More Tim–and Johnny UK, and Kazakhs, and the Urbigkits

Tim says to John Hill,  on “Huntress”: “Johnny UK, my late partner Alan Sullivan, who attended the death, always choked up at that last line.” I agree, but the one that really gets me is the end of “Perro del Amo”: Vaya con Dios, love/ you were the dog of God.”

Here is the Magdalaenian from East Anglia, with his bespoke Darne  magnum twelve that Herve Bruchet made for him, and his own “Perro del amo”, his lab Petra…

And here in Magdalena

A particular favorite of Tim’s from his extensive  repertory:

Soul of the North

Out of the wilds, I pray.
Bound by my northern birth
to fish, to hunt the earth
and follow my forebears’ way,
I mutter I have sinned,
wander the knee-high grass,
flourish awhile and pass
whistling into the wind.

As char swim to the clear
tundra rivers that run
under the midnight sun,
as wolves follow the deer
drawn from ford to ford,
as clamorous geese in V’s
throng to the thawing seas—
all creatures of one accord—
my soul thirsts for the Lord.

.. and then Tim realized, like so many others, we her at Q blog are (at least) three, and sometimes more, but always two. This one goes out to you, Cat!

“I read the front page of your blog with great pleasure last night and did a double take, not realizing there are other posters.  Steve runs sheep in the Winds in summer and winters them in New Mexico? Whoa!  Alan and I spent a lot of time in the Winds, and I’d like you to send this little poem to your friend, Cat.  If you ask me what the form is, I’d say amphibrachic dimeter, an ancient Greek meter.  I only know two examples after 500 BC, both mine, bien sur.  I wanted the gait of a mountain pony on switchbacks, and I think I got it.”


Up switchbacks through passes
we ride winded horses
through spruces, then grasses
ribboned with watercourses,
the Wind River’s sources.

A trail called Highline
meanders through flowers
from treeline to snowline
where War Bonnet glowers
on Cirque of the Towers.

A bald eagle’s shadow
plummets from its aerie,
then circles this meadow
whose cold waters carry
some hope to our prairie.

The galloping line reminds me of Kazakh folksong, surprisingly accessible to western ears, always with a rhythm of horses. Cat, what do you think?

She visited, fifteen or more years later, some of the same people I hunted with, including the late Aralbai, a true wild man, and his son, now married with a wife. The third photo MAY be him- I lost a lot of files, including a good one of him by Cat (Cat?).  In the intro to the new pb edition of Eagle Dreams, she  tells how, as a good Wyoming cowgirl should, she beat him in an impromptu horse race, winning a silver- mounted riding crop; like any proud Kazakh, he immediately proposed, saying he was Moslem and could have a second wife. Cat had the perfect rejoinder: “I know your FIRST wife- and you can’t!”

In this photo from the first expedition, he is rolling a cigarette as he takes a break from riding around in circles, dragging his bird by its jesses in a way that would look ridiculous to any falconer. He raises his head to me, indicates the intense  discussion going on behind, and says “Stev– photographers FUCKED!” People always learn the bad words first! Of course, there is also the matter of my NAME. When I asked Canat and our driver Siassi why they always pronounced my name like that, Siassi looked at Canat for permission, then turned to me and said “You are  Stev, because ‘Steef’ mean..”; and he gave me the universal sign for intercourse, with his finger going in and out of his circled fist. It is just GREAT to know that your name means “Fuck” in Kazakh, though through the years, I have come to accept it, and even sign my letters and emails “Stev”…

 What the hell, a few more; this post has become pure free association anyway: Siassi and me and Canat, young and strong and invincible in late February  ’97; my first hunting paty in Mongolia, pure Indiana Jones; and a scare- Magpie  hung over Aralbai’s lambing corral, showing that intelligent corvids are not the herder’s friends. Jackson used to have an Irish- sounding reel he had written called “The Magpie’s Breakfst”; when asked what a Magpie’s breakfast was, he would answer succinctly, “Roadkill!” And Pere Henri Michel, the naturalist priest in Serignan, home of Jean- Henri Fabre, would shake his head over the sheer numbers of Magpies there, which kept the numbers of song and game birds depressed, and say “Les pies sont mechant; ils ne sont pas baptisee!”

Here are Cat and Jim at their trailer house on a dirt road south of Pinedale, where I took refuge from Jackson Hole, a place that my convalescing friend Peter Bowen (well, a character in one of his best novels, Wolf no Wolf) calls “a good place for a nuclear accident”. For three days, we rode around and looked at the country, the livestock, and the wildife; at night we drank and talked and laughed. Jim and Cat’s well – honed political comedy act had me in stitches. He likes to portray himself as a poor dumb rodeo cowboy who works in the gravel pit; no matter that he and Cat have received grants from the Wyoming livestock council (I THINK– Cat can set me straight) to go to places like Turkey to study livestock protection dogs and their culture, and that Jim and I can stay up all night killing a bottle of vodka and  discussing the science and anthropology of  domestication, pulling out more abstruse papers than anyone not a student of the subject would ever think existed.

