Sunday, May 3, 2009

Mine That Bird?

How do they come up with these racehorse names? No matter. A 50-1 longshot by any other name is just as sweet. And that he was trained in New Mexico by a cowboy is just icing on the cake. Who doesn't love a fairy tale that comes true?

I'm often asked how I came up with the names for my animals. In case you've been wondering, here's the scoop.

It started with Wynonna. I had selected a perfectly good name for her before I picked her up (Oprah), but that changed on the ride home. She was nestled in a tub of straw in the back of my Jeep. Just as I was pulling onto the highway, she jumped out of the tub and into the front seat. The song playing on the radio was "I Saw the Light" by Wynonna Judd. It was fate.

I brought home two Nigerian Dwarf goats a few months later, and they were without names for almost a week. They were inseparable, so I knew I had to think of names that were always said together. As I looked out the window and watched them hanging out with Wynonna, it just came to me – Waylon (Jennings) and Willie (Nelson). Now we had a theme started.

When I found the horse of my dreams a year later, her AQHA name was Spanish Petticoat, and her owner called her Petti. No way. Not acceptable. She became Emmy Lou (Harris) the minute she stepped onto my property.

Then I decided to let Emmy Lou have a foal. I had eleven months to think up names for the newborn and came up with a whole list of options, but nothing was finalized until the moment the colt popped out. Everything about him was unique, and Lyle (Lovett) fit him just right.

Emmy Lou passed on seven months later, and along came a Paint named Cochise. He was the perfect horse for me, except for his name. I liked the simplicity of "Buck" but had been warned about self-fulfilling prophecies. I went with Hank (Williams, Sr.) instead, and it fits him perfectly. Though in our early years together, Buck would have been more appropriate.

Along the way, I started raising laying hens. Collectively, they were the Dixie Chicks, and individually they were just Dixie, Dixie and Dixie, since it was pretty hard to tell them apart. And the indoor cats came along, too, but they seemed more floral than choral, and so were named Rosebud, Daffodil, and Snapdragon - aka Snapper.

And then came a new puppy, to fill the hole in my heart left by my beloved yellow lab Annie (Oakley), who was named before the whole theme thing got started. The St. Francis Animal Sanctuary called the puppy Grace, but that didn't suit her at all. She had been at the 7MSN for over a week and remained nameless, but every time I wanted her attention, I made that smooch sound and she would come to me. One day I just gave up on trying to think of the perfect name and decided to call her Smooch. Which turned out to be the perfect name.

And then came the burros. It was time to have animals in my barn named after my favorite country singers of all time – George (Strait) and Alan (Jackson). But there was a glitch. My father's name is George and I wasn't sure how he'd feel about having an ass in the family with the same name. Turns out he was honored.

By the time a new barn cat came along last spring, I had exhausted the theme of "country music singers with instantly identifiable first names whose music I liked." So a new theme was born - names from my favorite western of all time. My crystal ball isn't telling me who might join us in the future, but you can bet they will be called Woodrow or Gus or Clara or Lorena, to join Deets in this cast of characters.


  1. Most names come to me within seconds of seeing or meeting a new addition. One exception was the pygmy goats. They renamed nameless for a week until a neighbor came to report that a bobcat was stalking up and down their fence line. Thus "Morsel", "Timbit" (a donut hole in Canada) and "Nugget" were dubbed. And we got a Maremma.

  2. I wonder about the Derby winner name also. All I could think of was canary in a coal mine, which isn't such a nice reference.

    And ha! Greta minds think alike. I had all the theme names figured out, even Deets.

  3. Love your naming conventions and can't wait to see who gets to be Woodrow and Gus. I have my heart set on names for the burros I plan to get: Brighty (as in Brighty of the Grand Canyon) and Burrito. But animals have a way of asserting what names they should have despite your best intentions.

    With the terriers, we had to resort of coming up with a bunch of names and using the one they deigned to come to. Sometimes they fit, sometimes they don't.

    Our little feisty brown-faced handsome boy terrier named himself when another little brown-faced handsome fighter appeared on the TV one night and he barked at him. That terrier is now Oscar de la Hoya.

  4. This was so funny and well written that I had to read it out loud to my husband. He said something to the effect of "I wonder how the ass feels being named after her father?" Hee hee.

  5. Fun post, I love hearing how you came about your names and themes! I love the Lonesome Dove one of course, and hope to name a future dog(s) from that movie's characters! I'll draw the line at my kids, hee hee!
    I was so thrilled for Mine That Bird's win...I had chosen him and General Quarters as my top two (because of their stories. And I always root for the underdog!) Now I want to learn more about this horse and the cowboy that trained him!

  6. I REALLY enjoyed this post!

    Naming animal family gives me fits. I want it to be the perfect name, and I must say all your animals are perfectly named!

