A further note of explanation is in order. The name of the river is pronounced:
Use a nice lilt as if you were starting a line of poetry in iambic pentameter and elide the word "penny."
Wapsi was an Indian maiden from the Sac tribe. By all accounts, she was as beautiful as an opium-fueled dream. Unfortunately, she fell in love with Pinicon, a brave from the Fox tribe across the river, a smooth, footloose operator until he laid eyes on her. He was immediately smitten, too. I will spare you the story of how they came to meet and all that.
Anyway, even though the Sac and the Fox tribes were both members of the Mesquawki Nation, the two tribes never got along well at all when in proximity to each other. So it was Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, whatever, in a nutshell.
Frustrated in this affair at every turn, Wapsi and Pinicon finally swam out into the river from their respective river banks and met in the middle. They drowned while locked in each other's arms trying to have sex while floating downstream in the river, the only place they could find free from the watchful eyes of their two tribes. Obviously, they were single-minded in their determination to consummate their relationship.
The speculation is that they drowned in high water somewhere just down below Waubeek. The fact is that their bodies, still in that fatal embrace, washed up near where the Wapsipinicon Country Club is today outside Anamosa.
Before this occurred the Sac and Fox simply referred to the Wapsipinicon as "the River," using the words for "the" and "river" in their own tongue of course. After this occurred they began referring to the Wapsipinicon as "Be-Careful-What-You-Wish-For-Water," in their own tongue of course. It was white settlers who later named the river "Wapsipinicon" after they heard the story.
The Mesquawki Nation now operates a huge casino near the beautiful and charming twin cities of Tama and Toledo. Young Wapsis and young Pinicons deal blackjack and serve drinks there.
Which reminds me of years ago when a former friend decided to have sex with his girlfriend at the time in the Cedar River just below the roller dam. It was a brutally hot night, and they had both gotten wobbly drunk in the old Shack Tavern—not the new one. The old Shack Tavern was situated right there on the river bank in the woods south of town just as the new one is, young people, but the old Shack Tavern did not have air conditioning. Steel workers--the sort who work high in the air riveting steel beams together--used to fight there regularly to blow off steam after they got off the job.
If there had been high water then, those two lovers surely would have both drowned, too. But nobody would have even thought about changing the name of the river. She had some Polish name. Cedar Rapids is predominately Czech.
The folks upstream and downstream would have read of the drownings only in the unlikely event that it had been reported in The Gazette's Sports Section.
Channel 9 would not have had time for the story because of expanded weather coverage, busy as they always are at that time of year terrorizing little widow ladies with "tornado watches," which, the weatherman always explains, are not to be confused with "tornado warnings." Nevertheless, little widow ladies can never keep those terms straight and chat about the difference endlessly after church, pale from spending the previous week in their basements.
The folks at Channel 2 would never dirty their hands with a story like this, preferring instead more elevating reports, items that will make one feel good about one's self and good about one's community. Drunk couples who drown while screwing in the Cedar River below the roller dam do not do for that sort of story.
As it happened, the water was shallow then. The upshot in this case was that my former friend only abraded his ass on the rocks in the riverbed below the roller dam. Seriously abraded his ass. But he lived. And lives on. In a manner of speaking.