 My most impressive experience there was not even hearing the wolves
howling down on the river (a sound still rare in my country, and one
that will make the hair rise on your nape no matter WHAT you think of
wolves),  and going out in the morning to see that the dogs had held the
line and moved the wolves on, and were only a LITTLE cut up– see Rant
in the pic below.

No, it was the political comedy act. I knew them well enough to know they were pro-gun and pro- conservation and VERY pro- domestic livestock, but didn’t know any details. I had been complaining about the Hole, where everybody is a pc liberal, where everybody now owns THREE houses, because the billionaires have driven out the millionaires; where I had been reasonably informed that there were 63 private jets on the runway the day we flew in; where there are more poor southern Mexicans than in Albuquerque or, probably, New Mexico, because such people need servants; where a celebrity lawyer whose hair, like that of Warren Zevon’s Werewolf, was perfect (my not particularly Puritan soul had been shocked to see, on a previous visit, that the first thing you confronted when you walked in the front door of his mansion was a garish ten- foot high full frontal nude portrait of his wife, by him (and no, Jim C, I am not talking about the wonderful whimsy of “Mail Order Brides come with Issues”, or as I think of her, the Goddess and her dogs– I would happily sleep with her and her watchful dogs at the foot of my bed forever, if only Penelope would let me!); but he had been good to Libby after Harry’s death,  when there were still plenty of climbing hippies and Mormon cowboys in the Valley, so I introduced myself  and mentioned the name of a serious writer and friend who had worked in the oil patch long ago and written a good book about it and about this lawyer, quite complimentary–only to have him take my hand languidly, stare over my shoulder, and say “I can’t quite recall anybody by that name…”

 I was going ON, as people who know me know I can. We had been invited by a wonderful old friend of Libby’s, an educator and classicist, and incidentally quite rich, to come up and cook for his daughter’s (rather odd– the best part was Mark’s reading from Wendell Berry on the responsibilities of marriage, which seemed to puzzle the crowd) wedding, and, being a gent, he PAID her for it. Which seemed to encourage some of the young people, like the barely post-adolescent  lout who said he had just spent 6 months in the Andes “skiing for social justice”, to treat Libby and Martha (only the greatest outdoorswoman of her generation, and another old Outward Bound friend of Mark’s, and unlike Libby still in the food biz), the way the nuns of my odd aristocratic grammar school (the school, not me, I’m plain as dirt, a scholarship student born in “Saint Maahk’s Parish” in Dorchester, who didn’t find out about that scholarship until 1987) told us NOT to treat servants.–

 So Jim begins, reflecting.”Well, you know I robbed the cradle. I started dating Cat when I was thirty and she was twenty.

“And when she turned twenty one, I took her down to the Sublette County courthouse, to register to vote.

“Now I was born here, and I know the drill,[Cat was born in Kentucky I think, though she moved out early] so I say ‘Urbigkit’- resignedly.

“Then I spell it.

“Then I say, ‘Democrat’ [pronounced cowboy, “Dimocrat”]- resignedly.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Really?” (I don’t know many non- Hispanic cowboys that are Democrats).

Jim: “Yup, I’m the chairman of the Sublette County Democratic party– I nominated Obama.”

I laughed, a bit incredulous still. “Any buyer’s remorse?”

“Every day- until I see your guys!”

This time I whoop and high- five him, and return to my seat.”What about Cat?”

“Well, remember, she’s still this naive little girl. So she turns to me and says, ‘Jim, what am I?’

“And I say to the registrar, ‘She don’t know it yet, but she’s a genetic Republican, so put her down as that.”

And SHE gets up, and high fives Jim, and says “And I’m the REPUBLICAN chair of Sublette County!” And I say, “You know, I’ve heard more political intelligence and diversity of thought in this trailer house than in a week in Jackson.”

And then I go back to Jackson and some rich jerk asks me where I’ve been and I say on a ranch south of Pinedale in Sublette County and he says “WHY? That’s the asshole of the world!” I say to Libby, just a little later, never say I lack self- restraint- I did NOT say- yell!- “No, THIS is!”


And finally, a link to Tim: (No, it won’t work. Tomorrow)

More soon. It has been a long day, and night

1 comment

  1. Oh lordy I laughed over some of these memories. What a strange journey, from one world (with the Kazakhs), to the next (Jackson Hole), to the next(our redneck quarter of the sagebrush steppe).

    Tim Murphy's poetry makes my heart full. I'll be reciting that last stanza from Headwaters while I walk with the sheep this summer.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *