Returning to Bloggage: More Gun Stuff

More photo- blogging than not…

I always write about double guns but you could make an argument that the most useful shotgun I have is my 20- bore Winchester model 12– even the likes of Geoffrey Boothroyd, who Ian Fleming wrote into the James Bond books as Bond’s “armourer”, owned one, along with one of Churchill’s Dixons (I have a letter from Boothroyd praising M12’s but I will copy later– it is 2 AM).

Hemingway shot one, I suspect in preference to other shotguns, as did my father– a 16, that I grew up on, probably one reason they work for me (good material on Hem’s in Silvio Calabi’s Hemingway’s Guns).

Unlike most shotguns it was made in 20 first, in 1912, two years before it appeared in 12 or 16, and I think the 20 frame looks and handles better. Here is mine, made in the thirties (they were made until the seventies) with my little Brit 20 and an older Hemingway biographical work, High on the Wild, showing his.

Incidentally there is a new Hemingway bio just out, Hemingway’s Boat, that sounds interesting– may read & review down the line…

Fall in Yellowstone

Jim and I spent part of the week sorting sheep and doing most of our fall shipping, so we rewarded ourselves with a quick trip to Yellowstone National Park. After a breakfast in Jackson Hole, we headed north toward Moran Junction in Grand Teton National Park, and a black wolf crossed the road in front of us along the way. I wasn’t fast enough at getting the truck pulled off the side of the highway to get a photo.

The highlight of the day was the raven that followed us around near Fishing Bridge, inside the park. It’s hard to get decent photos of ravens, so I was pleased to have such an opportunity to try to capture the beauty of this bird, with its beautiful black feathers in its textured pattern.

It was a beautiful day, with the changing fall colors providing for brilliant yellows, reds and oranges across the landscape. There were still a lot of tourists in the park, and we laughed that the biggest traffic jams we saw were not “wolf jams” or “bear jams” but bison jams!

This is what the large population of bison and elk have done to Alum Creek, turning it into a mud flat (although the elk population has crashed in recent years). Alum Creek actually looks better now than it did 20 years ago, with some grass species starting to work their way back along the edges. It is still the most degraded riparian area I’ve ever seen in Wyoming. The nearest lodgepole pine trees to the creek (which are up on the hillsides, out of the picture) have been girdled – bison stripped all the bark off the trees for forage in the winter. If our livestock range looked like this, we’d be out of business.

We dug around in a few piles of bison dung and found it was rich with insect life, with a large variety of species represented. That’s one advantage of bison protection inside the park – the use of pesticides outside protected areas results in less insect life in dung. Dung can be an important food source for a variety of bird life, including everything from burrowing owls to sage grouse. We debated bootlegging dung out of the park to perform our own reintroduction process, but didn’t do it. Yes, it would have been illegal. Heck, it was probably illegal for us to be digging around in the dung with sticks!

We were also rather irritated about how much of the park was closed due to grizzly bear danger. Seems that the current thinking is that if grizzlies are present, that’s reason enough to close an area.

There’s certainly no shortage of grizzlies, and no shortage of people who are willing to get way too close. We saw a young grizzly (wearing a radio collar) working his way down a hillside. When we visit the park, we usually see a bear within about a mile of this location, so it’s somewhat of a regular bear crossing.

Unfortunately, people aren’t very willing to give bears much room to cross the highway. The red color on the left edge of the photo below is the car I kept between my body and the bear.

The last images I’m sharing today are of a new outhouse in the park – part of our economic recovery dollars at work. Notice the sign, and a slight alteration that had been added to the sign by a visitor. I know that guy, and drank a beer with him a few minutes later. (He took his handiwork down before we left). He suggested I call this post “A mature couple visits Yellowstone,” but our behavior suggests we’re lacking in the maturity department.

Yellowstone really is a fabulous place to visit, and hopefully we can squeeze in another trip to the park later this fall. It’s a magical place when there is snow falling and most of the humans have left for the season.

Doo, doo, doo, looking out my back door

It’s one of those mornings I’m finding it difficult to get anything done, since I’m spending most of time looking out the window, watching our Akbash livestock protection dog Rena, and how she handles two coyotes that have been in our neighborhood all morning.