    Lonesome Dove is one of my all time favorites too (and I LOVE your cat Deets) and I've read all of Larry McMurtrys books.

    I've got lambs starting to hit the the sleepless nights start again!! :)

  7. Very interesting how everyone's names came about. Fun to see all their 'baby' pictures too, and I didn't realize that Deets was such a recent addition to your family, Smooch's 'floppy ears' are so cute.

  8. That was fantastic. I had a genuine belly laugh over the naming of George! OMG. Too funny.

    I love them all, as you know and I think the names you've chosen for them are perfect.

    The names of my animals are all kind of accidental and I end up giving them pet names (excuse the pun).

    I do have a name all picked out for my dog...the one I'll have one day. Trouble is, in my mind it really suits only one breed and I'm not sure it's the best breed for me. Anyway...I'll cross that bridge later.

    Have a great day!

  9. "...more floral than choral..." ha ha ha! Great post - you've done a wonderful job naming your pals. I don't have names for my new goat babies yet and people are starting to ask. I just say, well, I need to see their personalities a bit first.
    I had forgotten that you had ND goats. That's such a fun picture of baby Wynonna and the goats. :-)

  10. This is so great! Love the theme idea of naming them all, You had me laughing so hard!
    I have named some of my cats and dogs names I would use to name a child. So I guess when I have a baby I will have to find a new name!

  11. Naming critters is hard until you see it. Then it just pops into my head. Sometimes they have two or three names. I had a cat once who lived to be a few days shy of 20. I never did name her. Nothing fit.

  12. what wonderful animals and cool names. I have to say that picture of Lyle as a colt does look a lot like Lyle Lovett :)

  13. everything here is named too... and most times its just an impression that they give...

  14. I had all your names figured out a long time ago and thought you were pretty clever naming the critters.
    And I love that Bird horse won and showed all the hot shots that a $9500 dollar horse can win, even if he doesn't have sponsors with ridiculous hats!

  15. Love it! My hubby wondered if Alan and George were the infamous Alan and George, I said yeah, well there is also Lyle and Hank..and we figured that was the case!

  16. I love to hear about how people name their pets!

    The race yesterday was so exciting, I was so happy for the owner. It is a great story. I still can't believe he bought the horse for $9,500!

  17. Very belated condolences on Emmy Lou. That must have been tough.
    Your naming conventions are fun and easy to remember!
    Great post!

  18. Excellent names, all of them! I am especially fond of Deets as I ADORE that movie too. I could watch it over and over and over... Oh, and Annie Oakley is another favorite, obviously.

    When I was raising a few foals a year, I would name them after historical figures, cowgirls, cowboys, and outlaws... Sunnie (the Sundance Kid), Annie (Oakley -- whom we now call Sister), Bodie (okay, that's a historical ghost town), Madame Mattie Silks, Emiliano Zapata (Mexican revolutionary), Lucille Mulhall,... I always wanted a Calamity and a Doc (Holliday) but haven't gotten around to it yet. ;)

  19. PS: Forgot to mention my burro I adopted a few years back... He was "Pinkerton, Head of Ranch Security." How perfect is that?!

  20. I had a cat once and I called her Steely and I bet you can guess where I got her name. She was a magical cat and looked a lot like Deets. I still miss the smart little thing and she's been gone 11years.
    So glad to know the stories behind the names. How 'bout the wild critters. I think there are a couple of birds and also the pesky coyotes, visiting snakes.
    You always make my day!
    Best always, Sandra

  21. Great names! Love Deets! I really enjoy hearing the stories behind the names people choose for their animals.

    I must say, Wynonna is perfect. And Lyle is just adorable.

  22. I love your naming convention! Hubby calls everything Fred to start off. Sooner or later, the name will stick and hubby will be very happy.

  23. Interesting topic! I need to try that some day too because friends and family are always asking.

    Now, I suspect you do NOT like Reba's music? She definitely not included yet in your girl names.

    Great pics, as always.

  24. Ha...Lyle did look like Lyle Lovett...fuzzy top 'n all! Great post~~

  25. An American in Tokyo2/25/14, 10:07 PM

    I just saw this post through a link at the bottom of your page.
    Wynonna looks sooooooooooo adorable! Now I can see why you brought her home. I would not be able to say no to a cutie like that! =D
    Thank you for sharing your family's baby pictures and how everyone was named. I love this post!

  26. I just saw this post too thru the link. When i found my first cat, he was only 3wks old. My husband said he was just the right size for a sandwich. So we ended up calling him Sandwich. Then I found the second cat and knew we had to call him Soup. Now I want two donkeys...Taco and Burrito. By the way I've cooked in restaurants for a long time now so maybe that has a little to do with it.