Sunday, April 19, 2015

Useful phrase

From the great Victorian explorer and translator Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton: "Lying like a publisher."

Saturday, April 18, 2015


                                               Constant commenter Lucas Machais wondered if the cover photo on the new ed of Querencia- the- book, seen below with my other  new covers, was "generic". I am afraid I got more indignant than I should have. We pay attention to the particular here, not the general. I answered that the cover photo

"... was taken up Anchor Canyon five miles east in the Magdalena Range, looking northeast over a cabin built by the Strozzis, a family of the local Italian- Swiss "cousins" early in the last century, then over Lee Henderson's ranch where we run the dogs and hawks and Vadim Gorbatov drew the quail. Strawberry Peak, where Charlie Galt found the northernmost specimen of Crotalus lepidus, stands at the edge of the Rio Grande Rift; the Big River flows north to south, left to right, behind it and 2500 feet below."

Dogs on ranch, Lee's horses.

Lee and Gorbatov quail, Vadim with Libby on the ranch, and studying a Swainson's hawk nest there:
Me with Charlie's snake, a million years ago:
The infamous Ferruginous hawk nest made, all but the cup, of fencing wire, which so fascinated the Russians.
I had hoped to "quote" Russ Chatham's cover painting of Betsy and her hounds on the original Q, itself an accidental near- quote of this well- known  shot  of Karen Blixen and HER hounds,  with this haunted pic of me on a Christmas hunt on the plain, but was persuaded, reluctantly,  to go with a different concept. None of this is anything but intensely local.  And all but the Blixen take place within the field of the first cover photo.


If you don't want your overseas package to look like this when you receive it...
You probably shouldn't order bootjacks that look like this all the way from France! Photos courtesy of Gil Stacy.


From the  Cornell Gun Catalog Reprint site:

""A gun is like a parachute. If you need one, and don't have one, you'll probably never need one again..."

Friday, April 17, 2015


Covers for four of my reprints, all good so far... the last, the new Eagle Dreams with Cat Urbigkit's cover of my late friend Aralbai, and intro, the observations of a Wyoming cowgirl and stockwoman (and writer) fifteen years or so after me, has been out only a couple of weeks.

Now if I could just get them to give me the images for my Amazon page.


From Jack:

Friday Doggage

Shiri's new Meshi, at rest and in motion...

Hare vs Hound...

Tim Gallagher asked if I had ever seen an image of a hare chasing a hound, as in this portrait in stone from a Roman fort in England. Well, I hadn't, but Herb Wells has...

Springtime in Colorado

We woke up to this this morning. Forecasts saw we could get another six inches in the next 24 hours.

California Dry

Anyone who has been paying attention to the news here in the US knows about the current extreme drought in California and all the problems that it's causing. My daughter who lives in Long Beach said in a message some weeks ago, "Remember back in 2010 when it rained and rained here and we had that flood that drowned both our cars and totaled them? I miss those days - can we have them back?"

The New York Times has an excellent article that puts California's current situation in historical perspective. Climatic reconstruction shows that over the last 2,000 years, California has had two "megadroughts" that have been centuries in length. It's far too soon to know if this is the beginning of another megadrought, but if you will please click to enlarge the chart above you can see that California has been more dry than wet over the last two millennia. If you look at the two megadroughts on the chart you'll see they correlate with the Medieval Climatic Anomaly that was one of the causal factors in the Anasazi/Ancestral Pueblo abandonment of the Northern Southwest. Even in the archaeological record here in the Front Range, we see a population crash in the late 13th Century.

At a Society for California Archaeology conference 10+ years ago, I attended a paper that presented much the same data. An observation made by that presenter was that the period of European discovery and colonization of California pretty much correlates with the wettest period in the region in the last 2,000 years. You can see that yourself on this chart. Our society's view of what's "normal climate" in California is hopelessly skewed.

The early anthropologists and archaeologists who worked in California in the late 19th and early 20th Century didn't have access to these environmental reconstructions and assumed the past climate was much like today.  Their assumptions about past Indian behavior were that they were living in this "paradise" full of easily obtainable wild food, and were just able to coast along. Now we know that wasn't the case, and a volume of papers demonstrating that was titled, Prehistoric California: Archaeology and the Myth of Paradise.

Future Telephones As Envisioned in 1930

But we never got the flying cars we were promised!
H/T Ace of Spades

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Unique action

France has always gone its own merry way in design-- in cars, think of the Citroen; in guns-- well, more seem unique than those of any other country (can "more" and "unique" coexist this way in a sentence?)

The first that comes to mind is the sliding breech Darne. I have had many. Carlos Martinez del Rio owns my last, a 30's 16 bore, and I may yet get another.

