Catching Up

I have been more than busy– PT, weight lifting, starting to walk again, keeping the little bird handled after some neglect, breeding and crossing pouter pigeons for our new “North American pouter” project (pix soon), trying to arrange getting “my” (not yet) Aplomado in. At least we are not having puppies!

Health is generally improving. Weights are making the most difference– thanks again Mark!— and perhaps meds. Did I mention Magdalena has a fully equipped gym? Now I have to find some minimal kit of bench and free weights so I can be independent if I ever have to, on the same principle as garden, apple trees, woodpile, elk, SKS, .22, cheap bulk “East Bloc Ammo” (scroll way down in James McMurty’s Choctaw Bingo), but having a talented trainer to learn from has made a real difference.

I am learning from voice dictation software– thanks Mary Anne!– which sometimes is amazing, and sometimes just won’t go at all. (I am not using it on the blog yet because even the manual warns cut & paste can be funky, and I am a little leery of trying to spell out HTML). At its best it is amazing but you never forget it has a computer “brain”. I unthinkingly said “Annie Proulx” to it, winced at the idea of what it would make of that, and sat amazed as it SPELLED HER NAME RIGHT. Then went nuts as it repeatedly substituted “any” for “Annie” when I tried to use just her first name!

I haven’t been on the web as much– too much sitting is not good– but have still accumulated an enormous backlog of links– I’ll start next post. I also have some amusing photos of guns and a car (!) and need to get some ofpigeons, dogs, and falcons. To work!

Sheep camp, week 3

Lambing is in full swing now, but here’s a short review, in pictures, of the week.
This pronghorn buck is our constant companion. We don’t know why, but he hangs out with the herd, and follows Rena and I around a lot.

The guardian dogs do not stay together, but greet each other a few times a day when they meet up. Here Rena approaches her mother, Luv’s Girl, below the Coyote Rocks.

I’ve always known the rainbow’s end would be in a sheep herd somewhere …

Here’s a ewe and lamb on Coyote Rocks just prior to sunset.

Rant has my unwavering praise this week. A lamb ended up getting stuck in a crack between the rocks on Coyote Rocks. Rant stayed with it all night, and wouldn’t move until I came and found the problem the next morning. He was so high up in the rocks I couldn’t see him, but could only hear him whining. When I took the lamb, Rant collapsed flat on his side, snoring away from exhaustion. Good, good guardian. I’m actually going to write up this story for a paper it was so wonderful.

Pregnant ewes grazing at sunset.

The guardian dogs never look directly at the ewe they are guarding while she is giving birth and getting her lamb up for the first time. Rant’s non-threatening posture is effective, and once the ewe moves off a little from the birthing place, he’ll clean up the afterbirth, reducing attractants for predators. All our guardian dogs do this, and it seems to be an important factor in reducing depredation on lambing grounds.

We’ve had several blizzards, and the result is that I have a small pen of orphan lambs. All the dogs stop in to see them during the day, as Luv’s Girl is doing here. The lambs love to follow the big dogs around in the sagebrush when I let them out for walks and exploring.

As for wild critters, the dogs have apparently displaced the local coyotes because they complain around us, but no fresh sign; a burrowing owl moved into a hole in the road to my camp and doesn’t like me trying to photograph it; and I was surprised to find a sage grouse lek still active this week, with both hens and cocks still attending.

Word count on the new manuscript: 30,000.
Number of vehicles I’ve seen in the distance in three weeks: 4.
Number of times I was alarmed at the idea of having to be social: 4.
Back to camp now – I’ll check in again in another week.

UPDATE: Hey everybody, thanks for the great name suggestions for the un-named rock, but Smartdogs wins with Blog Rock. The name stuck as soon as I read it.

5000 Year-Old Scammer?

David Z (see below) sent us the latest on Hari Scam and and, amazingly, it is even more ridiculous than what has gone before.

“Among the mixed-bag films at Tribeca this year, Thorkell Hardarson and Örn Marino Arnason’s Feathered Cocaine was arguably the most mixed. Alan Howell Parrott, an American Sikh convert, introduced falconry to the Middle East, much to his eternal regret. Though falcon populations had held stable for centuries of falconry practice, Persian Gulf smuggling now threatens the noble birds with extinction, transplanting them to inhospitable climates and polluting their gene pool with designer hybrids.”

This goes beyond everything being lies including and and the, though it all is. Does the film actually make these claims or are the reviewers crazier or lazier then the filmmakers? Where is the North American Falconers Association? Hell, where are the Wall Street Journal and New York Times?

As Matt says, re Hari’s introducing falconry to the Middle East,”Parrot introduced falconry TO THE MIDDLE EAST???? Wow–I had no idea the man was 5,000 YEARS OLD!”

One more odd thought– why is a guy whom most Salafist Islamists would consider a Hindu heretic, and a convert at that, getting invited to hunt with them? Why would he want to?

I’d really like to get some planned stuff on science, dogs, old guns, and more, with pix, up, but I still tire easily and this mole needs whacking. Besides, he’d be hilarious if he were less dangerous, and if seemingly sane people weren’t taking him seriously.

The Parrot Bites Again

Matt Mullenix said of the line below: “Journalism: Dead.”

” Alan Parrot, one of the world’s foremost falconers…. “

Steve again: all this is in reaction to a link I couldn’t get but which I have seen plenty similar to the last few days, like this one. There has also been a lot of talk on some of my informal discussion boards. An interesting quote from one first– I’ll leave it anonymous as I don’t have permission, but I believe it 100%:

” I’m just wondering when some of the people Hari Ha Ha [ he is a Sikh convert sometimes known as Hari Har Singh Khalsa–SB ] has named as ‘class A felons’ will sue him for libel. Surely some of the P-Funders could show damages caused by the online smear-campaign he launched via his website, A good friend of mine spoke to him several years ago, and with Hari Khalsa Parrot’s consent, took notes of their discussion. During that discussion, Parrot asked my friend to broadcast to the U.S. falconry community that if any opposed him, he would personally see to it that falconry in North America is shut down. I have no doubt that the guy is a delusional moon-bat; the question is how much of a menace could he ultimately prove to be? “

This was when he was proposing to Mongolia that he run the entire Asian saker trade to the Arabs himself. When they refused (and eventually made him persona non grata and kicked him out of the country– after someone– hired by him?– suspiciously beat him up) he then accused the P- Fund (specifically Tom Cade), Nick Fox, the Russian Mafia, the World Wildlife Fund, the US ambassador to Mongolia, the head of Mongolia’s wildlife department, the whole CITES organization, the USFWS, and I was told ME after I complained about it, of devising a conspiracy to make millions and drive the saker into extinction in the wild. Strange bedfellows to say the least…

He also keeps citing million dollar prices for birds. Journalism? This is their go- to falconry guy? Have they ever heard of Google? (Nick Fox at least had some good refutation up for a while, and there is a good overview here). But can’t they even look at falcon sales sites? $5000 is HIGH these days (except possibly– the story goes–for at most four or five individual unusual–for reasons more superstitious than scientific– smuggled birds a year that seem to go to certain Arabian families again and again). And six figures would be an unlikely high figure for even these.

He once tried to hire me for $50,000 a year, which I have never made, to manage some facility in Santa Fe. Turned him down without a lingering doubt.

As Mary McCarthy said of Lillian Hellman “every word that comes out of her mouth is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.”

I even wonder if he didn’t get his Bin Laden hawking fantasy from this enjoyable novel, where some old coots from the CIA find a nuclear terrorist by tracking the houbara migration– and offering him one of those “special” sakers!

You can bet that I will blog this, Parkinson’s typing or not. But don’t expect one this long every day yet–it took me an hour!

Update: David Zincavage is on the case. This should be good, and I hope there is more to come. Not the least funny thing is his comparison of Parrot (“Peh- RO”??) to Timothy Treadwell, though it may reflect badly on poor Treadwell, who only got himself and his girlfriend eaten by a grizzly, rather than first trying to own and then petulantly ban an entire cultural practice…

Update 2: I THOUGHT I had dealt with all this when it was fresh in my mind– see here.

Sheep camp, week 1

The photo above is the view out my sheep camp door. I’m home for a few hours to take care of some paperwork and grab a shower, then back to sheep lambing camp in the Big Sandy country of western Wyoming. This is the first year I’ve gone to such a remote location for lambing. I sold most of my sheep to my friend Pete, and agreed to lamb them out amid the sagebrush steppe. I’ll end up with a small herd going into the winter, after we return from our hoped-for international trip this fall.

It’s been a great first week in camp, getting lots of writing and reading time in since the sheep haven’t started lambing yet. My three livestock protection dogs have been busy displacing the local coyote population, and arrive back in camp in the mornings battle-weary from the antics of the night. We’ve had wind storms, and a blizzard, but overall, it’s a beautiful spring. Husband Jim is beginning to worry less about me being out alone, and the isolation has been refreshing. For this first week, lambing camp was better than a writer’s retreat – I pounded out 9,000 words. I’ll check back in, in another week or so. Best to all.

How certain things are accomplished at sheep camp (a custom-made portable toilet):

Beautiful country, thriving domestic sheep:

The morning after a severe winter storm – the sun shines and all is well:

Back to Blogging

Slowly. Until I tame the voice dictation software graciously given me by a friend the two hardest things to do are typing (five typos a line!)and cramped arthritic handwriting. Small movements are affected more than big ones.

Though those lost ground too, I am gaining. A bike provided by another friend and a membership in the Magdalena gym (!– thanks to Mark Churchill for the suggestion) are helping. Let’s hope strength comes back– I am one of those writers who seems to need to walk to write– “solvitur ambulando” in Bruce Chatwin’s elegant borrowing– and I cannot without great effort or for long– yet. But I have good specialist doc, the best in NM (female, usually more of a fit for me), a good PT instructor (a Mormon cowboy from Wyoming) and a gym guy with the personality of a drill instructor and all are optimistic.

Other plans: short range waiting- on hawking with the Barb-teita (GS gone to a friend– two mile chases a problem). Acquiring an Aplo for car hawking– more when I know more. More hawking with dogs than long courses. More doves at waterholes than quail at 8000 feet. Deer at waterholes as well, and more organic lamb and barren ewe from my friend Pieter’s local Dunhill ranch (posted about before– search if you want pix– too hard for HTML right now). Free elk from guides and wardens. Maybe a more efficient wood stove than our eighty- plus year old cookstove with its breadbox size log chamber!

Cutting down pigeon numbers but specializing in ones I can breed and sell, especially our “new” North American (“thief”) Pouter. More on this as they evolve.

I WILL get by. Oh and– all fly rods and a little hardy Perfect reel for sale at Jim Adams’ in Berkeley CA. Two are unused spey rods- read about speys in the Spring 2010 Fly Rod and Reel. I’m continuing to fish bait for carp & catfish– much easier.

Posts will be short for a while–pix (birds, guns) and a book and website review for John and Eileen Barsness’s excellent new stuff– but I am back.

Dragon Taming

Two recent movies feature updated versions of a very old fantasy meme: taming dragons.  In both James Cameron’s AVATAR and the more recent DreamWorks picture, How To Train Your Dragon, the protagonists befriend what amount to winged reptiles (or their “Pandoran” equivalents) after intense and well-rendered sequences of the wild animals’ capture and taming.

I imagine most falconers will watch these movies with a critical eye.  I found both films enjoyable and their depictions of this particular, hands-on wildlife interaction surprisingly palatable.  I have no idea what sort of research in real-world domestication the filmmakers might have drawn from (one sees glimpses of horses, cats, dogs, seals, birds, dolphins and lizards in the movements of the movie dragons), but the sequence of emotion and behavior in the animated creatures—and of their tamers—mirrors closely the experience of manning a bird of prey.

Maybe I am too big a movie fan.  But despite my worst expectations of modern Hollywood, these two entertainments manage to show very positive and (in context) plausible examples of close contact and cooperation between people and wild animals.  That alone, beside the amazing artistry and story-telling, is noteworthy in a time when one would expect little popular tolerance for this idea.

I left both movies wondering if it’s possible that only falconers (or equestrians, or experienced dog trainers, etc.) could appreciate the complex human/animal working relationship these movies present.  But the more obvious answer, given the films’ huge box office, is that millions of viewers must have recognized and approved it as well.

What could this mean?  Have we not drifted so far away from these elemental thoughts and ancient forms as our “humane” high priests would prefer?  If so, I am glad.  And I would say to others who enjoyed these films but have never considered pursuing falconry or coursing or riding horses: Give it some thought.

Not all the dragons are fantasy.


Hurricane Us: a Hasty Screed

No stranger to disaster, Louisiana faces what may be its worst-ever coastal impact in the next 24 hours. By tomorrow, the first of millions of gallons of floating crude oil will wash ashore in Louisiana, with all five Gulf states potentially endangered in the days and weeks ahead.  At immediate risk: hundreds of miles of hard-working coastline and hundreds of years of cultural dependence on coastal resources.  

As oily waves roll in, rookeries will foul, fisheries smother and oysters beds be buried in a toxic emulsion. Miles of green marsh will turn black and perhaps remain so for years.  This Fall, when a thousand thousand migrant birds pass through en route to South America, they’ll risk their lives just by landing. How much worse for those animals and people who live here year round?  This oil may be with us, like a bad gene, for generations. 

The blame and the retribution for this spill will be epic.  Unlike the damage left by our 2005 hurricanes, no one disputes the man-made nature of this nightmare.  Even as a nation we continue to sort out and remedy damages from Katrina and Rita; even as we pay the mortgage on the housing bust, buy up car companies and banks and fight wars on several fronts, we will begin to pay the cost of this probably inevitable mishap.

Although BP has accepted full responsibility for this spill and its unknowable after effects, don’t feel your burden lifted.  If like me you drive a car or truck or tractor, enjoy your lights at night and heat in the winter; if you’re not living off the grid somewhere on well water and deer meat, be prepared to carry your share of the blame for this latest gust in a much larger storm called Hurricane Us.