Monday, March 10, 2008

Stuff Falconers Like

Have you seen the recent spate of funny (and distinctly un-PC) blogs featuring "Stuff ____ People Like," where various races and ethnic groups fill in the blanks? 2Blowhards provides a short list here.

This got me thinking about a new meme: Stuff Falconers Like. You could tailor it to any pastime I suppose, although I bet you the most intensive hobbies will provide the best material.

Here are a couple things most falconers like. Can you think of others?

1) Days Off: Everyone likes a day off, but falconers can make one into a miniature safari. Tag it to the start or end of a weekend, and you've got a mini-vacation, worthy of a month's planning and blowing the remainder of the family budget. One day off equals at least two hunts, possibly miles apart and the chance to visit and hunt with friends. A long weekend stretches the possibilities into field-meet territory and pulls in potential hunting spots within a 150-mile radius of home. Which leads to...

2) Road Trips: Not every falconer likes to drive, but almost every one I know loves to leave town. Driving is generally the most practical means, given the gear and animals we bring with us. A "road trip" is usually more than a few hours' drive and for most means travelling out of state and into an entirely different biome. For me that means driving 12 hours from the coastal low country of Louisiana to the high plains of the Texas panhandle. Sharing that drive and cost and fun with a couple close friends (and their animals) is an essential part of the road-trip experience. What do we talk about for 12 hours...?

3) Talking Trash about Other Falconers: This is a favorite ritual between falconer friends. It cements the lifelong bonds between falconers that outlast marriages and dogs and birds and careers. No falconer is safe from this, and even friends with whom you talk trash about another falconer can be fodder for same when circumstances permit. Bad-mouthing the poor husbandry and skills of other falconers and the performance of their birds serves a dual purpose as an affirmation of our own superior practices and as instruction to any young falconers present. Of course, bad-mouthing young falconers is also a cherished pastime and leads the next thing.

4) The Glorious Past: Every falconer lives mostly in his or her head where a larger, wilder, freer land still exists. This is the land of the Past, and it's one of our favorite places. The state of falconry in The Past, which was usually before we had spouses and children and careers and mortgages, was truly exceptional. There was more game and more space and more time to explore it. The quality of the average young falconer (namely, ourselves) was much better than the present crop, which is one reason the present crop needs so much bad-mouthing. Driving around our hometowns and seeing all the places where we used to hunt in The Glorious Past brings to mind another thing falconers like.

5) Complaining About Sprawl: Falconers have a love/hate relationship with sprawl. We hate losing hawking places and green spaces but love exploring new ones cleared and made ready by the endless development. It's an ecological truth that small game thrives in the temporary edge environments that are created (and of course, destroyed) by the process of unplanned, suburban growth. The fact that we have to drive farther from home each season to reach the vanguard territory grates and gives rise to the repetitive complaints our friends and families hear on every trip around town: "I used to hunt there. And over there. Damn, that was a nice spot!" We lose a little bit of our souls when each one goes under the asphalt. But alas, most of us like living in houses.

6) Alcohol: Do I know any falconers who don't drink? I don't think so. We are not typically alcoholics and even more rarely are we addicted to recreational drugs. At some point we need to be able to get up again the next morning and fly the birds, which we need to have fed and cared for the day before. So wild party lifestyles are incompatible with good falconry (no anecdotes to the contrary, please. I'll just bad-mouth you.) The fact remains that falconers like to drink, and generally drink well in terms of quality beers and spirits. Maybe it helps to relive the good flights or maybe it helps us handle the sprawl.

7) Other People's Hawks: We all like to fly nice hawks and generally tend to like the hawk we're flying at present. But hawks we've had in the past and hawks flown now by other people are often the better birds. This is especially true of hawks flown by other people in other countries, hawks we've only seen in photos. Those exotic hawks all catch tons of game and give their falconers no trouble. I wish someone would import some of those.

If you can think up more Stuff, funny or otherwise, please post a comment.

*Photo: Bruce Haak's great home-bred peregrine, Jinx, on recent pheasant kill. Jinx is one of those covetted hawks flown by another person.


Isaac Nichols アイザック ニコルス said...

Ha! Good post Matt. I'm an exception to number 6 however. Maybe its because I don't have a bird or license at the moment...? ;-) (In all seriousness though, I just don't drink. I know, I know, how can I call myself a falconer?!!)

How about 8) Falconers like animals in general. Some falconers places I've been to might qualify for unlicensed zoos there's so much animal life running around. It doesn't just stop at hawks and dogs. The most bizarre collection I think I've seen was in Japan where a falconer had Lemurs in his garage and a couple of Kookaburra's that had free range in his house! The Kookaburra's are the bird that are used to sound like monkey's in movies which just added to the jungle like atmosphere of his home. This was in addition to probably 50 or 60 raptors. Another falconer in Japan had a flock (over 100 if I remember correctly) of flamingos! Snakes seem to be popular among falconers as well.

