Monday, October 05, 2015


Will Beebe, naturalist, writer, inventor, New York socialite, jungle and ocean explorer, is a man whose like it would be hard to have today. But without his example, I don't know if I would be the person I am. Tom McGuane also cites him as a childhood inspiration, not for writing (I think he slights him a bit here), but for adventure. He wrote his first book in 1905, a rather 19th century affair called Two Bird Lovers in Mexico, and wrote his last stuff for the Geographic in the early sixties. He was a friend to Teddy Roosevelt, who wrote the intro to (I believe) his second book, early, and to Father Anderson Bakewell much later, invented the Bathysphere and exploration of the abyss, shot flying fish with a 28 bore Parker, and married beautiful women...

I have intended to write on Beebe for a while, as I have a nice little collection of "Beeebeana", but I was prompted by my correspondent, Kirk, one of the serious polymaths himself-- geneticist, MD, gourmand, elk hunter, scholar of Icelandic history, sea trout fiend, student of esoteric lore (he is the only acquaintance of mine who has attended the Naropa Institute Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, where he among other things read Conrad with William Burroughs!) Kirk, in a discussion of Kipling, asked me if I knew of the "Kiplingite" Beebe (who actually met Kipling when he was living in Vermont). When I replied that I did, and shared my modest collection, Kirk responded with the following:

"Since the first page I "self-identified" as a scientist.
A tiny sphere dangling deep in the dark with
a shaft of light on bizarre never-before-seen creatures.
My wife gave me Gould's biography (out of print) this summer after hearing
her interviewed on NPR, and probably tiring of me
rave about William Beebe for 40 years (almost
from the day we met) i.e., why I do what I do.
What a combination - absolute scientific rigor,
wild bravery, aplomb everywhere (back of beyond to Vanity Fair),
work hard, party hard, a true advocate for women in
science (one of the first), smashing technical and popular writer,
bon vivant with no care for possessions or
wealth other than that needed for more science, genial
mentor to so many of the best of the best."

Sing it, Kirk! Here are some things...

His first book:

A favorite, Pheasant Jungles -- a signed copy. It was a VERY different time-- read the caption (double click to enlarge)...

Books then were decorative- here are the endpapers of  Jungle Days  and The Arcturus Adventure. Both were published by Putnam, nature and adventure being mainstream in those days...

One of his most wonderful books is Pheasants, Their Lives and Homes - two volumes covering every species, in its natural home! Beebe, just after WWl and working for the American Museum of Natural History in New York, was given the kind of assignment that usually doesn't exist even in fiction-- to travel to Asia and collect and observe every species, paid for by the wealthy patron Colonel Kuser. The resulting volumes also used the great nature artists of the time-- Knight, George Lodge, Fuertes. There is nothing else like them.


 This is only the beginning, early, land based. His dives in the Bathysphere, his ocean stuff comes later. His bio, by Carol Grant Gould, and the bathysphere book, Descent, by Brad Matsen, are absolutely  worth reading. His social life was amusing too- he knew father B,  who collected snakes for the Museum, and who used to keep a copy of the Social Register beside his Alpine Journal and his cocked and locked Colt Commander ("What good is an unloaded gun?" he would always say), in front of a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe in his Santa Fe casita. I have joked that the American Museum , the Social Register, and the Explorers Club used to draw on the same crowd in the Thirties, and it is more true than not. To be continued...

Ahh, one more, from Beebe's own Bathysphere book, Half Mile Down...

Monday, September 28, 2015

European Indian Clubs

In a sort of random walk through the internets this morning I bumped into this photo essay on the popularity of Indian clubs in European countries. The origin of these is usually ascribed to the enduring popularity of a series of fifteen western novels written in German by Karl May in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

This reminded me of an excellent essay in the New Yorker from 2012 by Rivka Galchen on the Karl May phenomenon, I had always meant to blog about. It discusses the cultural position of the novels as well as the annual Karl May Festival, attended by hundreds of thousands, where May's stories are presented as a series of plays in a vast outdoor amphitheater.

This continued interest by Europeans in stories of Indians and the American West has helped our friends Mike and Kathy Gear whose prehistoric Indian-themed novels sell well there. Mike recounted to me that they had had dinner once with a person who had translated several of their books into a European language (I won't say which one). He asked the translator, "Our books refer to lots of North American trees and other plants that don't occur in your country and don't have names in your language. How do you handle naming those plants in the translation?"

The translator replied, "Well, if I don't have a name for a plant, I just pick a random European plant name and go with that."  

Sunday, September 27, 2015

End of the Beginning

With thanks to Steve for posting some pictures of our season opener on rails, here are a few more shots from today's closing day of the early season in Louisiana.

