed Native American lovers Tocum and Kari. I also know the town actually takes its name from an Indian word for the mountain nearby that sounded like the name Tucumcari that they came up with.

I once lived in Bay City, Texas, which was nearly 20 miles from the bay. The town was originally known as Bay Prairie but I guess Bay City seemed a little more romantic.

I’ve always hoped my cell phone would ring somewhere between Portales and Roswell so I could tell someone I was at High Lonesome when they asked where I was. That will never happen though because, even though it is at a high spot, it is incredibly lonesome and isolated and the cell coverage out there sucks. Only a trainman would know where High Lonesome was anyway.

I lived in Ridgway, Colorado, which is spelled without an “e” because it was named after a railroad official named Ridgway. At that time I also worked in Ouray pronounced “U Ray” named for the great Ute Chief Ouray.

I also worked in Telluride, which has two stories for its name. The town made famous by gold mining was either named after the element tellurium, associated with gold deposits, but strangely enough not found in that valley. Or it comes from the phrase, “To hell you ride,” describing the journey one was in for when traveling by saddle or wagon into the remote valley.

I had a small role in publishing a newspaper in Rifle, Colorado, for a time. That town was on the Colorado River, which used to be known as the Grand River until a Colorado Congressman rewrote history in 1921.

Rifle was not the strangest name in the Colorado River watershed, however. That distinction goes to the place called Dotsero just above Glenwood Canyon. Early surveys in Colorado used this location where the Eagle River joined the Colorado as the benchmark starting point or dot-zero, becoming Dotsero.

Dotsero also has the youngest volcano in Colorado nearby and it also grew because it was at a major railroad junction.

Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:


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