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Letters, Nov. 13

‘Siskiyou’ origin myth repeated

I was sorry to see the discredited old “six caillous” etymology of the name “Siskiyou” reprinted in the Nov. 8 “Mail Tribune 100.” The myth alleges that French-speaking Hudson’s Bay Company trappers crossed the Sacramento River on six stepping-stones at their “headquarters” at the headwaters of the river.

There are several things wrong with this theory, not least that “stepping-stone” would be an unusual use of the word “caillou.” It usually means “pebble.”

Then there are the problems that there is no historical or documentary evidence for the myth, as well as the fact the Hudson’s Bay Company never had a headquarters or trading post of any kind on the Sacramento River.

“Siskiyou” actually refers to a horse lost in a blizzard on the Siskiyou Mountain during trapper Alex McLeod’s winter crossing in 1829. Trappers tended to name places by incidents that occurred near them, giving us names like Louse Creek and Jumpoff Joe Creek.

You can find the word “siskiyou” defined as “a bob-tailed horse” on Google Books in Frederic J. Long’s 1909 “Dictionary of the Chinook Jargon.” Part of the word has entered the English language through another route, coming down to us as the word “cayuse.”

Ben Truwe


A haughty spirit falls

It’s a week after the election and Trump loyalists are still struggling to process the voters’ take-home lesson. The political faction most responsible for Trump’s ouster is the one that he made wince the most over the last four years: traditional Republicans.

Democrats could not have done this alone. There was no blue wave. There was, in fact, a red tide of sorts. Republicans showed up in record numbers to install deserving members of their party in many other seats of government.

Within that showing was a coalition of another kind of silent Republican: the kind who holds that character still counts. They were prudent enough to understand that turning the GOP into a freak show of self-adoring autocrats with strident personality disorders is hardly a political long game. And unlike the modern-day Pharisees on the far right end of the party, they do not prostitute their ethics to compartmentalized rationalizations of lesser-evil justification.

They believe that personal integrity and intellectual fitness really do matter. Above all, they believe that in this world we must all reap what we sow.

Now this deeply flawed president is doing exactly that.

Steve Bismarck


Pest control

It’s beginning to look as if, on Jan. 20 next year, someone will have to vacuum Donald Trump and his clan out of the White House, just as is being done with the nests of Asian giant murder hornets or any other dangerous pests.

It might be necessary to wait a few days for the new occupant’s family and staff to move in, to allow time for complete fumigation.

John Kloetzel


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