Monday, August 29, 2016

John Craighead is 100

 And he doesn't look much older than he did when Libby and I attended his and his late twin  brother Frank's 80th birthday party at Moose, Wyoming 20 years ago. (fuzzy photo from invitation)

We actually had separate invitations- Libby had babysat the now middle- aged kids of both, and I had long ago written an intro for the Lyons reprint of their first book, Hawks in the Hand, which they wrote when they were not much older than in the Scout portrait below.

THAT book got them their invitation to a great adventure, by the Indian Prince R.S. Dharmakumarsihnji , to spend the winter learning the Indian, ie the surviving grand- scale Medieval, way of falconry.The trip produced the National Geographic article "Life with an Indian Prince" in 1942, and, 59 years later, the limited edition of the book of the same name, which is recommended in my "Book of Books", Sportsmans Library. (A new one, not limited to books with hunting and fishing but including nature and wild travel, is in the works!)

They kept detailed notes. One of my prized possessions is a spiral- bound xerox copy of those notes, given to me by the "kids".

It also produced the best nature film you have never seen, the only film version of the field sports of the Raj ever produced, in color that looks modern even today. But  apparently flying Sakers at kites,  pretending to be a mendicant vegetarian Brahmin to trap crows, coursing blackbuck with cheetahs (they rode hooded like falcons in bullock carts, and were fed the blood of the quarry in long-handled ladles), and shooting a Gir forest lion as a wedding present,  were too un- pc for Nat Geo even in the immediate postwar years.

They were to go on to fame and even noteriety as wildlife biologists, particularly when they told the truth about the garbage eating bears in Yellowstone. Their work is carried on by their children and the Craighead Wildlife- Wildlands Institute. When I met Frank at 80 I told him he had been a great influence on my life. He said wryly "I hope I didn't ruin it entirely!" On the contrary, both brothers enhanced my life enormously.

Happy birthday, John.


Margory said...

All good wishes from here too.
And appreciation, as always and again, for introduction and indentification - naming -- extraordinary guides in the natural world.

(I read the brothers graduated Penn State; me, too. In my day, wonderful English dept.)

Scott Hyde said...

My parents were neighbors and friends of the Craigheads in Moose in the early 60s, when I was just a baby. Thanks for the pictures!

Trent Kleppen said...

Great influences for those who like to rove out-of-doors! When I read about the hooded cheetahs, I just had to see it and I found a short clip on YouTube. I will include the link here: Thank you and enjoy!