Saturday, July 04, 2020

The Eyes Have It

What's That To Do With the Price of Wool?

In Ireland and the UK, the wool market has collapsed to the point that it often makes more sense to burn sheared wool than to transport it.

Sheep have to be shorn whether the wool is used or not. This is 788 pounds of blackface wool (a meat breed of sheep and the most common in the UK) for less than $20.

What’s the price of wool have to do with the history of mounted hunts, bird shoots, and terrier work?

More than you might think!

Britain’s sheep economy boomed in the late 18th and early 19th Century and working collies became a lynchpin of rural economic life.

The sheep economy, however, proved less stable than hoped. Busts in the wool business followed cheap imports of cotton and wool from Australia, America, and Europe.

In a collapsing wool economy, many marginal ventures found they needed other sources of income. One that presented itself was the stocking of pheasant, grouse and partridge for the new sport of bird shooting.

The blunderbuss, which had appeared on the scene in the middle of the late 18th Century, made way for the shotgun by 1850. The great age of Victorian shooting had now begun in earnest, with a new-found appreciation for retrievers, setters and pointers.

In 1859, the first formal dog show was held at Newcastle upon Tyne, sponsored by two shotgun makers, and featuring only Pointers and Setters. John Henry Walsh, the editor of The Field magazine, was one of the judges. He later went on to found the Kennel Club.

Return the Black Hills to the Sioux NOW

Friday, July 03, 2020

America's Founding Terrier

George Washington fox hunting in Virginia.

The case can be made that America might not exist today were it not for "our Founding Terrier."

Robert Brooke of Maryland introduced foxhunting to the United States in 1650, and imported the first pack of foxhounds from Great Britain.

Dr. Thomas Walker of Virginia (who discovered the Cumberland Gap and for whom the Walker Coon Hound is named) imported another pack to Virginia in 1742. The first fox hunting pack maintained for the benefit of a group of foxhunters rather than for a single owner, was instituted by Thomas, Sixth Lord Fairfax, in 1747 in northern Virginia.

Walker and Washington were good friends and business partners, and were co-owners (along with Washington's brother-in-law) of the "Dismal Swamp Land Company" (1763) which was to develop land near present-day Norfolk, Virginia. Walker was probably the person that got Washington started in fox hunting.

Washington moved to Mount Vernon, on the Potomac River just below Washington, D.C., after marrying Martha Dandridge Custis in 1759. It was at Mount Vernon, while still in his 20s, that George Washington first began fox hunting in earnest, setting up a rather lavish set of kennels and carefully breeding a new line of American foxhounds that were faster, lighter and less pack-centered than their English brethren.

In 1768, Washington was appointed as a delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and managed to fill his need for fox hunting at the Gloucester Hunting Club across the River from Philadelphia in New Jersey near present-day Haddonfield.

It was largely because of social and political connections made while fox hunting that Washington's social prominence rose, and in 1775 George Washington was Congress's unanimous choice as commander of the new Continental Army that was to lead the American forces against the British.

In truth, Washington did not have the forces and equipment to wage a successful fight and hold ground, and his chief battle-field opponent, General William Howe of Great Britain, was a master tactician.

Howe defeated Washington time and time again. In August of 1776 Howe landed on Long Island, captured New York City and defeated Washington at White Plains.

In 1777 Howe defeated Washington again, this time at the Battle of Brandywine (near present-day Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania) and took Philadelphia.

In October of 1777, the Battle of Germantown was waged. This battle took place near Philadelphia, and it too was a defeat for American forces, but it was a turning point in the war.

The turning point occurred when a small fox terrier was found wandering between the battle lines. The little dog was scooped up by American soldiers and the dog's collar identified it as belonging to none other than General Howe.

The dog was brought to Washington as a war prize -- a taunt to use against the British -- but Washington was having none of it.

A true dog-man, who missed his own fox hounds and terriers at Mount Vernon, Washington personally wiped the little terrier clean and brushed its coat. He then dictated a short note to his aide-de-camp, Alexander Hamilton, and secretly tucked a private note of his own tight under the collar of the dog. The dog, and both notes, were then returned to General Howe under a flag of truce.

Washington's private note has not survived, but Howe was extremely pleased by it. The public note, a copy of which has survived (see picture below), reads: "General Washington's compliments to General Howe. He does himself the pleasure to return him a dog, which accidentally fell into his hands, and by the inscription on the Collar appears to belong to General Howe."

After his terrier's return Howe praised Washington's actions as an "honorable act" and historians note that although he continued to win his battles, he never pursued Washington with quite the same vigor.

In fact, when ordered to fight harder and show the rebels no compassion, Howe resigned in protest.

Howe was replaced by General Henry Clinton, who was a poor tactician, and General Charles Cornwallis, who was a poor field commander.

In the end, the United States won the war and Washington returned to his beloved Mount Vernon where he continued breeding fox hounds and chasing foxes at least once a week.

Shortly after returning to Mount Vernon, Washington imported massive hounds from France with the help of his friend the Marquis de Lafayette. American hounds were crossed with these new French imports, and some of the progeny were sent to the Gloucester Foxhunting Club, outside of Philadelphia, where they proved extremely popular due to their speed.

In 1787 Washington headed the Virginia delegation to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, and again his friends at the Gloucester Foxhunting Club lobbied for his election as the first President of the new country.

After the Constitution was ratified, Washington was unanimously elected President and in time the new Capitol was constructed just down river from his Mount Vernon estate.

Draft of note from George Washington to Howe, in the handwriting of aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

The Legendary Hunts of Theodore Roosevelt

The Legendary Hunts of Theodore Roosevelt looks to be a great book:

“In this book Seerey-Lester recreates in words and paint some of the most incredible experiences of one remarkable man.

“You will share TRs frustration of being a rancher and the thrill of being an explorer and big game hunter. You will be there, as the president becomes the first white man to witness the Maasai Warriors rite of passage in Africa; you will share in TR’s fear during a bear attack and read about his amazing hand to claw combat with a world record cougar.

“After reading these, more than 50 stories that begin when TR was just 17 years of age, you will realize that no man in recent history ever experienced as many life-threatening incidents. Seerey-Lester has captured many of these in his paintings and in the retelling of the stories behind the episodes.

“You will see that TR was driven by ambition but also tragedy, and read about the incidents, which led to him becoming the youngest man to become President of the United States. How he managed to balance public life with his desire to hunt and preserve the natural habitat of his beloved America. Seerey-Lester deals with those two sides of TR with compassion and understanding.

“Some 18 stories are devoted to this historic venture on the Dark Continent, the difficulties of hunting and preserving big game specimens; life and death incidents to which ultimately turned out to be controversial.

“The Book continues with his hazardous expedition down the River of Doubt in Brazil, and then concludes with expeditions undertaken in the Far East by his sons, Kermit and Ted, proving that the TR tradition continued after his death.”
It seems to be out of print, and very expensive on the used market.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Pakistan: Contraception or Concrete 16 Years On

As I was bumping around looking for something I wrote some years back (2004) about pigs, fish ponds, antibiotics, and influenza in China, I came across a piece I wrote that same year entitled Pakistan: Contraception or Concrete?

The Pakistani press reports that birth rates in that country are falling, but the actual numbers are still grim, with the "good news" being that the population of Pakistan is now "only" doubling every 35 years with a total fertility rate of 4.5.

Noted the UNFPA's Dr Oliver Bracer, "The situation is still very depressing."

Abdul Rasheed Khan, Federal Secretary of Population and Women's Welfare in Pakistan, said a very low literacy rate is the root cause of many health and population-related problems, but that he hopes that the Education Ministry's "Education For All" project, targeting rural populations, will galvanize progress in the family planning arena.

Pakistan's goal is to achieve replacement level fertility by 2020, and the UNFPA has pledged $35 million, over 5 years, to help reduce maternal mortality and improve reproductive health services.


Hmmm.... That's this year.

So what is Pakistan's ACTUAL total fertility rate?

It turns out it's 3.56 (not the goal of 2.1), which is about what the US fertility rate was at the top of the post-WWII Baby Boom.

Back in 2004 I wrote:

The most obvious way that Pakistan's future population growth is likely to manifest itself is in the arena of water and food production.

