Pronghorn peace

I’ve been watching a young pronghorn doe this past week, as she’s been hanging out, alone, in the hay meadow on the north side of the highway. The native grass is growing really well, the irrigation ditch is full, and it’s very beautiful, quiet and peaceful. The most disturbance that occurs there is when the ranch truck drives in once a day to feed Bambino, the fat bull residing in the corral for about another week (at which time he gets to go back to his cow herd).

Every day, I drive in slowly, soaking up the scene, watching the ducks splashing in the irrigation water, willets and curlews probing in the mud, ospreys and redtails screeching above, killdeer trying to distract me away from their nests, cottontails nibbling this and that. There is so much wildlife here at this time of year it’s amazing, and we try to leave everything alone since the atmosphere here is very similar to the peace we seek on the lambing ground with our ewes.

Today, the lone doe had a small smudge of brown standing next to her – she had given birth to her first fawn. By the time I got the truck turned around to leave, and get a few shots with the camera, the baby had laid back down, hiding, and the mother had disappeared on the hillside above the meadow. I guiltily took a few shots with my big lens, and left. When I drove back down the highway a few hours later, I noticed the doe was back in the meadow, nonchalantly grazing and taking it easy. Ah, peace on earth.

The Apprentice

Falconry continues through the ages in one of two ways: Either it springs spontaneously from the fertile mind of some bootstrapping biophile, or it passes down from one to another through an apprenticeship.
Some combination of the two is also possible. My own introduction to the sport was largely self-starting but later molded by a series of formal and less formal apprenticeships.I’ve sponsored two apprentices myself, both of them a while back; they are now experienced, successful falconers and longtime friends. Others (maybe half a dozen) have expressed serious interest in falconry and come so far along as to swing by the house for a tour or attend a local hunt. Several dozen more over the last 25 years have called or emailed once but not been seen since.This year, finally, one seems on track to go the distance. I signed his state paperwork last week and will get a tour of his new-built facility some weekend soon. He has been over for a visit and gone hunting. He bought a number of good books and the necessary equipment. He is bright and young enough to do the work and to enjoy it, I think, fully. I wish him well and will help him on his way, or help him at least build the foundation of what could be a much larger and longer-term project.Should he persevere, his involvement will grow, and his sport will take a shape all its own. My role will morph and diminish in time. Someday (sooner than it seems possible to him now), we will be colleagues and fellow journeymen in a sport that is bigger than us both.But I have to say the odds do not favor his perseverance. There is no lack of character or desire to blame but rather the facts of his well-established career and family that could easily end his falconry, as they have many others’. Something will have to shift—maybe everything—to accommodate the practice of this new passion. The elements of his life must change shape along with his falconry, “so long as they both shall live.”There is not much I can do to affect the outcome of that. At one time I thought the sponsor’s role large enough to have vast influence and carry great responsibility for the student’s future. It is not, and it does not, although it is nonetheless vital for any real progress in falconry.So this new practitioner will have to do what I have done and what all do who remain: continue to learn from his own experiences and from others, and continue to stoke the fire of his interest in the sport so that it will reward a lifetime of learning. At its heart, falconry requires a love for its elements, the hawks, the prey and their shared environment, that is not convenient or even sensible in any modern context. It is wholly of another time and state of mind. I find it good for that reason and innumerable others.

Happy Anniversary

I guess we got busy and lost track, but Friday was the fourth anniversary of the Querencia blog.

Matt here: I had this line tagged on to the above post but given Reid’s notice of our “bloggiversary,” I think it should better go in this one.

“…I’m happy to think our Querencia blog represents the good old things, like falconry and other human bonds with the wild; and like the process of apprenticeship, a proven human way to keep these bonds strong. “

Thanks to Steve for the inspiration and the space to share!

Suburban Wildlife

At lunchtime today when I was walking over to the burger place, I saw these goose families on a play date in the neutral ground between the hotel parking lot and the ice-cream place.

Soon after I got there, the gardener came though with his noisy aeration machine and sort of broke things up. Time to cut across the parking lot to more congenial surroundings.

More on Paleoindian Art

I just wanted to jump in to talk about Steve’s post on that beautiful etching on bone of a mammoth or mastodon recently discovered in Florida. The only thing I can think of that is anything like it is this carving that was found in the 1870s at Tequixquiac in central Mexico. It is the sacrum of an extinct llama that has been carved so that it looks like the head of a coyote. It is not securely dated but was found in Pleistocene deposits and has been generally accepted as genuine. There are some other etchings on bone from Mexico that are reputed from this era, but they aren’t authenticated at this time.

There are a number of Clovis-era bone rods, shaft wrenches and other functional pieces known from North America, but none with representational art on them that I’m aware of.

