This will be one illo by Eldridge Hardie from a new collection of the works of North Dakota poet and hunter Tim Murphy. He and El gave it to me! I have been a fan of Eldridge’s work for at least as long as the old Gray’s that we both worked at existed. I brought a copy of the late Datus Proper’s Pheasants of the Mind, among my favorites of both their works, and was pleased to hear, in our too- short Denver visit, that he had also hunted with Datus. They met in Arizona for quail; Datus and I used to out of Bozeman for quick day trips after Gray partridge…

Pepe’s Art

My old pigeon partner Jose Morales y Serranno, who met his wife , an Albuquerqe native of Italian descent, returned to Sevilla after getting his PhD in English- speaking writers of the Spanish Civil War. Despite occasional political disagreements- like Pepe’s fellow traveler on the left Stephen Spender, I will never think of Roy Campbell as other than a great lyric and talented satirical poet, despite his being on the “wrong” side–I miss him. He taught me everything I know about Spanish pouters– and who else would depict a beautiful woman with my favorite breed, the English Carrier, both handsome and grotesque?

(Something minor interesting here too.The bird is depicted with a RED eye cere, like a Barb or Catalonian tumbler or the Badgdads the fanatics are killing in Syria, or even the Scanderoons (“Iskadruns”- birds of Alexander the Great), of Nuremberg do. But the English ones no longer have red ceres. I wonder if those of southern Spain, closer to Africa and their roots, do? I rather prefer the red…

Catalonian of the “Strawberry Eye” variant- a very attractive variety never imported to the US and supposedly very rare.(From Levi)

A Spanish Barb hen-I used to have these

“Iskandrun”, Alexander’s (German!) bird, in profile…

The modern endangered Syrian breeds, which resemble both their English and German relatives.I like these, too, and I bet they can FLY.

Art Show and Catalogue

“Our” art show opened in Memphis this week and by all accounts is a total success. How could it not be with walls like these?

And especially paintings like this:

!Here is the book, with my contribution. Buy it, you won’t regret it!

Thanks especially to the perfect editor and curator, Kevin Sharp; to Toby Jurovics for suggesting it to me; and for Jim Moore for providing context and more…


Jack Unruh was a fine artist who did the best, or at least the most interesting, illustrations for many magazines , especially ones of the Time- Life Group, for over 50 years. One of his last regular assignments was doing the pic for the humor column by Bill Heavey at the end of Field and Stream. Bill wrote a good remembrance of him here.

He could be surreal…

He also could see beauty in unlikely creatures. Sure, a Sandgrouse is pretty; but how many people would or could do such a delicate drawing of a Lappet- Faced Vulture? (I am pretty sure that is what it is, not a griffon!)

A few Images

Some images to hold you–we are heading up to to Santa Fe to see Pluvialis! (Perhaps better known today in our crowd as RockStar Helen,  to her embarrassment..). We’ll be back Sunday. Reid may report on their dinner in Denver later… he and Connie, Anne “Anyushka” Price and Chas and Mary attending…
And the countdown begins–this is post #3995…

Parkers: the exquisite Damascus is a del Grego restoration, unfortunately with its firing pin noses filed down on the hammers, as in Larry del Grego’s day, most Americans thought that Damsacus was unsafe. It is probably best not to know how many gorgeous guns bit the dust in the fifties and sixties (or as one fool in an early Gun Digest suggested, were THROWN INTO PONDS)…
Both guns are equipped with 30″ barrels, heavier on the sleeved gun, which is also on a heavier frame, one used for 10 gauges. It seems to have been rebuilt as a Pigeon gun; its tight pistol grip and amazinglyeven patterns at 45 measured yards, even with a light game load of an ounce of 7 1/2s, suggests this.The Damascus gun is only a little lighter — both are under 8 pounds — but they have very different sight pictures. The sleeved gun was made in 1890, and I believe the Damascus was made in 1905.
The sleeved gun also has the most amazing sight bead I’ve ever seen with parallel gold and ivory bands.

John checkers the Darne “Nameless”:

Rosanne’s drawing of the lovely but annoying (she refuses to learn to tolerate hats, a real  fault in a desert town) Esme.

Found Book

Once or twice, like any person who buys and occasionally sells books, I have  found a book on my shelves that I did not know I had.

But only once have I found a really valuable one that I had no recollection of buying, and still don’t. It happened about two “book culls” past, when I literally had books stacked two deep on some shelves. In the densely- packed Asia section, I saw the spine of this book:

It is Charles Vaurie’s Birds of the Himalayas. Now this is not an unnatural book for us to have: I have some other good regional ornithologies, and the Himalayas were Libby’s stomping grounds in her youthful Guiding days. She even had that slender pb bird guide published in Nepal in the seventies that many trekkers had back then– I think I threw it out in a fit of critical thinking, because the illos were so dreadful, every damn species  sort of blue and black and  crested and about the same size. Now I’d be likely to keep it, just for that reason.

But Vaurie was something else. First, it was a beautiful book, with plates of various Himalayan pheasants and such, including my favorite non- raptorial bird, the Satyr tragopan, But the book is better  than that. Although it was published in 1972 it has the  air and feel of something like Beebe’s Pheasants,Their Lives and Homes, published in 1926 in two volumes, or one of Meinerzhagen’s expensive productions. But it is not an arty or coffee table book , like some “collectors'” editions published today; it is a sort of Golden Age standard ornithology.

My interest grew as I looked through it. A page illustrating the mythical Garuda bird was marked by a hand- painted card of the creature, a much better illo…

And then I see the bookplate, of the former owner, and the letter, and I am even more amazed, for I know who both of them are. Despite their aristocratic European names, they, like Will Beebe and Roy Chapman Andrews, worked for the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the institution that has done more to shape my view of the world than any other, from when I was reading Beebe and Andrews at the Ames Free Library in Easton or at Jeanne d’Arc Academy in Milton (which happened also to be the childhood mansion of another old influence and in that case a friend as well, Frances Hamerstrom, who was Aldo Leopld’s only female student and who started her relationship with me by damning me for writing Rage for Falcons , fearing my “tough Sportswriter’s style”- HER words, in the Auk no less, would end up with falcons being commercially exploited, and ended up drinking brandy with me and the cowboys in the Golden Spur, in a near- ghost town where, in 1914, her mentor gave a talk on conservation to a crowd bigger than the entire population of the town today.

That thread will wind through collecting specimens and the Peregrine Fund and widowhood the Congo pygmies and even the David Letterman show, but it is a western one mostly and not the one here, which leads to Asia and Father Anderson Bakewell and the Explorers Club; to Libby and three trips to Mongolia and Kazakhstan and three books so far; and who knows what else to come?

None of this would have happened without the AMNH, and Libby knows this so I assumed she, the seasoned Himlayan guide,  had bought it for me.

But she had never seen it either…