*Missouri River. Great river of the upper Midwest and northern Great Plains that provides the first stage of Caudill’s route to the West. It also serves as a test during his passage from youth to adulthood. As a crew member on a small trading vessel, a keelboat, he experiences the daily toil of rowing, poling, and dragging the boat against the unpredictable and often dangerous currents of the river. He also witnesses the unequal relationship between the European American traders and the Native Americans whose lands and ways of life are threatened by the westward expansion of white commerce and settlement. The constant potential for violence between whites and Indians contrasts with Caudill’s growing love for the pristine landscape of river, bluff, hill, and prairie. The sky and the earth soon seem to him “the ceiling and floor of a home that was all his own.”
Although the Missouri is a tributary of the Mississippi River, it is longer than the Mississippi. It also passes through more varied terrain and has more picturesque tributaries—most notably the Yellowstone River. However, the literary importance of the river is the fact that it has its source in the Rocky Mountains, whose majestic peaks and serene valleys are Caudill’s unspoken goal. The river is a road to both worldly and spiritual fulfillment, though Boone himself is unable to put his yearnings into words for himself or his companions.
*Teton River (TEE-tawn). Tributary of the Missouri River that rises in northwest-central Montana. The captain of Caudill’s keelboat sets out from St. Louis intending to reach the most northern tributaries of the Missouri, where he could trade...
(The entire section is 709 words.)