I’m sure more than one person in this town listens to conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
Limbaugh, in his lead-in Tuesday to talk about GOP candidate Ben Carson and something about Muslims in New Jersey, took some unprovoked shots at Pahrump, where the candidate had visited the day before.
According to transcripts of the broadcast, Limbaugh said Pahrump “is where you end up if you’re drunk trying to get to Las Vegas and you miss a couple turnoffs.”
Dude, what the heck? That just came out of the blue.
He continued, “Nothing against Pahrump. I do wonder, the people that named it, what were they thinking when it came time to name little their town, Pahrump? There has to be a reason for it. I’ll look it up. I’ll find out. There has to be an explanation.”
While Limbaugh’s shot at the name was uncalled for, it does bring up the interesting question of the origin of the Pahrump name. While the town was named for the larger Pahrump Valley we are located in, the origin of the word Pahrump seems open to debate.
The most common story I’ve heard is that Pahrump is Native American for “water rock,” which is as good a story as any.
Nye County historian Bob McCracken in his book about the history of Pahrump, said the word could be the Southern Paiute word “pah,” meaning “water,” and “timpi,” meaning “stone,” modified by settlers to “rumpi.”
Another possibility is the name could have been taken from the Southern Paiute Indian band, Parumpaiats. I find that hard to believe because that band was in the Moapa Valley area, which is more than 100 miles east.
Closer to home, according to McCracken, Native American residents in the Pahrump Valley have stated the word itself has no meaning.
One of the earliest known references to something closely resembling the word Pahrump was by George M. Wheeler, the famous Western explorer and mapmaker for the U.S. government.
Wheeler Peak in the Great Basin National Park, Wheeler Peak in New Mexico and the Wheeler Geological Area in southern Colorado were all named for him, so he’s big deal in the shaping of the Western United States.
In 1871, Wheeler was in the early years of an ambitious project that came to be known as the Wheeler Survey, a plan to map the Southwest to a scale of eight miles to an inch. To put that in perspective, my drive from Henderson to this newspaper’s office would be eight inches.
In his preliminary report concerning explorations and surveys of Nevada and Arizona, the world Pah-rimp is used twice.
Under a description of 23 valleys recorded, one was labeled by that name. The second reference was that the “Pah-Utes in Pahrimp Valley, and around Cottonwoods and Las Vegas, raise, in addition, corn, melons, squashes, and gather large quantities of wild grapes, which grow abundantly near the springs.”
So it is not a long stretch to go from “Pah-rimp” to “Pahrump,” which it is today. In my quick review for this column, it is unclear if Wheeler himself passed through the valley, but I’d like to think so.
I will give Limbaugh a little credit, after he blasted the area for being nothing more than a drunken turnoff on the way to Las Vegas, he felt inspired enough to look up the name in Wikipedia trying to find its meaning.
“They reportedly chose the name for Pahrump after the original indigenous name, Pah-Rimpi, or water rock, so named because of the abundant artesian wells in the valley,” Limbaugh read from Wikipedia. “A lot of things in Nevada are named after water sources, apparently. Pahrump is right next to the Mojave Desert.”
I believe the Pahrump Valley is in the Mojave Desert, but that’s not that big a deal. But Limbaugh couldn’t leave it there. He had to go back to taking shots at the word Pahrump, despite looking up the meaning.
“The reason people are curious about the name is because of ‘rump’ in there, r-u-m-p,” he said. “Rump means something. Pahrump, it’s a, ‘Gee, I’m happy my butt’s where it is,’ or some such thing. That’s why I was wondering. So now we know. Perfectly legitimate reason.”
Well, Mr. Limbaugh, I’m not sure what you’re rattling on about there at the end.
But I would agree that “I’m happy my butt’s” part of this community.
Arnold M. Knightly is the editor of the Pahrump Valley Times. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @KnightlyGrind