Reader Darrell Mason brought this link on the Raven Gun and its history with the Tower of London to my attention.

In the 80s I corresponded quite a bit with Malcolm Appleby, who engraves a lot of things, not just guns. At the time he was doing his series of magical “totem” guns for David McKay Brown, and had already done a sidelock feathered like a woodcock. He wrote in part:

“[It is] very important part of the function of a sporting gun apart from the obvious. To create a totem object that is personal to the user. This engraving may have no connection with shooting but in  conjunction with the complimenting of form help to (hopefully) create a unique functional object that is powerful enough in design to be its master’s mascot. There is nothing new in this it is as old as weaponry itself, but somewhere during the mass production the idea has been lost. Because of this line of thought it naturally extends to the gun itself. Had worked on sidelocks for years but was introduced to the ergonomic roundaction as now built by D. M. Brown. Not such a good weapon to show off engraving but a much more sophisticated design problem.”

He added: “After woodcock gun sidelock did round action crocodile/snake gun (both beasts of great magical power.)”

I am putting images of both the raven and the crocodile below; I love the raven, but I think the tactile surface of the crocodile is even more amazing.

Appleby has since worked on everything from salt shakers to chessmen. I have a buckle he made for me shortly after Betsy Huntington died, of gold-washed Damascus steel; an eagle with a heart.

Wildlife In Your Yard

In the depths of the drought (which is real, even if our town well crisis is man- made), wildlife comes to town. Human activity tends to make a green oasis composed of the non- native plants that come with civilization, not to mention gardens, flowers, leaky wells, and other sources of plant nourishment. Deer and coyotes are feeding in peoples’ yards, not just at dawn but in broad daylight. I am sure, as in years past, lions are here too, following their food and competitors. We just don’t see them because here, unlike in Boulder, lions are also prey.

Random observations by John Wilson and me suggest that bird reproduction is not going well in the hills this year. Mixed-species flocks that should be breeding throng all day around John’s water points a little way out of town.

With the birds come their predators. When I lived outside of town, the common gopher snake, Pituophis catinefer , was a fairly frequent visitor around my pigeon loft. If a snake found a hole larger than the 1/2″ mesh of aviary wire, I was likely to lose some eggs or nestlings; bigger, bolder, individuals sometimes killed a full grown pigeon though they didn’t seem able to swallow it.

As the non- nesting birds come to town, and rodents, their predators must follow. A
few days ago Libby came in to tell my there was a snake in the main
flight loft. Hindsight says it was obviously a bull snake, but it had
more yellow in the background than I had ever seen. Therefore I used my
snake hook until I could clearly see its head. It was extremely agile in
the heat, but I finally managed to get the bucket in front of it, and
it poured itself in. First photo shows it coiled in the bottom of the
temporarily co-opted waste basket; the second [right or double click for bigger] as it crawls hastily away
when we released it on the edge of town in the arroyo. The third is a
picture I found on the net of an individual as yellow as mine.

Almost Random Links

So much information, so many stories, scientific discoveries, photos, art worthy of note– is it the Net or am I just getting slow? A quick run…

Al Cambronne’s Deerland is the best book ever about the state of the whitetail deer, its numbers, problems, fans both hunting and non, maniacal fans, and detractors. I liked the earlier books on the whitetail- human edge by Jan Dizard and Richard Nelson, but if you don’t collect deer books and want to read one, get this. Cambronne is an “adult beginner” deer hunter and never loses his sense of amazement at the whole spectacle, and tells a good tale. And check out his blog here.

Martin Mayer, artist- mechanic extraordinaire from Albuquerque, sends an amazing video  to charm all of us interested in science and art (credit to Michael Young).

Annie Davidson sends a link demonstrating just how odd mantis shrimp are .

How to play with your falcon when game is scarce? Thanks to Christopher Landauer at Border Wars.

Dog genetics: we are figuring it out, but meanwhile controversies about when and where dogs first appear continue to swirl. The most recent date seems far too much so if archaeological remains in many places are correctly dated.

Itilga, assembled by John Szabo: dog hawks and hawk dogs, chasing hares in dusty New Mexico. It’s what we do.

Clapton’s Guns

Apparently Eric Clapton has commissioned and sold  more guns than I have (and each and every one was probably worth more than my house). Many articles out there, a few by gunnies, some by folks horrified he would buy guns at all, some just concerned with auction prices. I assume we can all use Google, though I found fewer pix than I had hoped. One of the better is here.

Actually he seems to acquire and get rid of things the way many of us do, just on an inconceivably expensive level, so both MDMNM and I are right on what his taste is like: eclectic.

“I start out with a fairly broad spectrum – got obsessed, then engulfed, and finally narrow the collections down.

“I built a gunroom that can house a certain amount of guns, and now I have to clear the decks for the new guns I have on order.”

Here are a couple of classic Bosses (I think I would have kept one!) and a rather gaudy Evans.

Sin agua…

Very Good Dog!

