Shortwingers, Randy Newman, and Gace de la Vigne

People who fly “short- winged hawks”– true hawks (Accipiters), Buteos and Parabuteos– have always gotten little respect from those who fly falcons. Falcons are “prettier” if not always more beautiful, and generally have sweeter dispositions (please, partisans, bear with me– I know there are exceptions on both sides). They have big dark sweet spaniel eyes. True hawks have eyes and often dispositions like demons.

The nobility once flew falcons. Hawks are useful. Neither is easily forgiven.

I have no dog in this fight. I currently have a Gyr- Prairie (snooty) that I fly at hares with the help of hounds (unforgivable, low- class, suspiciously “Oriental”). My totem is the Gos (uber- shortwing) so I guess I am a hopeless shortwinger at heart.

The correct technical word for a shortwing- flyer is “austringer”. The prejudices are ancient in Europe, though oddly do not exist in Asia. Here is Gace de la Vigne, writing in the Middle Ages:

“… but please do not house your graceless austringers in the falconers’ room. They are cursed in scripture, for they hate company and go alone about their sport. They wear a cloak to cover up their bird, the better to deceive the bird they seek to take. When they go to hunt, you think they are behind the falconers, but instead they are ahead, beating their drum. When you hear that noise and see the birds flying in all directions, you know that there will be nothing left in the area for falconers..”

He adds:

“When one sees an ill- formed man, with great big feet and long shapeless shanks, built like a trestle…. hump- shouldered and skew- backed, and one wants to mock him, one says, ‘Look, what an austringer!’ I know the austringers would like to beat me for this, but there are two dozen of us falconers to one of them [!!], so I have no fear. Nevertheless, it is a wise man who keeps a Goshawk in his house, good kitchen- bird that it is!”

Apropos of which, Patrick has suggested a version of Randy Newman’s “Short People” with “short- Wingers”.

Or “austringers”; here’s mine:

“Austringers got no reason

“Austringers got no reason

“Austringers got no reason to liiive!

“They got long shapeless shanks, great big feet,

“Run around hollerin’ “Meat! Meat! Meat!”

“Don’t want no austringers

“Don’t want no austringers

“Don’t want no austringers ’round here!”

Someting like that.

By the way, Gace de la Vigne is also author of someting I want engraved on silver:

De chiens, d’oyseaux, d’armes, d’amours,

Pour une joye, cent doulours.

Matt, feel free to add a pic.

MATT: OK, here’s a pic of one graceless austringer and his lowly hawk…

4 thoughts on “Shortwingers, Randy Newman, and Gace de la Vigne”

  1. Well, this certainly makes my comments, previously posted, on San Francisco pigeons seem tame unto benign! At least the pigeons do something to incur the wrath of city dwellers by clustering thickly as legions where they belong only as single spies. My grandmother once remarked, while whacking a pigeon in Union Square with her umbrella, that they were the reason women wore hats in that city. I believe that she was serious.

  2. I once caught flak on my blog for having the temerity to take the "austringer.net" domain and talk about hawking with my Harris' hawk. My accuser told me that should be reserved for those flying the mighty goshawk. I replied that the original meaning wasn't a compliment to goshawk flyers, quite the opposite. Thanks for the clear documentation of the old usage.

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