Over the course of the last 40 years, substantial increases in per capita calorie consumption have taken place in Pakistan, with average consumption rising from 1,753 calories in 1961 to over 2,447 today, according to the FAO. This progress was due, in part, to the creation of the world's largest continuous surface irrigation system; two of the largest dams in the world; nineteen barrages and headworks; forty-three main and twelve link canals; a total of 36,000 miles of canal distribution and 89,000 local watercourses -- over a million miles in all.

Thanks to this massive plumbing system, the Indus River and its canals now irrigate over 35 million acres of land in Pakistan.

The bad news is that Pakistan's population growth keeps racing forward, essentially negating the value of most of these water works. Pakistan's population, which was 60 million in 1970, is 143 million today, and is expected to rise to 242 million by 2025, and to over 332 million by 2050.

Clearly, there is no level of construction that can keep pace with Pakistan's population growth.

Despite these numbing numbers, however, local and international governments and agencies are still far more interested in construction projects than they are in contraception projects.

The World Bank, for example, has spent $3 billion to support reproductive health activities over the course of the last 30 years. While this may sound like a lot of money, this GLOBAL outlay for family planning over the course of the last 30 years pales when seen against the $11 billion estimated cost of the proposed Kalabagh Dam -- a single water project in Pakistan that the World Bank "greenlighted" a few years ago (but has yet to be built due to internal opposition within Pakistan).

Clearly, when governments and international funding agencies get as interested in contraception as they are in concrete, a lot more progress will be made.

In the interim, forests are falling to farms and farms are falling to freeways at a breathtaking rate of speed all over the world, Pakistan included. The thick forests that once covered the Indus plains and which once contained elephants, rhinoceros, wild sheep and leopards are long gone. Today the riverine and mangrove forests of Pakistan are also fast disappearing -- and with them a wide variety of animals like forest hogs, deer, jungle cats, fishing cats, and gray and black partridges (there are over 27 endangered species of birds in Pakistan).

Meanwhile, over 20% of Pakistan's population still does not have enough to eat and in 50 years there will be about twice as many people as there are now -- even with falling fertility rates.

Food for thought ...

So how well has Pakistan done racing the stork (population growth) against the plow (agricultural outputs)?

The good news is that some progress has been made.

The bad news is that in the 2019 Global Hunger Index, Pakistan ranks 94th out of 117 qualifying countries. "With a score of 28.5, Pakistan suffers from a level of hunger that is serious."

The Global Hunger Index has moved Pakistan's score from 36 in 2005 to 28.5 in 2019.

Is that good?

Compared to what?

The bottom line is that for Pakistan and every other developing country, rapid population growth is like running on soft sand when it comes to to economic development.

Yes, with tremendous inputs and work, Pakistan has moved the ball forward a bit.  Things are better now than they were in 2004. But things are far from good.

  • Over a third of all children under age 5 suffer from wasting.
  • One in five children is undernourished.
  • There is still not enough water, much less clean water and sewage treatment.
  • Population growth continues to crowd schools and cripple the delivery of water, sewage and health care systems.

On the environmental front, surface water is horribly polluted, leading to the loss of Siberian Cranes, Indus River Dolphins, and Branded Eagle Rays. The national animal -- the Markhor -- is critically endangered.

Contraception or concrete?  Pakistan did not chose well.

Racism and the Death of Hunting

Look ... and you will learn a lot.

Over at MeatEater, Patrick Durkin asks: “Is Hunting Too White?”

The answer is in the data.

Durkin notes that “In the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's most recent participation study of hunting, fishing and wildlife watching, the agency found 11.5 million Americans hunted at least once in 2016. Of those hunters, 11.1 million—96%—were white and 3% were Hispanic. Blacks and Asians made up most of the remaining 1%, but at levels too low to pinpoint participation rates.”

And what’s that mean for hunting?

Simple: It means hunting will continue to die unless there is more recruitment and encouragement across racial and gender lines.

Durkin notes that “whites currently make up 61% of the U.S. population; Hispanics, 18%; and blacks, 13%, but that in 2013, over half the children under age 1 were racial minorities for the first time in U.S. history.”

