50 States of Generosity: Wyoming
We’re continuing a new series at Tweetspeak — 50 States of Generosity. We’ll be highlighting the 50 states of America and giving people beautiful ways to understand and be generous with one another by noticing the unique and poetic things each state brings to the country. A more generous people in the States can become a more generous people in the world. We continue with Wyoming.
Wyoming (capital Cheyenne): State Fish—Cutthroat trout
I don’t fish, but I’ve written about fishing, especially fly fishing, especially because a lot of people in my family fish, and especially those who live in Wyoming. My uncle, Mark Fowden, was one of them.
He retired as chief of the fish division for Wyoming Game and Fish after spending his entire career with the organization. His kids once referred to him as “Boss of the Fishes.” Among his other duties Uncle Mark oversaw the Cutt Slam, an ongoing challenge to catch all four species of native cutthroat trout in the state’s waterways. I have my dad’s Cutt-Slam certificate, signed by my uncle. It is one of my treasures.
Wyoming is known both as the Cowboy State — the state symbol is a cowboy on a bucking bronco — and the Equality State, because it was the first place to grant women the right to vote, in 1869. (This measure was taken to ensure that the population would have enough voters to qualify for statehood.) Half the land in Wyoming is public land — national forests and parks, national monuments, wildlife refuges, and fisheries. Its state flower is the red prairie fire and its state bird is the western meadowlark (same family as blackbirds and orioles, but its chest feathers are egg-yolk yellow). Wyoming is a glorious, otherworldly place. When trappers and prospectors reported the wonders that are contained in what we now know as Yellowstone National Park, some papers wouldn’t print their descriptions, claiming they were fabricated. Who knows what they would have done with the tales from Wyoming’s fishermen.
The cutthroat trout is related to the rainbow trout. This particular variety is also the state fish of neighboring states Idaho and Montana. The cutthroat trout likes cold water. It has a splash of orange. The species in the Snake River around Jackson Hole is said to be resistant to a deadly parasite. In 2010 I went to Jackson for a family wedding, and the day before the big event, we went rafting on the Snake with local Jackson folks, one of whom was the groom). I have never felt so scared and so safe simultaneously. I’m hoping to go back this summer.
I’ve written a poem about my dad fishing for cutthroat trout after Mom died. I am puzzled as to why I like to write about fish but do not like fishing. There’s something I can’t resist about color moving through cold water. I don’t want to catch this wildness or eat it or even take a picture of it — just write about it, so frigid and free.
I did find this clue to my fascination in one of my journals:
she lures me to water
fishes for me and I always
take her shiny bait
I think I should title this haiku “Cutthroat Trout,” don’t you?
Poetry Prompt: Wyoming Generosities
Use any of the things you learned about Wyoming (research more, if you want!), and put one or more of them into a poem. If you like, weave in a little generosity. Share in the comments.
More About Wyoming: Poets & Writers + Landmarks
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“Megan Willome’s The Joy of Poetry is not a long book, but it took me longer to read than I expected, because I kept stopping to savor poems and passages, to make note of books mentioned, and to compare Willome’s journey into poetry to my own. The book is many things. An unpretentious, funny, and poignant memoir. A defense of poetry, a response to literature that has touched her life, and a manual on how to write poetry. It’s also the story of a daughter who loses her mother to cancer. The author links these things into a narrative much like that of a novel. I loved this book. As soon as I finished, I began reading it again.”
—David Lee Garrison, author of Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro