Peter Noone RIP

After a long battle, Peter Noone has finally come to rest…

I can only guess how reluctantly. He spent his a whole life in outdoor retail, starting at Berkeley’s pioneering Ski Hut under the legendary catalogue pioneer George Rudolph (I believe they were the first outfitter to have a mail order catologue) ; then joined his buddy Yvon Chouinard at Patagonia, where he remained for over 4o years. I only hope Patagonia will survive him. His good taste (his favorite city was Paris) and his incorrigible political INcorrectitude served a company occasionally hampered by taking itself entirely too seriously.

Not Peter. A sophisticated urbanite with an occasional foul mouth and, for years, a heavy cigarette habit, he did not fit the image of an outdoor clothing executive. What he did have was an abiding fascination with matching the hatch with tiny flies in sophisticated streams like those in Yellowstone. I recall one day hearing he and Yvon making fun of themselves for being obsessed with “tiny fairy hatch matching”, but they were good at it, something I haven’t had the discipline or time to do.

He could also be a very innovative hatchet man, doing jobs that no one else could figure out how to do. When the insane cult CUT (Church Universal and Triumphant) came to the Yellowstone Valley, they located there because they were afraid the world was about to end in vulcanism and atomic war. (That they were then located between the largest missile field and the largest supervolcano in the world did apparently not trouble their consequence free minds).At that time, Patagonia replaced or refunded any return without question. A peculiar problem soon arose. CUT members bought over $10,000 worth of clothes in a particular faded cranberry color that caught the imagination of members as the right color for their death shrouds. When they didn’t die, they intelligently if dishonestly wanted to return it and get their money back. My feeling, as most sane people’s, was too bad; the color didn’t save them – stupidity did.

Enter Peter with a solution both Solomonic and satisfying. You can have your money back, but only if you never do business with Patagonia again. Patagonia had to block the zip codes in the upper Yellowstone Valley for a few years. But it worked.

I wonder what Peter would have thought of the fellow who burned his jacket to stay warm while climbing the Grand Teton and wanted it replaced? As I used to say when I was a kid “I’d give a nickel to hear that!”

Good show, Peter — I hope there is good wine and lots of fishing on the other side…

Peter and Malinda Chouinard several years back

Those Who Abide

Sometimes this journal seems to be a chronicle of death and dissolution. This may be natural for 68 year old man with Parkinson’s ticking away in his breast, even if his prospects are better than some people’s. But whatever mortality lies beneath, Querencia is supposed to be a celebration, even when it does obituaries.

This time I’d like to celebrate some friends who are still alive and have overcome many things to be where they are. This can be said of many readers and characters in Querencia. To name a few: Dutch and Margory, Cat and Teddy, Jonathan, Cass, Chas, Brad, Reid and Reed, Petro and Annyushka and Vadim. The list goes on…

Here I’d like to celebrate a special few. I just got the latest photo of Tim Gallagher hawking with John Loft in England, happy survivors if ever there were any, last week. Tim briefly found the Ivorybill a number of years ago (I believe he hit on the idea on a visit here, where we contemplated how cool it would be to see one, and he went the next year.) He has since written several other good books, including one on Emperor Frederick and on his (Tim’s) youthful time spent in prison, and a harrowing trip to Mexico where he attempted to find the Imperial woodpecker, perhaps the first intentional victim of Biocide. When J. P. S. Brown, the legendary 89 year old border cattleman and novelist, and probably the hardest man I know, heard that this white boy (he was born in England, grew up in LA, and looks like he was separated at birth from Jimmie Paige) was going to go to country he had sold out of because it was too dangerous (and Joe is alleged to eat wolves for breakfast, and to be the cowboy in Tom Russell’s song who, after killing Apaches for their bounty, rode into Durango to ride up the whorehouse stairs) said to me “They’ll kill him and eat him, for breakfast maybe even raw!”

But he made it out. His first post- mountain Email, sent from Durango after a day of sleep and R & R, began: “…The houses that were still standing when we went in were burning when we left. The good narcotraficante with the AK47, who we hired to guard us, refused to ride with us on the way out, out of pure fear. It was a long five hour drive through the mud to get off the mountain, trying not to look in the eyes of the drivers of the cars coming the other way.”

During these years he and his wife Rachel Dickinson, an original writer herself and author of a curiously melancholy book on falconry herself,
suffered the loss of their son to suicide. They don’t complain about it. They talk about it just enough, or maybe not enough. They feel it.

