Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Retiring Old Mama

The last few years, we’ve been working Old Mama into retirement. She’s a fine old dog that has traveled many, many miles accompanying her flocks from the low desert to the high mountains each year. We gradually placed her with flocks following shorter trails, and finally stopped allowing her to trail to winter range a few years ago. She’s adapted beautifully to every change; so long as she’s with sheep, she’s content.

Every day she cheerfully sticks her tail straight up into the air and trots off to lead the flock in the day’s grazing. Her face and body carry many scars of war, proof of her unwillingness to back down from a fight with any predator.

Yesterday was the start of a new stage of retirement, as we placed Old Mama into a large pen with orphan lambs that were born this spring. She’s healed up from her most recent battle with wolves, and is in great physical condition, but her teeth are worn with age so she can no longer defend herself. It’s something that she doesn’t understand, as she regularly sounds the alarm and charges out with the other guardians to face danger.

The last few months we’ve had our hands full with wolf problems, so we’ve been night-penning the sheep, and Old Mama is usually the last to enter the pen, following her flock into safety. But when she entered the pen last night, I slipped a leash over her head and diverted her into an adjacent pen, where she could be with smaller lambs. Old Mama was happy to spend time with these youngsters, but when she watched me let her flock out of the neighboring pen at daylight this morning, she stood expectantly at the gate, waiting for me to let her out. But I didn’t. She would no longer be their leader.

With wolves frequently coming so close to the house, I’m afraid we may be on the verge of a major canid brawl. Predictably, Old Mama would rise to the challenge, and would give her life in the process. We’re trying to lessen the risk of that happening.

We had hoped to stop night-penning the sheep as soon as we start winter feeding, probably around the first of December. Instead of ranging out to graze, our providing lines of alfalfa-grass hay near the house will keep the flock close by. But our discovery of wolf tracks within a quarter-mile of the house has cancelled that plan. We’ll be night penning until we can get these particular problem wolves eliminated.

Perhaps during the day Old Mama and her lambs can rejoin the flock as it feeds on hay near the house, and accompany the flock back into the pens at night. Perhaps my indulging in the desires of an old dog will lead to her demise. While I fear for her, far be it for me to deny an old dog her last wish.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sort of back...

 I assume that the readers of this blog are lucid enough that they realize things have not  exactly been going well.

 It is no one thing; it is EVERY thing. It is mortality and decay and entropy and luck, and admitting when you CAN'T play today..

It is realism. Look, fans, I have written some good books, but I am unlikely to die rich. I would settle for out of debt. If Querencia and/ or Tiger Country/Only a Mountain haven't sold to Hollywood I doubt they will quickly enough to pay my bills,  I am unlikely to write another of either.

I have decided that the Gila monster venom isn't working. It has been an enlightening experience, full of stumbles, pratfalls, and forced humility. God knows if old age isn't for sissies then sickness isn't for anyone who doesn't have a sense of humor. I'll have some details for those of you with a strong sense or humor and/or Buddho-Christian humility, but I warn you it is pretty coarse.

Re field sports. The big hawk had to go back to Bill Meeker. She was entirely too much bird for me. I had asked Bill for a 12 ounce Barbary tiercel, hand-raised. He generously responded by driving up a 34 ounce Gyr cross female, chamber-raised with an attitude. Not to mention that she was into four mile flights. Bill generously took her back after a few days, driving to pick her up from El Paso, and says that next year he will breed me a proper Barbary male. In the meantime, such falconry companions as Padre Pablo (Paul Moore) and Paul Domski have suggested that I should fly a Kestrel, Matt Mullenix style, out of my truck. As my apprentice, the nearly 80 year old Juan Gutierrez is recovering from multiple cancers, it is probably a good idea.

The Puppy also has many ideas and may be too much for me. Suffice to say for now that while she continues to be sweet and  intelligent, she also continues to destroy every object that catches her fancy, and does not listen to a single thing I say, considering me to have the social status of a wounded puppy. She does listen to Libby.

