Uncle Spud smiled.
"I hear some people are upset about my wanting to change the official Utah state bird from the garbage eating seagull to Utahraptor, an extinct dinosaur."
"Yes," I said sadly, "our state bird has a good deal of sentimental citizen support as well as historical and even religious overtones. I don't think the Utahraptor thing is ever going to fly."
"Bummer," he said.
"I've been doing some research," I continued, "and Utah has some other interesting things designated as official state symbols."
"Do tell," he said as he pulled up a chair and turned down the volume on the Dr. Phil show.
"For instance, did you know that the official Utah state rock is a lump of coal?"
"How about that," he said with a wistful, far-away look in his eyes. "Old Santa Claus put the official state rock in my Christmas stocking when I was a kid. Who'd a thunk?"
"The official state animal is the rocky mountain Elk," I continued, "and the state dinosaur is the Allosaurus."
"The state astronomical symbol is the beehive cluster located in the constellation of Cancer, the Crab."
"Far out," Uncle Spud mused.
"The official state star is Dubhe, one of the seven bright stars of the Big Dipper."
"Frank Sinatra used to sing about that star!" he exclaimed. "I remember it well. I can even sing that song. It goesÃ¯Â¿Â½Dubhe, Dubhe, dooÃ¯Â¿Â½"
"Moving right along," I said as I choked back a laugh, "The official state cooking pot is the dutch oven."
"That's a crock," he said with a roll of his eyes.
"The state emblem is the beehive, and the state insect is the honeybee."
"Now wait a minute," he said with a snort. "The official state insect should be the desert lake mosquito. Those Emery county mosquitoes could take on the Iraqi air force and win. By golly I was down by buckhorn reservoir one time andÃ¯Â¿Â½."
I rudely cut him off and continued reading from my list.
"The Utah state mineral is copper, and the state motto is "Industry."
"The state motto should be "Wilderness," he declared. "Industry has been in the back seat for quite a while."
"Utah's state fruit is the cherry, and the official state grass is Indian rice grass."
"I think the state grass should be ordinary old cheat grass," he said. "But I would expect state officials to name something exotic like Kentucky blue grass. Kentucky blue would go well with our state tree, the Colorado blue spruce. But then of course, Kentucky blue grass requires water, so I guess Indian rice grass makes a poor second choice."
"Utah's state flower is the sego lily, and the state fish is the bonneville cutthroat trout," I continued. "The state gem stone is topaz, and the state folk dance is the square dance."
"I thought the official state dance was the old soft shoe," he said with a smile. "I see state legislators dancing that one in front of the TV cameras all the time."
"The state reptile is the western rattlesnake, and the state vegetable is the sugar beet."
I stopped short.
"I never thought of sugar beets as being a vegetable," I said.
"Oh yes," he chuckled, "and a fine vegetable too. That's why I'm so sweet. Mother always made me eat my sugar beets when I was a kid. Out here on the Elmo frontier, us kids was raised on sugar beets and jackrabbit jerky. None of this McDonald's happy meal stuff for my generation."
"And now for the grand finale," I said. "The official state hymn is Utah We Love Thee by Evan Stephens, and the official state song is a little ditty that no one ever heard called Utah This Is The Place by Sam and Gary Francis."
"Howcome the Utah state song is a song no one ever heard?" he asked.
"It's probably like the state tourism slogan, Utah - Life Elevated, a theme we all wish we had never heard." I said.
"That's silly," he said. "The official state song should be something we all know and can sing along with."
"What would you suggest?" I asked.
"How about ninety-nine bottles of root beer on the wall?" he said with a big smile.