Father of Waters

As I was driving Belinda and Nelly to church this Mother’s Day, we crossed the Mississippi River, and Belinda remarked that the water was high. Nelly wanted to know how the river could flood when there was nothing to keep the water from flowing downriver.

“Where does the water come from?” I asked.

“God?” she ventured.

“Yes,” I said, “but I was asking a scientific question, not a religious one.”

“From snow?” she said with a little more assurance.

“Yes,” I said, “and rain. This time of year there’s a lot of rain and not much snow melt.”

“Is the Mississippi the longest river in the United States?”

“I think so.” I turned to Belinda. “Isn’t it the longest?” I asked. Then I thought of the Missouri meandering over the plains states into Montana. “Unless the Missouri…,”

“No,” said Belinda. “I’m sure the Mississippi is the longest. It’s a very important river.”

“Why isn’t it called the Minnesota?” Nelly asked. “It starts in Minnesota.”

“Do you know what ‘Mississippi’ means in the Indian language it comes from?”


“It means ‘Father of Waters.’

“Oh,” said Belinda playfully. “Then it should be Misterssippi.”

By the way, the Missouri really is the longest river at 2341 mi, 21 miles longer than the Mississippi. See here for more.

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