May 21, 2012

Cutthroat Country

Our friends at SIMMS are shining the spotlight on a serious issue facing Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout. In partnership with Trout Unlimited, The Yellowstone Park Foundation and The Outdoor Blogger Network, these dedicated folks are working to preserve this coveted, native species who are struggling to survive in the very waters of their birthplace: Yellowstone National Park. The following piece is a submission for the Blogger Tour 2012 Writing Competition, which hopes to raise awareness and resources for the survival of balance, and the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout. Please take the time to read Other Submissions and open your heart to the words they speak.

Stepping from the pavement into the caldron of this fine, vast country, it is as it was when the world was flat and the edge loomed distant. A buffalo roams where the buffalo roamed and the boiling spray erupts and falls and tumbles from all that stone much like it did back before the days of disguise. Out there in that country among mountains that tower over pine, rivers, lakes and bubbling mud, one needn’t rely on history to stand before raw, unedited earth.

Yellowstone. It’s not a mirage. Teddy stood there below the arch in 1903 and maybe he said, “Sorry, you best take your asteroids elsewhere.” And so we do. We lob them about when we can, where we can and they strike and sever, but not here, on this wild, honest island in the breast of America. Please, not here.

Earth made her and makes her still. She carves her rock and milks her young and sinks her teeth into shuddering necks. Her wolves howl in the night. She catches fire and burns and burns. Her baby bear slips in mud and her buffalo sway their big brown heads. Waterfalls plunging and geysers gushing and canyons gouging and somewhere, a trout lifts an eye to a fluttering Caddis Fly. She is beautiful because Earth made her and makes her still.

A spotted head breaches during late evening glow. Her throat is marked of the sun. There, in the eddy swirl it glints through meandering flow, in a meadow, where it is her place to toil. And it is her place to sleep and waken.

We cannot compete with her creative might. She has no motives. Her craftsmanship is no less than that which drifts down an imagination. And this place is one of her masterpieces, free of our ornaments - our things that surround us, that we build around us, and the stuff that we use and discard into a ditch or a hole or a forest or an ocean. But we are stroked by grand artistry, ourselves. We are the Indian Paintbrush, the ripple on the cool mountain stream. We are these, at least. But we take because we know how to take… so well, we’ve learned to take from high above our perch, like staring out from atop Mount Washburn but failing to notice the green valley floor and the white Elk speckling below.

Into the big ole puzzle we go but there is just something, something about nature that makes us jam our pieces into places that just don’t seem to fit. We press and pinch and jam and sometimes we tear parts up, throw them away, or we just lay our pieces on top and grab for another and before we know it, the puzzle looks as if it was never even started. And we may never even know that there is a need for this fitting together if not for one little quality that for some magical reason we came to find: A conscience. Is this our savior? Could we keep on, could our world keep on without it? Can it balance our prowess on the upward end of the see-saw?

Step into Yellowstone and celebrate your conscience. It’s there in the spacious air. It’s everywhere in the valleys and the spouting earth. It drifts over chasms and falls and washes up upon silty shores. It thumps in the chests of the hunter and the hunted.

It will be as it was. Let it be so, in that fine Cutthroat country.

-Mike Duffy


  1. Fine piece of writing! Reminds us of just how complex the YNP ecosystem is...what a special place. The Cutty is such an important piece of the puzzle. Let's hope we can get the pieces in order!


  2. Outstanding writing!


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