… to Dr John Burchard, scientist, man of letters, scholar, adventurer in far places, and one of the best tellers of tales I know. As the old saying has it, he has forgotten more about “salukiformes” and falconry than almost anyone else in our time has ever learned. Like me, he was a Massachusetts boy born: a little north and to the west, in Burlington. Like me, he kept pigeons and snakes and all manner of small fauna to feed his biophilia, a practice I am told is now frowned upon. He went to Princeton, got a PhD, did post-graduate work at the Max Planck when Konrad Lorenz was the “shaman -in-charge” (he kept goshawks there, and in Paris). Later, he taught at the American University in Beirut, and in Nigeria, before his life-changing years in the back country of the Arabian peninsula with the still-tribal Bedouin. He was the ecologist for ARAMCO, but he spent his spare time traveling with the tribes, flying sakers and running salukis. Likely, no one else will ever see the things he saw. At one time his household there consisted of a wolf, a cockatoo, and several Saker falcons as well as his innumerable salukis. I believe all but the cockatoo slept in the bed with John and his wife.
I want him to write his memoirs more than anyone else I have ever known. I
threaten him with the fact that I have going on 300 pages of letters
and emails from him, and can construct something of one myself, but it
would not be the same.
John lives these days in
Alpaugh, California, the last curious bastion of coursing in a state
that is becoming increasingly “anti”- not just anti-hunting, but against
all interactions with animals. He is over 80 – how many years, John? —
but as one of our tazi group says, he obviously believes in “use it or
lose it”. I will consider myself fortunate if I am still pursuing field
sports over 80, but his example makes me determined to try. I am pleased
to call him a mentor, honored that he runs two dogs of my breeding, and
delighted to call him a friend. Happy birthday, John!