Matt Mullenix said...

Well there has to be at least one exception to prove the rule!

But there's hope for you yet, Isaac. Meet me at the NAFA meet hotel bar, and the first round is on me.

I agree with you on the general animal addiction among falconers. I'm down to 1 hawk and 1 dog (and not-coincidentally, 1 wife), but in times past I had tarantulas and snakes and anything else I could fit into a terrarium.

Steve Bodio said...

Guilty of all of the above though maybe not too many road trips of late.

The one I love best is the "Raving Biophilia". I have a hawk and many non- utilitarian pigeons, six dogs,an insect collection, skulls, terraria that sometimes house reptiles. Other (falconer) readers and commentors I know have everything from African gray parrots to ferrets to rattlesnakes, fish, and iguanas.

Reid Farmer said...

Interesting overlap with archaeology. 3,4, and 6 are directly transferable as is 7 if you retitle it "Other People's Sites"

Trash-talk is horrible in archaeology

Matt Mullenix said...

Steve and Reid: Universal truths!

Paul said...

Falconers like paying too much for "falconry gear". Even if it's only mediocre stuff, look at all the junk that's got its price all jacked up in the most famous falconry retail outlet's catalog.

In the same vain, falconers love bling, make it all tooled and multi colored and it will certainly add weight to your game bag.

Falconers love the internet. This is because....

...Falconers worship those who crow the loudest. You never have to catch a head of game in your life, but if post often enough with great authority, then you will be crowned as an all mighty falconry god by your cyber followers.

Mark Churchill said...

Concur with what Steve calls "raving biophilia". We have, in addition to the hawk and two working dachshunds, a parrot (maroon-bellied conure), fifteen or so African and Australian finches, a leopard gecko, two green anoles, five bettas, a small school of fathead minnows (aquarium residents, not bait), and a gerbil.

Two more things falconers like:

9) Making our own gear. There are wide variations in the severity of this affliction, but we all have it. I resigned myself long ago to the fact that I'll never be a great or even competent hood-maker, but simple things like perches, leashes, travel boxes, etc. are fun to tinker with.

10) Our vehicles. An "automotive anthropologist", if such a specialty exists, would be well-advised to attend NAFA meets for the opportunity to see the customized rigs and chat with their creators. Not just pickups with toppers, but shelf perches built in, with plexiglass dividers to keep hawks separated. Long perches like gymnastic balance beams on rollers, so the falconer can drop the tailgate and slide the perch all the way out to reach that last gyr hybrid. Any number of hitch-racks and roof-racks to accomodate pigeons and pheasants. Freezers (!) run off power inverters to store frozen Coturnix for long road trips. And that's not counting the purely decorative touches: custom paint jobs, decals, vanity tags, etc., all proclaiming the driver's affinity for hawks and hawking. (Anyone remember the old days, when we went out of our way to keep a low profile?)

Modifications to my Outback are minimal: A camouflage window treatment on the back, partly for looks but also to keep the hawk box and other gear out of public view; a roof rack for those occasions (such as field meets) when said hawk gear takes up the whole interior and I still need to bring luggage; a couple of discreet stickers (NAFA and P-Fund) on a side window. But I was strangely proud when my friend Donna started referring to the Outback as "your rig".

Suasn Churchill said...

Falconers also like to have very patient spouses/significant others/girlfriends/boyfriends who will accommodate all their strange habits.

Also, Mark left out the 3 sugar gliders above!

Kelly said...

Someone already said it, but "Jimmying stuff" is on there for me, and it doesn't stop with just falconry gear.

Also "thrift stores" and/or "Army surplus stores" for stuff to be jimmied into hawking gear.

I would have to add in the "day off" category "calling in sick".

Also who can not love "meet raffles"?

Oh and for me "MAGICAL THINKING" is what sagebrush dirthawking is all about.

"Beautiful Sunsets" . . . 'nuff said.

Along those lines, the lurcher dog you gave me some advice on has come along well, she has even caught jacks herself while out helping the tiercel harris ; ) So that is something from the dog, jimmying, and magical thinking portions of my list. . . .

Your blog is something that should be on the list too! This was a fun post . . . .

Matt Mullenix said...

Paul, Mark, Susan & Kelly, all good additions!

At one point I almost added "odd books" to the list of Stuff (thinking of those I have and those I want) but sadly I think Paul's mention of the Internet is more germane. Books are definitely not as much as part of the falconry experience as they were when I was getting into it.

...Yes, that was back in the The Glorious Past, you know, when falconry was better, everyone hoarded and cherished their books, when game ran thick in the countryside, and Wal-Mart was just a twinkle in Sam's eye.

dr. hypercube said...

Biophilia? Guilty. Bibliomania? That too...