(Guns: after selling off most of mine and attempting an ill-timed effort to crowdfund a last fine gun, two things happened: David Zincavage GAVE me an utterly Germanic sixteen, and John Besse came back from Idaho with two guns destined for me or my shelves at least -- one is an interesting hammer-12 from the 1870s with the exact dimensions of my .410;  the other, a  Parker ten, is probably too heavy for me to carry these days.)

I'm recovering from a double hernia operation plus various falls, and to be honest, I feel a lack of attention from my primary neurologist. I'm making changes in this. It seems time when one receives more information from a consulting clinic in Denver once than in  years of therapy.

The richest veins of humor and humility  lie in the hernia operation. They sort of tell you what will happen. What they don't tell you is the effect of gravity. That all your male parts will be swollen up to twice their natural size and purple as a grape is not in the information handout. That the condition will last five days and more, only is succeeded by itching is something you can find out for yourself. But the funniest thing is that all the rummaging around in your intestinal region that produces your fluid and makes you swollen and purple also stops peristalsis. When you realize you have not used a bathroom and are becoming inflated...well, let me repeat what I said to my sister Karen, who heartily agreed: "Old age leaves you nothing in the way of dignity except what's inherent. I used to be modest and reticent. Well, see your dignified older brother at Happy Hour with a vodka lying on his side in his bed, trying to concentrate on his New York Review of Books while a nurse of his acquaintance rummages around in his large intestine looking for a blockage. And failing that, gives him a dose of sodium citrate so strong that he dares not go more than 20 feet from the toilet for 24 hours."

So here we are. Will the blog continue? If you wish, and as it can. I cannot devote my primary time to it, particularly as I can't type. Libby is typing this with much physical effort as my voice and her ears are not a good match for dictation, and dictation software has yet to prove itself to Parkinsonians. I have some more work but all work is extremely tiring right now.  This may change as I adapt to my present meds, and may well change after Februrary and a new neurologist. A temporary neighbor has given me an interesting tip on a radical but rooted new therapy. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, FYI. The novel is at Penn and maybe one more place (Malcolm?). The Book of Books is apparently dead in the water at Lyons Press, as the previous Book of Books (Sportsman's Library) made no money and its one proponent is leaving Lyons. Perhaps Daniel on how to revive it as a crowdfunding project? A memoir of sorts seems unlikely to sell unless one one of the others did, which seems unlikely at the moment. The same thing -- sorry, Dutch -- for an anthology. Though  I would do the Book of Books for you.

The most maddening prospect is the Passenger Pigeon project. I am more convinced than ever that I have the key to the phenomenon. But I have no agent, and the only people willing to do it are SkyHorse. I trust Jay Cassell there,  as he put Hounds of Heaven right, but they can't give me enough money. Worse, the president of the company wants a new sample chapter and I haven't a clue what to say in it. I've never been so blocked. except intestinally. The trips I need to make to Wisconsin and Berkeley are both expensive and mildly intimidating but I'll do them if I can.

This is the point, along with many others, to put put in my inexpressible gratitude to Libby Frishman. She thinks she's grouchy. I maintain that not only is she not grouchy; her occasional temper means that she is accruing far more virtue by having to work for it than would be demonstrated by a blissed-out ninny.


David's gun with 410

Bo & Lib

Friday, November 03, 2017

Visions of Helen

"I.m not answering that!"


Radio with Lauren:


With Mary Karr, another absolute favorite:


The new TV show: luminously SANE falconry:

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Bird

Looks like Esperanza is here to stay, at least for a while.

More tomorrow, especially on productive HELEN.

Friday, October 20, 2017


Libby has quit the PO.With some adjustments, the financial blow may not be that bad. And I can't tell you how liberating it is. I believe she has lost 20 points of blood pressure.

The off- label "Gila monster drug" has not proved revolutionary. Though I will finish it and it improves things marginally, no "Lourdes moment".

I wanted a small imprint falcon this year, and called Bill Meeker in El P, who breeds such. He had just sold a male Barbary who would have been perfect. He suggested instead that I take a 34 ounce -- i.e. HUGE-- female Gyr-Barbary which had just come out of the chamber and had not been handled at all before the last two days. I said he was crazy. He said she would make a great hare hawk. I said she would be wild. He said she already hooded well and would not jump off the fist. I said that I had no money; he said she was free and he would drive her up.

She has been here three days and so far she has not done anything wrong, which is remarkable.

When she and BoBo contrive to vanish an antelope on Lee Henderson's ranch we will all be sorry.

Old Times

A tribute to my bouncer, or as we usually said "doorman" days in Cambridge and Somerville, and yes it was that bad . I was known as "the mean little one who looks like Jim Morrison". I was not "mean"; it is just that at 5' 8" I could not LOOM like my Alberta- born Viking friend John Brakke.)

Curiously I met two present friends there, meeting them for the first time in those very different circumstances: Laramie professor Carlos Martinez del Rio (didn't let him in: looked to young for his Mexican I D, blood on shirt, English accent and Mexican I D. "Wewere just at the Mosh pit in the Rat!" he protests today; and sheep rancher Pieter Ditmars

Life must go on...

..... and death, and eating: Kirk Hogan with the year's first woodcock in Wisconsin.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

News from old friends

Annie  Proulx just got an award, the Medal for Distinguished Contirbution to American Letters, by the National Book Foundation. The award, which recognizes a a lifetime of literary achievment, cites her " deep reverence for the beauties and complexities of rural America." The photo , from the Grauniad (Guardian) is nice too:

She remains unimpressed. House hunting in the Pacific Northwest, she writes to  Libby "Nice hat":
... and to me: "You look more like Sam Shepherd than yourself"
 She says: "I am in [a small town] trying to get moved in...Place is a weird invisible oligarchy with a red hot center of crazies. A very odd place. I like it.  of ocean, plenty of birds with orange legs and a chance to learn to differentiate some of the gulls from some of the other gulls. Ha. Lots of Cascadian Fault, sleeping volcanoes, stuff enough for a tsunami, landslides every week, and of course the chance for a bomb from Kim Jing Inn."

The ability to write letters in prose as good as their finished work is not the thing I least enjoy about my friends. Tom McGuane has often written me vivid descriptions of birds of prey. ("Cutting horses are my falcons.") Right now he has other things on his mind, and I have not heard from him. His ranch above McLeod, Montana, was almost entirely burned out. Miraculously, ("the luck of the Irish" as he has often cited in his shotgun trading), the fire stopped just short of the headquarters house, leaving his dogs, his paintings, and his shotguns intact. Even his entire grazing stock miraculously escaped through an open gate . But his expression as he looks down from the valley above reminds you that it is not easy to begin again at 80.

Peter Bowen has written what he intends to be the penultimate DuPre book, Solus, and.. dedicated it to me and Libby. It has Kazakhs.

 I asked how on earth he did them (and their dogs ) so well. He claims he got them from me..I am more than touched.

More TK.. tired.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

The Predation Crisis

It was still dark, but I heard the ruckus of the dogs outside and flipped on the outside light to see eight livestock guardian dogs and three guardian burros headed for the house. All were agitated and upset as they escorted guardian dog Old Mama straight for the front door. Even in the dim light, I could see her hind end was soaked with blood.

The wolf pack had hit the flock on its bedground to the west of the house. The sheep had fled around the corner of the fence to the spot where I would find them shortly before dawn. We would spend all the rest of that day finding dead sheep, gathering the walking wounded, and moving the flock to the holding pens at the house. Our death toll that day included one ewe and nine lambs that had been slated to go to market at 80 pounds a few weeks later. In addition, there were nearly a dozen walking wounded sheep (both ewes and lambs), and three injured guardian dogs (one severely wounded).

We live in Wyoming’s predator zone­, the area where wolves can be legally killed at any time without a tag. It appeared that the attack on our place involved a pack with pups that were learning how to kill.

USDA Wildlife Services arrived the next morning to try to locate the pack. They eventually found tracks here and there (including the tracks of two wolves just a quarter-mile from our house) but the wolves were covering a large range and managed to stay both out of sight and out of the traps that were set for them. The federal agency has now spent two weeks trying to trap and radio-collar one wolf from the pack so we can find out how many wolves we’re dealing with. But the wolves have remained elusive, leaving just their most recent cattle kills behind.

Yesterday was the last day that federal funding was used for wolf control. If wolf control is to proceed, it will be through funding from our local predator board.

Meanwhile, our walking wounded sheep are dying one by one, but we’re hopeful Old Mama may recover. The sheep flock has remained penned and has been fed $150-per-ton hay we’ve trucked in since the attack. We can’t turn the flock out to graze without guardian dogs, and the dogs can’t go out while the wolf traps are set on their range.

A portion of the Farm Bill provides for partial compensation for livestock death loss above normal mortality “due to attacks by animals reintroduced into the wild by the Federal Government or protected by federal law, including wolves and avian predators.” It’s our understanding that our claim will be the first such claim under the program for attacks by reintroduced animals.

There is no compensation program to pay for our walking wounded sheep, our vet bills, or the cost of bringing in hay during this time that our flock should be grazing. And now there is no federal funding for control of problem wolves. We know the wolves will be back.

This is the privilege of living in Wyoming’s predator zone. Neighbors located 20 miles north of us are in the trophy game zone so they are eligible for both state-funded damage compensation and control of wolves, but those of us in the predator zone are presumed to be able to “take” wolves at any time, so we’re supposed to be satisfied with this compromise. Unfortunately when it comes to wolves, it’s never a simple matter of just shooting problem animals because they arrive, do their damage, and leave under the cover of darkness.

What more can we do? What more can we be expected to do? I think we’ve done our share to minimize conflicts with large carnivores. Dependent on the season and location, we utilize a total of 14 nonlethal techniques to deter predators from our flock (fencing, pasture rotation, carrion removal, guardian dogs, guardian burros, taking weak animals out of the herd/culling, frequent human presence/herding, employing noise-makers, employing cameras/flash devices, shooting at/harassing predators that approach, removing attractants from pastures, using multi-species grazing, changing bedding sites, and night penning). But nothing is perfect, and all nonlethal control techniques will fail at some point.

Our use of these varied nonlethal control techniques delays the inevitable: the need for lethal control of problem predators. Now is the time for lethal control of our problem wolves, if only we can find them before they return to strike our flock and its guardians again.

Despite all our efforts, we still rely on the professionals at USDA Wildlife Services. We have found that skilled animal damage specialists are able to identify and track individual problem predators and eliminate those animals that are causing our problems. This targeted removal is an important part of keeping our losses to a minimum.

But the predator load in Wyoming continues to increase, while funding and support for management and damage control decreases. Our story is just that: our story. Talk to our neighbors in the Upper Green River region, who have lost at least 60 head of cattle this summer to grizzly bears. Or our friends in the Black Hills who have lost a major portion of their goat crop to mountain lions this year, despite the presence of herders and guardian animals.

We have no interest in the eradication of predator populations, but the public needs to begin to understand the reality of what it’s like to live alongside large predators, and the hardship and heartaches these animals cause to the people who share the same range, despite our best efforts.

Wildlife advocates oppose the killing of every bear, wolf, or mountain lion, even though the removal of these animals has no negative impact on their overall populations. It’s easy to oppose the killing of a beautiful, iconic animal when you are removed from the reality of the animal’s basic nature – a mode of life that involves killing to make a living. Yet state wildlife management agencies manage these species with conservative harvests because of an underlying fear of litigation by wildlife advocates.

Something’s got to give, because the current system is not sustainable. I think we’ve given enough.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Falconry Goddesses

Ourc regnant falconry goddesses, Helen Maconald and Lauren McGough, do a podcast TOGETHER at the BBC.More please!

Full of good sense and unexpected insights-; as Helen says., only Lauren would fly an eagle because it is so SERENE.

Lauren is currently in S Africa chasing drunken  monkeys with  a "little" male Crowned eagle. We hope to see her here soon.

