Inluential Books (and Writers)

Rod Dreher has a post on “Ten Most Influential Books. I responded after thinking hard and coming up with entries that surprised me a bit, in more or less chronological order:

Kipling’s Jungle Books– first read to me by my mother– gave me a lifelong love of the underrated author, and England.

Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. See above. And I still love thrillers.

The Once and Future King– best book I read as a kid. I collect White 1st eds and did a foreword for one of his reprints (The Goshawk).

Hemingway– weirdly my first on my own was Islands in the Stream. First modern “lit” that clicked.

Heart of Darkness: EVIL.

Waugh: Brideshead. 1st “Catholic” novel.

In Patagonia (Bruce Chatwin)– travel writing that influenced me, and 92 in the Shade (Thomas McGuane), novel ditto, by near predecessors.

Patrick Leigh Fermor Between the Woods and the Water: ULTIMATE travel writing. And everything he has written and (I hope) will write.

E O Wilson Biophilia: explained that phenomenon.

Patrick O’Brian: BEST historical series.

Ted Hughes poetry: first living poet to knock me out.

Yeah, more than ten. And I have a hundred more favorites. But we are talking INFLUENCE.

By all means feel free to list your own.

UPDATE: be sure to see Peculiar’s list at his blog. And as I said in comments, “how did I forget Out of Africa”, the biggest influence on Querencia- the- book ?!”

UPDATE II: and how did I forget Vicki Hearne? Margory Cohen reminded me in comments; as I said there “her Bandit may have more to do with how I articulate animal issues than any other book!”

Just a Pic

Our friend Nance McManus, artist, horsewoman, and bird trainer (see here ) took this photo of us a couple of weeks ago at the Albuquerque conference of the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators, where I was featured speaker (Central Asian eagling and such). Just to show I am hardly at death’s door!

Pigeon Slander

Apparently there is to be a “reality” show about pigeon racing starring Mike Tyson. While he might not be the perfect spokesman I’d pick, the once- great Audubon Magazine sees this show as an opportunity to link the Horror of Tyson to the Horror of a sport of which the only characteristic is that some pigeon men kill raptors.

Think I am exaggerating? Their lead is “Mike Tyson to Star in Reality Show on Pigeon-Racing, A Sport Linked to Raptor Deaths”. And it goes downhill from there. Is Audubon now a PETA affiliate?

Meanwhile, in a linked action, PETA wants to sue in NY to stop pigeon racing, a sport which has connected more humans to the natural world than PETA ever will. “District attorney spokesman Jonah Bruno says the office is looking into the allegations.” What a world… (HT David Williamson, who says ” SLUG ‘EM, MIKE !!”)

Some Links

Are Middle Eastern wolves the ancestors of domestic dogs? I would have to see a lot more, and wonder what Saivolainen, who suggests an eastern China origin, would say. More and more domestication sites seem to move east as we look there.And the most primitive dogs remaining (dingos, singing dogs) are SE Asian. They may well be related to an extinct local “wolf” rather different than C. lupus lupus. And the dates posited are earlier. Also the new sites group “all sighthounds together”–?? Physiologically, behaviorally, and genetically “oriental sighthounds”– tazi, Afghan– align with such breeds as laika and original husky, despite their appearance. They are as far from greyhounds as they are from poodles!

HT Sir Terence Clark (who likes it) and Walter Hingley.

After wolves ate an incautious jogger in Alaska Chas has some cautionary if not inflammatory words about their entry into Colorado. Will suburban joggers demand their control? Remember what happened with that cougar in Boulder…

Famine in Mongolia. Many people especially in the west are losing more than half their herds. (I wonder why my Kazakh friends in far- western Olgii seem less affected?) I’d like the article better if the author didn’t imply they were better off under communism– I don’t know ONE Mongol or Kazakh who thinks so. Elsewhere he mentions Chna’s greed for Mongolian resources. Hell, they could have both Stalinism AND rapacious capitalism if they just rolled over…

HT Walter again.

