The importance of rivers in our lives, and of the Arkansas River in mine.
Leadville, Salida, Cañon City, now we are at Pueblo. Little Fountain Creek, The St Charles, Chico Creek, The Huerfano, the Apishapa, now we are at Manzanola. Bob Creek, Horse Creek, Timpas Creek, now we are at La Junta. The Purgatoire . . .
Like a poem, these names describe the journey of my mother river, the Arkansas (which we pronounce "arkansaw" around here) from her source to my homelands. It is a dry land, and water is important to us. I can recite those tributaries from west to east without effort, like a genealogy. They say the Pawnee called her the Kicka - but the Pawnee never lived in this area. The Cheyenne call her Mó'soonêó'he'e, and the Spanish once called her Rio Napestle. The old settlement of Nepesta isn't far from here. There was still a store there when I was small.
Nepestle/Nepesta may have come from a Comanche word for wife or it could be related to an Algonquin root, ni, which refers to water. I've always liked the sound of the word Nepesta, and I like the associations of water and feminity, whether that is its origin or not. Perhaps I will think of the river's spirit in this area as Nepesta. Now there's something to meditate on!