William “Gatz” Hjortsberg, 1941- 2017

Chris Waddington, my old editor at the Minneapolis Star Tribune and now a happier man in his belovcd New Orleans (even though Katrina flooded his house) emailed to tell me that our mutual friend Gatz Hjortsberg died at his home in Livingston after a “short illness” i.e. pancreatic cancer (it’s a bad one; it’s the one that took down Bob Jones after he survived prostate cancer.)

As I said to Chris, our friendship was cordial, but not particularly close. Still, we were part of the same Montana scene and went to the same parties, where Michael Katakis would groan “Oh God, Gatz and Bodio are both here — nobody else will be able to get  in a word.” Probably true, and I think they’re all the better for it.  He was always known as “Gatz”, never Bill or William, apparently because of a youthful infatuation with the work of Scott Fitzgerald, especially The Great Gatsby. Besides, he wore all those cool hats.

He was utterly intrepid.He was one of Pat’s boys” at Sports Illustrated, and his first assignment was to ride a BULL.He did it, too.

Gatz was undervalued as a writer of books, perhaps because he was a writer of genre books in a  literary field. He followed his friend Tom McGuane to Livingston from grad school, because McGuane was the only writer he knew who fished. Among the schools he attended was Stanford, where like McGuane, he was a Stegner  Fellow; that is, someone whom Wallace Stegner abused. This was good company to be in; among the other people Stegner called bums, hippies, beatniks, and worthless were Robert Stone, Ken Kesey, and the lesser known but fascinating David Shetzline, who wrote one of the only two good novels I know of about  forest fires. Among Gatz’s books were the dark fantasy Alp and the darker sci- fi Gray Matters in the early years, and the Mexican thriller Manana recently. But his best knows was Falling Angel , which was made into a movie starring Mickey Rourke. He also wrote Nevermore where he wrote the following wonderful inscription in my copy:

He also wrote a puzzling biography of “Poor Old Richard” Brautigan, which took him about 14 years and was rejected by its first publisher. In the end it ran to 862 pages, any 100 of which were brilliant. I can’t help but think that Richard’s own words might apply: ” In this world, where there is only a little time to spend, I think I’ve spent enougth time on this butterfly.” *

No matter. Gatz Hjortsberg was a gentleman and a writer, and he will be missed.

*The quote about the butterfly is a close paraphrase. I’m not going to look it up at this hour!

“Great Moments in Pigeon Keeping”

..as Jack said in a recent email.The Grand Canyon guides knew long before the scientists about the huge stable non- migratory Peregrine population in the Grand Canyon, the Colorado and its tributaries…

 Photos by the late great Wesley Smith of the homers he used to take down the River in the days of film cameras, to allow his clients to be met with photos,. He used to say that each roll took three pigeons: “One for the tiercel, one for the falcon, and one for the film…”

Golden Eagle Migrations

Researchers recently discovered the importance of Montana’s Big Belt Mountains (near Bozeman) as a raptor migration flyway, and their first major monitoring effort for this flyway began in the fall of 2015, and was repeated in fall 2016. This route recorded the greatest number of migrating golden eagles of any site in North America, with 2,620 golden eagles recorded, with a peak of 24 goldens per hour!

The team also recorded another important behavior: Golden eagles continued to migrate at night under a full moon.

And if the golden eagle information wasn’t enough, the researchers also documented all 17 raptor species known to migrate through the region – all on one day!

The Big Belts are a 75-mile long mountain range in west-central Montana, just north of the Bridger Mountains, which are well-known for raptor migrations. The raptor migration counts were conducted by Ronan Dugan and Jeff Grayum of the Golden Eagle Migration Survey and the report on the Fall 2016 counts can be found here.