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Take It From A Local: The Tale Of How Turkey, Texas, Got Its Name


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) I saw miles and miles of Texas...


When I open up a map here in Texas, I'm drawn to the colorful names of Texas towns.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) I've saw miles and miles of Texas, gonna live here till I die.

BLOCK: You'll find place names that evoke the wild west. Point Blank, Texas, Gun Barrel City, Cut and Shoot, names that make you wonder about the stories behind them. Jot Them Down, Ding Dong and Nameless, Texas.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) Why hello, there.

BLOCK: There's a Noodle, Texas, Raisin, Oatmeal, Coffee City.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) from Texas, our home state...

BLOCK: And up in the Texas panhandle, you'll find Turkey, Texas, the boyhood home of the late King of Western Swing, fiddler Bob Wills. Turkey, Texas, population about 400. I called up Don Turner in Turkey. He's lived there all his life, volunteers and the Bob Wills Museum and I asked him for the story of how Turkey, Texas, got its name.

DON TURNER: There's a creek close by. When Turkey was founded, it was a - the post office was a dugout and the dugout was on a creek that where all the wild turkey roosted. And then that's how Turkey originally got its name.

BLOCK: Now you say the post office was a dugout. You mean it was dug into the banks of the creek?

TURNER: Right.


TURNER: This was back in 1890s when they had the post office at that time. Later on, it was moved into town and they had to change it to just Turkey, Texas, then.

BLOCK: What was it called before?

TURNER: It was originally Turkey Roost.

BLOCK: Oh. And then they dropped the Roost and it just became Turkey.

TURNER: Right. So the story went they had another town already in Texas that had Turkey Roost as the post office.

BLOCK: I'm trying to get a picture of Turkey in my mind. If I were to come drive into Turkey, Texas, what would I see?

TURNER: When you're coming in from the west, like from Amarillo or Lubbock, when you finally get over to Turkey, you know, Turkey kind of sits down in a little hole. It's got a lot of trees around it.

BLOCK: Are there any stores downtown?

TURNER: We have a few left. We still have a bank and then a dry goods store and then a convenience store and then a kind of a farm store. So we still have a little bit of a downtown area left.

BLOCK: I did read this, Mr. Turner, and I don't know if it's true, but that the Animal Rights group, PETA made a bid for you guys to change the name from Turkey, Texas, to Tofurkey, Texas.

TURNER: Right.

BLOCK: And what happened?

TURNER: We're still Turkey, Texas.

BLOCK: Enough said, right.

TURNER: I told somebody, I said, my mother wouldn't let me pronounce that word.

BLOCK: So Turkey, it is.

TURNER: Yeah. I think it'll always be Turkey, Texas.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Turner, thanks so much for talking to us about Turkey.

TURNER: You bet.

BLOCK: That's Don Turner in Turkey, Texas. And this week, we'll be hearing the stories behind some other unusual Texas town names. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.