Kirk in Iceland

Kirk is doing better things in Iceland than illustrating my blog-- important things like eating and catching salmon and sea trout...


Apologies for being slow. The "Venom" is doingsome good, but it is a three month process and it does not cure. An attack of cramnps has really knocked me down the last couple of days..Meanwhile, word is out for a new EFECTIVE gene therapy method in Mass- a cure? We staggger from hope to hope...

Meanwhile I have two books, one finished, making the rounds, thanks to Pat Cooper, Malcolm Brooks, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas,  and above all Sy Montgomery.

I am no fan of the literature of sickness but I will make an exception.Anyone wanting to understand PD should read Alaska cartoonist Peter Dunlap- Shohl's graphic novel <a href="My Degeneration : a Journey through Parkinson's"<http://tinyurl.com/yc8f2ozw></a>. It is terrifying, relentless, true, and hilarious.  He is still working..

Rock and Hawk

"This gray rock, standing tall
On the headland, where the seawind
Lets no tree grow,

Earthquake-proved, and signatured
By ages of storms: on its peak
A falcon has perched.

I think, here is your emblem
To hang in the future sky;
Not the cross, not the hive,

But this; bright power, dark peace;
Fierce consciousness joined with final

Life with calm death; the faqlcon's
Realist eyes and act
Married to the massive

Mysticism of stone,
Which failure cannot cast down
Nor success make proud."

Robinson Jeffers, Rock and Hawk
Black Gyr on basalt in Iceland, taken by Kirk Hogan theee days ago

Thursday, September 07, 2017


"The Blood of the Eastern Dragon!" That is how Vladimir Shakula, Russian Kazakh, former soldier, hound breeder admnisrator, scientist and alleged war criminal, described the Kyrgiz Taigan.

Shakula with Himalayan Snowcock.

Now Lane Bellman has bred the first US litter in NM

My pick!

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Venom Plus

My new and most effective drug (may halt, if not reverse, Parkinson's "progress") is based on a synthetic Gila monster venom.

Tim already has a poem for the 'Venom Drug", as everybody is naturally calling it:

Hope is Our Word for Elpis

Stephen is taking Gila monster venom

to treat the brain disease I deeply hate.

I pray this treatment hasn’t come too late.

Now he can ride his horse in faded denim,

hawk on his fist, young of the year spring kite

as the rose-fingered dawn rolls back the night.

Parkinson’s has taken too many friends

as I have written you too many times,

grappling with meters and my anguished rhymes.

The greatest of these pitiable ends?

My pope who strode the world like a colossus

as Homer’s longest strophe, the molossus,

leaves its huge footprint in his epic verses.

Jesus, relieve us of our lethal curses.

Bayetta, the variety of Exanamide that I take, is synthetic; no Gila Monsters are harmed, or even harassed by milking, in its making.

Our modern Mithridates cont.

... in the right amounts venom, especially neurotoxic venom,  is good for you. Bill Haast of the Miami Serpentarium lived to be 101 after taking shots of venom every day. He never had a sick day in his life and survived 197 snakebites. He is a legend.

 I heard about Haast from my pen-friend and journalistic inspiration  Dan Mannix, one of the best writers on animals in his time,  an unusual rebel from a Main Line Pennsylvania family, who wrote among other things All Creatures Great and Small, The Wolves of Paris, The Fox and the Hound (Disneyfied into a silly children's cartoon), and The Killers, as well as ones on pop culture subjects like carnivals seen from the inside (Step Right Up). In the forties, Dan and Jule Mannix, then living at an expensive Manhattan address, started in this strange business when they were forced by circumstance to obtain and train two eagles, a Bald ("Pre-Act"- remember both species were shot as pests into the Sixties) , and a Golden to hunt iguanass in Mexico and write about them. He was as usual ahead of his time; later, Harry Crews and Gordon Grice would make a literary genre  out of such things, writing about tattoos, toxic and dangerous animals,  Carneys and chickenfights in such venues as Esquire even as  Mannix had pioneered before them in Argosy and True.*

 In the Seventies Betsy and I were living in an apartment complex in Newton, Mass. Upstairs lived a faded Grande Dame from Philadelphia with a kind heart and a wealth of complicatedly pinned up hair. She stopped us on the stairs one day when we were carrying in a Merlin, and stopped us to examine the bird. She nodded and said "Many, MANY years ago my sorority housemate had one of those, but it was rather LARGER."

