Gotcha!

I was convinced that Dave Petzal was wrong when he declared  categorically that nothing favorable to hunting had ever come out of the New Yorker.

I was cautious because, you know, DAVID IS NEVER WRONG. When I was writing Good Guns, I made a less than reverent remark about John Moses Browning. A note came back in the next post (it was before email) saying simply “Consider in the bowels of Christ that thou mayst be wrong!” It was a quote from Cromwell. Although it showed a certain audacity to quote Cromwell to a half Irish writer, he was right.

But something kept nagging me. I was walking past my bookcase when my eyes fell on my first edition copy of Vance Bourjai5tgfrly’s 1968 book on bird shooting, The Unnatural Enemy. I was doing something else so threw it to Libby and said “See if it has a New Yorker reference!” It did indeed. On the  page after the title page it said “The Goose Pits, and my title chapter, The Unnatural Enemy, appeared originally in The New Yorker.

From my Sportsman’s Library: “It is important to know that The Unnatural Enemy first came out in 1963, because although its essence is timeless, it might not exist in the form that it does were it not for a fortuitous convergence of disparate forces. Which is to say: It is a book about bird hunting, a large part of which appeared in the New Yorker, which is illustrated by the impeccably urban David Levine and haunted by Hemingway’s brand-new ghost, and the publishers seem to think the reader will find all this perfectly normal.”

 

 

Johnny Barsness on Murder etc

He NAILS  it; :

“My observation was the deaths of those magazines were predictable. When F&S and OL (and to lesser extent Sports Afield) were the “Big Three” of the “outdoor” market, they all covered not just hunting AND fishing, but firearms, boating, camping, etc. Some were also stories of a day or week afield.

Their market started to erode when specialty magazines on all those subjects started to appear, whether for general hunting, or specialties such as flyfishing, canoeing, rifles, shotguns, or whatever. This started happening in the late 80s and early 90s, and as a result mediocre writers who knew a lot about such specialties attracted more readers.

The other obvious trend was TV shows, videos and eventually Internet shows. These are easier for many reading-challenged hunters and anglers to comprehend, though bore the shit out of a lot of us.

The other problem was that the editorial staffs of the so-called Big Three became arrogant, because they thought they “owned” the market. But F&S and OL declined in part because for many years they refused to hire any editor who wouldn’t come to an office in downtown New York City every day. Thus they eliminated more and more hunters, anglers, etc. who actually lived and hunted, fished, etc. Ted Trueblood is a good example. He worked in the NYC office for a while, but said the hell with it and moved back to Idaho.

I was actually interviewed for the editorship of Outdoor Life in the late 1990s. A “head hunter” put me on the list, and even though I wasn’t much interested, they talked me into flying to NYC for an interview. 

Even by that time it was entirely possible to edit a magazine without coming into a NYC (or wherever) office every day–which is how I’d edited Gray’s from Montana. But the best they could offer is to “consider” allowing me to live in the Catskills, because (as the main company guy, who’d never actually hunted  

I know some of this due to being a staff writer for F&S in the 1990s, when they continued to decline–partly due to being sold to bigger companies. The editor was also a corporation guy who thought he owned the writers. By 2000 I was making as much money writing for more specialized magazines, from Rifle to National Geographic, so quit.

Something of the same thing has happened with books. Many authors realized how much they were getting screwed by traditional publishing houses, so started self-publishing.” 

WordPress Problems; New Masthead

I think that WordPress is THE hardest piece of software that I have ever “Handled.”Among its other faults it consistently puts stuff in the wrong place.

Nevertheless, the Good Karen Meyer in her role as  She Who Must Be Obeyed tells me I must use it for a little while yet, so I am trying not to be driven crazy.

Meanwhiles I’m adding three  friends of the blog  to the masthead.

Firdst, “Sea Run” , of Nova Scotia,  is the most talented and prolific aggregator of natural history, fieldsports, science,  and art I know anywhere.

My old mentor john Burchard, now living in California’s Central Valley, is a polymath indeed. He was born in Burlington Mass,  got his degrees from Princeton, then did a postdoc under Konrad Lorenz at the Max Planck. He worked in West Africa, and then became the ecologist for  Aramco back when Arabia was “real”.  He kept and hunted with salukis and falcons in the  wild back country for many years, and I can confidently say he has forgotten more about them than anybody else has ever known.

And Reid Farmer, who was also on the old version, is a contract anthropologist with a strong interest in Paleolithic America, who blogs from Denver.

Evil Racist Rock Destroyed in Wisconsin

Sent by Kirk Hogan, surely a liberal if the word means anything.

Surely this is a joke or an Onion parody. It seems that a large racist rock has been identified, “cancelled” and destroyed at the request of students at the University of Wisconsin. The poor “glacial erratic” had done nothing but it was condemned to broken up and erased.

It had been named “Chamberlin Rock”, without an “a” but I still thought that perhaps it was associated with Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the 19th-century philosopher  beloved of Nazis and the Draka, which would have at least indicated some process of thinking was going on, but NOOO! Nothing so literate was intended:

“Chamberlin Rock, which had sat on Observatory Point since 1925, was named after Thomas Chamberlin, a geologist and former university president who served from 1887 to 1892.”

“A 1925 Wisconsin State Journal article used the n-word as part of a nickname for the giant boulder.”
So because some idiots called it “N Word Rock” it had to be DESTROYED?
A more useless example of a waste of time and money is hard to imagine…

Eldridge Hardie R.I.P.

I did not know  Eldridge  Hardie well but for years he did superb illustrations of traditional field sports,like bird hunting and fly fishing for many of my friends.

I particularly envied the late  Datus Proper, a man who died casting flies into Hyalite Creek, and who had a portrait of his beautiful little dark pointer bitch that he used to illustrate his chapter of “A Pointer of the Veronese School” in his book Pheasants of the Mind, not to mention an accurate drawing of his Woodward gun.

 

I didn’t get to meet Eldridge until last year, when he was illustrating books for my  friend. the poet Tim Murphy, who also wrote eloquent poetry about bird hunting. Tim had written a poem about me and my hawks and he wondered if this would be adequate as it was his first picture of a Goshawk. I was stunned at how good it was. Though there were no Goshawks in the book, I immediately decided that I had to buy it. Although the price was $650,   he gave it to me! This generosity of heart to a mere acquaintance is not a common thing.

Eldridge died a few months ago. He will be missed by sportsmen, readers, and artists, and many friends. I think I’m going to ask the painter Tom Quinn for a quote about him. I know he was an admirer.

 

 

 

Murder or Mercy Killing 3

The Nature Conservancy’s Matt Miller, is one of the most innovative writers around. His book  Fishing Through the Apocolypse  includes tales of fishing for minnows,. Here he says everything I wanted to say, and more :

“I have a similar feelings. My dad, almost 80, has been in disbelief and perhaps mourning. He has read both of these magazines (plus Sports Afield) for his entire life. He is at best a casual outdoorsman; he enjoys deer camping, plinking guns, a walk in the woods, but could hardly be considered serious. Still, he read every issue of the “big 3” cover to cover. My grandfathers, both very serious hunters, also read them. One worked in factories and one on the railroads. Both had houses with bookshelves and piles of magazines. One had an 8th grade education, he rarely if ever hunted outside his county, and yet those magazines were a great source of enjoyment.

 

“I think this hints to a perhaps a deeper change that is affecting magazines like Outdoor Life and Field & Stream. You will not find this now. I say this with no disrespect to factory workers, but if you go in a factory worker’s home today, you are very, very unlikely to find a stack of magazines or a bookshelf. It would be rare for me to go into a friend’s home in my youth and not see Outdoor Life. Today the opposite is true.

 

“I have many thoughts on this, most of them probably useless. Why did these 2 venerable magazines go away? Partly for predictable reasons. I see it as similar as to other news and magazine publishing. A combination of declining readership plus corporate management is deadly. Faced with declining readership, the corporate owners cut stories that ensure the readership declines even more rapidly. Short-term profit is valued over loyalty to readers or building a better publication. I could see this happening with Outdoor Life and F&S; the publications went to a quarterly schedule, there were fewer features, etc.

 

“A recent story I read about baseball made the point that the league “was abandoning a declining but loyal fan base in favor of a larger, younger but entirely theoretical fan base.” I think this applies to outdoor magazines as well.

 

“Overlooked in many analyses is a trend I see in outdoor sports: The shift from hunting and fishing as being a part of life to being a “brand lifestyle.” This may make sense only to me, I recognize. But it’s real. Thinking again to my grandparents, hunting and fishing were woven into the fabric of their rural lives. They were generalists. They hunted and fished a lot, and for a variety of reasons. But they weren’t “brand ambassadors.” They almost never even took photos of their times outside. They owned a good rifle, good boots and a Woolrich coat, but they didn’t buy much.

