Monday, June 27, 2016

New Poems from Tim Murphy

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.

Horseman NOT!

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.

Road Trip

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.

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Silliest and most engaging hawk we have ever had. Courts Libby continually. She is making a nest of shredded Wall St Journals behind her perch, which she tres to lure Libby into. Bathes in a cooking pot...

We have heard that baby Aplos are the only falcons with dark down. Her (more or less constant, but not unpleasant) vocalization is also different. Makes you wonder about their evo- history

A Small film of Helen

In which she says nice things about me. It is very pretty,  too...

For real substance, read this Sierra Club interview. I have a million ideas starting up just from reading it... Helen, I need to pick your brain!

Thursday, June 23, 2016


I have, to my mild shock, been elected unanimously to the post of Grand Marshall for the Magdalena Old Timers' Parade. That means I lead the parade, folks; sadly, the herd of half- wild Corriente cattle they used to drive through town ahead of it has gone the way of the street dance in the STREET, open containers, drive in windows, Juan's West Bar, and the oldest of Los Borrachos Perdidos, Monico Baca.

The position is usually a horseback one. Here is Tom Olney last year:

But I can no longer sit or control a horse easily,
 so my mind turned to thoughts of a mount. John Wilson's Triumph TR 3 came to mind, but he babies it, and would have to trailer it to town.

 Then my Scottish friend Bodie Littlejohn-- collector of cars and guns, and armor, falconer, Deerhound man, Karateka, horseman, shrink and, well, more, came to the rescue, offering his fabulous collector- fine Shelby Mustang, a car that shakes the ground when you turn on the engine. I am ecstatic, as is every fine car nut in town.

Says Bodie, "I'll drive-- you would have a hard time with the clutch anyway.Your job is to wave your hat at the pretty girls."
 I think of the last line in Tom McGuane's Crow Fair:

"Lately, I've been riding a carriage at the annual Bucking Horse Sale like an old timer, which I guess s what I'm getting to be."

Summer Woodcock

Georgia friend Gil Stacy has more sense than we did when I hunted Woodcock: he keeps some for the summer mushroom harvests... chanterelles in this case.
Also notice the color of the cut flesh. Like all good Woodcock (and snipe) cooks, he
sort of passes them through a very hot oven. I get tired of hearing how dark- fleshed birds "taste like liver"- good LIVER doesn't taste like liver when it is cooked rare, turned over quickly in hot bacon fat and butter. My disgusted French- born gourmand friend Guy de la Valdene, after he read an American recipe for woodcock that involved two cans of cream of mushroom soup and an hour and a half in the oven, wrote (in Making Game in 1990): "As this recipe negates the whole reason for killing the birds in the first place, why not take it a step further and poach the Woodcock overnight in equal parts of catsup, pabulum, and Pepto- Bismol."

 I need to hunt Woodcock again before I die.  First pic below by Betsy Huntington from 1976, with her Parker 16, in Easton MA in the coverts I grew up in, no longer open to hunting but mercifully preserved from development as a park; second Bar Mills ME, 1987, the year after her death, in a place I still hope to hunt again, with Bart and Darne.

Incidentally, the greatest (and most undeserved ) compliment as a cook I ever had was by Russ Chatham at his old place in Deep Crick, when he and Libby and Guy and I had whipped up something impromptu and good.All I remember now was that it had sweetbreads- Guy I think-- and Risott', from me. Russ suddenly burst out with "This is so good I wish I had FOUR cook stations so we could all cook at once, all the time!" Russ is an emotional half- Italian like me, and  think it was the magical wine from his legendary cellar talking, the best I have ever had, usually with labels falling off. Surely Jim Harrison would have been a better fourth cook. But I will take my compliments when I get 'em....


Raymond Scully checked in to tell me he was doing the reading for the Audible Edition's version of Hounds.

I was delighted, because Raymond had previously read for Eagle Dreams, and had done an incredible job. He studies the manuscript minutely, and asks me about any pronunciation he has doubts about. This time, he sent me some photos of the work in progress so I could understand how he did it. Here they are, and a picture of Raymond toasting me afterwards. As he said "Namaste" AND "Bismillah!" And, yes, after Central Asian custom, I'm doing the second with vodka.

It's a book!

The Hounds of Heaven is a book, though I have not seen it yet...

Good thoughts and prayers for George please, who is in a critical point of his chemo.Get better and get out here!

Sunday, June 12, 2016


After a slightly exhausting week, the much - postponed party finally straggled in to Reid and Connie's country manse in Parker CO  on Saturday. Not every one could make it (Smokey Paul and Lynne met us at a Santa Fe highway exit to hand over a pistol for Carlos --  we still live in a free country where a poet can hand a handgun to a writer to pass to an ornithologist, and pass it through three states, all legally!)