Suddenly inspired, I made the correct guess: "Was your housemate Jule Mannix?

Surprised, she said "Yes..?"

"Then it was a Bald eagle, and yes, it was bigger than this one!"

*Sublit? They were considered so by snobs then. But certainly my long-term correspondent Geoffrey Household, whose Watcher in the Shadows I first read in Argosy when I was eleven, whose publisher was Atlantic Monthly,  who first mentioned the works of his "fellow pirate" Patrick Leigh Fermor to me, and who last wrote to me the week of his death, was not considered so. And John D Macdonald's dead-on Florida portraits , which I discovered in Darker Than Amber back then in that venue, got a real second wind when rediscovered by new literati like Jim Harrison in the late 60's.

Venom 1 ; Mithridates (from A E Housman, A Shropshire Lad}

The volume used was Betsy's ancient first edition."Lad" has provided more titles than any other English work of art than The King Jame s version or Shakespeare, including many in Science Fiction. Reid? How about "For a breath I tarry"? I always thought his and Poul Anderson's stoic world view had much in common

There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast, 60
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all that springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more, 65
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat; 70
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white’s their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
—I tell the tale that I heard told. 75
Mithridates, he died old.

Thursday, August 31, 2017


This will be one illo by Eldridge Hardie from a new collection of the works of North Dakota poet and hunter Tim Murphy. He and El gave it to me! I have been a fan of Eldridge's work for at least as long as the old Gray's that we both worked at existed. I brought a copy of the late Datus Proper's Pheasants of the Mind, among my favorites of both their works, and was pleased to hear, in our too- short Denver visit, that he had also hunted with Datus. They met in Arizona for quail; Datus and I used to out of Bozeman for quick day trips after Gray partridge...

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Complicated Good News

The terrible thing about Parkinson's is that it is a one-way ratchet. From the moment the first symptoms start, its advance is slow and relentless, from when you just have a little tremor or lurch and are just about normal. "Progress" has begun. When the slide starts the slope more steeply, you can no longer lie to yourself. The results may keep you up more even than the constant pain and cramps in your leg muscles. You think of old Pope John Paul, the Olympic- class skier of the Tatra Mountains turned into (I KNOW) an amazingly determined old wreck of a hero. You think of two friends of Tim Murphy's who committed suicide because of their inability to accomplish the smallest task. That water slide on your personal fun ride has something like "All hope abandoned" engraved above the door downstream. I don't walk well and can barely sleep, my typing is beyond atrocious, and I am in constant pain. Having fun is almost as difficult as working. Sometimes I can't even read a book. I met one of my sporting heroes,the artist Eldridge Hardie, in Denver last week and couldn't even stay a half an hour, becaise it was so uncomfortable to sit.

Meanwhile, someone-- Walter H?-- sent me link to a BBC story titled "First Hints Parkinson's Can Be Stopped". "Bayetta" is a synthetic analog of a Gila monster venom that seems to stop Parkinson's in its tracks. It didn't seem to reverse the effects. What you have was where you started. But I figure that any time you get off the slide is better than any time later. I do various things -- lifting weights (not too much since the guy moved away and the machines left), yoga, and hitting the big bag. I can use these to get myself back in shape if my nerves stop rotting out.

It is a total of three courses, each a month long, using two injections a day. After that, you're done. So far, experimental subjects have maintained without further treatments.

I've been thinking about it while sitting sleepless in my chairs with my thigh muscles spasming. It is an "off- license" drug for PD in the USA, used for type 2 diabetes. A rather Soviet female doctor at the Anschutz clinic in Colorado would not prescribe it; "It's against the rules! It is for your safety!"

