By Peter Rice: Pilot Staff Writer
A time zone, two mountain ranges and several degrees of latitude appear to have isolated a linguistic oddity here in Curry County — Oregon, that is.
A brief telephone survey this week revealed that the stalwart saying, “There’s no hurry in Curry,” hasn’t made it to conversation mills in Curry County, N.M., a county in the eastern part of the state next to Texas.
“I haven’t heard that,” said Lance Pyle, the mayor of the Curry County, N.M., town of Melrose (population: 736).
The trend continued in calls to random pizza joints, steak houses and bars in the other Curry’s largest city, Clovis. Ditto for the town’s paper, the Clovis News Journal.
“No, I’ve never heard that,” said retiree Dick Powell. “And I’m not the movie star either.”
Judy Bunch, who owns a Clovis clothing store called Kid City, did promise, however, to use the saying sometime.
“Sure, why not,” she said.
New Mexico’s Curry is noted for its dairy farms and ranch land, as well as Cannon Air Force Base, which recently escaped closure in a round of federal cuts.
LeAnn Rimes and Buddy Holly have recorded music in studios there. William Hanna, half of the cartooning duo Hanna-Barbera, was born in Pyle’s town of Melrose.
There are some big differences between the counties. New Mexico’s Curry is on the high plains, pulling in about 17 inches of rain every year, according to www.southernnewmexico.com. Brookings, Ore., meanwhile, has had nearly three times that in the last four months alone, according to the Curry Coastal Pilot’s weather station. And the New Mexico Curry’s population is twice that of Oregon’s Curry.
But there are some common threads. For instance, it didn’t take Bunch long to complain that too many Californians are moving in and driving up land prices.
“Our real estate is just ridiculous,” she said.
A house she paid $60,000 for seven years ago would likely fetch $300,000 now, she said.
And, like the Oregon Curry, people there are pretty laid back.
“Basically they take things in stride. If it’s going to happen it’s going to happen,” Powell said.
In other words, there’s not much of a hurry in that Curry either.
“This is a small rural farming community,” Bunch said. “They’re not in a rush.”
Of the dozen or so Curry, N.M., residents contacted for this story, only one — Pyle — thought the saying didn’t quite fit the people there.
Along with their unfailing politeness, “People in Curry County are very active,” he said.
And he should know. At 25, he’s the youngest mayor in New Mexico and also the assistant manager of the county government.
“I’m in a hurry,” he said.
Back home in Oregon, meanwhile, the origins of the saying remain mysterious. Reached at his home Wednesday, Gold Beach, Ore., resident Walt Schroeder, a veritable dean of Curry County history and lore, said Jerry’s Rogue Jets manager Jeff Ferguson might be the one behind the saying.
“It’s been one of the slogans of the county for a while,” Schroeder said. “It kind of lets you relax.”
But Ferguson pleaded innocent to the charges.
“It definitely goes back before my time,” he said. “I think I heard my dad say it.”
Ferguson did, however, inadvertently work to spread the saying, including it in the forward to a book of his tall tales called “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”
“Here in Curry County, Ore., we do things a little different,” he wrote. “Usually on our own terms and in our own time. We like to say, ‘There’s no hurry in Curry,’ so we do a lot of easing in around here … which is kind of like poking around.”
The two counties were named after men named George. Oregon’s Curry is named in honor of George Law Curry (1820-1878), a newspaper editor turned politician who served as territorial governor just before Oregon became a state in 1859. New Mexico’s Curry was George Curry (1861-1947), one of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders who later worked various government jobs in New Mexico’s Lincoln and Otero counties. He also served as a territorial governor.
Research efforts didn’t turn up definitive evidence about whether the two Currys were related, though they are definitely not immediate family. In 1848, George Law Curry did marry Chloe Boone, a distant relative of Daniel Boone, and the couple had six children — in Oregon.
New Mexico’s Curry was only born in Louisiana 13 years after the marriage.
“I wasn’t able to make a connection,” said Steve Hallberg, a catalog librarian at the Oregon Historical Society Research Library in Portland.
• Curry County, Ore., is situated along the Pacific Coast in the southwest corner of Oregon. It is bounded on the south by California, on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the east by Josephine County.
• The county contains 1,648 square miles.
• The most recent census showed population at 22,200.
• There is mining of nickel, cobalt and chromium, but most of the county’s economy is related to agriculture, recreation, tourism and forest products.
Source: official Web site of Curry County, Ore.
Conversation with County Commissioner Lucie La Bonte’:
• La Bonte’ said her county is remote and beautiful. “Today it is 65 degrees … sunny and everything is turning green,” she said.
• She described the native people of Curry County, Ore., as outdoorsy and self-sufficient, relying on their own gardens and fresh-caught fish for food.
• The county receives most of its rainfall from October to May.
• Salmon and halibut, caught by local commercial fishermen, are served at the local restaurants.
• According to La Bonte’, her county contains both ocean and forest and each area has its own unique climate.