Indian Vultures

I wrote soberly on the Indian Vulture crisis years ago in the Atlantic.

They continued to decline; nobody gives a damn about serious whiny articles.

Today, my friend Jemima “Mima” Parry Jones, daughter of the grand old falconer Philip Glasier, sent me this YouTube piece of pro- vulture propaganda, and I am envious- it will likely be a lot more effective.

Mima is unusual- I am reminded of the remark, which sounds like one of Osxar Wilde’s epigrams, that in friendship , it is best to begin with a little aversion…

We were staying at Jonathan Kingdon’s near Oxford when  he decided we MUST se Mima’s original  Bird of Prey Center on the west coast of England (on a day trip- I will never get over the scale of England). I was a little dubious – I had heard she did not approve of some things I had written– but the chance to see all those birds was irresistible.

We  had fun exploring the park- it is where  I first encountered the African Crowned eagle I mentioned below. We also played with an Andean Condor who seemed fascinated with Jonathan’s car keys.

But finaly the time came to meet the proprietor. Jonathan ushered me into the office where she sat behind her desk and began “This is Stephen Bodio. He wrote..”

She interrupted him : I KNOW what he fucking wrote. He’s the cunt who write ‘The English have nothing to teach us but history!’ “

She glared at me  for a moment longer, as though to be sure I had heard her properly; then stood to shake my hand with a  dazzling smile. “Glad to meet you! Let’s go and see my birds.”

I don’t think she ever uttered a critical word in my direction again, but I am not sure Jonathan ever got over his shock..

 As for Mima, perhaps the last word should go to Merliner Emeritus, naturalist, poet, and former schoolmaster John Loft. In  his local pub, over good peaty Scotch whisky and steak and kidney pie, on a foggy unseasonably cold  May night, I told him this story. He shook his head and said: “Stephen, if you think SHE has a mouth that could take your hide off, you should have known her father.”

Mima, the Duke, and her father many years ago

John Loftt with falcon topiary in his garden; hawking with Tim Galllagher.

New Poems from Tim Murphy

To Stephen Bodio

I dreamed I was striding beside your horse,

        dogs coursing in the mist,

        the falcon on your fist

husbanding her inconceivable force.

Shahin, hoping that we were hunting quail,

        spiraled aloft to hover

        as we quartered her cover.

Over the brush we saw a single sail,

then broke the covey. At an explosive flush

       the blinding stoop and kill.

       On a High Desert hill

she nibbled neck meat in the windless hush.

Yours is the hunter’s highest form of art.

       Beside my prairie stream

       I read your books and dream,

sharing the wild passion in your heart.

Horseman NOT!

I never learned to gallop on a horse.

       Just once my Stetson flew

       and even worse, I knew

greenhorn disgrace, bounced from my mount, of course.

Aged six I’d had a Shetland pony rear,

      throwing me to a rock

      where coming to in shock

Timmy conceived a new deep-seated fear.

Soon I’ll fly south to ride with Bodio

      and watch his falcon sail

      high over furtive quail,

hoping my host will let us take it slow.

Mountains for me are best designed for walking,

       hoisting a heavy pack

       up a steep switchback track

or seated on a saddle gently rocking.

Road Trip

Syrdal and I flew down to Albuquerque

to hunt spruce grouse, cousin to our wild turkey.

Steve flew his goshawk (said to taste like chicken.)

It was a thrill to see that big bird kickin’

grouse from the air, felling them for Steve’s hounds

who warily circled our killing grounds.

This was a trip on each man’s bucket list.

Steve’s books and some Youtubes you might have missed

were all we knew of what we came to see,

New Mexico’s desolate majesty

where Steve mastered the art of falconry.

(An ornithological correction: we are too far south for spruce grouse.Though if we did hawk for them, a Gos, one of their natural predators, would be a good choice. Seems that “Sage” would work, poetically and historically, although our population is no longer huntable).

Siberian male Gos on the Hi- Line in Montana, chasing Sharptails, by Rob Palmer at Falcon photos.

Esmeralda

Silliest and most engaging hawk we have ever had. Courts Libby continually. She is making a nest of shredded Wall St Journals behind her perch, which she tres to lure Libby into. Bathes in a cooking pot…

We have heard that baby Aplos are the only falcons with dark down. Her (more or less constant, but not unpleasant) vocalization is also different. Makes you wonder about their evo- history

Parade

I have, to my mild shock, been elected unanimously to the post of Grand Marshall for the Magdalena Old Timers’ Parade. That means I lead the parade, folks; sadly, the herd of half- wild Corriente cattle they used to drive through town ahead of it has gone the way of the street dance in the STREET, open containers, drive in windows, Juan’s West Bar, and the oldest of Los Borrachos Perdidos, Monico Baca.

The position is usually a horseback one. Here is Tom Olney last year:

But I can no longer sit or control a horse easily,
 so my mind turned to thoughts of a mount. John Wilson’s Triumph TR 3 came to mind, but he babies it, and would have to trailer it to town.

 Then my Scottish friend Bodie Littlejohn– collector of cars and guns, and armor, falconer, Deerhound man, Karateka, horseman, shrink and, well, more, came to the rescue, offering his fabulous collector- fine Shelby Mustang, a car that shakes the ground when you turn on the engine. I am ecstatic, as is every fine car nut in town.

