Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tina Willis presented her poem "Sagebrush and Cedars" at Pioneer Association meeting during Wyoming State Fair in Douglas

When Tina Willis read her poem “Sagebrush and Cedars” last Thursday at the state fair in Douglas, she was happy to be with her friends in the Wyoming Pioneer Association. In fact, she was happy to be anywhere.  In 2003, Willis slipped into a coma caused by West Nile Virus. When she awoke, she was paralyzed on one side. The doctors diagnosed her with meningitis, encephalitis and West Nile Virus-induced polio. It took the Wheatland rancher years before she could walk again and to write her poetry, which is her passion.

“It was an amazing day,” she said, referring to the Aug. 16 event at the Pioneer Museum. “Amazing that I was able to write the poem and walk forward and read it.”

The Pioneer Association is a Friends-type organization for the Pioneer Museum, according to Division of State Parks and Cultural Resources Director Milward Simpson. It is the only historic site in the state that is a fully functioning museum. The association gathered at the museum Aug. 16 to mark the fair's 100th anniversary.

Willis is a past recipient of a Blanchan/Doubleday writing award from the Wyoming Arts Council. The WAC is pleased to reprint her poem here on the blog:

Tina Willis ©April 26, 2012

The ancients were chief, natives born first in this west
Miners, trappers and cowboys stood tall to the test
The wagons and railroads joined the rush of progress
All knew the promise:  Wyoming… best of the best

Could these pioneers survive here and thrive here unafraid?
In the sagebrush and cedars?  Mountains of granite and jade?
Yes, they carved out their homesteads. ..Here they suffered and prayed
They seized her wild spirit…they were gritty and stayed

They laid claim to the landscape and made it their own
They fought drought, cold and lonesome with resolve turned to stone
They loved the red Russell sunsets and the spring grass cologne
They found faith while they pursued solace and courage …often alone 

They laid rail lines and dug gold mines in high aspen stands
They plowed and raised livestock with strong weathered hands
Snow melt filled their dikes where the Canada goose lands
And it was pioneer families who said the Tetons were grand

The pioneers learned to live on hopes, try and will
Working each day with Mother Nature until
They knew every song of the meadow lark’s trill
And rested by the streams in the quiet evening still

They spent days waiting for rain, worked for no pay or wage
Independence and courage were born here in the sage
They wrote history each night on an oil lamp-lit page
Their children’s children grew up strong on her range

The pioneers held the promise to become part of this west
And Wyoming kept her promise ….She’s still the best of best

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