To celebrate the "end of a great beginning" to the 2015-2016 hawking season, I Googled a recipe and found our friends Hank Shaw and Holly Heyser's roast snipe, which worked wonderfully on these two soras.

The kids, always skeptical at first, deemed it "just like steak" and asked how many we had left in the freezer.

Here's the recipe to try:

Friday, September 25, 2015

Mystery Mammal

If this were anywhere near April 1, I would assume it was a hoax. As it is, this report from Sporting Classics Daily borders Cryptozoology. It purports to be a note on a scientific report, on a new species of "ground" squirrel, from Borneo, the "ground" in quotes, because though to all appearances it appears to be a rather typical, tassel- eared, old world tree squirrel. It also looks like our own local Abert and Kaibab populations, but for the bushiest tail I have ever seen on any squirrel, tree or ground... (here is a similar one):

The sources, at Smithsonian and Science, seem legitimate. But it gets truly weird: according to local legend, it kills (small) DEER. And eats their internal organs. It is being studied with camera traps, which have given us a lot of intriguing and sometimes confusing data.

 Read it, and let me know if you find anything further?

What is on a Sighthound's Mind?

Lucas Machias sent me this image:
My reaction was simple: WANT one.

He traced it to this excellent blog, on greyhound sculpture and North Dakota life. I DO want one, and must research...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Healthy Dogs

Both Reid and Matt reviewed Ted Kerasote's first dog book, Merle's Door, here. His newest book, Pukka's Promise:the Quest for longer- Lived Dogs, nearly got by me as I worked on my own dog book, and that would be a shame. Less a narrative than his previous book, it uses his present dog Pukka to examine all the odd modern attitudes to dogs that hamper our efforts to breed and live with healthy animals. Without being an exact parallel to Hounds of Heaven, it nevertheless is concerned with many of its issues: how to breed healthy dogs, how to feed them, how to let them lead good lives. He deals with everything from genetic diversity to cancer.

I  was intensely interested in his chapter on, and against, spaying and neutering. Even for stopping population growth, he argues, vasectomies and tubal ligation, which can be cheaper, are superior methods-- dogs with intact organs are less likely to stress their adrenal glands, have fewer cancers, and are generally healthier. He puts a little less emphasis on genetic diversity and its loss, my chief worry, but he catches the cultish spirit behind universal spay neuter. Many people are actively hostile to him when they realize his dog is "intact"; one asks him "Don't all dogs have to be spayed and neutered?"

"Why?" I replied.

"For their health".

"Where did you hear that?'

"From my vet." !!!!

It seems even with the struggles and arguments I have had, I have been living in a bubble.Kerasote goes on to state:"Intact dogs have almost vanished from ordinary family life during the last four decades and can now only be seen on a regular basis at dog shows and field trials, in some inner-city neighborhoods, and on Indian reservations. [emphasis mine SB] This is not a representative sample of dogdom, either behaviorally or genetically. But when I've remarked to people in the animal welfare movement that we need to be concerned about the narrowing of the canid gene pool, and its consequences for the health of dogs as well as our understanding of them, I've been called an egghead. As one person told me, "I can't get exercised over long-term genetics effects when millions of dogs are dying in shelters.'"

If you want to have dogs, never mind healthy dogs, you had better think about this! Here are a few amusing links. Which dog breeds are closely related to wolves?" will remind you that Asian sighthounds are not greyhounds. Pedigree Dogs Exposed is a continuing expose of what limited gene pools do to animals. And "33 Healthiest dog breeds" was getting me angrier and angrier as it counted down, until I got to the last-- and laughed aloud.

Some healthy dogs we know:

A little on 4 Bores

We know little about the "ten- plus" bores in America, but in England they still build them. The always- innovative Michael Louca of Watson brothers builds them as Best- quality sidelock ejectors-- not just for collectors either, though he admits his over twenty pound, 42 inch plus barrel model is mostly a collectors item. He prefers the eighteen pound "light" model for wildfowling. At 49,000 pounds, they are actually what passes as a modestly priced Best-- Boss game guns go for twice that much.

Building the four...

And shooting it:

A bit more on Watson here and below.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Before the Fall; Legends of Winter

Rare archival footage from pre- revolutionary Russia of real psovaya borzois catching a wolf, with assist from scenthounds, while greyhounds (galgos? ) look on.

No fear if you are squeamish about blood-- as often happens today,  at the end, the hunter is going in with a forked stick to pin the wolf and catch it alive...

New England Woodcock

I have been saving this for Fall. Nobody in the west knows, or at least believes, how thick the Woodcock (and Ruffed grouse) cover is in the east. This is EXACTLY right; it breeds snap shooters like me, who fire too soon out here, "throwing away" our first shots...

And they are often small, and close in. "Don't shoot the house..." I was ultimately warned off with a threat of the police the last time I tried to shoot in my old coverts in Easton, MA.