Says Bodie, “I’ll drive– you would have a hard time with the clutch anyway.Your job is to wave your hat at the pretty girls.”

 I think of the last line in Tom McGuane’s Crow Fair:

“Lately, I’ve been riding a carriage at the annual Bucking Horse Sale like an old timer, which I guess is what I’m getting to be.”

Summer Woodcock

Georgia friend Gil Stacy has more sense than we did when I hunted Woodcock: he keeps some for the summer mushroom harvests… chanterelles in this case.
Also notice the color of the cut flesh. Like all good Woodcock (and snipe) cooks, he
sort of passes them through a very hot oven. I get tired of hearing how dark- fleshed birds “taste like liver”- good LIVER doesn’t taste like liver when it is cooked rare, turned over quickly in hot bacon fat and butter. My disgusted French- born gourmand friend Guy de la Valdene, after he read an American recipe for woodcock that involved two cans of cream of mushroom soup and an hour and a half in the oven, wrote (in Making Game in 1990): “As this recipe negates the whole reason for killing the birds in the first place, why not take it a step further and poach the Woodcock overnight in equal parts of catsup, pabulum, and Pepto- Bismol.”

  
 I need to hunt Woodcock again before I die.  First pic below by Betsy Huntington from 1976, with her Parker 16, in Easton MA in the coverts I grew up in, no longer open to hunting but mercifully preserved from development as a park; second Bar Mills ME, 1987, the year after her death, in a place I still hope to hunt again, with Bart and Darne.

Incidentally, the greatest (and most undeserved ) compliment as a cook I ever had was by Russ Chatham at his old place in Deep Crick, when he and Libby and Guy and I had whipped up something impromptu and good.All I remember now was that it had sweetbreads- Guy I think– and Risott’, from me. Russ suddenly burst out with “This is so good I wish I had FOUR cook stations so we could all cook at once, all the time!” Russ is an emotional half- Italian like me, and  think it was the magical wine from his legendary cellar talking, the best I have ever had, usually with labels falling off. Surely Jim Harrison would have been a better fourth cook. But I will take my compliments when I get ’em….

Raymond

Raymond Scully checked in to tell me he was doing the reading for the Audible Edition’s version of Hounds.

I was delighted, because Raymond had previously read for Eagle Dreams, and had done an incredible job. He studies the manuscript minutely, and asks me about any pronunciation he has doubts about. This time, he sent me some photos of the work in progress so I could understand how he did it. Here they are, and a picture of Raymond toasting me afterwards. As he said “Namaste” AND “Bismillah!” And, yes, after Central Asian custom, I’m doing the second with vodka.

Party!

After a slightly exhausting week, the much – postponed party finally straggled in to Reid and Connie’s country manse in Parker CO  on Saturday. Not every one could make it (Smokey Paul and Lynne met us at a Santa Fe highway exit to hand over a pistol for Carlos —  we still live in a free country where a poet can hand a handgun to a writer to pass to an ornithologist, and pass it through three states, all legally!)

I am not sure what the “Theme” of the party might have been– probably NOT blogging, though it had brought some of us together. But only Reid, Arthur, and me met primarily that way. Andy Wilson has known Libby from Outward Bound days, 40 years and more. Many of the others were members of what Carlos  and the (absent ) Gerry Cox facetiously call the  “Sewing Circle”, a bunch of writers, academics and artists fascinated with fine guns. Guy Boyd, who is holding the iconic Purdey, came down from Fort Collins; our first contact was through birds I think, as he flies a pursuit Gyr named Darwin, but I have also worked editing his yet unsold thriller ms. Chas Clifton blogs at Nature Blog, but we have known each other forever; he went to Reed College with Tom McIntyre, is a retired professor of English literature and comparative religion,  knew “Seasonal” writer Ed Engle (who once remarked after a hike in the San Mateos that we had seen a redtail catch a squirrel, but “if it had been twenty yeas ago, we might have seen Mescalito!”, and, if memory serves me right, first read me in the rather odd venue of Chronicles, in a nature- themed issue put together by Chilton Williamson and his legendary damned Patagonian conures!

Themes were guns, books, ideas, and food, plus a standing desk of splendid oak for me (thanks to Laramie based novelist Brad Watson); horses (Akhal Tekes) and dogs (Aussies- ours had stayed home) and a little mostly Chihuahua named Rainbow. And GRILLED MEAT– thanks especially to Carlos, and to Arthur for bringing lovely chile- flavored booze for a marinade.

And of course the Purdey, which is exquisite, not just the finest for its price but one of the finest hammer Purdeys I have ever handled. But, contrary to what everyone seems to think, despite my trade goods and its relatively good price, I do NOT have the full price yet. Perhaps, as the Nature Conservancy’s Matt Miller suggests, I should swallow my pride, and try a little crowdfunding– it looks like now or never… ideas, please!

This set all by Andy W:

Chas sights Broomie with Steve & Carlos in enthusiastic discussion behind

The younger set–Arthur and gunsmith Adam (not in this set, brother Oliver)

Novelist Brad Watson (check his new book on Amazon), Carlos, Steve

Reid with MEAT

We do love our food– and guns …