Friday, November 27, 2015

Chris, RIP

I wrote the first part to my old cowboy friend Wade's relatives, so he would know :

"Christine Leister, Omar Qureshi's ’s first wife and very close to both Wade and me, died as peacefully as one can at dawn yesterday, in Cloudcroft I believe, of recurrent malignant melanoma, with her son, her parents, and her love Rob all present, and knowing that a good case for having her son Jai go to school in Cloudcroft, which they wanted, had been  made legally. Her parents should be in touch, and I will let folks know...SB"

Christine was basically a medical person, a PA, but she also rode, cooked, kept horses and goats and dogs, shot elk with a .270, and rebuilt my already swift  old '72 BMW into a road rocket by combining it with another, leaving just a shell for what my neighbors  call a "Dog bed."

These pics are Wade learning to skate from her a million years ago— best pic I have of either. I also sent them to her last month. Her dog "Pot" too, made for the wilderness or at least the Rez...

Much more to say later...

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Classic Childrens' books

... and their lack of modern political corectitude. From Jack, on Honk The Moose, which he was raised on too:

"The joys of classic children's books!

"When a Finn gets mad he doesn't do a halfway job. First he gets madder than a Chinaman; then he works up through the Italians and the French and on to the English and the Germans and then to the Irish -- and when he is madder than a mad Norwegian he knows that he is a real Suomi."

More pigeons

Must be in the air. Anne Pearse Hocker just sent this piece from the Guardian about how they may be better at detecting tumors (visually, from X rays) than humans. Their rate of detection is something like 99%. Actually I am not surprised-- much "Dinosaurian" visual acuity exceeds that of us mammals.
And Tesla, everyone's favorite Fortean near- alien from Serbia, fell  chastely in love with one.

"In particular, he claimed to have a very special bond with a certain white, female pigeon, stating he loved her as a man loves a woman.” He said that the pigeon was the “joy of his life,” and claimed that one evening she flew into his window, let him know that she was ill, and died in his arms. He insisted his entire life’s work was complete in that moment."

I don't like them quite THAT much... only like Darwin did.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Domestic evo

Nobody cares about the biology of domestic animals-- something I hear about on campuses all the time, from traditionalists who are told that they're irrelevant AND frustrated innovators who KNOW they are seeing something new. Johnson and Janiga's wonderful Feral Pigeons was all but dismissed as trivial for years.

"Domestic" pigeons are damn near as old as we are, and it may be no coincidence that Turkey, where I used to spend time on the roof of the ancient ( 120o AD ?) caravanserai in Urfa watching the end of the day flights, is the center of Silk Road breeds and holds more pigeon variation than anywhere on earth I have yet been.

Here are some from there; first, a portrait in the lobby of the best hotel in town, signed by the photographer and labelled "Ufa Guvercin" pigeon of Urfa; then a restaurant  cupboard loft. Urfa is close to the Syrian border, and the black plague of the Islamic "State" has already reached out to the ancient town to behead two defectors; as I have mentioned, they have made pigeon flying a capital offense. Let us hope the Kurdish hard guys (and women) I know there can keep them at bay.

This was IN a restaurant, while there was a bird flu epidemic!

 Here are some strange ones I didn't see, but that  are part of the Turkish ancestral swarm. I don't think there is a pigeon breed not prefigured in Turkey; many have just been there forever.

Earrings! From Sir Terence Clark in a more peaceful Syria

Scientist and artists have worked with pigeons for years-- would you deny Darwin, an absolutely mad pigeon fan who practically drove Mr and Mrs Lyell from the dinner table with his enthusiasm (not always a good word) for his subtly "Lower- class" birds...? I mean, Darwins and Wedgewoods didn't go to pigeon shows...
But now some serious artist- scientists are working on domestic beast and birds. Last year Katrina van Grouw brought wonderful animated pouter skeletons to her exhibit at Laramie...
And now she is working on dogs. These show the "improvement " (not!) of the St Bernard in the 20th c. Stay tuned...
Pigeon update; the Suburban Bushwhacker has just given me a link to this wonderful photographic tribute to Darwin's pigeons. Here are a couple of examples. The first is a pouter, like Katrina's skeleton.

