Cat’s post below suggested a follow- up from here. Handguns are such a common tool in the west that one forgets that they seem alien in England or on the coasts.

Here are two favorites. The “pretty” one is a stainless steel old- style (no trigger lock) Smith and Wesson Mountain Gun with custom walnut stocks by Steve Herrett in Idaho, in .44 magnum. It is a good compromise of “carryability” and power– there are much more powerful cartridges these days but their recoil mandates a gun that is awkward to tote. This is my favorite trail gun in places with dangerous beasts.

The other is the opposite in esthetics: a Ruger Light Carry Revolver in .38, ultramodern, made mainly of synthetic materials, ugly but practical, made to be light enough to carry without even noticing it– Libby’s pick for a defense gun, though not a bad trail gun IF you don;t expect grizzlies.

And here is the Smith in its El Paso thumbbreak holster; I also have a “tanker” shoulder rig.

Animal progress

Irb is better all the time and thinks he is 100%, though he still has a month on house arrest before he can run loose. (WE are a bit battered but that will be another story– he nearly broke Libby’s ribs the other night).

When he is running we will give any benefactor who requests it a photo of just that!

Meanwhile BB approaches the hood dubiously as part of his conditioning.

Animals are such FUN.

“Sparrow Hawk”

A local pigeon fancier asked me to catch a “Sparrow Hawk” that was (I qoute) “living under my coop and killing sparrows”. While I’d think that a bonus– sparrows waste pigeon feed and spread disease– I loaded up my trusty butterfly net and caught this VERY fat male Sharpshin. (David Z– in any other part of the world this WOULD be a Sparrowhawk).

Look at those eyes– Jeffers: “..and jewelled with such eyes the great Goshawk’s head”. The Sharpie is really a micro- Gos.

We brought him to a local campground with a lot of small birds and Lib actually caught the blur slipping from my hand.


Annie Hocker sent a query about self- appointed “spokesman” Chris Palmer on the orca tragedy:

“…Palmer has a big pulpit in his role as head of the environmental film dept. at AU, as well as being on the board of several other school and film festival depts. across the US. I did note that a couple of his speakers last winter were from PETA. Two out of maybe twenty, so I figured it was “equal time.” Now I’m not so sure. I”ve never seen a show of performing marine animals so I can’t speak to anything but the concept. What’s the difference between a bird show and a show of jumping dolphins and orcas, other than sheer body mass?”

Matt was blunt:
“This stuff drives me crazy. This morning I heard that Californians are talking about instituting an “animal cruelty registry,” like the sex offender list. I guess we’ll all be on it.

“The letter from the film maker is asinine. He contradicts his own points in numerous places. And it’s obvious the guy knows nothing about animals “as people,” meaning how they really are, as we (falconers, hunters, trainers, herders, etc.) know who share their lives in a personal way.

“He bemoans our “modern distance from nature,” and our “thwarted desire to interact with our natural world — an impulse that we have suppressed,” and then concludes (somehow!) that:

“The best, most compassionate way for us protect, learn about and appreciate the beauty of wild animals is to watch them from a distance, but never, ever touch. We need to leave them alone — in the wild — and stop interfering in their lives.”

“WTF?! Is he even listening to himself?

“Amazing to note: This guy makes his living selling wildlife films to an audience he disparages as being “more comfortable watching from behind the safety of a clear barricade or on TV from the comfort of our couch.” Hello? Your customers are reading!

“I would guess most of his Op/Ed came from AR sources, pre-written. That would be the most complimentary thing I could assume of him.”

I had this to add:

“I have heard of this guy before and he REEKS of AR. Some of the most important and obscure (and weird) AR documents I have read are big on this “distance” thing– some even argue we shouldn’t watch animals closely because we will be faced with ethical dilemmas ie to save prey from predators or not–! To me it is code language like “guardian”.

