By Sarah Carlson
Photography by Beth Dukes
I should have been a neighborhood developer. Not because I’d be good at developing neighborhoods or anything. No, I want their job because I want their power.
It’s true: Neighborhood developers are some of the most influential people around because they get to name the streets, roads, avenues, parkways, etc., on which we commute and live. What do we get to name – our pets, our children? Amateur hour. Developers have the ability to ensure a family’s Christmas card arrives in someone’s mailbox with the return address of, say, Wackadoo Drive, an actual street name in Abilene.
That’s power. Whether it reflects good judgment, however, is up for debate. This is a tricky subject. No offense should be taken by residents if they recognize the name of their street in this column. And I’m not out to criticize developers so much as to tell you your brazenness has earned my respect.
Every town and city has its own quirky street names, and Abilene is no exception. And you have to wonder: What are developers thinking? What motivates them to wield their power so fully, so absurdly, that they can in presumably good conscience submit a name like Lollipop Trail to the city?
I spoke with Zack Rainbow (real name), assistant director of development services for Abilene, about the process. Typically, developers take naming cues from subdivisions in other cities, he said. Sometimes, they name streets after children or other loved ones, even horses. The only real veto comes from 9-1-1, which runs requested street names through its database to ensure they either aren’t obscene or too similar to existing streets so as to avoid confusion during an emergency. That’s really all that stands between a developer and their dream of naming something Nonesuch Road.
Some developers’ creativity appears to have been spurred on by hunger, which is why people get to call streets such as Cotton Candy, Sugarloaf and Potato Pie Trail home. Perhaps all the Chaucer names – Yeomans Road, Friar’s Street, Seaman’s Way – are brought to us by a developer’s painful memories of that time they had to read “The Canterbury Tales” in high school but hey, at least it was better than “Beowulf.” Park Avenue, Bel Air, Trafalgar Square and Hollywood could represent someone’s love of traveling (or daydreaming of more exciting places to reside). And some names are just folksy and perhaps inspired by real people – Old Andy, Miss Ellie, Sue Lookout, Our Folks Way.
But these are still generally benign, and plenty of names from American history and the aisles of garden centers abound. It’s the more creative nicknames, random nouns and invented words emblazoned on street signs that truly boggle the mind.
Maybe the more out-there names make their residents chuckle at the end of a long day as they head home, and that’s no small change these days. I know I’m amused imagining what it’s like to invite someone over and say “Come on by – I’m up on Tweetie Pie Lane!” However, I can’t help but feel the developers are getting the biggest laugh. Oh, the power!
To wit, here are, without a doubt, the silliest names on Abilene’s map. It’s not up for debate.
No. 5: Chiggers Trail. Enough said.
No. 4: The aforementioned Wackadoo Drive, which is near Scoobie Trail.
No. 3: Cody Bug Road. This one’s in Potosi and in the same neighborhood as Chiggers Trail and a few other nuggets of gold: Handsome Jack Road, Mike’s Way and Sugar Biscuit Lane.
No. 2: Chachalaca Lane. Yes, this is the name of a bird, but that doesn’t make it any better or easier to spell.
And now, the funniest street name gracing Abilenians’ mail:
No. 1: Boogaloo. It’d be better if it was preceded by Electric, but it still takes the top spot.
Well played, developers. It’s your world; we just live in it. Try and use your power for good.