Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Happy Birthday 2

...  to Dr John Burchard, scientist, man of letters, scholar, adventurer in far places, and one of the best tellers of tales I know. As the old saying has it, he has forgotten more about "salukiformes" and falconry than almost anyone else in our time has ever learned. Like me, he was a Massachusetts boy born: a little north and to the west, in Burlington. Like me, he kept pigeons and snakes and all manner of small fauna to feed his biophilia, a practice I am told is now frowned upon. He went to Princeton, got a PhD, did post-graduate work at the Max Planck when Konrad Lorenz was the "shaman -in-charge" (he kept goshawks there, and in Paris). Later, he taught at the American University in Beirut, and in Nigeria, before his life-changing years in the back country of the Arabian peninsula with the still-tribal Bedouin. He was the ecologist for ARAMCO, but he spent his spare time traveling with the tribes, flying sakers and running salukis. Likely, no one else will ever see the things he saw. At one time his household there consisted of a wolf, a cockatoo, and several Saker falcons as well as his innumerable salukis. I believe all but the cockatoo slept in the bed with John and his wife.

I want him to write his memoirs more than anyone else I have ever known. I threaten him with the fact that I have going on 300 pages of letters and emails from him, and can construct something of one myself, but it would not be the same.

John lives these days in Alpaugh, California, the last curious bastion of coursing in a state that is becoming increasingly "anti"- not just anti-hunting, but against all interactions with animals. He is over 80 - how many years, John? -- but as one of our tazi group says, he obviously believes in "use it or lose it". I will consider myself fortunate if I am still pursuing field sports over 80, but his example makes me determined to try. I am pleased to call him a mentor, honored that he runs two dogs of my breeding, and delighted to call him a friend. Happy birthday, John!



9 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is always a pleasure to walk on the line with John. I learn so many interesting things. (Spiders come to mind ;-) ) And, yes, it would be an interesting read if he would put pen to paper about his exploits!

Daniel Gauss said...

I met John at the very first day of the existence of Shot On Site Photography! A lure coursing trial in Metamora, Michigan, July 1994. If not for John's huge reprint and enlargement order that day, I might have decided that the photography business was a non-starter. I'll love John forever for that ;-) Last time I saw John was when Shot On Site made a pass through California in the Hare-Brained Express Bounder motor home in 2008. We sweltered in Alpaugh (it was August!) for a couple days. Happy Birthday, John!

Jim Evers said...

The first time I met Dr.John was at the end of a long rainy day of coursing and we had stayed behind to help a lady get her very stubborn Wolfhound to go under a fence. Finally I jumped the fence grabed the dog by all fours and heaved it over Dr. John stepped forward and said hand him to me and with the wieght of the dog John fell flat on his back,thankfully unhurt. The woman and dog left without even saying thank you or kiss my foot.
Happy Birthday Dr. John

Heather Houlahan said...

he has forgotten more about "salukiformes" and falconry than almost anyone else in our time has ever learned

I disagree.

I see no evidence that John Burchard has ever forgotten anything.

And he knows more than anyone I know about everything.

Steve Bodio said...

Hear, hear, and shout it out!

Else Karin Rossebø said...

That man is a weatlth of knowledge! And so are you too - I am so glad I got the chance to meet you both!! Happy Birthday, John! May you have many, many more! Cheers! And please, let Steve write that book about you!! - or do it yourself! Hugs to both and to Libby too :-)

Else Karin Rossebø said...

That man is a weatlth of knowledge! And so are you too - I am so glad I got the chance to meet you both!! Happy Birthday, John! May you have many, many more! Cheers! And please, let Steve write that book about you!! - or do it yourself! Hugs to both and to Libby too :-)

Steve Bodio said...

Thanks! I just sent a note reminding him again...

Lance Dyck said...

I met John at a OFC meet in lost hills California in 2003 my first experience open field coursing...very interesting man with a wealth of knowledge on sighthounds.
Happy Birthday John
Y.I.S
Lance Dyck