 Far Away and Long Ago, in the coverts mentioned above; me with Parker 16 and woodcock, ca 1978.

Hunting for "Millenials"

This fine video of deer hunting in Paradise Valley is better than 90% of such stuff:
Wild Harvest from Native Boy on Vimeo.
But it is more remarkable then that, for it is linked to a Huffington Post article, titled "Millenials Must Hunt.

I rather like that imperative-- not "can" or even "should", but MUST. I had reason to cite the link between foodies and locavores to hunting in my recently completed text for the art show, "Wild Spaces, Open Seasons", but I had no idea how far this way of thinking has penetrated...

Fridge Cartoons

Lucas Machias just sent me this very apropos Booth cartoon, asking me if I had it on my refrigerator. I answered "I do now!"
Here are some that were there already, including two more Booths... I think a double click will enlarge...

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Biology/ Zoology links

We have always known about the parthenogenetic (but mating, and reproducing, sometimes in the yard--see below) hybrid whiptail lizards of New Mexico, some of which live in our yard, known as Aspidoscelis (formerly Cnemidiphorus) neavesi, or more rudely, if correctly, as lesbian clone lizards. They are indeed a species of all- female virgin clones that reproduce after sexual behavior.

But now scientists have bred dual hybrid versions, tetraploid in chromosome number. What the hell are they? And do they exist in the wild?

Tardigrades exist in your local stagnant pond, in outer space, and in cult science fiction stories of the seventies.; they are everywhere. Nevertheless, they make clone lizards seem mundane.

Here is a model:
Next (tomorrow): Italian gun trends and esthetics...

Links 1

I have many I have been saving, some worth your time, some that just caught my eye An example of the second is this horrifying skeletal "bird", aptly titled "Epic Bird Anatomy FAIL":
Love those feather bones..

On the serious front, we have more dispatches from the front lines of the AR fascists' attempts to make us cease all contact with our animals, from the invaluable and necessary Bedlam Farm blog. "We",  ie the side of sanity, won the first battle for the continuing existence of the New York Carriage horses, but can we be complacent? Jonathan Katz says no.

He also revisits the larger issue here; whether it is possible to have a traditional relation with an animal, say WORKING, in our society. I would have thought he was being paranoid, but after belatedly reading Ted Kerasote's latest, Pukka (review TK) I learn that a large majority of urban Americans think that ALL dogs must be spayed and neutered. Where do these mooncalves think that dogs COME FROM?

A quote from Bedlam Farm:

" The truth is that American dogs live the best lives of any animals in the world, very few of them suffer and die at the hands of abusive and uncaring owners...

" We are moving towards a kind of quarantine for dogs, increasingly sealed off from the opportunity to socialize them, to give them varied and stimulating lives, to accompany us in our travels, be appreciated by other people. Dogs deserve better than to be isolated only in homes and backyards because society does not permit us to take any risks with them."

Eleanora's falcons have always been thought  strange. Island - nesting relatives of the European Hobby, they resemble little Peregrines with big wings. They live on Medterranean islands, and breed during the FALL passerine migration to Africa, using that bounty to fuel their reproduction.

 Now it appears that they keep "prisoners" in a larder as well. Please forgive format-- it came out this way:

"...the falcons keep or ‘imprison’ some preys in a relatively deep cavity or in a fissure of rocks from where they can’t escape as their flight feathers (both tail and wings feathers) were already pulled out ... Or by keeping them trapped in a tight and deep hole which makes them unable to move neither their wings nor their hanging legs...
"The authors reported also that this behaviour can occur even before the eggs hatch, and was already well known to a local fisherman who is staying in the archipelago in a more or less regular basis for decades..."

Read, as they say, the whole thing.

Last before dinner: a relative, a wild Eurasian Hobby, flies down a Swift . That we have not yet mastered such flights, apparently done easily in the Old Days, should suggest we don't know everything yet...

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Matt's opening day

Matt Mullenix, our original co- blogger, is still around. Last week he sent me this fine photo set, and when I asked him to blog them he said he couldn't get in.

We must fix this; meanwhile, opening day:

Catching Up

Yesterday I went hunting on Piet Ditmar's Dunhill Ranch. I am not 100 % yet (100 % may be a ridiculous concept, making age run backwards), but I walked about four miles in rugged terrain and came back exhausted but happy, having at least SEEN game. Most exercise I have had in 6 months and biggest distance covered in years. Now I must walk-- solvitur ambulando- and get in REAL condition.

Not just recovery, but because of work deadlines as well, I have been neglecting the blog, and have a lot of links, reviews, and other things, which I will trickle in over the next few days.

Meanwhile Skyhorse seems to have settled on a cover, having tweaked it some more. My only request is that they substitute a photo of Taik for the one they had included. Libby sniffed "supermodel", and I pointed out that no field dog ever had such groomed ears.

