Hernando de Soto hated it here. It wasn’t the heat, the humidity, or even the incessant buzzing of the mosquitoes in his ears.
It was the embarrassment this place ceaselessly heaped upon him.
Against the Incas far to the south, he’d acquitted himself like a proper conquistador, earning the glory to launch this expedition into the northern continent.
But these wilds were nothing like the south. The vicious natives attacked his host at every turn, tearing into its sides, stripping away more with each successive raid.
After that last battle, that holocaust, had taken over a third of his men and left sixty score natives dead at their feet, he feared returning to his ships on the coast without the gold he’d set out to find.
Now the greatest embarrassment of all stretched out before him. A churning river more a mile wide, mocking de Soto with every eddy and piece of flotsam that floated past.
Each day, as his men worked to build rafts for the crossing, all he could do was watch the sun climb and fall, turning the sky purple before disappearing below.
Then wait for the vibration of the hostile drums that would last the night.
The place where Hernando de Soto crossed the Mississippi River was the fourth bluff, where Memphis would later be founded. Sadly, de Soto never found his gold. He died of a fever on the opposite side of the Mississippi a just over a year after crossing, never making it out of Arkansas.