A Little More Sporting Heritage

I owe my father for, at a minimum, a love of reading, art, and natural history, and for the practice of keeping pigeons. But as regulars know he also passed on a love for sport and a taste for barely affordable expensive shotguns (I have published his 1954 pic with his Winchester Model 21 “Heavy Duck” double before, but will repeat below).

I have had less opportunity to follow him in such things as saltwater angling. But here he is on the cover of a 1957 Saltwater Sportsman (still in business, with its logo virtually unchanged!), off Green Harbor Mass, where I lived many years later. As I said recently to a correspondent, one of the delights in culling and shifting ones’ possessions and library is all the good forgotten stuff you find.

Below, Joseph Angelo Bodio with M21 and black duck, Concord River Mass, 1954.

Gopnik on Dogs

Adam Gopnik’s piece “Dog Story” in the New Yorker for 11 August (available online only for subscribers I think) is full of nuggets, observations, and pointers to good books including Derr’s forthcoming one which should be essential. Meanwhile there are good “detachable quotes”:

“She does a better impersonation of a person than we do as an approximation of a dog… Dogs have little imagination about us and our inner lives but limitless intuition about them; we have false intuitions about their inner lives but limitless imagination about them. Our relationship meets in the middle”.

“…After all, where we are creatures of past and future, she lives in the minute’s joy: a little wolf, racing and snorting and scaring; and the small ingratiating spirit, doing anything to please. At times, I think that I can see her turn her head and look back at the ghost of the wolf mother that she parted from long a go, saying, ‘See, it was a good bet after all; they’re nice to me, mostly.’ Then she waits by the door for the next member of the circle she has insinuated herself into to come back to the hearth and seal the basic social contract common to all things that breathe and feel and gaze: love given for promises kept. How does anyone live without a dog? I can’t imagine.”

Jackson Hole– more photos

Wyoming photos from long time friends Matt Wells and Tina Cole (they variously are or were teachers, Outward Bound, and guides, as well as parents of a fine son; Matt was a commercial fisherman and a Mongolia hand, and Tina was the one who suggested to Russ Chatham that he hire Lib to cater the Sun Valley Library fund raiser that I was dragged off to sign books at in ’92, thank God).

High Society at Lib’s “reunion” party– me , YC, and a gawker (as always, click to enlarge):

The worker bees– 565 tamales!

Apres wedding– Tina, Me Lib, Matt.

Goats and grazing

Jim and I camped out on a beautiful private ranch at the based of Devil’s Tower last week. We were in the area learning about how a herd of goats is used to control a leafy spurge infestation on a cattle ranch. It’s for a children’s book about goats that I’m working on.

My friend Carolina Noya is running 700 young goats on the ranch, using electric fencing to control the grazing. The goats key on weeds and other browse, leaving the grass for the cattle. Here’s Jim with Carolina and her husband Greg Fink. There was a range fire in the area, so smoke obscured the tower most of the time we were there. It’s a beautiful area anyway – wild turkey and white-tailed deer country.

Here’s Carolina out feeding her livestock protection dogs early in the morning, with a goat assisting of course.

And a few shots of goats doing what goats do.

Carolina’s dogs were great – they love their goats and had little or no interest in us. Good dogs!

Devil’s Tower fauna

Husband Jim and I were able to spend a night out under the stars at Devil’s Tower, Wyoming last week. We laughed when we drove into Devil’s Tower National Monument and saw the sign above. But then we turned the corner and saw why.

These are black-tailed prairie dogs, which are very unlike the white-tailed prairie dogs on our place in western Wyoming. The black-tailed hold their tails erect, and do not have the black facial markings that are characteristic of the white-tailed dogs.

Our white-tailed dogs live in widely scattered burrow colonies out in high elevation sagebrush range, while the Devil’s Tower black-tailed dogs live in low, grassy, dense colonies. They look different and I quickly noticed their vocalizations are very different as well. This is one of the fat black-tailed dogs from Devil’s Tower.

This is a black-tailed prairie dog from Devil’s Tower:

This is a white-tailed prairie dog from my driveway:

Other interesting encounters included a variety of grasshoppers, but I don’t know the species:

I really enjoyed this black and yellow garden spider. Love the “alien” pattern:

Best of all were the turkey vultures. We have a few here, but I still love to see them. The dark-headed vulture is an immature.