And what about a Manufrance Ideal with lunette trigger guards?
Or the rotating breech Darne, with an opening mechanism a bit like some artillery guns or punt guns but on a light game action? (I have only seen pictures, this one from a Raymond Caranta article in an old Gun Digest, on the collection of Christian Ducros, the only postmodern gunmaker).
Recently Djamel, who runs the brilliant French gun and sport blog La Chasse et les Armes Fines, sent me the best yet, a combination of antique and what must have been cutting- edge modern: a hammer rotating breech Darne!

Ingenious Pigeons

Ducks may think decoys are fellow ducks; C. livia seems unimpressed. From Dan Gauss at Shot on Site comes this shot of pigeons "using decoys as tools" as he says...

Probably mostly light and photoblogging til I go east to see Tom Russell's Rose of Roscrae debut at Passim. All is well-- just incredibly busy and slow.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


"Statistically, the probability of any one of us being here is so small that you’d think the mere fact of existing would keep us all in a contented dazzlement of surprise.”

Lewis Thomas in Lives of a Cell (HT Skeeter Leard)


Pluvi Tweets about this fantastic photo of Cassowaries, and once again damns the lizards of Jurassic Park. Early adapters  can risk looking weird, but those who cling to the old paradigm too long can come to look like Flat - Earthers...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Paradigm Shifted?

From Lucas Machias comes a link to this paper on Tyrannosaurid combat and cannibalism in Science Daily, with a nice illo by Luis Rey  of two big mean birds. It is not even remarked on...


On our rockstar Helen, by Jonathan Katz, an uncommon observation.

"... the writer Wilfred Sheed wrote once in the New Yorker that "every time a friend succeeds, I die a little." Sheed wasn't being nasty, he was being honest. I loved Macdonald's talk and a I loved her book, but I died a little tonight.

"Even though I died a bit, looking at the crowd, reading those reviews, I also loved every second of it. Sheed is right,  I suppose, every writer winces a bit at a book as good as this one, but I loved being there much more than I didn't. When a book and a writer  deserves every bit of the praise, it softens the blow."

Also, as truthful if less painful:

"Macdonald talked about the need for animals in our lives, and  her worry that they are disappearing from the every day lives of people."

Helen's latest conquest is an excellent review by Caleb Crain in the New York Review of Books (no free link yet).

Friday, April 10, 2015

Skeleton of Ottoman War Camel Discovered in Austria

Archaeologists in Austria have excavated the intact skeleton of a camel in a suburb of Vienna. It appears this camel was used by the Ottoman Army in the failed siege of Vienna in 1683.

Detailed analysis of the remains showed that it had worn a harness and had been ridden. Additionally, it proved to be a Bactrian - Dromedary cross, a hybrid that was very popular for use by the Ottoman military. I wondered what a two-hump x one-hump camel cross would look like, and Chas was able to give us a picture of one.

So there you are. Looks kind of like a Dromedary on steroids to me.

Oh, and while I was looking at the Wikipedia page about the siege of Vienna, I found this painting of Polish soldiers headed home after the battle with loot taken from the Ottomans. Including you know what. Maybe there are some more skeletons waiting to be found in Poland.

Neanderthal Hearing

Remember about three weeks ago when I posted about Neanderthal jewelry and said the more we find out about them, the more like us they seem?

Maybe I was a little hasty.

For the first time, researchers in France have been able to isolate and identify the bones from the inner ear of a Neanderthal. It appears that there are significant anatomical differences between these bones and those of modern humans. The upshot may be that there may have been differences in the range of hearing between modern humans and Neanderthals. The research hasn't progressed to the point where any of these possible differences can be identified yet.

And my recurring comments on the value of re-studying old collections - this skeletal material was originally excavated in the early 1970s.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The Cutting Edge of Social Trends

An article in the New York Times tells us that coloring books for adults is now "a thing" as we say these days. One popular adult coloring book has sold 1.4 million copies since 2013. The article tells us that many of these crayon enthusiasts buy multiple copies of the same coloring book so they can try different color patterns on the same picture. Some people are turning this into a social activity as they meet in "coloring circles." That might be fun if they served beer.

My daughter always seems to have an instinct about these things. A couple of weeks ago, granddaughter Bella was laid up with a cold, and she and Lauren spent some quality convalescent time together coloring in one of Bella's coloring books.
Lauren proudly posted some of her work on social media. With an appropriate equestrian theme.

Some Archaeology News from Alberta

A number of years ago I did a post about a Pleistocene horse-kill site that had been found in Alberta. This was the first Paleoindian horse-kill site ever found. A few years later a Paleoindian camel-kill site, also the first ever found, was located near by. The first assessment by Brian Kooyman, who excavated the sites, was that they were of Clovis age.

