Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The eagle film

I have had about twenty people send me this so thought I should just post it myself. Below is a typical response from me:

It is a trained golden taking a roe deer at the annual meet at Opocno in the Czech Republic. They take them as easily as a Goshawk takes a hare. The young woman in the photo below (after a day there-- notice roe as well as hares) is a friend of ours and a real adventurer-- we "sent" her for a month's winter hunting in Mongolia with Canat and the eaglers when she was just 17! She is now flying an eagle in Scotland. She has Opocno film as does a friend in Albuquerque who has also been.

My friend then then asked if it was a bagged quarry:

Wow! What an incredible photo. All those birds seem to be in fine mettle. I
assume the roe deer was released at the opportune moment - and not

Not at all ! Those mustard and rapeseed fields are full of roe and hares and they just walk in a line to flush, at which point the designated eagler (or eaglers-- some actually fly casts) let their birds go. I have seen a dozen such films-- now must somehow get to go there! ( I have seen films where TWO flush).

Eastern European falconers have a highly developed sense of sport and tradition and would never use bagged quarry, unlike the pragmatic Kazakhs who will to demonstrate prowess at a meet.

That eagle easily handled that roe. Much more easily than did the golden taking
a fox in that Spanish film you sent a link to a while back. That fox repeatedly
bit the eagle. I am assuming it was a young eagle, as it appeared to grab the
fox in the hindquarters (big mistake).

Agreed. Inexperienced eagle and probably falconer. Bagged quarry is unknown in western Europe but probably wise for eyasses, and they aren't allowed passagers. Every USA eagler I know flies passage birds caught at a couple of years old and they know to catch the head first!

How did the Mongolian eaglers handle a woman falconer? My hat's off to her!

Kazakhs are very barely Muslims-- more animist with a Muslim veneer, and not only drink tons of vodka but celebrate legendary warrior queens and take strong females in stride. They kicked Saudis out when, after the Russians left, they came as missionaries and wanted them to stop drinking and veil their women.

Two quick tales: Canat, who is a self- described "man of science", wanted us to visit a shamaness for a consultation. Teasing, I asked what the young (Kazakh) imam with the falcon would say. Deadpan (and knowing quite well it was funny) he said "He drinks with her at the Red Door Bar".

When young Lauren came here to visit she was still under age for the bar, but as we have wine at the table (and I drink vodka) I asked whether she had wine with dinner. She replied "I don't know-- all I have ever drunk was vodka with the Kazakhs". She stuck with vodka.

A month, in midwinter, traveling alone with Canat (as a very protective father figure, granted) on horseback, from hunting camp to hunting camp in the Mongolian back country six hundred miles west of Ulaan Bataar, up near the Siberian (Tuvan) border. Still some good kids out there for sure.

Lauren, second from right...


Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

I'm a fairly regular reader of your blog (and books, of course) but more of a lurker than a commentator (although I did almost comment a few months back when you referenced one of my posts on Dave Petzal's blog concerning the Zumbo flap...)
Anyway, delighted to see the post on Lauren. I wrote about her back in 2002 as part of a story on falconry I did for our state magazine over here in Oklahoma. She was just an apprentice back then and in fact hadn't had her red-tail very long (trapped from my neck of the plains up in the panhandle). Great kid. When I interviewed her and her father I thought "this is exactly how I want my child to turn out."
Not specifically an interest in falconry, per se, (although that'd be great, too) but the burning desire to immerse yourself in something atavistic and which goes beyond the instant gratification of the pixelated world.
I'm generally a misanthropic sonofabitch when it comes to modern teenagers, and with damn good reason. At the risk of going off on a tangent, I'll give a non-falconry related example. My wife is a high school humanities teacher here in our small town. Two years ago we decided to sponsor a trip to Europe so her kids could see a lot of the culture, art and architecture they're taught in the classroom. Ten days. London, Paris, Florence, Rome. So it's our small group along with two other groups of students and sponsors. Now granted, my wife's students are the nerdy gifted and talented types who actually were interested in experiencing Europe, so maybe the comparison with the other kids isn't fair, but frankly I was shocked at the complete lack of interest, the complete unwillingness of the other students and sponsors to try anything other than what they're programmed to respond to. Where did most of the kids want to eat every day instead of the "weird" food that's included in the trip? Mcdonalds. Where did they want to go instead of museums or historical areas or even simply walking down the street and soaking up the daily buzz of a foreign culture? American chain stores.
I knew we were doomed as a nation and that the waiter from Ferris Bueller's Day Off was a prophet (I weep for the future...) on our second day in Paris, which was a free day to do whatever you chose, no itinerary. Our little group broke up into several smaller groups: some chose to walk the length of the Champs-Elysees, some went to the Paris opera house, others chose Musee d'Orsay, still others explored the Latin Quarter. Whatever you wanted. It was just a "get out and discover Paris day."
The other two groups we were traveling with, with a sum total of over 60 students, teachers (Teachers, I say! Role models! Beacons of enlightenment to young minds!) and parents spent all day, literally all day, an entire arc of the Sun, at - I shit you not - Planet Hollywood.
To be young and given an entire day and evening to do whatever you desire in the most beautiful, alluring city in the world is a precious gift you may recive only once in your life, and they spent it at freakin' Planet Hollywood. Two years later I'm still speechless, but I shouldn't be. When I expressed my disbelief to our British tour guide he told me it was one of the most popular destinations in Paris for the Americans.
I guess my rambling point is that most modern American teens truly are unthinking, disengaged suburban consumer automatons, and it's not just a generational thing and that us older folks (I'm only 36) are simply parroting the fogie-stogie chestnuts of earlier times (what's wrong with kids these days!?).
That's why I was so impressed with Lauren. Here's a kid (17 at the time, I think) who chose to do something that not only is so outside the shallow, de-individualizing world of teen culture it's off the scale, but an activity that requires a level of commitment and discipline few (myself included) could ever hope to achieve.
Pretty damn amazing, and I certainly think we need more teens (and parents) like her. She represents something that has almost completely been lost for American children, which is the opportunity to experience, on a long-term basis real, uncontrived nature.
I have no personal experience with daughters, but I have two young sons and I've discovered that modern parenthood is a constant battle between the ideals you hope to instill in your child and the ideals projected by our instant gratification, material possession-and-celebrity-worshipping media-driven culture (and I say this as a full-time, card-carrying member of the MSM).
For example, there's a lot of intellectual hand-wringing right now among the country's intelligentsia about the status of boys, whether they're not being allowed to develop as "boys" should. Well, duh. Hell no they're not. Take a look around. Do you see anything at all in modern culture that actively promotes just being a dirty-kneed, critter-catching creek-wading kid? Absolutely not. Instead we're continuously bombarded from all sides with the radiation that emanates from the tube, the radio, the computer and the video game console.
The result is 10-year-olds who carry cell phones and Ipods, wear "product" in their hair and spend their days IMing each other as they update their Myspace page. And in typical American fashion, it bothers us enough to talk about it, but not enough to actually do something meaningful about it. That's why you end up with things like "Nature Deficit Disorder" and the "Dangerous Book for Boys."
Good concepts, of course, and better than nothing, I suppose, but the problem with us is we treat it like any other short-lived fad. I read a Pollyanna story in one of the newsweeklies last week that allegedly addressed the boy issue. The author's contention was basically "hey, the boys are all right, don't worry, it's a great time to be a boy". He cited one shining example of our youth's exposure to nature, a camp in North Carolina where boys (and I'm assuming boys of enough wealth and privilege to afford it) go to just be boys. It was, in my opinion a perfect example of what's wrong. An expensive camp where rich, disengaged parents send their sons to "learn" how to be boys? The klaxons should be sounding. Perhaps a more rewarding and less expensive option would be to unplug the Wii, turn off "Pimp My Ride" grab a dipnet and hit the local creek with your child, son or daughter.
When I interviewed Lauren for the story we got to talking snakes. I've always been a herpophile since I was old enough to chase a fence lizard and I was pleasantly surprised to learn she had also always been interested in reptiles. Every kid I've ever known who had an interest in nature had two things in common: one, they were introduced to nature (in whatever form, hunting, fishing, hiking, bug-collecting, whatever) in a meaningful, fun and sustained manner and two, they had a parent or parents who continued to nurture that interest.
That's why I find the concept of a "nature camp" sadly laughable as well as a damning commentary on modern parenting. What's the next big parenting fad? Who knows? Which of course makes stories like Lauren's all the more amazing.
One last anecdotal "shitty parents make shitty kids" story and then I've got to get back to work. My senior year in college my wife and I lived in a tiny little campus-area dump in Norman along with my chessie and my pointer. One day as I was driving back home from a dog-training session I spotted a yellow lab trotting down a busy street. I stopped, picked him up went home. I never saw a lost ad in the local paper so a few days later I placed a found ad. Few days after that I got a call from a guy with one of those (damnit I hate to stereotype here but I can't help it) yankee-inflected slightly effeminate, east coast-I'm-condescending-to-speak-down-to-your-redneck-level voices all good Okies detest. I figured he was probably an associate prof at OU just putting his time in until he could make tenure somewhere civilized.
So he asks if the dog had one of those invisible fence collars on when I found it (When someone refers to a dog they own as an it rather than a he or she, you know you're dealing with a real SOB). I said it did indeed. He said I think you've got my dog. I said great, give me your address and I'll be right over. He replied (and I'm not making one bit of this up) "Actually, I don't really want the dog back. We got it for our son last year and after a few weeks he lost interest in it and it's just been in the back yard since then. The reason we got the collar was it kept digging holes under the fence and getting in the neighbor's yard. My son doesn't want the dog any more, but (and again, I'm not making this up) could you bring the collar by my house? I would like to get that back so I could take return it to the store."
I never told someone to go f#ck himself with as much relish as I did that guy. The collar went in the trash and the dog went to friend's family in southwestern Oklahoam where he spent the rest of his days happily tagging along with a bunch of farm kids who loved him.
Lauren's an inspiration, to be sure. Just too bad there aren't more like her.

