I’ll be travelling next week and part of the following one to Kingman, Arizona, to meet this guy, Harry McElroy, who has been a hero of mine for
almost 30 years.
Harry has taught and inspired at least two generations of
falconers through his articles and books (4 titles and counting) and his willingness to
engage in detailed correspondence with anyone who cares to reach him.
I spoke with Harry first in the early nineties by telephone, before I had email or anyone had a Facebook page or chat room to occupy. Having to speak up above his scant hearing, I nervously described the troubles I was having with an imprinted Cooper’s hawk. Harry listened, and I think chuckled in parts (or maybe just cleared his throat), and then gently suggested several things I might do to improve my husbandry and hunting success with the hawk.
Through following years, as electronic communications became easier and finally ubiquitous, Harry helped with several other of my bird projects from the comfort of his den. He shared stories of his daily hunting—on horseback with Aplomado falcons, or with goshawks from the back of a mule—and many photos of the striking desert country he lives in and loves much.
When I wrote my own books, Harry read them and helped make them better. He recommended them, too, which goes a long way in our tiny market. A couple years ago he started sharing pieces of his latest book and shocked me with a request that I write the foreword. To accept was an act of stupendous hubris on my part, but I did so and counted one of greatest coups of my career: My name and words in a book by Harry McElroy.
The other was Steve Bodio’s name and words in a book of mine.
I’ll be posting pictures and stories from the trip, here and on my Facebook page. I’ll be promoting my books (tactfully I hope); so buy one or several and help me turn this pricey junket into a business trip.
Before I get on the road, let me please nod with respect to our many adventurers who read and write at the Querencia blog. It is not a grand journey to reach Kingman, Arizona, on the world’s best roads and with a credit card and hot coffee along for company. But it is in the spirit of adventure and of pilgrimage that I will travel, and in that spirit hope to make a trip to remember.
Just found this while looking for pictures of Harry to post. It’s a short passage from Wendell Berry with a very McElroy vibe (reposted from an earlier blog):
“Above the hacienda, the drizzle turned
to snow, whitening the ground. We passed a herd of twenty-five horses being
driven up to pasture by two horsemen in ponchos, looking cold with the snow
melting on their hats and shoulders. They were riding very smooth-gaited horses. Everywhere I
saw them, the Andean horses were small, but extremely tough, capable of carying a grown man at a
gallop over the mountainsides.”