CHEYENNE — If you’ve noticed the new fishing line boxes at some of Cheyenne’s popular lakes and parks, you can thank Taylor Merriman-Fish.
Taylor installed the boxes as part of her service project, which is a required step before any Scouts BSA member can earn the prestigious top rank of Eagle Scout. It was only last year that the Boy Scouts of America started accepting women into their ranks.
A handful of women in other states, like Arizona and Michigan, have already become Eagle Scouts. But on Wednesday evening, in the parish hall of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, the local Eagle Review Board voted to make Taylor the first female Eagle Scout in Wyoming.
“It still doesn’t feel real yet,” said Taylor, who was wearing a patch-laden Scout sash, after the council confirmed her historic ranking. “I hope I’m setting a good example for other girls who want to do this.”
According to the organization, approximately 8% of all Boy Scouts will attain the Eagle Scout ranking. That percentage used to be made up entirely of men – until last year.
“I knew this day would come as soon as they started opening it up to women,” said Buck Moss, a member of the review board.
Moss, who has participated in Scouts for more than 50 years, recalls a time when his daughter longed to become an Eagle Scout, but couldn’t because girls weren’t allowed to participate.
Although Moss’s daughter is now a grown woman in her 50s, approving Taylor’s application is the sign of a new era in Scouting.
“Taylor is a very bright young lady who has worked very hard to achieve this in a very compressed time period,” Moss said. “She has achieved in about 19 months what most Boys Scouts have years to do.”
Becoming an Eagle Scout has exposed Taylor, a senior at Cheyenne’s East High, to challenges she might not have otherwise faced.
“When I was in Girl Scouts, all I really learned about was selling cookies,” said Taylor, who joined the Boy Scouts after moving to Cheyenne from Texas a couple of years ago.
“In the Boy Scouts, you learn leadership skills and how to work with the boys like you would in a career field,” she said, remarking that her cooking and camping patches were the most difficult to obtain. “You have to learn to accept the difference between boys and girls.”
Taylor’s mother, Valerie Merriman-Fish, also serves as Taylor’s Scoutmaster and encouraged her daughter to join the Scouts.
“It gives her a good outlook on life,” Valerie Merriman-Fish said. “It shows her that not everyone will agree on what goes on in the world, but that we can all work toward a common goal. It definitely pushes kids outside of their comfort zones.”
Taylor was one of the first young women in Troop 221, and said she was met with some skepticism from male members at first.
“We do have some close-minded people in the program who aren’t willing to accept that times have changed,” Taylor said. “I asked some of the other Scouts if me being there bugged them, and some of them said yes. That went on for a little while, until I (advanced) through the ranks and they realized that this is real. … The way that they described it is that I’m intimidating.”
Intimidating, perhaps. But Taylor is nothing if not persistent and dedicated to achieving her goals. Although she did complete her fishing line box project – which aims to help keep Cheyenne’s lakes clean and birds safe – it wasn’t her first idea for a service project.
She’d originally planned to install bear boxes at Yellowstone National Park, but COVID-19-related shutdowns put her project on hold, and she had to pivot to something else.
“My service project had to be something that would leave a lasting impression on the community,” said Taylor, who has installed the boxes at Lions Park, Lake Absarraca and Curt Gowdy State Park.
“Something that made me upset when I’ve been fishing is finding discarded fishing line in the lakes. It’s littering, and it’s annoying that people can take the time to cut the line, wind it up, but can’t take the time to put it in their pocket. I’ve also seen geese tangled up in fishing line.”
Taylor Merriman-Fish, who is planning on graduating high school this December and pursuing a career as a kindergarten teacher, is ready to take what she’s learned through her Eagle Scout service project into her adult life.
“It was hard work, because I really did have to have the persistence to continue with the Eagle Scout project because there were multiple roadblocks that I hit,” she said. “You have to make sure you don’t procrastinate, and communicate clearly. You have to have the motivation to get up and actually finish what you started.”