However, a new radiocarbon assay taken from the camel-kill site, indicates that the site is actually older than Clovis. Funding for the new study came from the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M. (H/T Walter Hingley)

The second bit of news from Alberta concerns a bison-kill site that dates to about 2,500 years ago. The site is unusual for a couple of reasons. First, most Plains bison kills come in two varieties:

1. Jumps - where the animals are stampeded over a cliff and are killed or seriously injured in the fall
2. Traps - where the animals are trapped in a natural feature like a small box canyon, or in a man-made feature like a corral and then later dispatched

This site is apparent a very rare variety of trap, where the animals were caught in a bog or marsh.

Second, after the bison were butchered, some of the bone was treated rather strangely. The archaeologists found  eight arrangements of bison bones standing on end, perched in precise, almost sculptural patterns. I frankly had never heard of anything quite like that.

The projectile points shown above are mostly Besant corner-notched dart points that look similar to what we have in the same time period here in Colorado. The article talks about many of them being made of a type of stone found only in North Dakota, hundreds of miles away. Looking at this photo, it must be Knife River Flint, which was traded all over the Plains from Paleoindian times on. Archaeologists' colloquial description of the appearance of Knife River Flint is that it looks like frozen root beer. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Spring's Arrival

A pair of sandhill cranes arrive for breakfast every morning, slowly striding across the green sweep of ground where we've fed the sheep flock the day before. They appear in the early dawn, and I step out the back door to quietly call out my wishes for a good morning. The cranes respond with their trilling calls in this most calm time of day. I can't help but wonder if these are the cranes that I developed the same routine with last year, and the year before ... I like to think so. Greeting the morning with old friends is a wonderful way to start the day.

Monday, March 30, 2015

"Mainstreaming" Falconry?

Of course, the biggest thing is Helen in Vogue and pieces on her in the New Yorker and interviews with her on NPR. The FUNNIEST was the New York Review of Books using her to advertise their edition of T. H. White's The Goshawk ("the book that inspired Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk!"-- see it a few posts below). Not for nothing did Matt Mullenix suggest that we have stickers to put on certain of our books saying "This book features FALCONRY, the sport featured in Helen Macdonald's H is for hawk."

But falconry may already be getting into our collective unconscious. There was a car commercial during the winter that showed a guy flying a magnificent Ferrug. And now there's this:
Maybe it IS a "River Runs Through It" moment...

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Caroline Gordon

The minor great (is that contradictory?) southern writers are always being revived, sometimes by friends of mine; their agrarian roots make them more appealing to me than old Yankees generally. A person descended from  Alpine peasants and mercenary Celtic soldiers can remember misty maritime coasts with nostalgia, but be impatient with the old cultural hegemony of Puritans; what Betsy Huntington, product of rural squires up the Connecticut River, called "that Boston commercial money."

So an article pops up in the Catholic mag First Things celebrating Alan Tate. Well, OK, he did some good stuff (he was alleged to be...difficult, too-- if I weren't sober I'd be tempted to say "a dick"), but, OK.

But does anybody outside of academia read Tate? Whereas his wife...

She is not all that popular in feminist circles--as a Southerner and a Catholic convert, she is already odd. But her classic work, Aleck Maury, Sportsman is the tale of a "worthless" Classics prof who wastes his entire life hunting and fishing, while knowing he is doing something as important as anyone engaged in a so- called useful profession. NOBODY in the academy but oddballs like my friend Gerry gets that.

Maury is good enough to have a place as one of the hundred books in my Book of Books, A Sportsman's Library. But even I can't say anything as wild as Tom McGuane did back in the interesting book Rediscoveries, more than a decade back (I don't own a copy, just a xerox of the essay-- Google it!) He said: "... there are sections of this book which seem to me to have been dictated by God."

Is it the best sporting novel ever? Naah-- only in the top ten. But the stand- alone story about Maury, "The last day in the field", available in Old Red and other Stories, may just be the best story- with- bird- shooting ever; its most likely runners- up are McGuane's "Flight", and any of, say, five of Turgenev's reminisces...

And I have a treat. Caroline Gordon was a great friend of Father Anderson Bakewell SJ, scientist, hunter, explorer, drinker and teller of tales, and my Explorers Club patron. I didn't get the .416 Rigby when he died, but i got all the Gordon books, and their correspondence. I had forgotten that he had a Mannlicher Schoenauer, my own favorite rifle, as it was overshadowed by his Rigby .416 "Rifle for heavy Game" and his two Italian over and under rifles, but you see it mentioned here.

Letter below, cut for relevance; inscription in Old Red;  and Andy with his last feral hog (maybe HIS Last Day in the Field), using a Zoli over and under 8 X 57 JRS and custom loads with Barnes X ("my X- rated") bullets.