Thursday, July 05, 2018

Those Who Abide

Sometimes this journal seems to be a chronicle of death and dissolution. This may be natural for 68 year old man with Parkinson's ticking away in his breast, even if his prospects are better than some people's. But whatever mortality lies beneath, Querencia is supposed to be a celebration, even when it does obituaries.

This time I'd like to celebrate some friends who are still alive and have overcome many things to be where they are. This can be said of many readers and characters in Querencia. To name a few: Dutch and Margory, Cat and Teddy, Jonathan, Cass, Chas, Brad, Reid and Reed, Petro and Annyushka and Vadim. The list goes on...

Here I'd like to celebrate a special few. I just got the latest photo of Tim Gallagher hawking with John Loft in England, happy survivors if ever there were any, last week. Tim briefly found the Ivorybill a number of years ago (I believe he hit on the idea on a visit here, where we contemplated how cool it would be to see one, and he went the next year.) He has since written several other good books, including one on Emperor Frederick and on his (Tim's) youthful time spent in prison, and a harrowing trip to Mexico where he attempted to find the Imperial woodpecker, perhaps the first intentional victim of Biocide. When J. P. S. Brown, the legendary 89 year old border cattleman and novelist, and probably the hardest man I know, heard that this white boy (he was born in England, grew up in LA, and looks like he was separated at birth from Jimmie Paige) was going to go to country he had sold out of because it was too dangerous (and Joe is alleged to eat wolves for breakfast, and to be the cowboy in Tom Russell's song who, after killing Apaches for their bounty, rode into Durango to ride up the whorehouse stairs) said to me "They'll kill him and eat him, for breakfast maybe even raw!"

But he made it out. His first post- mountain Email, sent from Durango after a day of sleep and R & R, began: "...The houses that were still standing when we went in were burning when we left. The good narcotraficante with the AK47, who we hired to guard us, refused to ride with us on the way out, out of pure fear. It was a long five hour drive through the mud to get off the mountain, trying not to look in the eyes of the drivers of the cars coming the other way."

During these years he and his wife Rachel Dickinson, an original writer herself and author of a curiously melancholy book on falconry herself,
suffered the loss of their son to suicide. They don't complain about it. They talk about it just enough, or maybe not enough. They feel it.

John Loft: what can I say? Schoolmaster and classical poet, he already had 50 years of falconry when he published A Merlin for Me. It contains illustrations by writers who became well known, history, biology, rhyming poetry, including a dedication which contains the line "And especially to Steve for the last approving tic." He also draws on his admiration for the great falconer E. B. Michell,(which in my opinion he surpasses in his own great book); The Art and Practice of Hawking was Michell's masterwork and curiously the first "real" falconry book I read (T. H. White, eminently literary, doesn't count in the same fanatic way). But my first copy was a modern reprint, not the Edwardian relic he presented me with -- a magnificent present from John, the Merlin man, real mentor to such as Helen Macdonald, and a spiritual mentor to me. He has never written an ungraceful line.

John is old enough to have known all the greats and good enough to keep most of his stories kind. He took in two shaggy American ragamuffins he knew only from correspondence, orphans of the storm who blew into Lincolnshire on the train with the spring rains. He treated them as friends, made them friends with his good wife Nancy (she didn't even know they were coming!!), and took them to the pub where they feasted on local delicacies and discussed the differences between American and British falconry. He took them to visit some Yorkshiremen, "Geordies" whose accents were so thick that Libby didn't even realize they were speaking English. John laughed aloud when I told him about my recent vivid first meeting with Jemima "Mima" Parry-Jones, to whom I was introduced by the rather serious artist and zoologist serious Jonathan Kingdon. When she took my hand she said "I know who you are! You're the fucking American CUNT who wrote that the British have nothing to teach us but history" John grinned and said "If you think she's bad, you should have heard her father!"(the legendary austringer and falconer Philip Glasier, friend and hunting companion of Prince Philip). Mima has become a friend, and the whole episode confirms my theory that the foulest mouths are owned by aristocratic women and Italian- construction workers in New York City. That they are the last two groups to smoke unfiltered cigarettes may be relevant too...

John is still hawking, still flying Merlins. I won't say how old he is but he won't see 80 again. Tim goes out with him every time he goes to England and sends me a picture of the two of them. Here is the latest.

Wendy Parker came to see us the other day. She was one of my best students at Wildbranch, though she didn't publish enough. What she did do was hunt. She had rare German pointing dog and an eponymous gun. For a time she went with our difficult friend, Jerry, who had the best collection of American doubles a poor man could have. They are both biologists and are smart as hell.

What I didn't realize is that it had been more than 20 years since I had seen her. She looked exactly the same -- I DON'T.

1 comment:

Reid Farmer said...
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