Thursday, 26 September 2013

Boondocks - The Hicks' Sticks

Westcliffe, Colorado, Boonies
Photo taken outside the town of Westcliffe, Colorado, where my mom will soon be running a boondocks B&B


Noun. North American slang. Mid-20th century.
[Tagalog bundok mountain.]

singular & (usually) in plural. Rough or isolated country; remote parts.


Noun plural. North American colloquial. Late 20th century.

The boondocks; remote or wild area.


I grew up in the American West, where vast expanses are part of the natural habitat. You can drive for hours with only the sporadic lines of cattle-fencing to break the expanse of prairie grass or rocky hillsides, with vultures circling overhead and mountain vistas that will break your heart. Out there, you’re in the boondocks.

The word conjures images of small towns clustered around creeks that dry out every July yet are a riot of wildflowers in spring. The boonies aren't necessarily uninhabited: there are plenty of people from all kinds of backgrounds who escape the cities and carve homesteads into empty spaces. But out there, you’re choosing rattlesnakes and prairie dogs for neighbors rather than other human beings. The boondocks welcome interesting characters.

Boondocks is often associated with arid landscapes, while I use the synonym sticks to refer to boondocks in green, rainy areas. My mom grew up "in the sticks" of Minnesota, on a farm near a town of less than 2,000. When I head out to the wilds of Connemara in western Ireland, "the sticks" comes to mind, whereas "boondocks" would be how I would describe the broad horizons of rural Turkey.

The etymology of boondocks is curious, a Tagalog remnant brought back to the US from American soldiers serving in the Philippines during the Philippine-American War and later reinforced during WWII. While the connection between bundok (mountain) and boondocks (remote and wild area) might not seem immediately apparent, part of the Filipino strategy against the American forces was in guerrilla warfare, conducted from the bundoks, therefore imprinting these wild and foreboding regions into the minds of American troops.

If you ever venture to Southwest USA and you head out of the cities, you’ll be able to identify the boondocks by “towns” with just a gas station and a post office, or when you see more deer than cars, and when you see the hawks circling over cliff faces. Then you’re in the boonies.

And who knows what you’ll find there?


  1. I wanted to re-read today's #?# post to music but my wife was still asleep.

    I have two questions, I found the post enjoyably #?# (thanks Katie) but I don't know what #?# is. I think it begins with 'e' and it kind of means 'descriptive' 'inspiring' 'emotive' etc. Somebody help, it's starting to make me itch. I know the word exists.

    Also, any suggestions for the music?


  2. I love this word. I first heard it in 8 Mile: "You the new kid on the block, 'bout to get smacked back to the boondocks." I had to look it up as I had no idea what it meant; I thought it had something to with docks, so maybe a rough, run down area of the city. Anyway, I now associate boondocks with such programmes and films as Breaking Bad, Little Miss Sunshine and Malcolm in the Middle. When I watch Breaking Bad, I'm always just awed by how bleak the countryside is - piercing blue sky and flat, dusty red land. I find it quite overwhelming in its bleakness, and I don't think I could ever live there (although I would like to see it).

  3. #?# isn't 'emotive' and to compound my discomfort your reply is also quite #?#.

    #?# is a mischievous little beggar - I keep creeping up on it from behind and it scampers away again just before I can get the net over it.


  4. Evocative! Slap my face and call me Judy! E-flipping-vocative!

    Thank you for today's enjoyably evocative post Katie.

    Now, music?


    1. c, you think it's evocative? Thank you!

      This makes me really happy.

      Also, greetings from the highway somewhere between Santa Fe, New Mexico and Flagstaff, Arizona. Nothing but scrub brush and antelope out here. It's beautiful, and desolate. Makes me remember why I love this part of the world.

      Take care!