Monday, July 21, 2014

Shannon Hiatt, 1950- 2014

When Dr Jon Esposito-- vet, pigeon expert, above all old  friend, called this evening from El Paso, I had an odd apprehension, all too well  confirmed in his first sentence: "Shannon just died-- they found him  in his pigeon loft, yesterday".

One the one hand, it was an appropriate way to go, almost comedically perfect for the co- author of the single best text on pigeons in our day, with Jon.

On the other, one of the finest and kindest scholars and biophiles of my acquaintance was gone, and I felt a stab of remorse. Busy lives only 5 hours away had kept us in far too little touch (he had an aversion to email), and I somehow thought, as we do, that sooner or later we would catch up. Now we can't.
Shannon was one of the dedicatees of Aloft, and in an eerie coincidence or synchronicity, the new edition came out the day he died.  I was so pleased I thought I would email him. Jon's call came first.

Shannon had traveled many miles both geographically and intellectually, from youthful fundamentalist preacher to evolutionary biologist (while never scorning his roots) to writing teacher at UTEP, English prof, and writer. The best modern pigeon book by so far a margin you can't see the others in the dust behind, his and Jon's The Pigeon Guide (look it up, too tired for code), is the one book you will need to understand this amazing bird and its attractions. Just as in mine, the constant in his life through all its many places and faces was the underrated and much despised domestic Pigeon. I defy any "biophile" to read their book and come way un- tempted by the bird.

More as I know more...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A little poetry

An excerpt, a vision of Elysian fields by Tim Murphy. He has a HUGE collection coming out next year-- watch for it.

Forests and fields lie just north of the Gulf,

teeming with boar and hunted by the wolf.

We rack our spears at sunset.  Songs are sung,

and all the hunters and their dogs are young.

Weekend Doggage

For once not a salukoid, but Tina Garfield's Anatolian puppy, who is not quite at full growth yet, at the PO.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Heavy medical week, to and from Albuquerque 100 miles away 4 times, so don't expect much but photos. This one is from Carlos up in Laramie, riding Juan past Elk Mountain with Lola on point. Amazing to me it was taken on a phone...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Real West

Novelist- rancher- horseman John L. Moore in his Querencia,  many miles east of the chic part of Montana. If I were ever driven out of here, that is the first place I would go.

These photos were taken by a New York filmmaker, Kelly Colbert, who is doing a documentary on a horse, working title “His Name is Midnight”; she seems unusually open to ways she hadn't known. John says "She is tracing the roots of an abused older gelding she rescued on the east coast and trying to find the source of his unusual will to live and sense of presence. What she found is the relatively unknown Oswald blood. She is also learning what a true ranch horse is."

And,  read his Looking for Lynne. I don't just believe in it; I blurbed it.


What we have been looking at online...

First and most importantly: if you care about the Animal "Rights" issue, and how its proponents plan to do away with all the ways we work and play with animals, you best pay attention to the impending ban of the Central Park horses. No one has done a better job covering it than Jon Katz at Bedlam Farm Journal , even through his open heart surgery last week.

This may be the single most appalling and dictatorial example of what these ignorant, fascistic (yeah, I know mayor Di Blasio is a  Marxist-- and what did New Yorkers think they would get when they elected a mayor who honeymooned in Cuba?) hysterical know- nothings are hoping to do everywhere. From Jon's latest post:

"If the mayor heard or saw any of those comments – 66 per cent of New Yorkers oppose the ban, along with the Central Park Conservancy, The Chamber of Commerce, The Teamsters Union, the New York Post, New York Daily News, and New York Times  – he has never acknowledged it, discussed it, reflected upon it."

" The mayor speaks of the issue only in short and inarticulate blurbs like those at this week's press conference. He refuses to speak with the carriage owners, visit the drivers or the stables, or even recognize the people in the carriage trade as human beings who deserve consultation about the loss of their livelihood,  their fate and future. The dehumanization of the carriage trade people is one of the ugliest and most disturbing elements in the campaign against the horses, especially from a mayor who labels himself a progressive.

"It seems the mayor is also determined to push ahead with a plan to replace the horses with vintage electric cars, which will cost about $160,000 apiece. If New Yorkers are united behind the idea of keeping the horses, they are even more horrified at the thought of flooding Central Park with more cars. Only the mayor seems to think cars are more eco-friendly than horses.

"There are also plans, according to the media, to take the horses away from the carriage owners and require that they only be sold to farms and preserves where it is guaranteed that they will never work...."

"It is known that the mayor's teenage daughter first awakened him to the carriage horse issue after viewing animal rights websites online, and that the mayor has never lived with an animal, not even a dog or a cat...."