Black, Hispanic, and Asian kids raised in cities by parents who do not hunt, fish, hike, kayak, or rock climb are not likely to find an outdoor mentor, while equipment costs can be beyond daunting.

And then there is racism, both real and imagined.

Rick Dillard, who is black and heads the U.S. Forest Service’s fish and wildlife program for Mississippi’s national forests, notes that his black friends say there’s no way they’d go to unfamiliar places in the woods with white people they don’t know who had guns.

In addition, there’s no real effort by the hunting and fishing community to demonstrate inclusiveness.

Last night, I spent over 30 minutes looking for a single gun ad with a black face in it. Ditto for Hispanic, Asian, Arab, or Native American faces.

Zero. Zip. Nada. Null. Empty set.

Over 390 million guns have been sold to civilian gun owners, and there are NO gun manufacturer ads showing non-white faces?


Then I looked for non-white faces in dog food ads.

Same thing. Over $30 billion worth of dog food is sold in the country every year, and I can't find a dog food ad with a non-white face?

Rick Dillard has noticed. “If you’re a black hunter, and you watch TV hunting shows, or pick up an outdoors magazine or catalog, you feel intimidated when no one looks like you,” says Dillard. “The hunting industry has done a wonderful job including women and children, but I sense discomfort about including people of color.”


That’s a very polite word for racism.

Racial discomfort — i.e. racism — may have a hand in the death of hunting in America.

Right now only about 5 percent of Americans, 16 years old and older, actually hunt.

That's half of what it was 50 years ago — and the numbers are still going down as Facebook, Netflix, and sloth invade our lives.

What that means is that the financial base for hunting land conservation will, at some point, shrink.

Why should 95 percent of the public stand up to subsidize the under 5 percent who hunt?

That’s a good question now.

It’s going to be an even tougher question to answer in the future.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Racism in the World of Dogs and Hunting

"Karen" breaks the law and calls the cops on a black birder.

We have a problem.

The dog world and the hunting world are disproportionately racist.

This is not an accident, nor is it universal.... but YES there is not a *normal* distribution of racism within these two communities.

There it is.

If you haven’t seen it, then you are *really* not paying attention.

And if you have not been paying attention, you’ve got a race problem.

Racism, of course, is boiled into the bones of the dog show world, where sniffing pretensions built on lies, selection for coat color, and “purity of blood” is code for the kind of backwater sister-fucking that has been the staple of southern jokes since the beginning.

It’s not an accident that Leon F. Whitney — the AKC-celebrated veterinarian and dog writer — was not only the head of the American Eugenics Society, but the author of a book advocating the forced sterilization of 10 million Americans; a book praised by Adolph Hitler.

It’s not an accident that the idea of gas chambers was lifted wholecloth from the world of dogs.

Hunting, of course, skews rural, and since law enforcement has always been racist, and rural law enforcement has tended to skew towards the KKK, it’s not too surprising that racial minorities are under-represented whether it’s in deer camp, upland bird hunting, or duck hunting in the Chesapeake.

Suppress black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and immigrants by making them uncomfortable in bait shops, at ringside, or in forest and field, and you automatically increase not only the percentage of racists, but you increase the general tolerance for racism in the world of dogs and hunting.

Racism is — far and away — a white person’s disease. It is a sickness that white people must fix by themselves.

Job One is admitting racism is the pandemic that has boiled through this country for 400 years. It has cost jobs, crippled advancement, shut people out of schools, closed businesses, bankrupted good people, criminalized minor infractions, and lead to routine state-sanctioned murder. It has done this to millions of people for hundreds of years.

Let’s admit that right from the start.

And let’s admit that not only has the world of dogs and hunting not been an exception, it has been on the smellier end of the stick more often than not.

It doesn’t help that the dog show and hunting worlds were never young and have been rapidly aging for several decades.

The aged are not just more conservative and less well-educated; they are also, as a group, far more racist. It’s not an accident that the literature and rhetoric of the NRA sounds as if it was written by your most paranoid white-supremacist adjacent uncle. Has the NRA ever decried the killing of a law-abiding gun-owning black man by the police? Have they ever spoken up against the gun-toting white supremacists that shoot up schools, churches, and dance halls? No, and never.