You may recall that I had a post in September, 2007 about a possible mammoth or mastodon petroglyph, found underwater in Lake Michigan. It’s nothing like the quality of this piece. If you click through that post it links to some other discussions I’ve posted about possible Paleoindian art and the problems with it.

Mammoth Art

An incredible artifact, a piece of bone with an image of a mammoth carved in it, has been found in Vero Beach. It may be as old as 14,000 years.

“No similar carved figure has ever been authenticated in the United States, or anywhere in this hemisphere.


“Etched into the bone by a highly sharpened stone tool or the tooth of the animal is the clear image of a walking adult mammoth or mastodon. Extensive tests over the past two months have shown that the image was created when the bone was fresh, presumably right after the animal it belonged to was killed or died.

“Experts who have examined the bone, found at a location which has not been publicly disclosed on the northern side of Vero Beach, concluded the carving and surface are of the same age – 12,000 to 14,000 years old — with no evidence of recent tampering (see accompanying story on tests that have been performed to date).

“Dr. Barbara Purdy, professor emerita of Anthropology at the University of Florida, on May 19th told Vero Beach 32963 discovery of an image carved into a bone by a prehistoric human is unprecedented in North America, and she called the find by fossil hunter James Kennedy “the oldest, most spectacular, and rare work of art in the Americas.”

HT Grayal Farr

Puppy Mills?

Gail Goodman sent this interesting essay from the UKC on “Puppy Mills” What are they? Should we even use the word?

“Twenty years ago, animal activists created the phrase “puppy mill”. Back then, it was only applied to commercial breeders, and then only to those who were breaking the law by neglecting their dogs. In a futile attempt to placate activists, many hobby breeders adopted the term “puppy mill” and used it to separate “them” from “us”. It was a mistake then, and it’s rapidly becoming fatal today. Every one of these so-called “anti-puppy-mill bills” has a definition that could easily include breeders of hunting and show dogs. Every time you use that phrase, you’re contributing to the idea that dog breeders need to be regulated out of existence.”

There is a lot more here and you should read it all. It can happen anywhere. Just today Vladimir Beregovoy forwarded me a letter from a desperate Oregon breeder. In part:

“I’m mounting a campaign here in Oregon to file a class action lawsuit against the State for these laws as they take away both our Fourth and Fifth Amendments Rights. I found a non-profit group, Oregonians In Action, who fight for individual owners’ rights, particularly in land use. I’m also getting one together in our county (Columbia) because of all the new changes plus their Land Use head, Todd Dugdale, told me I have to get down below 10 dogs by Jan 1, file for a $960 Type II Home Occupation permit, and pay $30 per dog per year in order to be able to keep over 3 dogs now. And I live in unincorporated county. I asked what if I had more than 3 dogs, he said they could all be confiscated, and if I did the rest (Type II etc) anything over 9 needs to be put to sleep. Plus I would be fined $500 per day plus have to pay for all the confiscated dogs’ care at unreasonable fees if this happened. And my kennel wouldn’t pass their new rules anyway as it now requires 5 acres minimum with a heated & airconditioned building at least 100 feet from my house and would have to have a separate kitchen/bathing facility in it, with concrete floors with a center drain with a separate septic system. This is for over 9 dogs and for a commercial kennel. There is no place for private breeders under these draconian laws.

“Mind you, I’ve been continually and duly licensed and inspected as a hobby kennel here at my current address for 20 years now. But there is no grandfathering allowed now.”

To paraphrase Trotsky again (and it WAS Trotsky!): “You may not be interested in AR, but AR is interested in you.”

Rainy range

We’ve been blessed with a rainy spring and the animals respond accordingly. This is the yearling Aziat Rant playing with Rena, the two-year old Akbash (the all white one), this morning as the sun was coming up over the Wind Rivers.

I knew when they walked up to each other nose-to-nose that play fights would soon break out. The lambs grazed along contentedly, completely unconcerned with the big dogs nearby.

When the dogs got tired of playing, it was back to guard duty. Rant loves his lambs and checks them frequently. Since it rained all night, everyone was wet and dirty.

And over on the lambing ground, the burros guard the back fenceline from intruders. When the herd moves down to the riverbottom for water and rest mid-morning, the burros always walk along the back fence before heading down – doing that one final check. Then they join the herd again, roll in the good dirt, and take naps until late in the afternoon when grazing begins again.

More Early Learning Experiences

I couldn’t resist throwing in a couple of my favorite pictures. That’s our daughter Lauren, age 18 months (?) working on the excavation of a rockshelter in the foothills west of Denver. You’ll have to guess who that tall brunette is standing behind her.

Here’s our son Travis, age 4, helping trowel out a level in a test unit in a prehistoric Madisonville Phase site in northern Kentucky.