Translating Minden’s Basque street names |

Translating Minden’s Basque street names

by Lisa Gavon
R-C Alpine Bureau

The devil spent seven years in Basque country trying to understand the language. Since it was so difficult, after all that time he had only been able to learn “bai” (yes) and “ez” (no). He finally decided that was enough for his purposes and was leaving when a terrible thunderstorm came up. He fell and hit his head, knocking out those two important words from his memory.

The Basque language has no demonstrable genealogical relationship to other tongues. It is a distinct dialect and linguists have been unable to connect it to any other languages. Since even the devil found it impossible to comprehend, there is no way he can tempt the Basque people. So, as this traditional story goes, not a single Basque has ever been sentenced to the eternal flames. The devil cannot understand what they are saying, and he lets them go.

We are fortunate that Carson Valley has such a large and vibrant Basque community. We have the opportunity to learn a little Basque just by driving through the town of Minden.

The Mack Land and Cattle Co. sold off part of their pasture land bordering town to make what is now known as the Mackland Subdivision. It is centrally located just off Highway 88. Scotchie Mack was in charge of naming all the streets.

Anita Izoco reported that: “Scotchie Mack and Jean Lekumberry had known each other for years. Scotchie had Basques who worked for him. One that Marie Louise Lekumberry knew of was Jean Pierre Etchemendy. She said that one day Scotchie came into the bar and told Jean he was going to name all the streets in his new subdivision with things that were historically grown or used on his ranch, only in Basque. Jean helped him with the Basque translations.”

Anita and Marie Louise Lekumberry were kind enough to translate these:

Behia Circle – cow

Belarra Drive and Street – grass

Burrukia Street – wheat

Labarantcha Road – ranch

North Lucerne Street – alfalfa

Olua Street – oats

Zaldia Street – horse

In Gardnerville, there is also Borda Way, named after a local Basque family. Sheepcamp Road most certainly has a Basque starting point, since history documents that the Basque people were well known for their sheepherding abilities. The corrals and workers houses on Buckeye belonged to the Borda family and they would ship their lambs from there.

Containing seven provinces straddling the borders of France and Spain in the rugged Western Pyrenees range, the mountainous Basque homeland runs along the coast of the Bay of Biscay. The word “Euskera” means “the language that Basque people speak”. Now that you know a little Basque, you may be able to trick the devil too.