"They have broken no law, violated no regulation, committed no crimes. If their work and way of life are to be taken from them, they are entitled to talk about it with their elected officials."

Read also here. You know the true cliche: "first they came for the carriage horses..."

Now, some cheerful stuff-- I do not want to wreck your weekend...

Also from New York: great piece on chef & writer Tony Bourdain, one that recognizes what I always thought was the deep truth behind the gonzo humor: "American writers rarely write about work anymore. Not tech work, quant work, digital work, but real work, manual work, crew work, often skilled but sweaty. Bourdain’s depiction of the kitchen crews he worked on, their mad camaraderie and the kind of inspired improvisational feats of high-heat athleticism they performed are tours de force."
Libby with a younger Bourdain

The beauty of book endpapers. Someday I should scan just the endpapers of my William Beebe collection.

Flight  might have evolved many times amidst the small feathered dinos. Dinosaurs are birds!

Did Tibetans get their high altitude genes from Denisovans? Our lineage becomes ever more complex...

The Passenger pigeon's extinction might have been more complex than "mere" extermination. I have been getting some grief for saying so in Living Bird. History will absolve me!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

New sculpture coming...

Just a teaser from Sarah Madigan...


You know the essence of this, from Chandler, but Micah Mattix adds something from a Prufrock last week:

"There is no such thing as high or low culture. There is interesting culture and boring culture. There are works of art that show great skill and those that don’t."

The Bird Today

With Taik. Think these two will work together?

Magdalena Old Timers Fiesta

Good week with the hawk and with guest Annie Hocker; bad week with my right hip, and not very productive. But once a year, local patriotism demands I pay some attention to Magdalena's only event that brings out of towners in. Yeah, it's hokey and country and so what? We missed it when water worries  cancelled it last year, and I always see unexpected people, especially but not always from the ranches.  As always right or double click to enlarge.

A cowboy bunch-- Wade Dixon, Vida Trujillo (widow of Viejo, who you can search up), Shonda and Darryl Welty. The Welty ranch is 60 plus dirt road miles away, and Wade works in Catron county, so we don't see them every day.
... in our bar
We have a parade- candidates...
...  unclassifiable New Mexican oddities...
Dead animals (yes, that oryx has one horn pointing up and one down)
The mayor (in the back, playing)
Wonderful old cars (I long for when they drove wild cows through town ahead of the cars, but I am beginning to sound like I was born in 18 not 1950)
Our  reporter (and beer maker) John Larson, and him shooting the float with Paul Pino's band, who in one incarnation or other have provided a soundtrack for my last, what, 34 years? Paul's stepson Rudy was one of the dedicatees of my pigeon book Aloft.

Dogs enjoy OT in their own way
I'm backing my friend Ed for sheriff. There is a persistent rumor that a popular TV series mined a period in his life for its first season. I'll never tell...
Two women I love: Sylvia Troy and Hilda Kelly, Tom's wife. Hilda: "Take those three and call it three Magdalena hookers!" Me: "No Hilda, not unless you get in too." She did, immediately. Unfortunately that one didn't come out. She has been married to Tom, below, with Jeannie and Tita, who makes an appearance in Hibben's Hunting American Lions as a "young cowboy",  for longer than I have been alive or than there has been a paved road to Magdalena. He is 86. I won't presume to ask a lady her age.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Sunday Random Doggage

Micaela's J litter in Finland with dachshund. I'd take that black and white pup.

Pre- flight

Pre- flight training at Lee Henderson's La Jencia Ranch. In the last three I am alternating an oversized Kazakh hood he has been training with and a proper Gyr hood-- the rest are self explanatory. Double or right click for BIG images.

Lib reminds me to say that the ranch has good grass over most of it, not trampled sand and cow poop- we are starting his training right in by the inner corrals around the house,  because we want him to home in there if he wanders. Last photo, added later, would be on high ground just to the right of the first photo with the sign, at the edge of the rising ground, looking from that high ground back over the whole ranch, virtually through the headquarters where these were taken.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Querencia Must- Reads

This is shaping up to be a good year for readers, especially those who love both good writing and books "with trees in them", to use the phrase that some anonymous first reader allegedly wrote when he rejected MacLean's A River Runs Through It.

The first, out in England just about now, is by a name long - time Q readers will know well: Pluvialis, Helen Macdonald, author of Falcon, blogger, poet, sometime historian of science, and falconer. With her new book,  H is For Hawk, she should get the recognition she deserves as one of the most brilliant nature writers living, and those of us who have been printing out and filing her blog posts now have an entire book of her best work yet to read and reread.
Helen at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin TX, researching TH White's papers

And I do mean reread. "H" is about training a Goshawk, about TH White's great sad book about the same, and about her grief at her father's death, all braided into a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. But what parts! Line by line, Helen may be the most incandescent "nature writer" I know. I decided to open the book without looking where to see if I could get a good quote and laughed with delight.

