Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Out of place?

Last week, on a hot late summer day, Libby noticed an unusual butterfly feeding on the back yard flowers, so placidly she was able to get me out to photograph it. It was the color of a Luna moth but obviously a butterfly; the raised, leaf- like ribs on its wings had me wondering if it were a "stage" in leaf- mimicry.

White Angled-Sulphur
Anteos clorinde

I asked John Wilson (who knew what it was) to send it in "officially", and received the word that it was the first record in Socorro county and a rare one for this subtropical species in New Mexico.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Exhausted, happy, SLOW.

I will not attempt to get everything out immediately. Suffice for now to say that the "gathering of the clans" was a success, and that we all had fun. Jim blogged our night at Malcolm's signing here. More photos:

 A Central Asian dinner, with Russians metaphorical and real:
And art, and guns, and TALK (quoting Jim: "... endlessly fascinating and wide ranging conversion; writing and writers (good, bad, and obnoxious), falconry, guns, pigeons, more guns, food, wine, and music. A woefully incomplete list of topics I can recall that were mentioned or discussed included: Annie Dillard, the post-punk band Mission of  Burma, mushroom hunting, Johnny Cash, the eccentric Oxford naturalist Jonathan Kingdon, Remington Model 8 rifles,  Mauser Broomhandles (especially regarding the merits of the 7.63 Mauser cartridge over the 9mm Luger chambering), Annie Proulx, the 1903 Mannlicher Schoenaur rifle, technical details (that were beyond my ken) of evolutionary biology of horses, dinosaurs, birds and lizards..."



Eating a well done steak is not unlike eating an alarm clock.

- Russell Chatham, Mountain Mallards

Tuesday, September 09, 2014


Off to Denver for a reading by Malcolm Brooks, for Painted Horses. Not sure if, this fall, I might  not take a short or long break, as things get more physically difficult and slow, as work gets shunted to the side by more ephemeral writing. ??

Bear with me, and wish me luck...

Literary Quote

In art, one is not compelled to choose sides, one poet or novelist at the expense of another. Beckett and Larkin are not mutually exclusive tastes. One feels no pressure to be consistent. Aesthetic love is promiscuous without being unfaithful. One loves Swift and Henry James, Italo Svevo and Barbara Pym. Rigorous consistency in matters of art suggests provinciality and poverty of imagination.

Patrick Kurp

No Boletes

Our strange hot year and its half broken drought left us no boletes. Below, Bear Trap campground in the San Mateos this weekend, and (see tree for position) 2006.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014


I actually don't know many mushroomers; in southern New Mexico, just we and the Armijos, and the blogger MDMN and his wife at Sometimes Far Afield; and since they moved to Roswell we don't even see them that often. It is a mixed blessing; no "mushroom jams" at the side of the Forest Service roads, no need for secrecy or misdirection. On the other hand, mushroomers tend to be scholarly as well as seriously interested in the outdoors; the Massachusetts contingent was heavy with writers; Larry Millman, Elio Schecter, Monty Montgomery. The late hunting writer Norm Strung was our mushroom guru in Montana. I miss the conversation , and have to do it online instead.

Our good friend Chas Clifton is an exception;  we have known him and his beautiful wife Mary in real as well as virtual space forever. They live in the Wet Mountains of Clorado, not a bad place at all for foraging. Recently, Chas wrote a piece called "Would you eat Amanita if David Arora cooked it?"

I answered with a hearty "Yes!" Arora is the author of the only utterly indispensable book on identifying North American mushrooms, Mushrooms Demystified; my tattered and note- filled copy is a prized possession. (Look it up in Amazon, link not working right now).

It was a bit of a cheat, because I knew Chas was talking about the mushroom above, Amanita muscaria, and I would certainly eat it, as nothing in the world looks like it; the other "edible" Amanitas look so much like the deadly species that I would have to ask even Arora to justify them!

Chas led his readers to Fat of the Land, where Langdon Cook enjoys a dinner of muscaria cooked by Arora, with no ill effects. He  cites and quotes mushroom writers who say it should not be recommended, but also links to a hilarious paper by Larry Millman and a friend, who didn't get all the active ingredients out, and to a detailed and scholarly paper, by Arora and another, in Economic Botany, which not only tells you how to render it harmless, and delicious, but convincingly explains why only 20th century Americans seem to think it is dangerous. (I know he is nutty but it is hard not to see Gordon Wasson's theory of Anglo Saxon "mycophobia" at work here).

The mushrooms are tempting, but the funniest thing in the whole mix might be Lawrence Millman's deadpan account of the (not very frightening) effects of boiling the Amanitas in too little water. He and his friend spent hours looking at things and giggling and carrying on like two teenagers in the sixties who just got high for the first time. As Larry, a long- time correspondent, serious mycologist, arctic explorer, and fellow Fellow of the Explorers Club, is a scholarly and intrepid gent MY age, it is pretty funny. When they called him for advice, Arora suggested they take notes of their perceptions and words. Some examples:

"Lawrence has been silent for a while, listening to the mushrooms. All of a sudden he's very talkative, although he's not making much sense. "Smooth circus" --neither of us knows what that means. "Mushrooms are people, too," he says."

And: "Lawrence is drinking a beer and says he can relate to the bottle, that the bottle can relate to him, and that the two of them are actually enjoying each other's company... we leave the restaurant. Lawrence says that objects have no meaning, but simply exist. We see a dead deer on the road, and he says the difference between a dead deer and a living one is negligible. Tonya still feels elated, exuberant but at the same time relaxed."

I will refrain from making Sixties hippie noises. After all is done, the  Muscaria is a common, big mushroom here, and if we find some, readers will get a first- hand account...


Nero's Deadline

Nero wasn't troubled when he heard
the Delphic Oracle's prophecy.
"Let him beware the age of seventy-three."
He still had time to enjoy himself.
He is thirty years old. It's quite sufficient,
the deadline that the god is giving him,
for him to think about dangers yet to come.

Now to Rome he'll be returning a little wearied,
but exquisitely wearied by this trip,
which had been wholly devoted to days of delight -
in the theaters, in the gardens, the gymnasia…
Evenings of the cities of Achaea…
Ah, the pleasure of naked bodies above all…

So Nero. And in Spain, Galba
is secretly assembling his army and preparing it:
the old man, seventy-three years old.

- Constantine Cavafy


Because books contained most of the sorts of answers he hoped to find in life, he became attached to them in their every aspect while very young. He loved their look, their feel, their type, their presence singly or in great quantities, as in libraries. He origins were lost in mystery, so nobody could explain where his traits and tastes came from.

- Paul Horgan, A Distant Trumpet


Going out to look for Boletus edulis this weekend. Here is a collage from previous years.

(I am enjoying these photo posts to set the season; never fear, writing will return soon).

I assume any reader knows me; others, in order of appearance: Lib, daughter-in-law Niki Mazzia Frishman, Connie Farmer, Della and Simon Armijo (the only other "shroomers" in two counties), who have also rebuilt about half of our house so far,  and Greg Vivian, Lib's former boss, a Vermonter who took naturally to mushrooming.

We used to use a dead Jeep for a dryer

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Opening day, Dunhill Ranch, with New Mexico Miscellany...

 2012 and 2014 (what were we doing in 2013?), both with no game in the bag, though this year we saw plenty and expect to get some doves, and with luck GOOD quail. Best grass in years, food plants everywhere, cottontails same, and probably more jacks. Deer sign. If we have a snowy winter we will be back to as normal as erratic arid lands ever are. Too damn warm though.


And 2012, with a bit of the country. You are looking from Piet and Jessica's to a neighbor's place a few miles away, twelve miles or so south of town and further off the pavement, on the west side of the range. The grasslands are at nearly 7000 feet, the main ridge at ten, the highest peak (off camera to the right) almost eleven. You can see if you look carefully that it was much drier. The first photo, above,  is looking north; this one due east.

Below, P & J's terrace for post- hunt drinks, looking southeast; highest peak is South Baldy, at 11,720 I think; it  has the observatory and Lightning Lab. Me and Piet, having walked a lot further and seen nothing. For gun geeks, Piet has his old AyA sidelock 20 in all photos; above, my favorite English .410 by Turner; below, Model 12 20.