Well, maybe. It has a lot fewer side effects than her favorite, Azilect, an MAO antagonist. I told her I was going to seek a source and she gave me a look of irritation along with (I hope) grudging respect for my stubbornness.

My friend Kirk Hogan at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, physician(anesthesiolologist), scientist (geneticist, anthropologist), gourmand, salmon fisher in Iceland woodcock hunter in Brittany, who met me while he was elk hunting on a friend's ranch in Catron County, and who studied Colonial literature, our heroes Kipling and Conrad, under Bill Burroughs at the Naropa Institute, came through with information and support. Beth K., a former internist and at one time our brilliant local doctor, who is now living in Austin and says she'd rather run a wildlife refuge than be in medicine, seconded the info, Then our primary care physician, Jenn Phillips, evaluated the information and decided to write us a prescription. My "medical board" is an impressive bunch.

I'm sitting around waiting to get my first shot, because I can't eat until 30 minutes afterwards. I'm supposed to quit or at least cut back my drinking for a couple of months. I can't do it cold turkey, because it would probably kill me, but I am resigned to doing it slowly, at least for the three months. That I can't do it cold turkey is probably reason enough to cut back. a new drug, Extended release Amantadine, is just on general approval to use for suppressing the dyskenesias, the rhythmic movements that I tend to take when my medicine is doing well, and cause Montana, the bartender at the Spur, to say "Turn on the jukebox, so tourists will think Steve is dancin', and he won't scare them", and also the terrible crashes, which within a minute's time turn my body from an obedient servant to a hulk that cannot sit comfortably in a chair, never mind walk or write. These are the things that hurt and frustrate me most.

Science has now developed drugs to stop Parkinson's in its tracks and alleviate its worst symptoms. As you get old, your are more and more grateful for negative freedoms. I'm a happy man tonight.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Maurice R. "Monty" Montgomery, 1938- 2017: RIP

My friend Monty was always a slightly elusive presence, even in his autobiographical sketch in Amazon, written by himself:

"M. R. Montgomery, known to the various government record keepers as Maurice R. Montgomery Jr., and to all his acquaintances as Monty, was born in eastern Montana in 1938, raised partly in California, and now lives near Boston for reasons that he cannot quite explain. Over the past twenty-five years he has written for the Boston Globe on every subject except politics, a clean record he hopes to maintain until retirement. Other than fishing and a little bit of gunning, he has no obsessive hobbies, although he has been known to plant the occasional tomato and a manageable number of antique rose varieties, these for the pleasure of his wife, Florence."

He was sort of the unknown best writer I knew. ALL of his books were good, but two in particular, Many Rivers to Cross, about native trout, and Saying Goodbye, about eastern Montana and fathers and sons, are absolute classics. Saying Goodbye is the best book on eastern Montana I know.

Monty could write about anything. Though I didn’t get to know him until the 90s, I first wrote to him for advice on bird dogs in 1970s -- he replied with a column called “Find a Gentleman With a Bird Dog”. He also wrote columns I remember on rutabagas and November.

In the end I couldn't even find his obit in the Globe. Monty was erudite, kind, and generous as well as an undervalued writer. He will be missed.

Here is a fine tribute by Corb Lund about their mutual country.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Greg McNamee sent this with the caption: "It was only a matter of time", to which he added "Newly scraped from the north Phoenix desert...

Asian Hounds

Our friend Lane Bellman has just produced the first litter of Taigans, the high- altitude Kirgyz version of the Eastern sighthound, just north of here. Stay tuned...

"The blood of the  Eastern Dragon": Vladimir Sghakula,, Kazakh Russian, dog breeder, refuge administrator' biologist. and alleged war criminsal, who still prefers Mazar el Sharif , where there  is a price on his head, to the dubious charms of Tajikistan. on the taigan.

