The Family Sighthounds

Happy New Year, y’all! I’m home in Georgia this week, firming up family ties and rediscovering my accent (pronounce it: ax-sant).

Eight days under one roof with my parents and own children offer plenty opportunities to ponder genetic determinism. There have been few surprises along those lines this week, but one of them was Mom’s choice in a new puppy: a borzoi she calls “Barrie,” after the celebrated author of Peter Pan. (The dog’s given name is Russian, Nevskyi Barhat Chernyi, for which perhaps Steve or another reader can provide a good translation?)

Mom and Dad have often expressed an appreciation for the shape and demeandor of my whippets, but they’ve never owned a sighthound. Their last dog (a yellow lab) died six years ago, and I wasn’t even aware they were in the market for a puppy. In their so-called retiring years, I expected maybe they’d get a lap dog of some kind and tote it around with them between the distant homes of their two sons. A giant sighthound seemed unlikely…but maybe running dogs run in the family.

Here’s Barrie (not much of a runner just yet):


And here’s a picture of my own hound Rina (no longer a puppy):

And one I found online, a postcard from 1776, Russia, maybe a distant relative of Mom’s:

“Australian” Funeral hoax

I usually stay out of the journalistic mainstream in favor of things that interest me. But given all the noise about blogs vs Mainstream media lately, this is utterly irresistible.

This morning, Libby, wandering around the web in search of news, came upon this story in the Australian. It begins:

“WASHINGTON: George W. Bush sent his apologies – he was too busy cutting wood and riding his bike – and almost 500 of the 535 members of Congress also had more pressing engagements, as the state funeral for Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the US, was held in Washington yesterday.”

But guess what? His funeral isn’t until Tuesday, and hundreds have already paid their respect!

Sure, Mr Rago (who said that blogs are “Written By Fools To Be Read By Imbeciles”). The Mainstream Media are ALWAYS more accurate than blogs.

New Year’s Bleg

(That is, a Blogger’s beg)..

Do any of my readers have or know of a “Baby Bretton” French over- and- under shotgun that I could borrow, shoot, and photograph for a series of articles on French shotgun design?

They are rare in the States and I have never even seen one. Like many French inventions they are unique– they have a sliding opening system, and are the lightest in the world.

All shipping and insurance to be paid by me, of course.

New Mexico is snowed in today– pics later perhaps. We have a foot– at Peculiar’s in Santa Fe, three hours north, they got THREE last night. We were intending to go there for New Year’s and Mr. P’s birthday, but the highway between is closed in at least two places, so I suspect we are housebound.

Update: so are the P’s. Go here for pics.

Christmas Ornaments

Here’s a picture of the Christmas tree that we have up this year. Connie despairs of me sometimes because I don’t get as excited about Christmas as she does. She does such a superb job decorating the tree and inside the house.

But I didn’t really want to write about the tree so much as the ornaments that we use.

I’ve inherited them from my grandmother. These were all handmade by her and my mother nearly 45 years ago. As I recall they got the idea from a women’s magazine. They bought fabric-covered styrofoam balls at craft stores and went to work. They never had designs to copy but made up their own as they went. For a couple of years in the early 1960s, I remember my mother and grandmother working on these as we watched television as a family. They had big plastic bins of pins, ribbon, lace, sequins and beads they would pull material from. They would buy cheap costume jewelry at yard sales and use their components as well. They lived 60 miles apart so they mostly worked separately. They would make multiples of designs they liked and trade back and forth. There’s no way I can tell now who made what. My sister has my mother’s collection.My mother died in 1984 and my grandmother died last year. When I see these ornaments now it is a great reminder of them and their ability and creativity.

‘The Goshawk’ Redux

Poet and all- round brilliant writer Pluvialis has been given a Finnish Goshawk. She is thinking of retreating somewhere and writing a book on its training, a meditation, a look at T. H. White, who wrote the original book of that title during another dark and chaotic time. As White said: “These efforts might have some value because they were continually faced with those dificulties that the mind has to circumvent, because falconry was an historic but dying sport [perhaps more in the Thirties than today– SB], because the faculties exercised were those that throve among trees rather than houses, and because the whole thing was inexpressibly difficult”.

I think we need Pluvialis’ reaction to this book, and to that of crusty old Edmund Bert, who wrote the best Goshawk training manual ever in 1619.

Why? Here is Pluvi on a wild Gos in Uzbekistan:

“…Halimjan made soup for lunch; there it was, bubbling in the cast-iron pot over the gas flame and we were sitting around our red plastic table chewing on stale bread waiting for the soup, and all our heads went up at once. A noise like ripping, tearing hessian, like a European Jay, only with real terror in it, was coming towards us right there and we watched — and slow as syrup and fast as a blink all at once, came the male gos trying his damnest to catch a magpie; they flashed right through the trees in front of the table, and gos nearly had a foot to the magpie before he saw us — five humans and a fire and a truck and a Giant Red Table right below him — ack! — wave off! wave off! — and the magpie dove downwards to the fork of a branch, crouching like a man avoiding a blow, and the gos spooled away through the trees. He looked like a coin falling through water, flashing silver and grey. Some kind of metal. A very fierce one. Potassium, Sodium, Goshawk.”

More, please.

One Purely Silly One..

Just before I got ill we were shopping in Albuquerque. We were in the checkout line at the Asian market when I spotted this can:

That’s right: a soft drink made from the nest of Asian swiftlets.

I don’t know if you can read the list of ingredients below:

But they include, in order: “Water, Jelly, Granulated sugar, BIRD’S NEST FLAVOUR [emphasis mine], Ginseng flavouring, Genuine Bird’s nest, No preservatives”.

It tasted of tart fruit, and was full of a substance like rice noodles (Libby says translucent worms)– I assume the fragments of bird’s nest. It did not taste of ginseng.

Working Wolf Dogs

It is the common wisdom that wolf- dog hybrids are spooky creatures, alternately shy and aggressive, that do not make good working dogs. So it is with fascination that I bring you this report from a friend, cynologist Vladimir Beregovoy, about a correspondent of his in Russia.

“I wanted to share with you a few pictures which I just received from my Internet friend Mikhail Ovcharenko. He lives near Ulyanowsk, on the Volga River. He was involved in a wolf control job and became fascinated with this animal. Now, his obsession is keeping wolves and West Siberian Laikas, interbreeding them and hunting with Wolf/Laika mixes. He does not keep them locked up for life, but really hunts them like he would hunt dogs, and he is very happy with his results…. Here are some pics of his mixes of the second through third generations. They really hunt well, like good dogs. They retrieve ducks from water and track and bay wild boar for him.”