"Everything was gone except this quiet sylvan scene. Into which I intended to let slip havoc and murder. I stalked around the edge of the wood, crouching low, holding my breath. My attention was microscopically fierce. I'd become a thing of eyes and will alone. Mabel held her wings out from her sides, her head snaking, reptilian, eyes glowing. It felt like I was holding that bastard offering of a flaming torch and an assault rifle. Soft grass underfoot. One hand out to steady my self, we picked our way around to the final corner. And then I slowly extended my gloved fist out from the screen of brush.

"The hawk left the fist with the recoil of a .303 rifle. I stepped out to watch. Saw a chain of events so fast they snapped into a comic strip: frame, frame, frame. Frame one: gopshawk spluttering from the fist in bars and pinions and talons. Frame two: goshawk low to the ground, grass streaking along under her. Chocolate wings, beating strongly, hump-backed. Frame three: rabbits running. Frame four: The pheasant, too, crouching and running into the wood's safe margin.

"But it wasn't safe. Split-second, ink-starred decisions in the hawk's tactical computer. She slewed round sling-shot style, heel-bow, soaking up g-force like a sponge. Closed her wings and was gone. Sucked into the black hole of the wood, beneath a low-hanging larch branch. Everything disappeared. No rabbits, no pheasant, no hawk. Just a black hole in the wood's edge. It had gone very quiet. There was the distant coc-coc-coc of a scared pheasant."

You can get H is for H here at Amazon UK; the US edition  is coming in December from Grove Atlantic.
And coming from the same publisher is Malcolm Brooks' first novel, Painted Horses. Here is what I said about it after reading it in manuscript.

" I read Malcolm Brooks’ new novel, Painted Horses, with fascination, then amazement. Big, thrilling, poignant, astonishingly confident, it is the work of a master rather than that of a first-time novelist. With a story that moves from the bombed cities and battlefields of Europe to the wild badlands of Eastern Montana, and an eye for everything from the quality of a horse to the techniques of painting and archaeology, it will draw you in and leave you dreaming. I have rarely read a novel that realized a world so well.”

It is not just the best first novel I have ever read ; it is one of the best novels I have read in years. And it's not just me.  Rick Bass compares it to the Border trilogy and Angle of Repose; Carolyn Chute says that the "Great American novel still lives"; David James Duncan says "There isn’t a passing landscape, archaeological wonder, minor character, dialect, or wild horse in this story that isn’t convincing"; Lily King that "“Malcolm Brooks has the same intuitive understanding of women that his character John H has of horses. Painted Horses is a beautiful, sensual, authentic novel. A western novel that is about so much more than the West, it is an exquisite, enthralling debut.”

Here is Malcolm on YouTube, answering  some questions:

And a few photos for his fans- to- be: dinner with us and Penelope Caldwell in Laramie; chez Carlos Martinez del Rio, also in Laramie; and with a pheasant at home in Montana.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Update on the new kid

He is just at the age that he can trash the house, and soon we must take him up, but he is a lot of fun. What in the world do people talk about who don't have animals?

And what are these THINGS on my legs? Oversized Kazakh jesses designed for a Siberian Gos, too big but easier to get on for a single person-- Libby does not like "casting"birds-- and useful if only to get him used to the idea.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Another Quote

...just popped up. From John Stuart Mill:

"He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. . . . Nor is it enough that he should hear the arguments of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. This is not the way to do justice to the arguments, or to bring them into real contact with his own mind. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them; who defend them in earnest, and do their utmost for them. He must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form; he must feel the whole force of the difficulty which the true view of the subject has to encounter and dispose of, else he will never really possess himself of the portion of truth which meets and removes that difficulty."

True Writing Quote

From Ron Hansen, quoting John Gardner:

"My favorite piece of advice for beginning writers comes from John Gardner, that you should write the fiction you like to read. We immediately recognize phoniness or when a writer’s heart isn’t in the material."

Monday, June 30, 2014

We Need More Feathered Dinos

John McLoughlin was writing about them in the late SEVENTIES. Isn't it time yet to acknowlege, preferably before the next Jurassic Park, that dinos resemble eagles and turkeys and Roadrunners more than, oh, fence lizards?

Especially with all the good artists around...

These last would be so good if they weren't lizard- naked!

This guy has known it for a long time...
And this one; well, these ones holding their long - ago first books in front of my house some years back, but I learned at least partly from the guy with the beard.