LOOSE ENDS: What’s in a name?

MEEKER I This past weekend we celebrated Colorado Day marking 145 years of statehood. It got me thinking about how we all celebrate name days, birthdays, or special days as a part of our culture. I was not named until a few days after I was born, as my parents could not agree. The hospital birth certificate issued to my parents a full week after my arrival has remained blank my entire life. They took quite a while to finally come up with a name that fit the bill for both of them: my paternal mother’s maiden name. 

My mother always said they selected it for me in honor of my grandmother, who had passed on years before I was born. The government birth certificate issued weeks later confirms that story. What it doesn’t show is the nickname that has accompanied me all the way through my childhood and into adulthood. It became the first and only name to me. I realized what an important lesson I learned over the years when I finally acknowledged that both names were part of my identity. 

Many of the names of places throughout our state reflect the inhabitants of that particular geographical location. Sometimes individuals can get all worked up about proper names and insist on using the “official” names for both people and places. Here, in the White River Valley, many of the unofficial place names can be attributed to the Native Americans, the early settlers and well-known historic figures. A few unknown characters proclaimed a mysterious moniker as they passed through this area. 

The White River was said to be called “water that smokes”or “smoking waters” at one time by the valley’s occupants. Another version of the place name alludes to white waters, with no one clarifying which picture of the river year-round one must be thinking. All sorts of elements are at play in naming both people and places. Whatever the final choice, a name reflects identity. After all, the old tried and true literary question keeps coming up. What IS in a name? 


By DOLLY VISCARDI – Special to the Herald Times