More old photos: shooting with Father B

This one is pure fun: with Father Anderson Bakewell SJ, shooting his latest acquisition from Champlin Arms, a scoped drilling in 16 X 16 over 7 X 57 JRS, the rimmed version of the 7 X 57, at the Magdalena range in, I think, 1988. Not quite as cool as his .416 Rigby. A Brit officer buddy got that one for him for $75 after a Himalayan foothills sloth bear, the only one in Rowland Ward’s top ten guided by “self”, damn- near ate his leg when he shot it for mauling his parishioners; he allegedly brought it to Andy in the hospital saying “use a real caliber!” (At the bottom, a similar smaller Rigby owned by Jonathan Hanson).

I have written about my old Explorers Club mentor and drinking companion before* and will again, and I believe someone is planning a biography. Briefly: high society (Audubon’s wife was a relative); science (seven species of snakes bore his name for a while, and some still do); big game hunter (more pics to come; his last record was a huge mountain lion he took on a horseback hunt on the Jicarilla Apache res, with a longbow, at I think 72; its skin adorned the floor of his Santa Fe house); mountaineering legend (six Andean first ascents, and pioneered the Everest route with Tilman; “more, and worse”)…

After shooting we drove to the Spur in his vintage Mustang with the Northwest Territory license plates in the shape of a polar bear to drink tequila shots; the full salt and lime ritual. Old Mildred Grayson, the mother of then- bar owner Steve Grayson (and grandmother of occasional Q contributor Phil) was also from “Missoura” and could never get over the idea that “that handsome gentleman” tossing back the Cuervo was also a Jesuit priest…

*on his Santa Fe fridge, a sign; “we don’t serve women here– bring your own.”

An Older Man’s Tale

My father and his, about 1923:

When the young artist returned from the war with his fancy New Mexico pointer and his already antique car, his father told him to take his rich man’s dog and car and get them out of his house. Remember that grand car?

After flying those missions over Germany Joe felt he was no longer the innocent immigrant’s son who had left Boston, and Rico was never one to back down either. Knowing all too well his stubbornness (which I have I suppose inherited) I can only imagine the scene. Picture these two going head- to- head:

Now cut to 1984, about 36 years later, as Betsy Huntington sips Jack Daniels with father and son and gently coaxes out a tale, the son listening raptly as the father finally talks.
(Joe, Betsy, spaniels about that time and maybe even that day):

“So I got a studio with the two other most talented students I knew at the Museum School, a vet like me and another younger guy who was even more talented. Pretty soon the first guy had a nervous breakdown, and I figured out the other guy was gay. My father always insisted all artists were either crazy or queer.

“But my biggest worry was about security. I was going to get married and didn’t know how I was going to support a family.

“My uncle Carlo Arzeni in Mexico City was a big hotelier and said I could come down, manage a hotel for him there or on the coast, and paint, but your mother was doubtful and I wanted security. Remember, we were depression kids.

“So I gave it up. I enrolled in Carnegie on an engineering scholarship and became an engineer.”

My lost Mexican relatives, great- uncle Carlo below two sisters:

He paused. I could not even than imagine the hard won melancholic wisdom achieved by a man who had joined a company at the bottom, rose to be president and owner, raised nine children with my mother (who was for a brief time a commercial advertising fashion illustrator and never gave up the sense of herself as an “artist”), become rather rich for a while, and then poor again in the Massachusetts economic crash of the Seventies. A man who loved all field sports from bird shooting to fly fishing and blue- water big game, who in his prosperous years imported world- class pigeons and who now sat with us sipping whiskey in his basement den after midnight. He had attained a measure of serenity, and was never quite so broke that he was unable to get to his beloved St Croix in the winter, but now I shot his guns and cast his flies. He is a little younger than I am today in this Caribbean photo.

“I never told him”– he looked at me–“but I’ll be damned if he didn’t do the right thing. He wrote and told me to shove it and now he is doing what he wants. I’m proud of him.” He raised his glass to Bets. “I gave up art for security. My mistake. I am old enough to know now. There is no fucking security in this world.”

Night Out: Open Range

Our social life is limited when we are busy and broke, and with two books in the air you can bet we are both! So it was a treat when Libby’s friend and former employee Linda Hausler got in touch to tell us that her and her husband Ric Steinke’s old- time cowboy band, Open Range, was coming down from Livingston to play at The Bistro, one of our favorite local restaurant- pubs.

One of our favorite popular musical genres (along with English folk, ancient punk, Baroque, 19th century Russian…) is Western– as opposed to mainstream Nashville top 40 Country and Western. Its boundaries are broad; it includes the sometimes dark, realistic songs by (the masters) Ian Tyson and early Tom Russell and poems about doomed bull riders by Paul Zarzyski, and runs from there to early Hollywood cowboy music, folk songs, and the Texas jazz of country swing, from Bob Wills to Merle Haggard. My late friend, Maine’s John Lincoln Wright, often played some version of the last despite being a lifelong Yankee. I like it all.

But it is not necessarily a popular taste, and I think Ric was worried that we wouldn’t like it. Over afternoon drinks at the Spur, with a jukebox track of everything from 70’s rock to Elvis to Buddy Holly, he kept telling us that they played neither rock nor mainstream country, and my “I knows” were not reassuring. Perhaps if we had mentioned we know Tom, or that Zarzyski has shared beers with me in the Spur, he would have relaxed.