Steve Bodio said...

Chad: WOW! Couldn't agree more. Your "letter" could make a good blog post itself.

We were lucky re teenagers. Jackson, my stepson ("Peculiar" of Odious and Peculiar Blog) has been a naturalist, outdoorsman and scholar all his life. I think he killed his first deer at ten; he went to Mongolia as expedition staff at 17; then became the youngest licensed river guide in the states. Meanwhile he pursued his talents in music and language (only river guide I know who has published poetry and opera reviews!)

He went to St. John's in Santa Fe where he met a set of equally gifted kids-- Odious of O&P; "Mrs Odious"; Jack's wife; Larissa of Writhing in Apathy Blog are among them. All are friends of ours too at about 30.

And Lauren is like them-- what I mean about Good Kids.

Interestingly small western towns produce some of the same. The kids of the owner of the Golden Spur Bar, born here, include a talented short story writer who has been teaching in Turkey (he has appeared on the blog) and his sister who does black- ops computer security stuff for the government. Another daughter of a friend, a rancher who was the first female brand inspector in the US, is studying to be a veterinarian...

Steve Bodio said...

I meant to add: email me at ebodio at gilanet dot com and we can talk more.

Just remembered another ranch kid who has published poetry in The Atlantic (making two of us in Socorro County!) He is over in Sweden getting married.

PBurns said...

As Peter Townsend of The Who so eloquently put it: "The Kids are Allright."

True then and true now, I think.

Parents despair of the nexy generation ad infinitum (and most of the kids DO turn out to be dolts), but it seems to me that every generation turns out a very small number of people who never "grow up" and so are always messing around with lizards, dogs, birds, gardens, creeks, rocks, pen and paper, wrench, clarinet, and cooking pot.

Truthfully, we have more focused talent walking around on earth today than we ever had.

Are they as big a percentage? Perhaps not, but they can at least find each other now thanks to computers, airplanes, cell phone and GPS. We are a faster world than ever (a loss by my count), but a smarter one and a more literate one, and a more connected on. If you were a hawker or terrier enthusiast anywhere in the world 50 years ago, you were a lonely person. Now we can forge a community (if we can stop arguing about triviality) and can go to Mongolia on a traded word and for the price of a brake job on a Ford Explorer. Not a bad world, and not too shabby either since the world-wide push for science-based conservaion is spreaduing like a rip tide.

Bottom line: Humans are the same as they have always been, only now every humna as more options. The choices we make are the people we end up making, and the choice of going into the woods is now easier than ever, not harder. While I despair at the "Bed-Bath-and-Beyonding" of America, the folks who fly Golden Eagles have always been a rare element and always will be. Ditto for folks that do much of the other stuff that interests us, I think.