John Loft: what can I say? Schoolmaster and classical poet, he already had 50 years of falconry when he published A Merlin for Me. It contains illustrations by writers who became well known, history, biology, rhyming poetry, including a dedication which contains the line “And especially to Steve for the last approving tic.” He also draws on his admiration for the great falconer E. B. Michell,(which in my opinion he surpasses in his own great book); The Art and Practice of Hawking was Michell’s masterwork and curiously the first “real” falconry book I read (T. H. White, eminently literary, doesn’t count in the same fanatic way). But my first copy was a modern reprint, not the Edwardian relic he presented me with — a magnificent present from John, the Merlin man, real mentor to such as Helen Macdonald, and a spiritual mentor to me. He has never written an ungraceful line.

John is old enough to have known all the greats and good enough to keep most of his stories kind. He took in two shaggy American ragamuffins he knew only from correspondence, orphans of the storm who blew into Lincolnshire on the train with the spring rains. He treated them as friends, made them friends with his good wife Nancy (she didn’t even know they were coming!!), and took them to the pub where they feasted on local delicacies and discussed the differences between American and British falconry. He took them to visit some Yorkshiremen, “Geordies” whose accents were so thick that Libby didn’t even realize they were speaking English. John laughed aloud when I told him about my recent vivid first meeting with Jemima “Mima” Parry-Jones, to whom I was introduced by the rather serious artist and zoologist serious Jonathan Kingdon. When she took my hand she said “I know who you are! You’re the fucking American CUNT who wrote that the British have nothing to teach us but history” John grinned and said “If you think she’s bad, you should have heard her father!”(the legendary austringer and falconer Philip Glasier, friend and hunting companion of Prince Philip). Mima has become a friend, and the whole episode confirms my theory that the foulest mouths are owned by aristocratic women and Italian- construction workers in New York City. That they are the last two groups to smoke unfiltered cigarettes may be relevant too…

John is still hawking, still flying Merlins. I won’t say how old he is but he won’t see 80 again. Tim goes out with him every time he goes to England and sends me a picture of the two of them. Here is the latest.

Wendy Parker came to see us the other day. She was one of my best students at Wildbranch, though she didn’t publish enough. What she did do was hunt. She had rare German pointing dog and an eponymous gun. For a time she went with our difficult friend, Jerry, who had the best collection of American doubles a poor man could have. They are both biologists and are smart as hell.

What I didn’t realize is that it had been more than 20 years since I had seen her. She looked exactly the same — I DON’T.

Timothy Murphy,1951- 2018; RIP

I cannot do justice to Tim’s many interests and careers here even if it were not late at night. Farmer, businessman; poet and student of poetry, vigorous with unfashionable rhyme and meter (it was said that under the tutelage of his Yale mentor, Robert Penn Warren, he memorized 30,000 lines of Greek and English poetry); adventurer, gay man, gun nut (a 28 bore on the prairie!); Catholic (as another Catholic writer, Michael Gruber, once put it, practicing and trying to be perfect, with no illusions!)

In a just world he might well have been poet laureate, and he was enviably productive too. His cancer diagnosis spurred him into writing at least four extra BOOKS!

He wrote the best poems on dogs of our time, and on our common mortality:

When the returning dove
roosts at your mother’s grave,

Ill bury a box of ash
beside her in the sod.

Vaya con Dios, love,
You were the dog of God.

Our fellow bird hunter, Catholic, and writer Jameson Parker called him “A Predatory Poet in a State of Grace.” Exactly right.

Oh and– for extra cool points: His childhood babysitter was Bob Dylan,

Robert Valenzuela June 2018 ; RIP

When we first knew Robert well, he was riding high. We called him “The Mayor of the Alley” then, and he ramrodded several Navajo work crews for us to build our yard, garden, loft, and outbuildings. As Libby said wonderingly he was “illiterate” in at least four languages.

We met him at a Torres mattanza back in 85. He was still under the influence of his elder brother, Johnny, not an entirely good things. For one thing, Johnny was a criminal; for another, he was unlucky. As Marshal Larry said “You don’t steal a bag of pinions with a hole in it so it leaves a trail wherever you go.” Johnny died nominally committing a crime that was almost as ludicrous as it was heartbreaking, and Robert was never on the wrong side of the law again.