One breed I no longer have but continue to love is the field English springer. Here is a photo of Jerry Scoville’s little Springer Skookum last season, who has retrieved way more than his weight in geese. He is no Chessie– he weighs around 28 pounds, like Taik.

Says Jerry: “He slept for ~30 hours after chasing geese all day.  In this image he is with 15 white-cheeked geese.  Snow, and White-fronted Geese were also harvested.  Skookum weighs in at 27-to-29 pounds, and the big geese weighs in at 8–to-12 pounds.  He has to run backwards when bringing big geese to hand over uneven terrain.” He actually retrieved 38 in all, because he was the only dog working all that day!

Jerry likes 10 bores– maybe he will send pics of one too.

For a good springer read try A Rough Shooting Dog by Charles Fergus,  # 36 in the Book o’ Books .

Need I say no change in TOWN water, though it is beginning to look like monsoons are imminent.

Free Association

I have been kicking a few unrelated (?) things around, having plenty of material but not feeling, with our tough environmental conditions (no water, heat, impending possible rain making it an uncomfortable mix of steamy and dusty) much like writing a long essay. I was rambling freely through these things to L. and suddenly thought: I’ll just post this, the stroll through. So:

Tim Gallagher’s books have all been interesting, but I have thought even in its first stages; no, since reading his first slightly shaky email  from Mexico when he had emerged from the Sierra in a last nightmarish drive at 5 miles per hour past buildings that had been set afire since he had last passed them–  that Imperial Dreams  may be his best. It is certainly his most thrilling: his account of trying to find a remnant of the biggest and most spectacular woodpecker that ever lived in a beautiful but damaged land now controlled by narcotraficantes.

From my “official” review, not yet out: “Imperial Dreams  is a natural history of the world’s most spectacular woodpecker and a mystery: a forensic inquiry into what, despite the narrator’s hopes, looks like the death of a species. It starts as light-hearted adventure …  becomes a tragedy and a tale of terror. It may be Gallagher’s best book yet, one to excite adventure travelers who might never pick up a “bird book,” while telling an unforgettable tale of loss…

“The Imperial Woodpecker’s fate might seem even grimmer than the Ivory-bill’s; the researchers find evidence that loggers repeatedly encouraged shooting and poisoning the bird to ensure its demise. If true, it represents a case of successful, conscious biocide; worse, one done for imaginary reasons—the destruction of trees that were already infested with beetle grubs. “

Strong stuff, and all too relevant. But I also saw something funny. For various reasons, uber- guitarist Jimmy Page and his various bands have been crossing the screen lately, and I realized that Jim and Tim look like the old Spy Magazine “Separated at birth'” thing. Tim lives in upstate New York and grew up in southern Cal when there was still nature there, but like Page he was born in England. This is a very gringo face for someone who, with little Spanish, is walking around the Sierra Madre with a bird book, saying “Senor, have you seen this bird?” Tim, Jimmy:

They both looked different back in the late Sixties. I will find a pic of Tim, who had long hair and a beard, but here is Jimmy Page with the great Yardbirds in ’68, on French TV:

Great? At one time they featured Jeff Beck, Page, and Clapton (some time will find photos of some of Clapton’s London Bests).

Led Zeppelin were recently honored in Washington– never thought I would see Page, Robert Plante, and John Paul Jones in tuxes, being praised by the president and serenaded by Heart… (Annie Davidson sent this one…)

I was conferring with my little sport- science lit and guns group– five guys from 40- 70 who are variously, singly and multiply profs, biologists, bloggers, a novelist, a carpenter, a falconer, a former contributor to English Literary Renaissance, and a lawyer, stretched out over the nation from Marin County to Ithaca, about all these various important phenomena. A member who is several of the above,  Carlos Martinez del Rio, reminded me of another band, more local in impact but as memorable in performance: Boston’s Mission of Burma, who played the “Cellars by Starlight” (Jimmy Isaac’s Phoenix column and collective term for the Boston area clubs) when I worked at Inn Square in the seventies, and in the eighties when he got his nose broken at a memorable concert. Gerry, this is what they sound like– not Winterreise, though I like Fischer Diskau too.

Finally, Magdalenian Joel Becktell, last seen on the blog busting clays at Piet’s last Thanksgiving, cellist and peer of Yo Yo Ma, doing just that, and then playing selections with his crossover classical group Revel– including, of course,  “Stairway to Heaven.”

Water– nada…

Black Forest Fire

You may have seen something about this horrible fire in the national news. I took this picture of the smoke plume from the guest bedroom balcony Tuesday afternoon when the fire was first stirring up. It’s located northeast of Colorado Springs and about 40-45 miles south of us. As of this morning it had burned about 8,000 acres and destroyed about 100 homes. Since Tuesday we really haven’t been able to see a plume as the wind has shifted so it’s coming from the south and we are in the plume.

Very sad, as this same general area was hit by the destructive Waldo Canyon Fire a year ago.