A celebration of equality and of the land

At a Wyoming wedding, a musician ponders the big questions of life.

 

In November 2016, my daughter and I played fiddle and trikitixa accordion for a Wyoming wedding — traditional Basque music on the steps of Cheyenne’s Cathedral of St. Mary. The bride was descended from a sheepherding family of Basques, a group of people who came to northern Wyoming in the early 1900s and built the nation’s largest wool industry, and the groom came from a cattle-ranching family, so the wedding was as much cowboy as sheepherder.

The bride wore a brilliantly white gown, the groom a white suit and a white cowboy hat. The groomsmen and bridesmaids wore black, formal attire. One of the bridesmaids told us, “We feel lucky we don’t have to dress like cheerleaders applying for jobs as cocktail waitresses.” It was unseasonably warm and we stood in sunlight, wearing white shirts, red neckerchiefs, and black berets. People smiled at us as they passed, relishing the sinuous, rapid-fire melodies of the old Basque songs — Zazpi jauzi, Axuri beltza, Hegi, Tirauki.

A bridesmaid delivered the first reading, from Genesis:

“The Lord God said: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.’ So the Lord God formed out of the ground various wild animals and various birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each of them would be its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man. So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The Lord God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. When he brought her to the man, the man said: ‘This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called “woman” for out of “her man” this one has been taken.’ ” 

A groomsman read from 1 Corinthians:

“If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. …” 

Stellajo1976/CC Flickr

The priest came forward. “This passage from Genesis proclaims one of the most radical doctrines of our faith,” he said, “the absolute equality of men and women. The Lord God made us of the same material and we stand as equal beings before the Lord and before each other.”

Oh, my God, I thought, that’s not the way they interpreted the rib story when I was a kid. He’s talking about the president, about attacks on the rights of women, Blacks, Latinos, Native people, gays and lesbians, immigrants, refugees, Muslims — everyone.

“The absolute equality of women and men, that is what the Lord offers.” The priest paused. “And First Corinthians — we often hear this at weddings and it’s beautiful — you may have all the things of this world, but without love, you have nothing.” He shifted to ranching: “The love of the land is the same love scripture addresses, reminding us to care for the land and to treat humanely the animals who give their lives so that we may live. If we accept this gift but do not have love, we have nothing.” No one stirred, but I’d like to believe everyone listened.

Following the service, my daughter and I went outside to play another set of Basque tunes. The wedding guests lined the sidewalk to await the bride and groom, who would ride to the reception in a replica of an early Yellowstone National Park motor coach, with its long yellow carriage with black fenders and running boards. Yellowstone, larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined, had been set aside forever. It’s as if the priest had channeled Henry David Thoreau, who wrote, “I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness … to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature.”

Each guest held a soap-bubble container in the form of a white plastic cowboy boot. Instead of throwing rice, we blew bubbles. The sun disappeared, and it was suddenly cold. People hunched their shoulders up in their coats. Kids jumped up and down. A young mother, baby wrapped in blankets in her arms, swayed in time to the music. As the priest passed, I thanked him. “About equality and loving the land,” I said. He smiled. The cowboy-boot soap bubbles rose into the sky.

David Romtvedt is a writer and musician from Buffalo, Wyoming, whose most recent book is Dilemmas of the Angels.

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • Take over the reins of a dynamic grassroots social justice group that protects Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - Winter Wildlands Alliance seeks an experienced and highly motivated individual to lead and manage the organization as Executive Director. Visit https://winterwildlands.org/executive-director-search/ for...
  • Background: The Birds of Prey NCA Partnership is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization based in Boise, Idaho, which was established in 2015 after in-depth stakeholder input...
  • Southwest Borderlands Initiative Professor of Native Americans and the News Media The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University is...
  • AWF seeks an energetic Marketing and Communications Director. Please see the full job description at https://azwildlife.org/jobs
  • The Southwest Communications Director will be responsible for working with field staff in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico to develop and execute detailed communication plans...
  • An intentional community designed for aging in place. Green built with Pumice-crete construction (R32), bamboo flooring, pine doors, T&G ceiling with fans, and maintenance free...
  • (CFROG) is a Ventura County, CA based watch-dog and advocacy non-profit organization. cfrog.org
  • Take your journalism skills to the next level and deepen your understanding of environmental issues by applying for the 2019-2020 Ted Scripps Fellowships in Environmental...
  • The San Juan Mountains Association is seeking a visionary leader to spearhead its public lands stewardship program in southwest Colorado. For a detailed job description...
  • The Cascade Forest Conservancy seeks a passionate ED to lead our forest protection, conservation, education, and advocacy programs.
  • Mountain Pursuit is a new, bold, innovative, western states, hunting advocacy nonprofit headquartered in Jackson, Wyoming. We need a courageous, hard working, passionate Executive Director...
  • The Draper Natural History Museum (DNHM) at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center of the West in Cody, WY, invites applications for the Willis McDonald, IV...
  • Couple seeks quiet, private, off-grid acreage in area with no/low cell phone service and no/low snowfall. Conservation/bordering public lands a plus. CA, OR, WA, ID,...
  • Former northern Sierra winery, with 2208 sq.ft. commercial building, big lot, room to expand.
  • The dZi Foundation is seeking a FT Communications Associate with a passion for Nepal to join our team in Ridgway, Colorado. Visit dzi.org/careers.
  • Available now for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojaidigital.net.
  • Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • Suitable for planting hay, hemp, fruit. Excellent water rights. 1800 square foot farmhouse, outbuildings, worker housing.