High in the tan hills, the Yakima River canyon opens out to a wide amphitheater where pale cottonwoods lean over the river, sheltered from the summer wind and the dessicating snows of winter.

Before everything changed, bands of Indians lived there, hunting clouds of birds, harvesting berries and camas root, fishing for salmon and trout. They explained the fertile place with a story: Long ago, Mother, returning from a visit to Puget Sound, tripped over the crest of the Cascades. Where she fell, her breasts left a deep impression in the hills. Before she picked herself up, several drops of her milk leaked into the soil.

The Indians are gone, pushed out long ago. Now the town sits over their middens, founded on a false rumor of gold in the river. It has been dying since the day someone randomly put his finger on a globe to pick a name for the settlement, then shrugged when he saw his finger smudging across the name Calcutta.

• Calcutta, Washington: Present

• Calcutta, Washington: Future

• Calcutta, Oregon: Past

• Calcutta, Ohio: Past

• Calcutta, West Bengal