Sunday, July 17, 2016

"James Bond's Armourer"

Geoffrey Boothroyd really did write me on Model 12 Winchesters. He also really held that "position"- a critical letter to Ian Fleming on guns, early in the series, led to Fleming's whimsically writing him into the books as a character.
With Fleming, early in his career.
Here is the Winchester letter. He later provided an intro to John Hill. "Johnny UK", who became a good friend, over our mutual interests in Darnes.


























Of course it was a young and beautiful Betsy who, with Joan van Ness, attended a wild party at Goldeneye, Fleming's Jamaica estate. Everybody knows everybody.

Interactive Olgii

Belatedly (because of TOO MUCH GOING ON the past few weeks), an unusual interactive video of eagle hunters in Olgii, courtesy of local reader James Cherry. If I were to guess,. I would say it is on the hill on the east side of valley, south of Olgii town, near where Manai used to live...

That scene of the meal makes me positively nostalgic.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Fine Shotguns: A Review

Subtitled The History, Science, and Art of the Finest Shotguns from Around the World,  John Taylor's big- format paperback from Skyhorse is both more ambitious and far more difficult a task than it might appear to be, and for the most part he has succeeded splendidly. No, that's not fair; he HAS succeeded; that is to say, I have minor disagreements with him, of opinion not fact;  I might emphasize a few things he doesn't; and I would recommend this book to anyone who is beginning to untangle the mysteries of shotguns, without reservations. At the moment, it is the best "Freshman course" on fine doubles around, especially if you are an American, and I suspect it will be the standard for some time to come.

 What rivals does it have? Johnny Barsness's Shotguns for Hunting is a great book, and I wouldn't be without it. It is the best and most general book on what shotguns are, how they work, and how to use each kind for the proper game that exists, but it is about ALL shotguns, as its title suggests, while Fine Shotguns is about what Libby calls the pretty ones: double guns, both side by side and over and under. Only a few repeaters are so much as mentioned - the Ithaca 37, its predecessor the Remington 17, and the legendary Winchester Model 12, a gun that the late Geoffrey Boothroyd, "James Bond's Armourer", once wrote me was more esthetic in his eyes than the far more expensive Model 21 double, the favorite shotgun of Hemingway and O'Connor, committing a sacrilege in the eyes of many Americans. But my father, an artist AND a hunter, sold his Model 21 and kept his 16 gauge Model 12 and his Browning Sweet 16. .John Barsness now says: "...my favorite Chukar gun thse days is the 6 1/4 pound 16- gauge Model 12 pump I bought from Steve Bodio a few seasons ago....This little 16 is also my favorite early season sharptail and Prairie chicken gun", and adds (not in the book) that it handles "like a Purdey"." It  doesn't, actually, but this is the kind of superlative the old Winchesters tend to attract.

I must tell you a few more things this book is NOT, to tell you what its virtues are, as almost all my other modern gun books, good ones, often by friends, fall into certain categories. It is not a specialized monograph, not a book on just Purdeys or just Bosses or  just Parkers or LC Smiths or "British Boxlocks" (Diggory Hadoke) or "Spanish Bests" (Terry Wieland). Nor is at detailed look at a kind of technical aspect of guncraft, like Vic Venters' book of that name, or any of Steven Dodd Hughes' books. It is not even a buyer's manual. telling you how to pick a good British gun for yourself for a reasonable price -- reasonable price by today's standards -- like Terry's Vintage British Shotguns or Diggory's Vintage Guns for the Modern Shot. It is certainly not a textbook for the obsessed, showing tiny details of vintage gun construction, like Braden and Adams' Lock, Stock, and Barrel. I have every one of these books and again would not be without them. And not ONE , except possibly Barsness's, would be of the slightest use to a beginner. They all automatically assume a level of knowledge that most people simply don't have, so they start collecting shotguns and making expensive mistakes.

I started my shotgun training in the late 60s and early 70s. I had mentors -- the late Callanan brothers of Cambridge, Massachusetts -- and read Gun Digest and O'Connor and Keith. They taught me a lot, but only the Callanans were reliable oracles. Betsy Huntington later said that we should have bought a Purdey and a Boss back then and been done with it. Instead, we traded through perhaps a hundred guns, gaining our education but losing a lot of money.

Very few books that came along in those years were worth the price. Don Zutz, a quirky Michiganer, wrote two books that were more right than wrong. A Missouri school teacher, Michael McIntosh, before he became a white-bearded eminence, wrote a modest book called The Best Double Guns Ever Made in America. I eventually tried my hand at it myself (too soon), producing Good Guns and Good Guns Again. Zutz's books and mine were full of mistakes; McIntosh seems to have survived the ravages of time better. This book is in their spirit, but is better and more accurate than any of them.

Fine Shotguns briefly defines what a high-grade shotgun is, then covers America's best doubles; Britain's finest, with a heavy emphasis on London guns; the Continent, not counting Spain and Italy, which have their own section; such arcana as hammerguns, smallbores, and pairs. He then lays out all the parts, pieces, and features of a shotgun -- stocks, fit, checkering, barrels, finishing; tells you why a bespoke shotgun is special; he tells you how to shoot a fine shotgun and what kind of ammo to use, the good implication being that you WILL shoot your shotgun. He talks about care and gunsmithing. And finally, he deals with that fraught subject, shopping for one.

Necessarily, such a book will be broad, but perhaps a bit shallow. If it wasn't, it would be six inches thick, cost $500, and no one would buy it. Instead, Skyhorse has given us a 240 page, high- quality paperback, printed in China, for $35, which probably would have saved me five figures had I had it around in 1975. Buy it.

Uncontacted





Andaman Islanders perhaps?

Friday, July 15, 2016

Pre-review

I read Larry Millman's At the End of the World: A True Story of Murder in the Arctic, a few months ago, and was so impressed I immediately gave him him  a blurb. I didn't give it any more thought until checked today to see when it was coming out, and he told me they were using my quote in its promotion. I checked it out on Amazon, thought about it, and decided to use the quote to convince everyone to pre-buy it .

Larry has been lots of places, including to Pacific islands, but is best known for his arctic writing (Bruce Chatwin called him "Eskimo".) This book may be his best. The quote?

"Larry Millman’s At the End of the World is many things: a loving description of Inuit life; an account of the end of the world that has already happened; and a jeremiad against the computer, all told in a voice that is a cross between the dark aphorisms of E M Cioran and the timeless portraits in Chatwin’s The Songlines. In it you will learn that Thoreau is the only person in the afterlife without a computer, and see a carving of Donald Duck, with the detailed body of an Eider. Read it and weep for the Old Ways that we have lost.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Old Timer's

Nothing amiss- the camera ran out of juice just as Libby was beginning to take photos, and we are awaiting others' pics.  Here are a few, some "stolen" from Linda Smiley's newsletter.


Cousin Nina McCabe and Holly Hagay, Ghost riders


Me & Bodie in Shelby Mustang. John L Moore says " Still a rascal after all thee years.."

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Old dog

The tragic thing about Scottish deerhounds is their short life span- even HALF deerhounds, like my old dog Riley (left), may only live nine years.

His brother Ruffus, even bigger- he killed an antelope once- lived to only eight.
So it is with great pleasure that I announce the thirteenth birthday of Margory Cohen's Stella. She looks great, too. Congratulations to you both...


Friday, July 01, 2016

Gunny in native dress

Gunny, Tina Garfield's Anatolian, is the biggest dog we know, bigger even than other flock protection dogs.  Libby used  to weigh him on the postal  scales when he was a  baby. He thinks he still  fits on it.

 Tina just got him a proper Turkish dress collar. He doesn't quite know  what to make of it...


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Indian Vultures

I wrote soberly on the Indian Vulture crisis years ago in the Atlantic.

They continued to decline; nobody gives a damn about serious whiny articles.

Today, my friend Jemima "Mima" Parry Jones, daughter of the grand old falconer Philip Glasier, sent me this YouTube piece of pro- vulture propaganda, and I am envious- it will likely be a lot more effective.

Mima is unusual- I am reminded of the remark, which sounds like one of Osxar Wilde's epigrams, that in friendship , it is best to begin with a little aversion...

We were staying at Jonathan Kingdon's near Oxford when  he decided we MUST se Mima's original  Bird of Prey Center on the west coast of England (on a day trip- I will never get over the scale of England). I was a little dubious - I had heard she did not approve of some things I had written-- but the chance to see all those birds was irresistible.

We  had fun exploring the park- it is where  I first encountered the African Crowned eagle I mentioned below. We also played with an Andean Condor who seemed fascinated with Jonathan's car keys.
But finaly the time came to meet the proprietor. Jonathan ushered me into the office where she sat behind her desk and began "This is Stephen Bodio. He wrote.."

She interrupted him : I KNOW what he fucking wrote. He's the cunt who write 'The English have nothing to teach us but history!' "

She glared at me  for a moment longer, as though to be sure I had heard her properly; then stood to shake my hand with a  dazzling smile. "Glad to meet you! Let's go and see my birds."

I don't think she ever uttered a critical word in my direction again, but I am not sure Jonathan ever got over his shock..

 As for Mima, perhaps the last word should go to Merliner Emeritus, naturalist, poet, and former schoolmaster John Loft. In  his local pub, over good peaty Scotch whisky and steak and kidney pie, on a foggy unseasonably cold  May night, I told him this story. He shook his head and said: "Stephen, if you think SHE has a mouth that could take your hide off, you should have known her father."
Mima, the Duke, and her father many years ago

John Loftt with falcon topiary in his garden; hawking with Tim Galllagher.

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

Esmeralda

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

Parade

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

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

Party!

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 ...