I am not sure what the "Theme" of the party might have been-- probably NOT blogging, though it had brought some of us together. But only Reid, Arthur, and me met primarily that way. Andy Wilson has known Libby from Outward Bound days, 40 years and more. Many of the others were members of what Carlos  and the (absent ) Gerry Cox facetiously call the  "Sewing Circle", a bunch of writers, academics and artists fascinated with fine guns. Guy Boyd, who is holding the iconic Purdey, came down from Fort Collins; our first contact was through birds I think, as he flies a pursuit Gyr named Darwin, but I have also worked editing his yet unsold thriller ms. Chas Clifton blogs at Nature Blog, but we have known each other forever; he went to Reed College with Tom McIntyre, is a retired professor of English literature and comparative religion,  knew "Seasonal" writer Ed Engle (who once remarked after a hike in the San Mateos that we had seen a redtail catch a squirrel, but "if it had been twenty yeas ago, we might have seen Mescalito!", and, if memory serves me right, first read me in the rather odd venue of Chronicles, in a nature- themed issue put together by Chilton Williamson and his legendary damned Patagonian conures!

Themes were guns, books, ideas, and food, plus a standing desk of splendid oak for me (thanks to Laramie based novelist Brad Watson); horses (Akhal Tekes) and dogs (Aussies- ours had stayed home) and a little mostly Chihuahua named Rainbow. And GRILLED MEAT-- thanks especially to Carlos, and to Arthur for bringing lovely chile- flavored booze for a marinade.

And of course the Purdey, which is exquisite, not just the finest for its price but one of the finest hammer Purdeys I have ever handled. But, contrary to what everyone seems to think, despite my trade goods and its relatively good price, I do NOT have the full price yet. Perhaps, as the Nature Conservancy's Matt Miller suggests, I should swallow my pride, and try a little crowdfunding-- it looks like now or never... ideas, please!

This set all by Andy W:
Chas sights Broomie with Steve & Carlos in enthusiastic discussion behind

The younger set--Arthur and gunsmith Adam (not in this set, brother Oliver)

Novelist Brad Watson (check his new book on Amazon), Carlos, Steve

Reid with MEAT

We do love our food-- and guns ...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Purdeys and such

Gun nuts are persistent, and nobody is leaving me in peace about the Purdey, so ONE more post, mostly a reply to my old Canadian friend "Lucas Machias".

I DID have a hammer Grant, a near equivalent and an original, not a restored gun, which I foolishly-- since it cost a lot less- let go-- will not do THAT again =(:-0)

I also owned Lord Dunraven's 16 bore Woodward, which sounds better than it was- an utterly clapped out gun that the late Bill Smiley bought for $600 in Phoenix, with a soft oil- soaked 13 inch DOWN pitched stock with a vented pad and a white line spacer,  and 26" sleeved barrels. I couldn't hit the ground, or a barn if I were inside, with it; Terry Weiland wrote a piece about a dove hunt at Bill's in the month after 9- 11 with it, in Gray's, and graciously credits me with more birds than I shot. He, with I think his custom Arrieta, and Bill with his "modern" Beasley patent hammerless self- opener Purdey (made in 1912), shot the most, and the late Armand Romano, a retired Brooklyn Homicide detective, shooting a custom Model 12 pump 20 with beautiful dark wood, told Bill's wife Linda he had shot them all.

 The cheapest quote I could get on restocking was $3000; the cheapest on rebarreling was 12,000 POUNDS, and Purdey refused to do it, saying the gun was not worth the barrels. The guy who had it after me, buying it for 3000 from Glenn Baker (who subsequently sold me my lovely .410) spent TWENTY SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS restoring it. It is beautiful, but since this is more than I paid for my house and most expensive car together (I know, I live in a poor rural community), I think that is beyond my pay grade.

I also owned a graceful Holland and Holland "Dominion" back action sidelock 16 that was often in the shop, which I sold to help pay Jackson's St John's tuition one year-- no regrets.

That is my London gun history, if you don't count a Grant hammer 16 that I kept long enough to refinish the stock but which had barrels so badly pitted I could never quite dare to fire it (it was very old, and I believe it was a pinfire conversion...)

I have no time to blog right now, but knowing all about gun mania will do this ONE post on the Purdey and related matters. Then NO MORE TIL AFTER THE PARTY!

Purdey 12, made in 1885, 30" barrels, 6 1/2 pounds,  14 3/4 " LOP, cast off, in proof for 2 3/4" loads; PERFECT:

Saturday, May 21, 2016

I'll be back!

The Blog Party will be at Reid's in Parker, CO, east of Denver, the weekend of June 11. Regular blogging will then resume. I couldn't have quit if I wanted to with all the response!

Health continues iffy: PD under control at the moment, but apparently a bad case of spinal stenosis is next on my plate. Meanwhile, in one of those ironies that life hands us, I have found an excellent affordable Purdey.

One thing I must note in this quick reference: the death of Herb Wells, greatest coursing photographer who ever lived, in his eighties, in Alpaugh CA. If Dan  Belkin was responsible for founding that odd colony, Herb kept it alive, and was its soul. Here are just a few images to remember...

The last 3 are a sequence; the hare flips, and runs away

Saluki Lahav's greatest catch, in front of three GOOD greyhounds

"The most sensitive hare portraits I know are done by an old saluki man in southern California-- just shots of peaceful jacks." Me, in an old blog post here...