My pick of the litter

Hemingway's Guns-- new edition

Silvio Calabi and Co. hav come out with a new ed of the already- good Hemingways's Guns that adds the Cuban guns from the Finca Vigia (a uniformly ruined unshootable lot BTW) to the already good scholarship of the first volume. Two things are  particularly notable. First, most American rich folks back then shot good versions of the same guns as their less well- off contemporaries, not aristocrats' or Best guns. Hem shot a Model 12, some 21's, a Springfield, many Winchesters, and a humpback Browning; so did my father, and I have owned them all. The only real "Best" he ever owned was the Westley .577, and he disliked shooting it.

And though Patrick H debunked it long ago as a myth propagated by "Miss Mary" (I believe): Hemingway not only didn't shoot himself with a Boss; he never owned a London Best shotgun! Calabi has done real detective work here, finding the remnants of the W & C Scott lock from the fatal gun.

For all fans of Hem and guns, (except perhaps those put off by the NYRB article that called the book "sick fetishism"-- !)

And on another gun matter, congratulations to reader Phil Yearout, who just got published in Shooting Sportsman!

PS : Pauline shot a Darne 28!

Monday, July 17, 2017

New Tom

Tom Russell's new album is about leaving his home in El Paso and moving to Santa Fe. Among other things, they were about to surround his rural home in the Valley with a subdivision...

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Old Travels

Found this image of our Kazakh guide Hagay at the Tamgaly petroglyph site, a World Heritage site but one that at the time that had supposedly been visited by only six westerners, two of them us. Central Asian T Shirts are even weirder than Japanese ones...

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Good news coming!

Despite continuing difficulties with my health, a visit to Santa Fe and a small bequest turned a lot of things around. I may soon have working dictation software (if such a thing is possible!} and a working laptop. I have sold several articles. There is even a glimmer of hope on health, as I strive to get into a Denver clinic to learn how to use my so-called gizmo. Wish me luck. Much more to come when I an less exhausted.

I added more pics to to "Old Days" below.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

James Lee Mansell, RIP

James was Floyd Mansell's oldest son, with the woodsman's heritage and ability one might expect. Perhaps even in extra measure; he was one of the best woodsmen and elk and turkey hunters I ever knew in his youth. I believe he was also a Golden Gloves boxer, as many of Floyd's kids and proteges were. But he had a problem. Before such things were diagnosed properly, at least in rural districts, he was utterly dyslexic and never did learn to read. It was no lack of intelligence or dedication; he spoke Spanish, "Burqueno"- accented English , and Navajo; people tended to think he was Spanish, but he was a quarter Navajo, a quarter Choctaw, a quarter Scots- Irish, and a quarter Lebanese; with his handsome vaguely Asian features he would have looked quite at home in Almaty or any of the Stans...

James worked hard, played hard, and walked more than anyone I knew (he once broke his back in an accident, and was walking three days later!), and he drank. It finally killed him. He was nothing if not realistic about it, and made jokes about it until his last days. I would ask him why he had done something uncharacteristically dumb, and he would look at me and say "Steve... I was drunk!" It reached its peak of heartbreak and hilarity when he insisted on narrating, in a loud voice, in the supermarket at 10 AM, how he had managed to get bitten two times by a big diamondback, which he normally could have controlled with ease, as he was a serious snake collector. In each stage of the narration -- anaphylactic shock from the antivenin, and getting bit again when he released it; I would say "I know James, I know". He kept on going "You know WHY?" I said "Yes, James" in a quiet voice. "PUTA, I was drunk!!"

He remained incorrigibly cheerful, even as his horizons narrowed. After being lost in the Gila Wilderness for three days,he stopped going on extended hunts. Breaking his back, though he walked through the pain, made it still harder than it was. He still came by almost daily, pointing out birds and other creatures he had seen on his walks. Toward the end, his wife Bernice was trying to get me to write about him, saying "You don't know him -- he's Floyd Mansell's son!" James, sitting at a table a few feet away, kept saying "Bernice, he's my friend Steve. I saw him this morning! Leave him alone!"

He left behind an enormous amount of good will and love, many brothers and sisters, his mother Wanda, and a grieving wife, and a wonderful bunch of children and grandchildren, some of them already accomplished naturalists and outdoors people. Although he lived his life on the margins, he'll be missed by many,including me.

James and grandchildren.