 

“Very central to the outdoor experience was the story. This cannot be overstated. Hunters like my grandfathers grew up valuing a good story. So, even though they may not go hunting in Alaska, they still loved a yarn spun by Russell Annabel.

 

“Certainly stories will always be central to hunting and fishing, but the telling has changed.  Now a story is “curated” for social media, with matching $1,500 camouflage outfits, bloodless quarry, a perfect scenic backdrop. The story takes a backseat to merchandising. And not to sound like an old grumpy guy, but there is a degree of arrogance demanded by this format. Whereas I grew up idolizing outdoor writers, now it is most important to portray yourself as being the original trailblazer. I went to a lecture by a well-known personality who specializes in hunting for food, someone who has undoubtedly done good things in this regard. But I was struck by how he actually believed he INVENTED game cookery. He made statements about him popularizing squirrel! I grew up eating squirrel, as did nearly everyone I knew in central Pennsylvania (and other regions of the US).

 

“Related is specialization. I think general outdoor magazines were ultimately doomed in this environment where outdoor interests are very, very specialized. Again, my friends and neighbors growing up may have lived for deer season, but they would still read about African safaris and survival adventure stories. Now, whitetail hunting itself (which I love) has become almost unrecognizable, with food plots, endless trail cameras, stands, scoring systems, etc. So if you run a story on beagles, the whitetail nut is completely disinterested. If you try to cater to the whitetail guy, then there is very little for someone like me. In fact, Outdoor Life was going this way, a fact remarked on by my friends and relatives who are still readers.

 

“II would be impossible to overstate the influence these magazines had on me. Before I could read, I would spend endless hours with them. My family did not consist of travelers. It was these magazines who ignited that in me. I wanted to go to Africa, to the Amazon. In high school, I would read and reread everything Tom McIntyre wrote. I would study his stories on rat shooting and alligators and the unpleasant people you encounter on safaris. I wanted to follow in his footsteps. And while my life and career went in a slightly different direction, the influence is still there. I am likely the only employee of a non-hunting conservation organization with a taxidermied kangaroo that I shot (actually, not even many hunting writers can likely make this claim), but it works for me.”

 

Murder or Mercy Killing 2

I have heard only from Tom MacIntyre and Dave Petzal so far but I have been firmly corrected. Not on my central thesis- that something historically important has happened, and nobody is paying attention—- but  on the specific and real facts of the matter, which my memory had totally screwed up. What is more, I  was so sure of myself that I didn’t even do any research.

Dave wrote:

Tom: I think Steve needs to check his facts.

Field & Stream (not Field and Stream) was begun in 1895. Outdoor Life was started in 1898. This is a lot longer than 75 years.

The last paper issue for each appeared in June, 2020. In the case of F&S, it was the magazine’s 125th anniversary issue. 

Angus Cameron was indeed Jack O’Connor’s Editor at Knopf. He did not edit or publish Al McClane, who was published by Holt, Rinehart, & Winston. I doubt that  HRW would sell Knopf reprint rights. What does Steve mean Cameron “got O’Connor into” the NYT and The New Yorker?” Neither of those publications would touch a gun book wearing rubber gloves. When? Cite.

Both magazines continue to publish websites, and F&S, at least, is putting out regular complete issues, albeit electronically. They no longer exist in their historic forms, but they do exist. 

The transmogrification of magazines from paper to 01010101 has been going on for years now, and I have no doubt will continue. What we are looking at is the greatest transformation in reading since Guternberg arrived. “

I thanked him humbly,  and resolved to put in the corrections,as I am doing here.But I thought I had him on one thing: Angus Cameron, Jack’s editor, was a friend of mine in his old age, and  I had  a copy of a certain letter.

Unfortunately, it didn’t say what book they were talking about. Tom replied:

“February 12, 1938, brief, lukewarm–Jack didn’t write it tough enough–review in The New Yorker, pg. 75, of O’Connor’s Boom Town.  No Rifle Book yet.”

Then:  “Bingo!  April 26, 1947, Hunting in the Rockies, review, The New Yorker, pg. 99.”