Good slide show on the disaster here. HT Annie Hocker.

More tartan- clad vaguely Celtic mummies in Xinjiang. As usual both the Hans and the Uighurs are claiming them as ancestors, though as they seem of mixed western- Asian genes I’d say the Uighurs are closer. HT Peculiar.

Who by the way has a new landscape photography blog under his own name, quite spectacular if I say so myself. Congratulations Jackson!

Coming soon: more big pistols, more & worse…

UPDATE on dog origins, from Peter Saivolainen to Vladimir Beregovoy:

Peter wrote:
“Without going in to technical details, they don’t have a single dog sample from southern East Asia, which according to mtDNA seems to be the region of origin. So, performing a study of dog origins without having a single sample from southern East Asia is impossible. It would be like doing a study of the origins of humans (which we know came from Africa) without analysing a single African sample…”

Of Illness, Facebook, and a Dog: Announcements

First: readers have doubtless noticed a falling off in the number of posts this last six months, and in the number of adventures that leads to them. For all this time I have been having difficulty walking (which I initially put down to arthritis) and also sitting in the hard chair I had here.

It turns out it is all down to Parkinson’s, which was “formally” diagnosed last week, as some of you know. I have a great neurologist in Albuquerque and he has every hope that new medicines will make a lot of difference. Meanwhile I will be making some changes. I will sell some shotguns and most of my fly rods, though not my spinning rods (has to do with dexterity)– details provided to those interested. My pursuit falcon BB must go to a new home– two mile chases seem problematical. The little waiting on falcon, the dogs who will work close as well as far and retrieve, will stay. I am cutting back on pigeons slightly and going commercial on Thief Pouters for falconers. I am going to expand my collecting of native bees. In general I am looking for things to do that are interesting and don’t require as much physical effort– and maybe pay a little too.

One other thing to go must be Facebook– IMAO a time- waster par exellance. It collected a few old friends but also a lot of people who WOULD NOT understand my blog feed was from four people, and I got tired answering them. Also it lacked intimacy and I felt it was full of strangers– I did NOT want to announce my medical news there. While this is a site that is open to the public I feel that it is also a sort of community of common interests– I did not feel that at Facebook at all. I hope some of my Facebook readers move over here but if they don’t I can’t help them.

Finally some good news– Irbis has been given a clean bill of health and is racing around the yard. Interestingly Ray intends to take the plate out in a month, apparently a minor deal– he does this in hard- hunting field dogs lest the steel provide a lever for breakage. Pix soon!

Hunting Advice from an Unlikely Source

Tom McIntyre sent this quote. Who is it? Wild guesses encouraged, even necessary. I’ll give the answer later in the week.

“…for sleep is a kind of protection, strange as it may seem. For sleep, if it excites the lust to capture, seems to appease the lust to kill, there and then and bloodily, any hunter will tell you that. For the monster on the move, or on the watch, lurking in his lair, there is no mercy, whereas he taken unawares, in his sleep, may get the benefit of milder feelings, which deflect the barrel, sheathe the kris. For the hunter is weak at heart and sentimental, overflowing with repressed treasures of gentleness and compassion. And it is thanks to this sweet sleep of terror or exhaustion that many a foul beast, and worthy of extermination, can live on until he dies in the peace and quiet of our zoological gardens, broken only by the innocent laughter, the knowing laughter, of children and their elders, on Sundays and Bank Holidays. And I for my part have always preferred slavery to death, I mean being put to death.”

Mostly Links

Irbis has his check- up tomorrow and should be close to running free– we hope! Despite the fact we are in the tail- end of our season’s biggest snowstorm (a foot so far) spring is in the air, and in the pup- and I do mean SPRING.

So more soon– but first a few links.

Some writing advice, much of it surprisingly good, from a diversity of writers in the Guardian. HT David Zincavage.

Also noted by David: complex structures older than Stonehenge or the Pyramids. I wish I had known about these when I was in Turkey– I was staying about 20 miles from them!

