One’s hometown is something to be proud of; its name? Maybe not so much. Quirky town names are the norm around The Natural State. What would Arkansas be without Possum Grape or Flippin? Or without Crumrod and Nimrod? (Do you think they’re related? We digress.) Arkansas town names are a quizzical bunch, and some even elicit the occasional giggle. (Weiner? Really?) Though some are now unincorporated, we couldn’t help ourselves from tipping our hats to some of the state’s best designations. Here’s to you, Bald Knob.

Possum Grape

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This town gets its unique name from the wild grape popular in the area for making jam and wine; they’re a deep purple color, even painted on a mural on an old, run-down store in town (possum also included, of course). However, the Encyclopedia of Arkansas says the name might have been spurred from a local disagreement in 1954 — a dispute about naming the town either “Possum” or “Grape.” I’m not sure settling on one or the other would have made a better name for the town than both combined. Whatever the story, the unincorporated community sits about 30 miles northeast of Searcy in Jackson County. Long ago, the economy was driven by the pearling industry; divers collected mussel shells in the White River and sold them to a button factory about 15 miles away in Newport. Today, mostly farmers live in Possum Grape and travel to nearby towns for almost all their needs; not more than a church, liquor store and auto business still exist. MH

Bald Knob

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Bald Knob, that strangely named outpost in White County, was originally named Shady Grove, which sounds both inviting and mysterious like that town in the TV show “Twin Peaks.” We can’t help but think that, in a different time, Shady Grove would have made this list just as proudly. As for Bald Knob, it was named for a large outcropping of stone, the White County Historical Society’s William Leach wrote for the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Salt extraction and quarrying have been big industries there over the years but nothing was bigger than the strawberry industry. Bald Knob farmers sold $3.5 million worth of strawberries in 1951 (that’s about $39 million today). Bald Knob even called itself the Strawberry Capital of the World and was home to a three-fourths of a mile strawberry shed, the longest in the world. Sounds pretty sweet … but we still like Shady Grove. GC

Weiner

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Like these other towns, I can’t help but get a kick out of the buildings’ names; the Weiner Post Office, Weiner Christian Church, Weiner Gym and Weiner Elementary School — can you imagine being 12 years old in a town called Weiner? About a decade ago there was a move to try and consolidate the schools Weiner and Delight into one; it was unanimously shut down because of the 200-mile distance between the two, but it’s hard to shake the idea of a Weiner-Delight school. Anyway, this town of about 700 residents is in Poinsett County in Northeast Arkansas. Its original name of West Prairie was old news when the railroad came through town. The train station was named Weiner after a railroad official and the town became known as the same, though technically the town is still officially listed as West Prairie. From what I can tell online, the town doesn’t succumb to its name, so we’ll hold off on the inappropriate jokes for this one, but there are plenty. By the way, the school mascot is the Cardinal, not the … weiner. MH

Tomato 

On a bend near the Mississippi River in East Arkansas, the now unincorporated town of Tomato had other names in its past — Canadian Reach and Cedar Landing, Mike Polston wrote for the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. But local tradition says that while filing for township at the post office, (which was also the second smallest office in the nation in 1990) a local store owner asked for his daughter’s opinion for a town name. As she was holding a can of tomatoes, she supposedly said, “Oh, why not just name it Tomato?” Other lore states the port town once had a tomato crate secured near the river bank for deliveries. Eventually, captains referred to the stop as Tomato. Because of its proximity to the river and flooding, the town buildings were put on log rollers and moved away several times. Today, only farmland remains. MH

Flippin

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Flippin is best known as the home of Ranger Boats, but the history of its name might be just as noteworthy. It all started in the early 1800s with a settlement in the area called the Barrens, Eve West wrote for the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. The owner of the general store, according to local legend, was not pleased with a peddler selling stuff outside his store, so he pushed him out of town with the help of a goat who head-butted the peddler in his behind. The town, of course, then became known as Goatville for a while. Really. Thanks to a prominent citizen named Thomas H. Flippin, the town took on the name Flippin Barrens and, in 1921, it was officially named Flippin. In all honesty, we sort of miss Goatville. GC

Friendship 

The meaning behind this Arkansas town is about as wholesome as you’d hope it to be. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, early residents decided to name this Hot Spring County town as a reflection of the close relationships among settlers in the area. I think it makes everything in town sound quite cute; the Friendship Station for the Ouachita Fire Department and the Friendship Baptist Church. Even the now-dormant, two-cell Friendship Jail sounds like it wouldn’t be too bad of a stay. But with a dwindling population, only about 150 residents occupy the town today. MH

Fifty-Six 

In 1918, a settlement called Newcomb applied for a post office but had its name rejected,  Steven Teske wrote for the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. In substitution, the name Fifty-Six — for the number of the community’s school district — was chosen and never changed again. Winding roads and water crossings lead to Fifty-Six in the Ozark mountains of Stone County. It’s a nature-forward town with a small population of just under 200 folks. You’ve probably passed through on the way to Blanchard Springs Caverns, the nearby and breathtaking cave tourist destination. The area is beautiful, with all of the best The Natural State has to offer — Mirror Lake, forests, waterfalls and camping under the bright, rural stars. The small town holds its own with a lil’ country store, a church and visitor lodging. Numerical names must be a theme in the state; Arkansas also has the town Forty-Four in Izard County — supposedly for the number of names on a petition to the postal department. MH

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