Monday, February 14, 2005

Valentines, USA


One and ONLY?

No, actually there are nine (count 'em, NINE) towns (or blips on the map) named "Valentine" in the United States. And there is one that's plural - Valentines, Virginia (so Virginia really is for lovers).

The nine "towns" of Valentine (singular), according to my best research, are in Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Texas.

Seven of these Valentines, such as those in Arizona and Montana, are virtual ghost towns or cross roads, mostly disappeared from their heydays a century ago. A few, such as Valentine, Indiana, and Valentine, New Jersey, have been swallowed up by sprawl and mightier suburbs or just bypassed by the highway.

Of the ten (nine Valentine, singular, and Valentines, VA), only three, in 2005, are big enough, independent enough or intact enough to warrant their own post offices: Valentines, Virginia, a sort of Mayberry RFD berg, tiny but proud, far to the south near the North Carolina line; Valentine, Nebraska, hub of the northern sand hills and sweeping prairie, on the wild and scenic Niobrara River just south of the South Dakota line and the immense Pine Ridge lands of the Sioux; and Valentine, Texas, not a lot more than a way station for the railroad in the land of "Giant," west of Alpine and Marfa.

There is some controvery about how Valentine, Texas, got its name. The staunchest and starchiest historians insist that it was named after a railroad engineer whose last name was Valentine. But local lore poses a more romantic story: that the town was named by the crew building the mail line of the Southern Pacific because that was the windswept and desolate spot the crew had reached on Valentine's Day, 1882.

Indeed, railroads are a theme with most of the towns called Valentine. Those in TX, SC, AZ, NE, and AR are on busy lines of major railroads. And the long lost hamlets in Indiana and Louisiana are on spur lines. Valentine, Nebraska, and Valentine, Texas, are considered to be two of the most isolated towns in the lower 48. Maybe that Valentine guy got around.

The Louisiana Valentine is at the end of a line on the banks of Bayou Lafourche, ripe with Spanish moss, aligators and Cajun accents. The Arizona Valentine is a cactus-studded spot southwest of the Grand Canyon, many miles out of the way. But Valentine, AZ, didn't used to be out of the way: it sits on old Route 66, west of Winslow and Winona, between Williams and Kingman, where "the highway that's the best" veers north from I-40.

It's a good thing three of these towns have their own post offices, with their own postmarks, because there's a Valentine's ritual that now goes around the world. The post offices in Valentines, VA, Valentine, Nebraska, and Valentine, Texas, will resend your Valentine's mail for you not only with a postmark from their proud town but also with a specially hand inked Valentine's stamp as well. The Texas post office, in a desolate town of about 200 people, now has a design contest at the high school each year to come up with the next Valentine's stamp design.

So here's what to do for next year: Write or make Valentine's cards for your various significant others. Address and stamp them (commemorative and symbolic stamps stand out and make a statement). Put them all in a large envelope, and mail them in late January or early February to POSTMASTER (POSTMISTRESS is OK, too) at Valentine, Texas 79854, Valentine, Nebraska 69201, or Valentines, VA 23887, with a nice note on the big envelope for the postal person to please hand cancel and mail the Valentines inside. Hand cancelled and stamped Valentines from "Valentine" are a charming way to show you planned ahead and cared enough to send the very best, with love.


At 2/15/2005 6:06 AM, Anonymous RQ said...

The Valentine Trilogy by THE Lawrence Walker. Mailing cards to Valentine, TX, is such a cool tradition. I MUST remember next year. RQ


Post a Comment

<< Home