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"<></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.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Gordon Hall Wasley Austin RIP

When my old friend and editor at Gray's, Reed Austin, wrote a piece on how he met his wife, Gordon Hall Wasley, on a business fishing trip in which he ended up getting a treble hook bass plug stuck in his butt, and Gordon had to remove it, I thought it was hilarious and wrote him to tell him so. (Link TK; Anglers Journal Vol 2 no 4)). It wasn't until last week that I learned that he had written it originally as a love letter to Gordon to celebrate their 30th anniversary, never imagining it would serve as the centerpiece to her eulogy four years later at her funeral.

It was inexplicable. For me they are the very image of WASP golden youth, forever young. That they were happy grandparents is hard for me to get my head around. I remember all the years that Reed and I spent doing crazy versions of fishing and hunting. Once he jokingly asked me not to tell Bill Sisson, our editor at Anglers about our high times. (What he actually said was "Buy anything he writes, and don't believe a word about anything we ever did.")

I remember Gordon's aureole of golden hair around her face when we were jumps- hooting ducks on Duxbury Marsh.(Duxbury Marsh was so much native habitat for Reed; his grandfather Francis (Frannie) was one of the three young men hunting Duxbury Marsh in van Campen Heilner's canonical duck hunting book; another was Reed's then landlord, Parker).

But mostly what I remember of Gordon Hall Wasley was her genuine interest in everyone else's passions. A brash and somewhat insecure kid from what was very much the other side of the tracks in those days at first could not believe this exotic creature was asking questions about my passions, with interest. By the time they were married I was with Betsy Huntington, and another interesting virtue was added to the Austin repertoire: utter loyalty. Betsy was of a haut-Boston background and was much older than me; this made us a little too odd for some of the more conventional gatherings we were invited to. Somehow,inevitably, Reed and Gordon would end up at our table where they would spend the rest of the evening. No fuss was made -- they just came and sat with us and had fun. As I said to Reed this week, "Do you think we never noticed?"

I last saw Reed at Betsy's funeral. He had gotten out of his hospital bed, and slashed the leg of his Brooks Brothers suit to fit it over his cast. It was a typical gesture. Through the years we stayed lightly in touch but were involved very much in our own pursuits. It took Gordon's death to bring us together. I told him "We all loved her, and she loved you."

Now he has his own battles to fight, alone. I hope the children and grandchildren are of comfort. Meanwhile, I grieve with you, old buddy -- she was glorious. Keep writing, and hang in there.

Gordon fishing the Battenkill

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Old Days

The piece on the girlss playing somehow reminded me of an older incarnation.This would be the late Lashyn and a much younger Ataika, in the spring woods with us the day we discovered the remains of a very large old bear who evidently starved before he could den up . I still have his huge skull with its worn- down teeth, And I still carry a 1911 and 7 X 42 Ziess Dialyts., though I don't know which is more reactionary. This would be 2005 I think...

UPDATE; Found more pics (bottom):

Thursday, June 01, 2017

The Girls Play

Once again we have a Girls' Act. Bobo has regressed her great aunt to about 18 months old (from 14 years).  They play and pop and flirt as long as anyone stays awake.

This will come as no surprise to anyone who knows Turcoman tazis. Ataika's mother was 14 when she had her and 21 when she died, Her grandmother attained 19, If she were at "home" she would probably sill be jumping off the backs of camels.
Almaty- Taik on left just two months younger than Bo       

Be patient -- real content is coming.

By the way -- does anyone have any trouble seeing the usual background for this blog? At this point we're just seeing white space down here...

Better Pain Scale...

... copied from my podiatrist. According to a nurse I know, the idiotic "pain face" version is required by the government for some venues. Tell me it ain't so!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Lauren's New Eagle

The REAL Eagle huntress,  Lauren McGough, the Mother of Dragons, is in South Africa with a new dragon. Monkeys beware!

John takes off

Our favorite gun geek John Besse left for his summer home on a tributary of the Snake in Idaho in the middle of the night so nobody  would make a fuss. I wasn't too surprised.

Here he is with his latest project, a restored M99 Savage in the uncommon  "250- 3000" caliber.

He is partial to my favorite retriever, the ever - quirky Chesapeake, and has two: grumpy middle- aged Willie and young goofy Andy.

This M 92 isn't quite done yet. It had a surface as pitted as the moon's .
 Now look-as smooth as velvet, but with all its edges...