Writer Tom McIntyre has been in Argentina, not just shooting doves but hunting birds behind pointing dogs and fishing. What caught my attention (and what he, an informed naturalist- hunter, knows well) was the unique identity of some of his quarry.

Europeans often name local species after familiar things, but folk taxonomy is unreliable. South Americans think of this fish, called a”dorado”* for its golden color, as a trout:

As a careful perusal of everything from its fins to the shape of its jaws suggests, it is not! It is a characin, an entirely New- World family. Other members include piranhas, the vegetarian fish of the Amazon basin, and the neon tetras in your tropical aquarium. And Tom caught his on live eels, a bait hat might intimidate the cannibal taimen of Mongolia (Tom’s is not huge for the species).

An even more interesting misnomer is the Argentinian name for this bird:”perdiz”; partridge.

Ecologically it does rather resemble a partridge, but evolutionarily it is ancient, more like a little flying rhea or ostrich! Tinamous– there are several species– are small, flying ratites (the ONLY flying ratites), part of the old southern “Gondwanaland” radiation that includes all of the above plus cassowaries, emus, extinct moas, and kiwis. Like the last they lay enormous eggs, but tinamou eggs resemble porcelain art objects in polished greens and blues.

They don’t act like ostriches though. Tom:

“Kick in the ass to hunt. Used a very good German shorthair who literally snaked through the grass as they ran a mile before flushing. Limit is eight and we filled two one day, in about three miles of jogging. Great fun. FYI, perdiz run like chukar (on flat ground), fly harder, faster, and lower than quail, and are the best game bird I have ever eaten.” (Tom may have eaten more species of game bird than anyone I know).

For now I will postpone the subject of the amazing pestiferous parakeets…

Look for an update on Tom’s upcoming article on his Argentine experience.

*The word dorado is apparently now also the preferred (PC?) term for the tropical salt water game fish known in my youth as the dolphin, apparently to distinguish it from the mammal.

Links, Pix, & Assorted Phenomena…

Long overdue, especially the New Improved Version 3 of Darren Naish’s Tetrapod Zoology, now hosted by Scientific American. I hope this means that Darren is finally making some money of what was and still is the best zoological blog on the Net.

New data on ancient dog origins in SE Asia? They seem to think this lineage was a dead end; why?

The Atlantic is again beating the AR drum by distorting the facts, conflating public and private land, ignoring the harm that out- of- control feral equid populations can do, and so on. I don’t want to spend much time on the Atlantic because I am vulnerable to the charge that I am a disgruntled former writer, but someone should start writing them demanding they admit their now clear biases. (And what does a former TV legal analyst know about natural history, ranching, land use issues, or arid land ecology?)

After The Woods and the Water is a blog and log for Nick Hunt, who is attempting to walk across Europe, following the trail of Patrick Leigh Fermor. He recruited small sums from what turned out to be 45 people for his budget (we are proud to be among them) and will be writing PAPER as well as occasional cyber dispatches from the road. Wish him luck!

Rifle Loonys! Recently I was advising a friend on his first big game rifle and it occurred to me that there was someone available who knew far more than me and had written a book, Obsessions of a Rifle Loony, about it. I sent him to the site of John Barsness and Eileen Clarke, Rifles and Recipes , which offers that book and a whole lot more. Of the goodies on offer at the site I particularly recommend that book, Eileen’s Slice of the Wild (the most detailed and analytical game cookbook ever, from the female half of a couple that lives on game even more than we do) and one I come late to: the quarterly Rifle Loony Newsletter, which for only $8 a year continues the themes of the books above with knowledge and good humor. One of John’s quiet virtues is that he is a mythbuster, knocking down “truths” and cliches that get endlessly read, repeated and quoted. I am embarrassed to say I have done this in my past, at least on rifles (I will claim more personal knowledge of shotguns). That I don’t now is not just experience; in part it is because I read John.

(I am now adding to the post at 4:30 PM as I intended more and to put it in draft, but published prematurely and had to go out!)