Dog ownership to be replaced by “guardianship” in Wisconsin? A real threat– read the whole thing.

Science banned in science projects–!!. HT Chas. (Free Range Kids is a blog I will have more to say about later– fans of Richard Louv and “Last Kid in the Woods” should check it out).

From Chas’ “other blog”: a funny description, re a High Country News story, of how reporters generally see various religions:

“* Jews are generally all right, particularly if they write for Tikkun magazine, but Israelis are scary.
* Christians are at best hypocrites. At worst, you can expect them to fortify themselves in rural compounds and commit incest—-and those are the Presbyterians.
* The Catholic Church, however, is easy to cover (except for the parts that are in Latin) for anyone experienced in big-city “machine” politics, such as Democrats in Chicago.
* Buddhists are all right if they are poets. Ethnic Buddhists (for example, Vietnamese) are invisible.
* Hindus, Sikhs, ethnic Taoists, etc., are generally invisible.
* Muslims must be treated carefully because they might explode.
* And Pagans? They are easy to ridicule because, after all, people like Jonathan Thompson, editor of High Country News, don’t know any.”

Spring strut


It’s official: spring has arrived in western Wyoming, as evidenced by the number of Greater Sage-Grouse on the lek I visited this morning. Leks are traditional strutting/breeding grounds for this biggest of our native grouse species. I usually set April 1 as my target date to visit leks, but with warm temperatures and most snow already gone from our sagebrush steppe, spring is early this year, and so are the grouse.

The photos I’m posting today are all of adult male grouse, which weigh up to about 8 pounds. (Sorry about the watermarks on the photos, but I’ve been finding my photos posted in various places without attribution or permission.)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently decided to list sage grouse as a candidate for Endangered Species Protection (the “warranted but precluded” ruling). Sage grouse in western Wyoming are still abundant. State officials estimate Wyoming’s sage grouse population at 207,560, far more than any other state. Idaho’s population is estimated at 98,700. Although sage grouse populations in other areas have suffered declines, grouse are still game birds available for harvest here.

End of the Season

Louisiana’s rabbit season is over. I put my hawk up for the molt this weekend after a hunt with friends in New Orleans East. The place name refers to rural parts of Orleans Parish north of Chalmette and Arabi, two St. Bernard Parish hamlets that border the 9th Ward and spent weeks underwater in 2005. I haven’t been back but a few times in five years, but I cut my teeth there as a young falconer in the mid-80s.

The area looks like 1988 all over again. It’s deserted (in a good way) and full of rabbits. We hunted on a former golf course gone wonderfully feral, with just a hint of a concrete path around the ponds and hillocks. Ducks paddled ahead of us and blue herons floated in behind. The greens are covered in a mix of weedy pasture and rabbit-grass, not yet wholly wild but getting there. The overpass is closed, the neighborhoods it used to serve are destroyed and cleared away.

Across the 510 highway (still in use) stand the skeletal remains of Six Flags New Orleans, five years locked up and grown over. It is quiet there now. An age is gone by.

If there were more people in the city today, New Orleans East would be too dangerous to hunt in, a power vacuum and cadaver repository. It was like that just before the storm, almost tipped entirely into the hands of the Mafiosos. Strangely, the hurricane saved a part of that place from a kind of destruction almost no one would have noticed or documented: For years an industrial service area and rural playground for New Orleans gangsters, the golf courses and car dealerships were fast crowding out even the thugs. A strange succession ecology.

The future in New Orleans East is a question of inertial forces and the confidence of actuaries. Building has resumed in places, powered in large part by spirited nonprofit groups who can operate on a shoestring. The new homebuilding may literally pave the way for the profit motive to take hold and for the condos, etc., to pop up. But right now the inertia is firmly held by swamp rabbits and blue herons, bless them.

We caught about 16 rabbits between us, saw 60 or more, ate cold po-boys on the tail gate and made hay while the sun still shines.