I wish I had taken a photo yesterday of this view below: it is now all filled in green, and lush. Piet has cut his stock to a minimum and is temporarily feeding them, but apparently the destructive kangaroo rats have taken a population dive, and their mounds, which provide much of the sandy brown in the middle ground, are all fallen in and grown over.

This is good, but don't look too carefully at your blessings. A neighbor's dog has just come up with one of the two most unnerving New Mexico diseases- Yersinia pestis; you know, Plague, the Black Death? "Home of the Flea, Land of the Plague", as the T Shirt used to say. And its reservoir is wild burrowing rodents.

A little more photoblogging...

From Scott McNeff,  to cheer us all by demonstrating how a bird (Sharpshin "Boomer") and a dog (viszla "Fran", after Fran Hamerstrom) can bond quite on their own.
He writes: "... One day last week, "Boomer" caught a bird on the wing - the dog had steadied up at the flush, and I watched as the little hawk carried his catch back around to the dog and landed beside her with it so that he could eat his reward.  He has been a really fun little hawk to fly.  In truth, he brings me more joy each day than anything else that I do."

Monday, September 01, 2014

Opening day; Photos not ready, Light guns

Trying to get out of the house and return to serenity or at least not black depression. Had goofy and unsuccessful day opening dove on Piet's Dunhill Ranch but saw all kinds of game-- rain makes a difference. We've got yr address, birds...

Pics tomorrow, the usual 1st day of Pieter and I with nice shotguns and the obvious shirtsleeves of too- warm weather, trying to look as if  we had scouted properly, industriously shifting our doubles as though we had really shot things...

And to those who doubt the .410: ballistics are better than you think, But walking over hill and arroyo and waist- deep- brush at 7000 feet, where you might fall down if you DIDN'T have Parkinson's, a 4 pound gun that comes up to your eye instantly is like a living tool, a steel companion. I know I could not take long passers or incoming geese with it but, you know... for my hunting, it works.

I got it back once because the kind friend who had bought it from me in a tight bind years ago thought it better in my hands, and returned it for less; thanks to him, and Libby of course.

I think I will keep it. 8 years in exile haven't made it any less desirable.


Gratuitous Dog

A little late this week, though I won't apologize. Taalai makes a turn.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Charles Bowden, R.I.P.

"... But I don't think so", as he wrote of his old friend Edward Abbey in my favorite of all of his works, Desierto, the closest thing he ever wrote to a nature book. The inscribed flyleaf (double or right click to enlarge) beneath his terrifying later Murder City, is in that book; he had read my old novel manuscript, and was impatient that nobody would publish it... this would be in the nineties. But publishers' tastes were not as robust as Chuck's.
If we had lived closer we might have been closer friends, though both of us, he even more than I, needed solitude as well as gregariousness. We talked, but had not seen each other face to face in  a decade or more. As it was, we were admirers and advocates for each other's work who enjoyed drinking and furious talk and shared tastes in landscape and writing and firearms and even in women. He had an attitude that could be ironic but never cheap. The first time I met him he had a Deadhead skeleton sticker with a rose in its teeth on the left end of his pickup bumper and a sticker that read "Ted Kennedy's car killed more people than my gun" on the other.

(Re his partisanship, a letter dated 27 Sept 2000 : "I press Querencia on perfect strangers. I am a missionary at heart.")

Another taste from another old letter: "I bought something the Italians call a superautomatic which grinds the beans, tamps them down, shoots one or two shots through them, and then tamps down the grounds-- yes, I am lazy... soon, the process should be as swift as jabbing a needle into my arm... And like your  weaponry it is something I can ill afford but apparently there is nothing to be done about it."

He ventured into places where armed police and even the Mexican army stayed out, blew the lid off the most brutal yet ignored crimes, interviewed 17 year old assassins and serenely corrupt politicians, wrote essays about the innocence and deadly beauty of rattlers and mountain lions. I always feared that he would be hunted down by the cartels, but hoped he would go on one of his long walkabouts in the desert that refreshed his soul, at about 93. Instead he apparently died in his sleep yesterday at 69 in his Las Cruces home. Weirdly, I had begun his last book, Some of the Dead are Still Breathing,  just the day before, and intended to write to him, rather than write his obituary, tonight.

Update: his friend Jack Dykinga does a much better, and darkly hilarious, version here. HT to Jonathan Hanson.

In Season...