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.
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.
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.