On the way down the hill next evening, I remembered how much my friend Sis (Gianera Pound) Olney, cowgirl (or in a grumpy mood “cowboy bitch”), 5th generation rancher, new grandma, lion hunter(nice video of her husband and nephew in that link), early adapter of Annie P and Cormac McC, and “cousin”–I will blog this someday– loved this kind of music. But she lives in a trailer house eighteen miles off the pavement with no electricity, and I couldn’t think of a way to get her.

We arrived an hour before the band to eat, and were the only people there that early. Five minutes after we sat down, Sis walked through the door with her friend Roxanne, sat down at our table, and said “you ought to stick around– there’s a cowboy band playing and I hear they’re real good!

They were. Their material was eclectic and their taste outstanding– Tom’s old Navajo Rug, a lighthearted Zarzyski about early rodeo cowgirls I had never heard (Sis: “those are my heroes!”); melancholy ballads and western swing dance tunes, Rose of San Antone and Don’t Fence Me In (Ric, who seems something of a historian, filling us in on how Cole Porter happened to collaborate with a small- town Wyoming poet on that one!) Add sweet harmony on vocals, instrumental virtuosity– Linda on rhythm guitar and Indian flute and Ric picking and improvising on solos, not to mention doing a believable imitation of pedal steel by playing his guitar horizontally with a slide. I think he realized we knew what “western” was, especially as Sis, Lib, and I sang along (Sis again: “we knew the lyrics to every song except the ones they wrote!”

Good times. If they come to your town, check them out. And if you like that kind of music you can get their albums at The Open Range website— I believe there is a new one coming soon.

A few more pix:

Ric picks for that mournful steel sound.

Linda & Lib

Bear with Me

 I saw this rather amazing pic in the dead tree Denver Post this morning.  A black bear wandered on to the University of Colorado campus in Boulder and wildlife officials had to tranquilize him to remove him safely.  As you can see they put out a nice soft mat for him when he passed out and fell out of the tree.

Prey base decline

We’ve noticed that our western Wyoming jackrabbit population has crashed in the last few years, and that makes us wonder about cohabitating wildlife and livestock species, and what the impact will be to those animals.

With so few jacks last winter, our wintering golden eagles didn’t stick around long because there was little for them to eat. I had heard that when the jackrabbit population crashes, livestock depredations increase. That certainly seems to be the case this spring.

The Farson farm community south of us is field after field of rich alfalfa, and during the peak of the jackrabbit population, it’s where I go to photograph large groups of jacks as they congregate and spar together. Now it’s unusual to see even a single jackrabbit in the valley. But within the last week or so, there have been at least 13 newborn calves killed by coyotes. With their major prey base unavailable, the coyotes have turned to calves. Both the photos with this post were taken around Farson, just a few miles from each other. The jackrabbit congregation was taken in 2008, when the population was near its peak. The coyote in the image is typical for this area.

We are due to start lambing in about two weeks, so in preparation for that, I’ve had an aerial gunner flying our lambing ground and shooting coyotes from that range. Our dogs have been working overtime to keep the sheep protected, and have been successful in doing it, but I’m not willing to have my lambs start getting killed before I do something. On Friday, while the airplane was working our lambing pasture, Jim took Hud the herding dog with him to another pasture just to the north. Jim stood in the middle of the dry irrigation ditch and blew on a jackrabbit-in-distress mouth call, while Hud dashed around in the sagebrush nearby. The first animal to respond to the call was a curious doe pronghorn antelope that took a steady look at Jim and walked away. The next responder was a coyote that keyed on oblivious Hud and was racing for him when Jim shot the coyote in its tracks.

Before we started gunning coyotes in the last month or so, we had coyotes coming along our back fence line during the day, in the hay meadow across the highway, and even down at the end of our driveway. Two of the guardian dogs have been working themselves ragged at night in chasing the coyotes, but they are getting so tired and sore-footed they aren’t able to catch and kill the problem coyotes at this point. Fortunately, the oldest and wisest of the guardians is Luv’s Girl, who always remains with the sheep while the others chase the coyotes. She knows that her time is better spent amid the herd. Between the dogs and the three burros, the sheep are well-protected, but that’s no guarantee that a predator won’t end up having some success. It’s our job to try and prohibit that, but this year we may have our hands full.

Sometimes the worst predator problem we have comes from one of the smallest predators – the red fox. We have one on our place this year that Rena spends far too much time and energy chasing. The little bugger is terribly fast, and there is no way that big dog is ever going to catch it. The fox is no danger to our adult sheep, but to baby lambs, that’s another story. A mama fox feeding pups at a den site can be one clever lamb-snatcher.

Weekend Pix

Apologies– I am trying to get half of the Book of Books finished by next weekend, plus have been dealing with med changes, a busy social life, travel, and gout. So will post a few light things and return soon with content I hope. Below, family in Santa Fe; Libby, Mr and Mrs Peculiar, grandson Eli, Aunt Ataika. Also see Dave Edwards Kazakh photo, Kazakh wall hanging, snake cage, artificial snake, Neitzsche 4 Babies (very St. John’s) and beer…