To continue…

An international camera trap gallery to benefit mammal research in tropical forests– stunning black and white images of such things as jaguars, chimps, tapirs, and my favorite implausible esthetic mammal, the giant anteater (best portrayed by sculptor Rembrandt Bugatti— a future blog subject. If anyone knows of an Internet pic of this bronze let me know? HT Annie Davidson.

Some of the dogs stayed home, some went to the kennel which they consider jail, but Lashyn, who needs her insulin shots, went on vacation with Peculiar and Mrs. She is looking good and enjoyed her visit but will remain dubious (as does Taik) about “wet”. Here, hiking up north with(getting very pregnant!) Mrs:

A very strange bird: a gyrfalcon- kestrel hybrid (with a kestrel for comparison)! Will be interesting to see how it develops…

Finally, a little phenology. Most Augusts bring first thunderstorms, then spadefoot toads emerging and singing in the temporary pools, which in turn portend boletes in the hills. This year we have almost none of the above, but local naturalist John Wilson sends some toads to remind…


Cat had me out on the mesas looking at natural and local history. I saw any number of golden eagles and literally hundreds of antelope– I thought I lived in antelope country– but the p & s made the raptors into dots and only this antelope, one of several bucks who stood his ground, was even worth reproducing,

Typical country: basin of the Sweetwater (or is it the Big Sandy?? I need a map!)– but definitely looking east to the Wind Rivers…

Old but well built and still used watering trough for sheep. Note how it is too narrow for for cow muzzles.

Antelope skull- we brought it back on the plane. Mark insisted on calling it our (nudge nudge) “carryon”.


Back from Wyoming, exhausted, behind, but happy we went. Lib cooked for a wedding in Jackson , for the daughter of one of many old climbers and Outward Bound guides who she knew in her days there, when as they say “the billionaires hadn’t kicked out the millionaires.” In her day it was more a mix of climbing hippies and Mormon ranchers, and a house could still be had for Magdalenian prices.

A few old friends remain. Mark and Jeannie Clark brought in Libby and legendary river rat- resterauter Martha Clark (no relation– she is also Peculiar’s “other mother” and maybe L’s best friend) and a crew of old adventurers to ramrod the making of such things as 565 tamales from scratch. A fine time was had by all, especially Libby who enjoyed a reunion party before the wedding where I got to meet many storied faces who remain in or came to Jackson and environs, and put names to them. She also danced more at the wedding than I have seen her do in the almost 20 years we have been together! We stayed at Andy and Nancy Carson’s and I believe I have made some new friends as well as connected with some old ones– I mean you, Carsons, plus Jocelyn, Joanne, Jennifer, Mark, Jeannie, Martha, Bobby, Matt, Tina, Bernie (no, STILL another Matt!) and anyone forgotten…

The only person at the party from my “side of the family”, ie writers, was Ted Kerasote. He has a third dog volume in the works and we agreed on the health problems facing today’s dogs, especially genetics and closed studbooks– more to come.

But I basically have almost no pix because I spent most of the week with Cat, Jim, and their animals a couple of hours south in the big sage plains between the Wyoming range on the west and the Wind Rivers to the east, as different a world from Jackson as Jackson is from Magdalena. Yankee- born or no, I feel more at home in rangeland than in the haunts of the very (VERY) rich. I only took my Canon point & shoot for ease so some landscapes are flattened, and a few shot through windows are blurred, but it will give you some idea. Remember to click to embiggen!

Cat and flock guardian Luv, taking a break– the male Aziat, Rant, is with the flock in the river bottom…


Luv looks; they are coming up to the gate…

Here comes Rant…

Cat greets the big Nevada donkeys– do you believe I may consider one as old- age mountain transportation? Jim has me half convinced…

Back home, the Urbigkits with the active herding dogs old and new…

I’ll have you know, we didn’t as much drink like “Kazakhs” as we drank & talked like scholars of animal domestication– but we still finished the bottle(s?) at 3 AM– and got up at six.

…And one of Lib washing dishes with another veteran Outward Bound Andy, Wilson. Despite the concentration she insists she hasn’t had as much fun in public since Peculiar’s wedding!

Raptor conflict

Driving down a western Wyoming highway yesterday, Jim and I noticed four hawks (of two different species) that were tag-team harassing an immature golden eagle. I didn’t have a big lens, but did manage to capture a few images of the conflict. This is a Swainson’s hawk harassing the golden eagle.