It's "Peggy Simson-Curry Day"
I had dinner at the Wine Pairing event at the Moose Creek Café with a local lady who is well
known in North Park. I asked if she happened to know a lady by the name of Peggy Simson-Curry. Her reply, much to my surprise, “As a matter of fact I do, she’s my Aunt!”
What a set of coincidences that was. I knew very little about the name, Peggy Simson-Curry but in that minute, I learned everything. This mysterious author with North Park roots was related to half the county! Her claim to fame was deeper in North Park than I realized and took me on a treasure hunt for information.
I hosted a story by Connie Fredrick (Geer) on April Fool’s Day that referred to Mrs. Curry’s book So Far From Spring and it’s close relation to cabin fever in North Park. That is what started this rendezvous lesson in history. I quickly went to the library and checked out a copy and dove right in. On the book jacket, it refers to Peggy’s childhood life, being raised in North Park on the Big Horn Ranch. She was born in Scotland in 1911, but moved to our neck of the woods as a young lass and received her education at Jackson County schools until her Junior year. At that time, she went to East High in Denver to finish earning her high school diploma and receive more formal teaching in writing. Despite Peggy Simson Curry’s disdain for school, her first love was writing. She would much rather have liked to spend her days on the ranch chasing cows and tending to ranch duties. In fact, she penned a poem as a 4th grader: “I hate school. I hate school. I want to go back to the ranch, my horse, and the red fox in the meadow.’"1
Curry went on to write as a professional in the field. She wrote a few novels, some were based on the North Park setting and characters in the community. Her first novel, Fire in the Water was followed by So Far From Spring and The Oil Patch (All at the JC Library) . These were just some of her works of art. What she loved even more though was poetry, and often compared the life and romance of North Park and western life in her poetic verses. “A Shield of Clover”, “Summer Range:Poems by Peggy Simson Curry” and “Red Wind…of Wyoming” were just a few of in her list of publication. Curry also wrote text books about writing during her career as a teacher at Casper Community College. She started her class sessions with this quote written on her blackboard: “Writing is Love.” Curry wrote poetry, fiction and columns in a variety of national magazines. Some of her published works were printed in the New York Times, The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping and other notable publications.10 She once wrote a story in Boy's Life magazine that was made into a movie.
I was intrigued to know more about this lady who has a Walden holiday named in her honor, “Peggy Simson Curry Day” to be celebrated on April 13 of each year by proclamation of local residents in 1984. Her career is decorated with numerous awards for her literary contribution, but her claim to fame is being well noted as Wyoming’s First Women Poet Laureate. Peggy married an Illinois native, Bill Curry whom she met while studying writing at the University of Wyoming. After briefly living in Illinois, they returned to Wyoming where she taught Creative Writing for 25 years at Casper College. She loved to tell the tale of the West, especially that of North Park and Wyoming.
Stories I unearthed about her are few and far between about her North Park life, but her writing gives a grand depiction of it. It was upon visiting with her niece, Tootie Crowner who still resides in North Park, I learned of Peggy’s deeply rooted history in our community. She became a fishing and poker master by the influence of her father through childhood. That independent life made her a tough woman who didn’t put up with much and told it how it was. She was as hard working as any man and used her writing to reflect her heart and soul. At times her writing revealed more about the characters of our community than met the eye and her novels were met with some bit of controversy over whom they depicted and the truth that surrounded the tales. None the less, Peggy Simson Curry knew North Park and wrote with much passion and vigor about her love. Her remaining family in Walden are as full of wit and tenacity as she once was. I’m sure she would be honored to know that she continues to live in the heart of North Park, if nothing more than a tale of a young girl on the Big Horn Ranch.
In honor of National Poetry Month AND Peggy Simson Curry Day, please enjoy her famed poem:
By Peggy Simson Curry.
Long after we are gone,
Summer will stroke this ridge in blue;
The hawk still fly above the flowers,
Thinking, perhaps, the sky has fallen
And back and forth forever he may trace
His shadow on its azure face.
Long after we are gone,
Evening wind will languish here
Between the lupine and the sage
To die a little death upon the earth,
As though over the sundown prairies fell
A requiem from a bronze-tongued bell.
Long after we are gone,
This ridge will shape the night,
Lifting the wine-streaked west,
Shouldering the stars. And always here
Lovers will walk under the summer skies
Through flowers the color of your eyes.
(“Lupine Ridge” published in Summer Range: Poems by Peggy Simson Curry, Dooryard Press, Story, Wyo., 1981. Reprinted here with permission from and thanks to Michael Curry.)
3. Curry, Peggy Simson. A Shield of Clover. New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1969, 1970.
4. Creating Fiction from Experience. Boston: The Writer, Inc., 1964, 1975.
5. Fire in the Water. New York: McGraw Hill Book Company, Inc., 1951.
6. Red Wind … of Wyoming. Denver: Sage Books, 1955.
7. Red Wind … of Wyoming. Vermillion, So. Dak: Spirit Mound Press, 1977. Includes the long poem “Red Wind,” as well as a selection of different shorter poems from the ones in the 1955 edition.
8. So Far from Spring. Boulder, Colo.: Pruett Publishing Company, 1983, 1993.
9. Summer Range: Poems by Peggy Simson Curry. Story, Wyo.: Dooryard Press, 1981.
10. The Oil Patch. New York: McGraw Hill Book Company, Inc., 1959.
10. Bighorn Ranches History and Memoir, 1978 by Peggy Simson Curry