And the reprint of Rage, with the cover by Michael Quinton and the intro by Helen, is ready to go too, but it is in PDF and I don't know how to convert it.

UPDATE : Jackson just converted it. Thanks Jack (and Karen who offered to)...

Sunday, September 13, 2015

More Doggage

I hadn't intended to be so profligate, but Rissy is coming into her own.The feral girl is now a still- slightly mad "Mom". She even comes back-- sometimes.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Jack sent this good old "sign"...

Which prompted me to reply with a recent pic of Princess Pook, AKA Ataika, the queen of Kazakhstan and points west. At eleven she can still jump a fence or catch a rabbit, and is currently in heat, driving the boy crazy.

 But then, her mother gave birth to her at 14...

Wednesday, September 09, 2015


 This year a combination of utterly un - concentrated doves (because of widespread abundant rain and food), and deadlines, have delayed my opening day. Not so Carlos in Laramie-- Blue grouse AND Snipe. I feel unemployed...

Some years I have actually started on Opening day..

Sunday, September 06, 2015


Stunning music, from Carlos:


I can only say things are GOOD- not "perfect", whatever that means.

In the morning I often feel "normal", i.e., how I feel I remember from 6 - plus years ago; I often hit a wall by 5 PM. It is not bad, and getting better as we learn how to adjust my machine...

I must learn, as Sarah says: it is a PROCESS,  perhaps un- ending...

Here is a more objective Libby report:

"Steve had the second part of his surgery in which they run the lead wires under the skin and attach them to the “battery”, which is somewhat like a heart pacemaker. Then the next week we went back and Sarah, our wonderful neurologist, turned the contraption on and did the initial programming. They put an electrode in each side of his brain; each one has 8 locations which can be individually turned on and off, and have different amounts of charge delivered. My mathematically challenged brain can’t conceive of how many different combinatioin possibilities this presents — needless to say, it will take some time to work out the best combination to achieve optimum effectiveness.

"At this point, Steve’s dyskinesia is absent, which is wonderful. He is still having troubles with small motor coordination, leg cramps, a very soft voice (this started right after the first surgery) and sometimes his walking. Every day presents something different … sometimes he feels pretty normal, and then a few hours later he hits some mysterious wall and feels awful for several hours. Luckily Sarah is very responsive and can communicate well… when we send her an email she usually gets back within four hours; and remarkably, when we describe what is happening, she knows how to guide us through changing the settings so we don’t have to make a trip to Albuquerque. With our marginal cars that can be a problem in itself. We go back for another office visit at the end of September — we’re keeping a log of what is happening every day to try to discover if there is some pattern to all the ups and downs. "

Actually, better than that- this was written before my last "tweak".  I am now over 80%, and getting better...

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Oliver Sacks-- 1933 - 2015; RIP

Tom McIntyre just let me know that Oliver Sacks has died at 82, from a recurrence of his melanoma. I wrote back, instantly:

"A great man; a Martian, as he characterized his friend Temple Grandin, but a GREAT Martian, and great writer- scientist. I have read nearly all his books, picking up the autobiography when he announced his impending death in the NYRB, and his reaction:" I must write another book!”*

"In it, I learned that he was a power lifter who could jerk 375 pounds (something i know a bit about personally); a biker, when that culture merged into gay culture in pre-  AIDS California; gay, but celibate 30 or more years,  for private reasons; and a sometime speed freak. He handled all this with grace and a gentle sense of amusement. Could he have had a touch of Asperger’s? He was “face blind”, but loved music. He swam like a  porpoise...

"Given friends like Jonathan Miller and Tom Stoppard, I expect he was edge of conservative in TODAY’s politics— old Establishment Jewish liberal was probably what he would prefer. As you said, not an ideologue…

"I have found many other fans lately— my neurologist AND her Bronx- bred resident for instance; Tom Quinn’s wfe Jeri, and more remarkably Tom, who tends to disapprove of gay people. The Bronx gal now thinks I am civilized again- I had lost points when Sarah (neuro) told her my implant had to go in my LEFT shoulder because “... he shoots so much!”

"It’s not particularly apropos but I have taken to using this quote whenever someone I consider grand and irreplaceable dies; Kipling, in the person of Mowgli, from "Red Dog": “Howl, dogs! A WOLF has died tonight!"

"Them’s my thoughts..."

* ANOTHER great book by a dying person: Clive James’ last views on everything, an unlikely celebration: Latest Readings

"A simple linear gesture.."

LC Smith Field Grade Featherweight-- an honest Yankee double, finished. Nothing has cleaner lines. This 6 1/4 pound, 28" 12 bore from, probably, the twenties, is a perfcctly balanced gun.