“Re Marine shows: “orcas”, renamed from killer whales (and that in turn from the old whalers’ “whale killers”– a group of scientists less than ten years ago saw a pod wipe out a entire pod of sperm whales!) probably shouldn’t be kept as performers, though “Shamu’s” case shows it is hard to socialize them back. They are huge, intelligent, extremely social, and dangerous, and cover huge territories. Captivity for such is inherently cruel, and besides, this one had already killed two people. But there are differences between all species. I see no reason that relatively well- socialized groups of dolphins can’t enjoy life in a marine show.

“Big cats? There are probably so many in captivity that there is pressure to euthanize them. Better a live show than a sterile cage I think.”

They are everywhere…

Winter in Mongolia

Lauren is becoming a serious horsewoman as well as a Berkutchi, in the depths of a winter that can reach -50C at night. And she is getting the spectacular flights that ignorant American falconers deny eagles can do. An excerpt:

“I’ve had confirmation from World Vision that it has reached -50 C where I have been hawking at night, and -30 C during the day. I am astounded at the cold – it makes November and December seem like a cake walk.

“But that all aside, the hawking has been good. The eagles seem to relish the weather and the foxes are being found. Though it is difficult to ride horses through drifts of snow on the mountainside, we do find very fresh and telling fox tracks that often lead to a flight.

“I’ve had particular fun this trip. Alema’s footing seems to have improved – whereas in November and December she often would get her feet on a fox that would break loose, that almost never happened in January and February. We hawked a Siberian-esque winterscape. I frequently thought of the arctic when out hawking.

I feel lucky in the number of sheer vertical stoops we’ve had – it really is like waiting-on flying. The eagles power out from the mountaintop, high above a valley where the fox is, then choose their moment and plummet.

“Myself, I’ve changed leaps and bounds on horseback. I came to Mongolia with virtually no horse sense or experience, and little confidence. Its very rough and tumble riding, but boy is it thrilling. Imagine, after your eagle collides with a distant fox, jumping on your horse and whipping it into a gallop across the steppe. The wind in your face, speeding to assist your eagle. Its great. The horse is like an extension of yourself. Or, spying a fox running up and over a mountain, and galloping over as fast as your horse will carry you, hooded eagle with wings half-open in the wind, in an attempt to get a slip. I daresay there are applications for horses in eagle falconry outside central Asia.”

Links (First)

Science: Mother crickets can apparently warn their offspring about potential predators BEFORE BIRTH.

“Researchers from the University of South Carolina Upstate and Indiana State University placed pregnant crickets in an enclosure where they were stalked, but not eaten, by a wolf spider, whose fangs had been coated with wax to protect the crickets.

“The young of the spider-exposed mothers turned out to be more predator-savvy than those with mothers who were not exposed to the wolf spider; they stayed hidden longer, and were more likely to freeze when they encountered spider feces or spider silk.”

There is more, quite fascinating. HT Jonathan Hanson.

Evolution is quicker than we think. Songbirds evolve longer wings as the forest is turned into “islands”. HT Annie D

Hunt news from a friend in England (no link):”The position remains that if the Conservative Party win the general elections (mostly likely on 6 May) they have pledged to bring in a Bill to repeal the present Hunting Act. The Conservatives have a lead in the polls but it is not at present large enough to guarantee an outright victory, so we may be left with a ‘hung’ Parliament, which would mean that they would have to form a coalition and make compromises. Meanwhile the issue of hunting keeps hitting the news headlines as the pro and anti hunt lobbies compete for attention. Watch this space!”

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook has a new Sardinian hare recipe I must try— still have a couple though it has been a slow season. HT Holly (PS to Holly- email me a postal address and I’ll get you that Querencia!)

Chad at Mallard of Discontent revisits the late Harry Middleton whose sad tale of descent in life from a major magazine editor to an acclaimed but penniless writer to depression, working on the garbage truck, and early death can chill any writer. Harry played the game honestly rather than cynically, but that doesn’t matter in our insta- fame culture.