What to do?

It’s not enough to simply say “I’m not racist” and then whistle past the graveyard. If you’re not actively challenging “dog whistle” racism that takes the form of salutes to the confederacy, a heritage of hate, and deep dive excuse-making for police-on-citizen violence, you are part of the problem.

If you think an attack on racism is an attack on your country, you are part of the problem.

If you think saying “Black Lives Matter” is an attack on white people, you are part of the problem.

And, to be clear, the problem is racism.

If you are infected, please quarantine yourself until you get your broken ass fixed.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Bike Ride from Williamsport MD to Pawpaw, WV

Biked from Williamsport, Maryland to Pawpaw, West Virginia and back with my brother, David, and his partner. Stephanie. We were mostly on the C&O Canal (56 miles each way), but we did a chunk on the parallel Western Maryland Bike Trail. I've biked some of this before (Williamsport to Fort Frederick), but discovered "Little Pool," the sister to Big Pool, as well as excellent river access at Four Locks -- great places to explore on the new kayaks once I get them together.  Excellent dinner prepared by Stephanie -- Pad Thai with peanuts, snow peas, carrots and other veggies, and tofu. Smart cooking and a meal I would do again! 

The trip was uneventful (if long for me and my psoriatic arthritis) save for about three hours of rain on the first day that cut visibility (due to my glasses) and flooded the trail to a depth of 1-4 inches. In addition, my oversized 29" front tire (2.3 inches wide) got a flat about 9 miles from our final destination, and my spare tire was fitted with a Shrader valve rather than a Presta, and the valve would not go through the rim. Doh! David and Stephanie biked the last stretch to the car and picked me up. I did learn from them that AAA will pick you up for free (for the first x miles) for a bicycle flat tire. Who knew?

Wildlife:  About half a dozen deer, a red fox, fox squirrels, gray squirrels two blue herons, a green heron, rabbits, and several kinds of turtles (cooters, sliders, red-ears, painted, and a spotted turtle)

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Bird’s Nest Mushrooms

Bird’s Nest Mushrooms are coming up pretty thick in my yard which is well-watered and with a good layer of wood mulch feeding azaleas, rhododendrons, and other flowering plants. These are a very small fungus -- several dozen are nestled in this little plot mulch in my hand.  

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Before the Scottie Was Ruined

Princess Victoria with her dog, "Mac," about 1908.

The Scottish Terrier was not yet ruined by what was to come: a massive head attached to a big chest and too short a back.  Modern dogs are cobby “kegs with legs” with ever-eroding health and a plunging level of popularity.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Chekhov’s Gun in Moundsville, West Virginia

Moundsville, West Virginia has a population of well under 10,000 people and a violent crime rate that is half the national average.

To put a point on it, they have had a grand total of TWO murders over a TEN YEAR period.

Yet they just got a million-dollar military vehicle designed to withstand IEDs.

Why? Because bored police officers in little hick towns love “free stuff” from the government and live rich Walter Mitty fantasy lives where they are always 10 minutes from being RoboCop Meets Dirty Harry.

This is going to be a classic case of Chekhov’s Gun: something introduced into the arena which, but its very presence, shapes the plot and moves it towards tragedy.

Stupid, stupid, stupid police department.  

Stupid, stupid, stupid federal government.

Two Kayaks Have Been Delivered

Two mail-order sit-on-top kayaks arrived today. I had to go mail-order because all the regular stores that sell such stuff are shut or empty of kayaks because of Covid-19.

The "personal flotation devices" come tomorrow, as well as roller to make getting the kayaks up on the top of the Escape easier. I hung the storage hanger straps today, and the top-of-vehicle "stacker" should be arriving from China in the (hopefully) not too distant future. A dolly to cart the kayaks from car to water (or trailer one with the bicycle) is on order. Slowly, slowly it comes together. I hope to be on the water fishing by July 4th.

The Real Lesson of Juneteenth

JUNETEENTH is not a celebration of freedom. It’s a reminder that freedom from racists and slavers does NOT come from a piece of paper but from the threat of death and destruction at the barrel of a gun. No one was “free” in Texas until 2,000 federal troops with guns showed up.