Rena alerted me to the two coyotes as they crossed the meadow across the highway early this morning, putting the stalk on a group of Canada geese, but not succeeding in so much as alarming the big birds. The coyotes disappeared into the tree-lined ditch and did some howling and yowling, but Rena’s not allowed to go across the highway, so the coyotes were safe.

Eventually Rena turned her attention to playing with our herding dog pup, Hud. A little later I realized Rena was starting to “huff up” again, so I called Hud to my side and went to the kitchen window to watch. Rena caught a movement in the sagebrush behind the house, so I grabbed a camera and took this photo from my back doorway – sorry it’s not any better quality.

Rena chased the coyote, but neither animal seemed terribly serious about the chase today. If you click on the photo, you can see an enlarged version, with the coyote in the lower right corner. There are also two prairie dogs standing at the entrance to their burrow, watching the chase as well. I’d like to photograph Rena actually catching a coyote, but since there aren’t any sheep here at the house, Rena’s not really guarding. Oh but I would love to photograph any of my guardians catching a ‘yote. Usually all I get are the carcasses, which I admit does make me proud of the dogs’ good work.

Boston and Home at last!

Home from our second trip this month and hoping to stay, write, blog about something with content, hunt, and not travel.

Our stay with sister Karen Graham and her husband George exceeded all expectations. We didn’t go out much- rather, we sat and ate and drank and talked and met with friends, some of whom we hadn’t seen in many years– writers, artists, bloggers, falconers, hunters, fly fishers, pigeon men, carnivores, vegetarians, a Buddhist, and more. A quick digest to I hope entertain…

A gathering: Dr Hypercube, Rex Passion (Explorers Club, white sharks, elephant seals), me, the multi- talented Patrick Porter (botanist, flower farmer, pigeon man, bird hunter, connoisseur of scent hounds, writer…), his wife Jill, and, up from Philly, Eric Wilcox (falconer– my apprentice in his youth– western big- game hunter, and oriental textile expert; source of many of my “objects”, like the Uzbek gun slip).

Some of the same crew indoors– that’s George with the dark hair down back.

Me with my (slightly dotty but still energetic) mother, one reason we went back:

One of my old friends, well- known fly fisherman and writer Paul Dinolo– I have known him since we were about 13 (he called and announced himself by saying “is this the guy who called Richie Salvucci a fat shit in 1963?”) He also built me an ultralight fly rod while we were there, and tied flies at the party!

Our favorite “foodie”, frequent NM visitor and current Manhattanite Emily Kunhardt, with newly platinum hair. Congratulations on the new apartment; can’t believe you were 16 when we met, and won’t reveal your age now, if only because it makes ME feel old.

Us with Sy Montgomery and Bronwen Fullington at a great Vietnamese restaurant in Lowell (goat on the menu!) I am hoping to get some of Bron’s photos of her recent trip on the “Buddha Trail” in India, especially of virtually extraplanetary Varanasi.

Lib & (with camera) Karen:

My nephews Alec (tall) and Evan, going out to Young Marines; I apologize for the weird color!

George and I web- surfing. Notice the B17 logo on his shirt? He runs a historical site for WWII B17 history here , based in the 34 missions my father’s crew flew and full of fascinating lore. George gave me a chunk of runway from Lavenham. On his next visit to England I hope to put him in touch with “Johnny UK” who lives only 25 miles from there.

I hope these trips have been fun. Forthcoming blogging will be less “personal”!

Trolling for flies

Twenty years ago B.C. (before Cass), Jim and I were newlyweds who climbed mountains, drove to neighboring states for a lunch of burgers and beers at a favorite bar, and fly-fished in cold mountain streams. We had a lot of energy, and definitely knew how to have a good time.

Then we had Cass. We took turns working, so that Cass never had to be with a sitter or in day care. Our disposable income vanished. Our somewhat adventurous life quieted to a milder tone, as we tried to be responsible parents, to Cass and his older brother Justin, who stayed with us in the summers.

We took Cass for his first camping trip when he was three months old, into Wyoming’s Red Desert, sleeping in the sand dunes. Cass discovered his natural habitat early – anywhere outside, in Wyoming.

We also started ranching about the same time, around 3 A.C. (after Cass), so we started staying close to home. Our outdoor recreational gear stayed in the shed, rarely used. Our North Face packs, Chouinard and Black Diamond climbing gear, half a dozen sets of telemark skis, high-altitude stove and tent – all awaiting the chance to return to use.

As Cass grew, we introduced him to each sport. Soon he was camping on his own, so our tent and sleeping bags were some of the first equipment to go. Snowshoes, gone.

After a few seasons on the ice, we introduced Cass to downhill skiing. The hockey gear found a new home with some other child, and Cass began consuming at least a pair of skis every year – first the “old-school boards” from the shed, then a new pair of twintips every year. The downhill ski addiction was soon accompanied by the need for the backcountry winter trips – so the high altitude stove and backpacks were no longer resting in the shed, waiting for our return.

A few summers ago, Cass asked about rock climbing. We took him out and had a wonderful day re-learning our old sport. Of course our climbing rack soon went on climbs in Colorado and Utah, without us parents who had worked to collect such fine gear.

Cass received his first gun in the year of 5 A.C., and has been a shooter ever since. He has his own collection, and “borrows” firearms from the ranch as the need arises.

Somewhere along the line, Cass became a fisherman. A few winters ago, he and his dad spent evenings tying flies. Cass is now out on his own, and wets a fly line at least once a week during seasons with open water, and even ice fishes now and then.

The other afternoon, Jim and I went to feed the guardian dogs and check on the sheep herd. It was a beautiful, slightly overcast day, and we walked down to look at the New Fork River, which serves as one boundary for our sheep pasture. We were met with the sounds of splashing – there were at least three trout breaking the surface at once in a feeding frenzy. My hands had never itched for a fly rod so badly. The trout weren’t especially big, but they were very active, making a noisy ruckus as they rose after the fly hatch hovering at the surface. It was magnificent.

Jim and I raced to the house to search for gear, and I swear I could smell the fresh cornmeal-dipped trout frying in my cast iron skillet. Our gear search netted us one fly rod, one reel, and no flies. My small and handsome black box of beauties had gone away to join the unappreciative tackle box of a teenager. We had nothing – none of my favorites, the tiny renegades. No elk hair caddis. No light cahills. No royal wulff. No olive hares ears. So sad. My box of treasures was gone.

Jim and I are recovering from that trauma, but part of the recovery process has been the realization that all of our really fun stuff has walked out the door with our children. Well, they are adults now, so it’s our turn for the good times once again. All we need are some enablers.

Please, dear readers, have pity on the flyless anglers. If you feel for our tale of woe, drop me a fly in the mail. We promise to attach it to a worthy fly rod and take it for a dip. I may even post some photos and stories of our angling adventures.

The flyless anglers may be reached at: The Urbigkits, P.O. Box 1663, Pinedale, WY 82941. And thank you, fellow wetliners, for your help.

To Boston

… for a week, to stay with sister Karen Graham, frequent commenter, her husband George, and their sons Alec and Evan, and to see my mother Mary (below).

They even like guns!

Hoping also to meet up with Dr Hypercube and Sy Montgomery (below, in Mongolia) and fish with Captain Rick Rozen (below Sy, in Costa Rica) and go to a museum or two and EAT FRIED CLAMS AND STEAMERS! Reports to follow.

(Blogging, email, comment validation may be slow).

Sunrise in the Upper Green

I wanted to catch the early morning light in the Upper Green River region of western Wyoming, north of Pinedale this weekend. I was lucky enough to recruit my son Cass and our neighbor and friend Haley for the adventure. The mountain on the right in the photo above is Square Top (about 11,600 feet), and on the left is Osborn Mountain (about 11,800 feet), in the Wind River range.

It was 25 degrees with a thick frost – conditions were beautiful. Cass couldn’t resist taking a dip with the fly rod.

Cass had to share the water with the residents of the neighborhood.

The sun came up over the top of the mountains and burned the frost and mist off quickly, giving rise to another beautiful fall day in Wyoming.

A sleepy but happy Cass.

Haley enjoying the first rays of light from the banks of the Green River.