Undue Influence

E Donnall Thomas is an old friend who has written many good books, and had many adventures. In our neck of the woods he is best known as the guy who convinced David Quammen that at least some hunting of mountain lions was OK after David editorialized against the practice, by taking him out with his longbow (made by him) and his hound (trained by him), and later serving him stir fried lion with ginger and chile, cooked by him. David wrote his recantation as "Crossing Lines in Lion Country" in Outside, and later reprinted it as "Eat of This Flesh" in the collection Wild Thoughts from Wild Places.

Don is also a  MD and flies small planes, in fact was a flying doc in Alaska, so you may infer that he does not scare easily. (He also shoots bears with longbows). Which makes it all the dumber when a millionaire who was illegally trying to block public access on Montana streams, used his clout to get Don kicked off a twenty- year gig writing for Ducks Unlimited, because Don wrote a piece in a Bozeman publication decrying his efforts.

There is a lot of hypocritical crap going around, some of which I have seen. Some DU officials say he wasn't fired because he never "worked" for DU. Right-- as Tom McIntyre said, quoting Dorothy Parker, "... and I am Marie of Roumania." Others claim no company would ever keep on someone who "insulted" an advertiser. I cry bullshit on that; first, he "insulted" no one, only told the truth in an unrelated publication. But B (a BIG "B") I know for a fact that when once I  drew the ire of a large advertiser at Gray's Sporting Journal, many long years ago, Ed stood with me, and lost a not inconsiderable sum of money. Not all editors are craven.

Here is Don in his own words, cut slightly for space:

"In October, 2015 I wrote a piece for Outside Bozeman magazine, "A Rift Runs Through It", about the long Montana legal battle to secure and maintain public access to the Ruby River in accordance with the state’s stream access law. (I will make a copy of that text available to anyone on request.) To summarize a complex issue for those unfamiliar with the case, wealthy Atlanta businessman James Cox Kennedy engaged in extensive litigation to prevent such access, only to be denied repeatedly in court due to the efforts of the Montana Public Land and Water Access Association. While the article was not complimentary to Kennedy, no one has challenged the accuracy of the reporting.

"James Cox Kennedy is a major financial contributor to Ducks Unlimited. On November 10, a Ducks Unlimited functionary informed me that my position with the magazine was terminated because of Cox’s displeasure with the article.

"... The Ruby River article had nothing whatsoever to do with ducks or Ducks Unlimited (DU hereafter). The article did strongly support the rights of hunters and other outdoor recreationists to enjoy land and water to which they are entitled to access, and DU is a hunters’ organization... DU has essentially taken the position that wealthy donors matter more than the outdoor recreationists they purport to represent.

"... If every journalist reporting on these issues faces this kind of vindictive retribution, the future of wildlife and wildlife habitat-not to mention the hunters and anglers of ordinary means who form the backbone of groups like DU-is bleak indeed.

"... If you share my concerns-especially if you are a DU member-I encourage you to contact the organization, express your opinion, and take whatever further action you might consider appropriate."

DU has not only "fired" Don-- they have done a Soviet- esque rewriting of history, eliminating every reference and piece of writing that he ever did, and his name, from their website. They are risking making themselves appear not only spineless, but pretty close to a laughing stock, a shame for an organization that has done far more good than harm in the past. Ding Darling must be spinning in his grave. It brings to mind old Montana curmudgeon Peter Bowen's too- true and much- quoted apercu: "Poor folks act like folks; rich folks act like govermint..."

I am betting Don comes out of this looking a lot better than DU, never mind Mr Kennedy...

Monday, November 16, 2015


Eli overlooks his world... Eureka Valley
Mining equipment

Eli says:
"We're Scots, so we can toss big trees like the Scots do!"
"[Optimistically] We could have centipedes for dinner!"
"Special Padda [ ie Father] juice means beer!"

The LC 16: what it IS

The "weird gun" is finished.  A 16 bore wildfowl gun that weighs close to 8 pounds, with 30" Damascus barrels and full chokes, it appears distinctly pre - modern. Which it literally is- an early grade 2 LC Smith from about 1904.

But it was not unique in its day. So many of us use English guns as our standard, but there are others. In his The American Shotgun in 1910, Charles Askins Sr. wrote: "Thirty inch barrels in a sixteen bore with the stock cut on finer lines makes an especially elegant looking weapon. Should the arm weigh over six and a half pounds,  or be intended for trap and duck shooting, then try the thirty-two inch barrels." This gun follows his formula: his old ornate Flues model Ithaca 16, later owned and written about by Elmer Keith and sold this year for more than $8000.
My gun, though it has extractors and double triggers, is obviously built to the same standards.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Past blasts

In honor of her move from her almost- natal Newton MA to North Carolina, I thought I would post these photos of Bron Fullington. I may also post later on some linguistic weirdness Jackson sent on her old neighborhood, and her thoughts. TOMORRROW!
 Last spring...