Dave was merciless: “No, I said firmly. A gun book is about guns, such as The Hunting Rifle, and says so in the title. That’s what I mean. “

Tom: “I take your point; it just seems a little blanket to me, that’s all.  The New Yorker not only reviewed “Giving up the Gun” by Noel Perrin–a history of the Japanese voluntary rejection of firearms in favor of the more elitist sword, until Commodore Perry got them to change their minds–they also ran a good bit of it before the book’s publication.  Something like the New Yorker archive is a cruel mistress.  She does not respond to demands, but must be approached with suasion.  I guess I’m saying, it maybe not be impossible, but highly improbable that they did not slip up somewhere, sometime, and let a piece on guns, or a review of a gun book, get into print.

Tom: “Just so I understand, The New Yorker has never published a review of a book about guns?”

Dave: “This is impossible for me to answer. I would have to check back to 1925, and read every issue. I can’t imagine them doing it, as guns are…distasteful. I checked to see if they had reviewed Chris Chivers’ The Gun, since it’s history, and he works for the NY Times, but no. Nice people don’t own guns, or use them, or read about them..”

Enough. I am still going to miss those magazines….

Steve Wright R.I.P.

Steve Wright was my friend, and one of the most contrary people I ever knew. He was born in Georgia, a self – described””Redneck” from a respectable background, a tattooed biker who rode a Harley and dipped snuff. He was also a confirmed Socialist politically (the only other hillbilly socialist I know is the musician Steve Earle, who remind sme a little of Steve.).

Steve W  had a good act . He had a PhD in biology, and  had bee the Game Commissioner 0f two states, Idaho and Vermont. He was also the president of Sterlnng Colleege, where Anniee Proulx and I ran the Wildbranch Writing Workshop for  almost a decade.

I remember one speech he gave where he brought all  his contradictions together. He had just had brain surgery, and  was not at all shy . t. He got up to the podium in his leather jacket and straw cowboy hat, spat into his ever- present  spit ,up,  and introduced himself, saying “I ain’t drunk. I just had half my BRAIN removed, which I guess qualifies me to be president of this college!”

He visited us in Bozeman after the Sturgis bike rally once,  and a busybody neighbor called the cops and told them we were harboring a meth dealer. The cop was amused to see that , instead, he was the President of Sterling.)

I lost track of Steve ,and was trying to get back in touch with him when I found out that he had died, “with” Parkinson’s. ” I was suspicious , as  I always am when I see that locution. People don’t  ever die from Parkinson’s; they always die “WITH  Parkinson’s.

Years before I met him, I had read a piece in theGray’s slushpile I by Steve, called “How To Shoot Your Dog.” It was really a rather kindly piece, advocating that you kill your dog when she has become old and feeble  by shooting her in the back of the head when she is on her last great point.

But it bothered me; the dog might never feel a thing, but what about the hunter’s memories? I said to Lib, “I bet this guy kills himself someday”.

I would rather remember happier times, watching Steve  admire e a rare e 2 trigger 16  bore very early Browning Superposed that belonged to a woman he knew., or clog dancing with the poet Janisse Ray, the  Swamp Witch.

Murder, Mercy Killing, or Suicide??

Last month, two of the most important outdoor magazines ever, Outdoor Life and Field and Stream ceased to exist. They might hang around in some electronic form or other for a while, but make no mistake; they are gone. They covered the outdoor scene for seventy-five years or more, with Field and Stream doing the upscale end of the scene and Outdoor Life the blue collar. Despite this, everybody read both of them.  They featured writers who, at least in their time, became famous. These included Robert Ruark, Corey Ford, Jack O’Connor, Gene Hill, Lee Wulff, AJ McLean, and many others.

Angus Cameron, the legendary editor at Knopf, published many of these writers in the Knopf Borzoi series. He was Jack O’Connor’s editor and got his Rifle Book into the New Yorker and the New York Times. The writer’s names were household words, in a way that never seemed to happen in magazines on other subjects. And now we don’t even get an announcement of their deaths in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.

These magazines taught several generations of boys not only how to be sportsmen, but how sportsmen should act. And now they’re gone. I do not understand this. Is it that all their fans are dying or dead? It is certainly very not a desirable demographic. I have a theory that something is happening to all paper magazines. I will examine this in the next two weeks, and ask the opinions of a few veteran “Outdoor Writers”, including Hal Herring, Tom McIntyre, John Barsness, Matt Miller, Jim Babb, Terry Wieland, and Seth Norman— some very different perspectives. And more, and worse…