He fought the insulting nickname “Lurch” all his life, and many people, even good ones, were unaware that he detested it. I got in a real fight with a Taoseno thug whose wife was living here in the Witness Protection program for ratting out the Dixie mafia; unfortunately she always got drunk and told people about it and had to be moved. I have not been moved to fistfights for a long time. But when an out of town criminal told me he could insult my friend any time, I lost it.

Robert could do almost any kind of outdoor work. He did so for free or whatever money was available. He also hired some really peculiar Navajos. One tried to sell me the shoes he was wearing when he was drunk, and Floyd Mansell was inclined to doubt this story until the guy came to him the following week and tried to sell him his pants. And there were two who tried to have Libby cook them their liver (“stone soup?”), and one that broke into our front room and piled all the books he could find on the floor to use as a bed; the dogs who were used to drunk indians, didn’t make a fuss, and when I woke him up in the morning asked me innocently if this were not the Farr Ranch, 60 miles away and 20 miles off the pavement.

Robert could talk to all of them and explain them to us and us to them. He gradually cleaned up the alley with me, putting trash barrels out for beer cans, and barbed wire in the weeds so people could not sleep there. He traveled like Dr. Who, often wearing two coats with lots of pockets. I never saw him extract a kitten but but he did produce beer and pinion nuts from one. Once when we weren’t home, he brought in an insane Cooper’s hawk dying of aspergillosis in one of those pockets. When we didn’t appear at the door he went inside and put it in Lily the dachsund’s sleeping crate and left a beer as a sign that he was here. Needless to say, Lily refused to go in her crate that night. Imagine our surprise when we looked inside and found an irate dragon inside.

His appearance could be unusual — he often wore dreadlocks or cornrows and two large overcoats stuffed with things. Once my rather military, very precise Scottish friend Bodie rushed into the kitchen to hiss urgently “Stephen! There’s a transient sitting in your living room!” I was able to reassure him without even looking. “That’s OK, Bodie. That’s not even a transient — that’s Robert, and he’s family.”

Robert unfortunately lived with Zelma, a Navajo woman turned nasty by misfortune. There are many stories, some of which I will tell. One night she ran him through with a pitchfork and stuck him to the door. He had to be medevaced out by helicopter, which cost $30,000. I explained to the hospital that I was not responsible for him — he just had our phone number. They fortunately understood and said “That’s OK sir — this is New Mexico!”. Nevertheless, Robert generally paid his way.

He “took care of” a large extended dysfunctional* family of mostly Navajos.Such taking cars could include such unusual benefits as participation in the Annual Easter Beer Can Hunt in Roberts cluttered yard. Trouble was, they brought Alamo’s most dysfunctional social habits to town, one that destroyed easily 50 buildings in the first decade I lived here: making fire rings on wooden floors, trusting to a half inch of sand to save the floor and the house. It never did, but they were always so very COLD.

When Zelma died, Robert told me that the survival of his house depended on the mental health of Zelma’s 24 year old son Bruce.If he got sober, all would be well, but if he continued to drink he would burn the house down. It took all of 5 months for Bruce to pick option 3. Robert soon moved to Socorro where he had fewer friend’s to watch out for him, and where he died this week of complications of cirrhosis, one of which i suspect was malnutrition. It wouldn’t have happened up here I think, or not that way…

Robert’s ife was full of almost unbearable tragedy. He and his brother were pt as virtual slaves by their foster family as children. He lost that charming if ridiculous brother to a cold blooded profit murder, his regained teenage son (to suicide), two wives (these still live) , and another girlfriend, who was decapitated in a grisly car accident on the Alamo road. He mourned them deeply, then let them go. What could such a life teach but fatalism?

If the church still makes saints out of simple-minded sinners, I have a candidate for them!

*Dysfunctional? At 8:00 one morning the whole fleet of them showed up at my house, Zelma in he back of a pickup truck, screaming, on a pile of dog beds. One of the Indians told me excitedly that “Zelma just broke BOTH her legs playing poker with her cousin!” She had…

First in pictures: Torres mattanza 85; Robert in pale t-shirt.

Second set: Robert with the late Bill Smiley at Bill’s 60th birthday party “Two gentlemen of leisure at the opposite ends of the social spectrum”. Bill’s Purdey was worth approximately 14 times what Robert’s house was.