In my endless quest to learn more about the State that I have called home for the past 20 years, I recently took to the internet.
My curiosity was piqued during a recent conversation with a friend about the Praying Mantis. Every Fall I spot more than a few of the little aliens in my backyard and I know that they are the Official State Insect of Connecticut. (More precisely, the European Praying Mantis is the state insect; it is not native to the US and it also explains why I’ve seen a few of them wearing berets and smoking Galois.) I also seemed to remember being told that it was illegal to kill a Praying Mantis which, it turns out, is not true (they are not an endangered species…checked it out on snopes.com) but what IS true is that they are a good insect that eats bad insects. The Praying Mantis is also fascinating to watch and, yes, they do fly.
So anyway, my recent conversation with a friend about the Praying Mantis got me to thinkin’ in my head about other “Official State of Connecticut” stuff.
The official bird for the State of Connecticut is the American Robin. Connecticut also shares its state bird with Michigan and Wisconsin. I’d like to know why we can’t have our own official state bird. Robins love worms and also produce the most beautiful little blue eggs. I am pretty sure Martha Stewart has a whole line of products named for them and if she doesn’t she should.
The official animal of Connecticut is the Sperm Whale, because Moby played an important historical role in the history of Connecticut (in the 1800′s Connecticut ranked second only to Massachusetts in the whaling industry.) And when we talk Sperm Whale we ARE talking about an endangered species. I haven’t seen any sperm whales during my many beach walks, have you?
Connecticut’s official state flower is the Mountain Laurel. The shrub is an evergreen and the flower is a small star-shaped white and pink number that is quite beautiful. I recall there were Mountain Laurel shrubs in my family’s front yard when I was a kid. We lived in New York, though, where the official state flower is the Rose. Mountain Laurel is pretty but I’d rather have a bouquet of roses if given the choice.
The official state tree of Connecticut is the Charter or White Oak. Squirrels are especially pleased with this choice.
I also discovered that Connecticut has a state fish and it is the American Shad. Throughout history, the American Shad has been an important food fish and has often been called the “poor man’s salmon”, while the eggs, or ‘roe’, are considered to be a delicacy. Good news: the outlook for the Connecticut River American Shad is very good since there have been slow, but consistent, improvements to water quality, fish passage and management practices all contributing to the return of this native of New England.
If you’ve ever seen Prudence Crandall’s Female Boarding School in Canterbury, CT (now a museum) you’d probably like to know that Ms. Crandall was designated the Official State Heroine of Connecticut in 1995. Prudence Crandall founded the first academy for African-American women in New England in 1833. Her legacy is one of courage in the face of prejudice, as she and her students endured much violence during the 18 months that the Boarding School was in operation.
And, yes, there is also an Official State Hero and he is Nathan Hale. Hale was born in Coventry and schooled at Yale. He was a captain in the Continental army and volunteered to spy on the British during the American Revolution – he was hanged in 1776 (at the age of 21) without a trial by the British. Hale’s last words: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
And now for the Official Connecticut State Motto: repeat after me: Qui transtulit sustinet
“He who transplanted sustains”
Which explains why I have so many Echinacea plants in my garden.
Among other official state stuff is the official mineral (Garnet), folk dance (the Square dance) and shellfish (the Eastern oyster).
Official Vehicle of the State of Connecticut: any vehicle as long as it drives too slow in the left lane of the Parkway, doesn’t use directional signals and regards stop signs as optional.
Official Pastime of the State of Connecticut: driving really slow until approaching a yellow light then speeding up to leave the person behind you at the red light.
Alternative official Pastime of the State of Connecticut: tailgating.
Official Sporting Event of the State of Connecticut: finding the least expensive gas station and filling up your tank before the price increases.
Official Beer: anything cold.
Official State Treasure: Dr. Mel Goldstein
Official State Official Who Appears To Have Cloned Himself Because He Is Everywhere: Attorney General Richard Blumenthal
Official State Animal With An Apparent Death Wish: The groundhog (also known as the woodchuck); have you seen them along the side of the Parkway nonchalantly eating while vehicles zoom by within inches of their chubby little bodies?
Official Cookie of the State of Connecticut: chocolate chip (because I said so)
So now it’s YOUR turn: please chime in here with your official state “stuff” for Connecticut; undoubtedly I’ve missed a few…..