Movies: I don’t see many movies because of our isolation, but I ALWAYS read Anthony Lane’s New Yorker reviews. This first paragraph of a recent one is doubtless better than the movie:

“What is it like being Timur Bekmambetov? No artist should be confused too closely with his creations, but anybody who sits through “Wanted,” Bekmambetov’s new movie, will be tempted to wonder if the life style of the characters might not reflect or rub off on that of the director. How, for example, does he make a cup of coffee? My best guess, based on the evidence of the film, is that he tosses a handful of beans toward the ceiling, shoots them individually into a fine powder, leaves it hanging in the air, runs downstairs, breaks open a fire hydrant with his head, carefully directs the jet of water through the window of his apartment, sets fire to the building, then stands patiently with his mug amid the blazing ruins to collect the precious percolated drops. Don’t even think about a cappuccino.”

Finally Doom, from the Doom master himself,, John Derbyshire.

“A chap named Jonathan Springston, senior staff writer at Atlanta Progressive News was let go. Why? He believed in reality. In APN’s own words:

“At a very fundamental, core level, Springston did not share our vision for a news publication with a progressive perspective. He held on to the notion that there was an objective reality that could be reported objectively, despite the fact that that was not our editorial policy at Atlanta Progressive News. It just wasn’t the right fit.”

Freedom Arms

Freedom Arms is located in western Wyoming’s Star Valley, a logical location for a world-class revolver maker, since the Baker family has deep roots in the valley. The historic Baker Cabin, located on Etna’s main street, is the oldest building in town. It was constructed by Bob Baker’s great grandmother Anna Eliza Baker and her 12-year old daughter May in 1889. The Bakers were the first permanent residents on the east side of the Salt River in the Star Valley. Wayne Baker founded Freedom Arms in 1978, and sons Bob and Don are now actively involved in the enterprise. Bob took son Cass and I for a private tour of his gun manufacturing facility a few years ago. Cass was in shooting sports in 4-H, and had to prepare a presentation, and Bob was kind enough to take the time for a tour.

This monster 454 Casull has an 18-1/2 inch barrel. Baker said even at 500-600 yards, they’ve got amazing accuracy.

Freedom Arms President Bob Baker, holding his company’s flagship product: the 454 Casull Model 83.

Guardian dance

Roo the burro and Rena the Akbash had a gentle dispute again this afternoon, and it resembled a beautiful dance in the snow. Valentine the new bearded pup was venturing outside the yard, and Roo made a beeline to see her, with Rena letting her objection be known.

Apparently it looked like so much fun that Valentine joined in. Roo was very careful not to move her hooves since her ankles were under attack.

All Rena’s worry was for naught. Roo has been watching the puppy all week, and sniffing her through the fence. When Roo got close enough, Val gave Roo’s eye a few licks – puppy kisses.

Valentine, and other animals

On Valentine’s Day, we drove out to Pete’s ranch and picked up our new herding dog pup, Valentine. Rena the Akbash and Roo the burro were very anxious to meet the new baby, a bearded/border collie mix.

Jim and his new girl Val had to have an afternoon nap:

Lest anyone think that the puppy is sweet, let’s demonstrate what she’s like when she’s awake:

The big dogs with the herd are blissfully unaware of anything outside their world:

Someone hit a jackrabbit at the end of our driveway, so I retrieved it for Rena, who was very sweet to me for the rest of the day.

This is the handsome jack we saw Sunday morning, on the way to the ranch.

This last one is for Prairie Mary. The red sheep were headed out to the range, so I snapped a few shots before they were loaded.

Dear Facebook

Regular readers please forgive– but all posts come up on Facebook under my name, which seems to be causing some confusion…

I do not have a ranch or sheep herd in Wyoming, a grandchild in California, a wife named Connie, or for that matter a husband. Nor do I live in Louisiana and cook gumbo. I am not an archaeologist, and know little about airplanes. If the writing refers to any of these things you are probably reading Cat, Reid, or Matt.

I am Steve Bodio, long of Magdalena NM, born in Boston, writer, married to Libby, (step)father of Jackson (the blogger Peculiar) and his wife Niki of Santa Fe, “owner” of six sighthounds, a senile dachshund, two falcons, and an unknown number of pigeons. I write books, travel in Central Asia, and blog at Stephen Bodio’s Querencia, last word title of my best known book. You can Google them.

I will repeat as needed…