Yes, that is Betsy Huntington about to shoot a Retrieve- R- Trainer dummy off Bron's Newton porch-- 1978?- and get us in trouble with the cops. July 4th with no firecrackers.

Old & very old guns

Latest restorations. More text later. But the 12 "featherweight" handles like a Best Brit gun, while the "Askins- Keith special" 16 is almost 8 pounds and has 30" barrels and tight chokes. The prairies were not bucolic England...

To see the details like Damascus, click to enlarge...

No Comment 2

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Sixty- Three

... posts til  #4000.  On June 5, 2005, I wrote the first, rather casually, never dreaming that a blog would become part of my writing life...

Several books, a step- grandson, Parkinson's, many friends gone...

Selling some guns I should not have (well I do that every WEEK)...

I need without question to write a couple more books while I am still here. Not sure if the blog gets in the way... my memory and cognition may not be what they were-- or maybe it is just lack of concentration...

I will be thinking about all of this in the next month or two, zeroing in on New Year's. Most likely the solution will be a compromise, but I do need to cut back. I am getting slow.


Update on "Beebesaurus"

... also known as Microraptor gui. I painted it a sort of irridescent black, to conform with what is known about its feathers. Can't believe how much it looks like Beebe's bookplate in his pre- WW I (1910) book Our Search for a Wilderness. Microraptor was dug up in China in 2003.

The Kids Know...

Dinos had feathers! Eli's 4th birthday card... feathered T rex by Jackson. Article coming in Living Bird...

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Road Books

My thesis for years has been that there are three great 1950's "Road" books. Two are obvious to the literate: Jack Kerouac's On the Road, and Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. The other  may be MORE obvious to naturalists, many of whom miss one or the other of the first two; Wild America, by Roger Tory Peterson and his late English buddy James Fisher. It is the most handsome book of the three, with scratchboard illos of every habitat in North America you can think of, and many of its inhabitants.

Given their time scheme, it is easy (and temporally possible) to imagine a motel in eastern Colorado or maybe Kansas, early in the morning, with Roger and James out in the yard contemplating a Scissor- tailed flycatcher on a wire, Volodya and Vera chasing a blue butterfly around a bush, he clad in unsuitably European shorts; and, in another room,a shirtless, sleepless  Kerouac typing manically on a roll of paper while Neal Cassady fills his ears with an endless speed rap. If I were, say, Tom Stoppard I could write a play about it...

I have a good first edition copy of Wild America, inscribed to me-- I'll tell the gratifying story of how Peterson came to sign my old copy one of these days. Out of curiosity I thought I would see how much comparable copies of the others would cost. It was a lesson in the comparative value of "nature" and "Lit" books.

Here is my copy and the inscription:

You can find several like it, signed, for $50.

Here is a copy of the original 2 vol Olympia Press Lolita . It goes for a cool $8,875.
A Putnam US first is more modest at only $20, but it is an eleventh impression-- not my idea of a "first."
This nice first edition, second printing, of On the Road goes for $475 with a later jacket.

And here is a London first with an odd jacket for  $516. Is that supposed to be Allen Ginsberg in the glasses?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Driving with Animals

Charley Waterman used to say. of a dog that always occupied the driving seat when the humans were absent, that she knew driving was important, and that somebody had to do it; she just didn't know how.


"In my rucksack I took Mandelstam's Journey to Armenia and Hemingway's In Our Time. Six months later I came back with the bones of a book that, this time, did get published. While stringing its sentences together, I thought that telling stories was the only conceivable occupation for a superfluous person such as myself."

Bruce Chatwin in 1983, on the genesis of In Patagonia.


I finally got my copy, Beebe's copy, of his book Our Search  for a Wilderness, with his bookplate. The seller thought it was an iguana, but I knew it was a sketch of a possible "pre-Archaeopteryx" avian ancestor he had imagined. In 1910.

I think it was 2003 when they dug up Microraptor gui. The model is light- colored, but it has been discovered to be irridescent black. Mira!

I am painting my model black, and displaying it with the book...