Friday, July 28, 2006

How Much is Detroit Costing You?

I came across a Sierra Club page that notes: "The biggest single step that automakers could take to reduce the cost of driving is to use existing technology to make our cars, SUVs, and light trucks go farther on a gallon of gas."

The Sierra Club has created an online calcalator that will tell you out how much money you'd save if fuel economy were modernized. See >>

Running Out of Gas

A little girl asked her mother, "Mom, may I take the dog for a walk around the block?" Mom replies, "No, because she is on heat."

"What's that mean?" asked the child.

"Go ask your father. I think he's in the garage."

The little girl goes to the garage and says, "Dad, may I take Belle for a walk around the block? I asked Mom, but she said the dog was on heat, and to come to you".

Dad said, "Bring Belle over here." He took a rag, soaked it with petrol, and scrubbed the dog's backside with it and said, "Okay, that should take care of that problem, You can go now, but keep Belle on the leash and only go one time around the block."

The little girl left, and returned a few minutes later with no dog on the leash. Surprised, Dad asked, "Where's Belle?"

The little girl said, "She ran out of petrol about halfway around the block, so another dog is pushing her home".

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Giant Possum Skull

That's a very large fur-farm red fox skull to the right -- the largest I could find, and plucked from a bin of about 50 based solely on size. The skull at the left is that of an enormous possum found in the field this weekend. Note the cranial ridge of bone at the top of the possum's skull -- a simple indicator for the species.

We found a number of bones in the woods yesterday. The first set were two odd-looking things, which I recognized pretty quickly, and Mike B. did too, as the backbone and breast bone of a wild turkey.

Lots of deer bones around of course. And a groundhog skull. The winner, however was this enormous possum skull. Wow! This old boy was HUGE -- far and away larger than any possum I have ever seen alive.

How did I know this was a possum? The quick give away was the very large cranial ridge. Possums have such small brains that the brain case does not offer enough room to attach the muscles of the jaw. The evolutionary solution has been to create a prominent ridge of bone along the top of the skull in order to increase the surface area for the possum-jaw's muscle adhesion.

The prominent canids and the small side teeth are also features of a possum, which has has more teeth (42) than any other fur bearer in this hemisphere. The possum, of course, is a mammalian marsupial -- the only marsupial in this hemisphere.

Research indicates that "playing possum" is not really an act. Instead, a possum suffers a kind of nervous collapse when it is overstimulated. The result is a kind of temporary catatonia which, ironically enough, often keeps the possum alive.

The reason "playing possum" works is that the attack response in many dogs and other predators is genetic -- it has nothing to do with being "angry" or being "hungry". The reason a fox will kill as many chickens as it can when it gets in a chicken coop is that the jerky and fluttering movement of the chicken triggers a "mass murder" response within the fox. If chickens simply "played dead," like a possum often will, a vixen would pluck off one hen and be on her way.

Top row, left to right: normal groundhog, normal possum, large boar raccoon.
Bottom row, left to right, large red dog fox, enormous possum skull, American badger skull.

Monday, July 24, 2006

East Meets West For a Day in the Field

Mike and a happy Knotty with a nice pot-bellied groundhog.

Mike B. came East from Colorado for a meeting, and brought a small dog with him by the name of Knotty, and we met up for a day in the field.

It was going to be hot, so we started early in the hope of catching a little break, which we more-or-less did, as it stayed overcast until noon.

The first hole was far and away the deepest at about five feet, and it was an amusing hole too. When we go to the end of it, I tailed out Knotty, and she was attached to a very young groundhog. Mike pronounced it a gopher, and in truth it was not much bigger than a Richardson's Ground Squirrel, the gophers of the American west.

We got Knotty separated from this very young groundhog, and I walked away a short distance and then tossed it into some soft weeds so that it could scurry away without the dogs following the scent trail. I was hoping the next few holes would not be that deep, or the critters that small.

The next hole was located in the woods (we were looking for a little shade) and on a steep bank down to a creek. Steep banks can be a problem, but the ground here was very soft, indicating it was wash-down dirt and not settled rock and clay. After I got a general impression of the sette, I decided it was not very deep despite the muffled acoustics (Sailor was in the ground and Mountain was guarding a bolt hole). For once I was right, and we broke through in short order, less than two feet down. At the very end of the dig, we swapped out Sailor and put in Mountain to do a little pulling.

After repairing the sette, we headed back to the vehicles for water. Because the sun was getting hot, I decided we should try some deep shade in some looser forest near by. As we pulled up to where we were going to park, a large groundhog ran over the grass. This one was going to be easy to locate!

Knotty found the sette, went to ground and bayed up a storm while I grabbed the tools and hauled them less than 100 feet to where we would be digging. Knotty stayed on this groundhog with a nice strong bay, and we were fortunate that the sette was less than two feet deep. We accounted for the third groundhog of the day pretty quickly, rebuilt the sette, and headed off on our way.

The dogs checked a number of holes on the path through the woods, but no one was home. As we got to a dry dreek bed, however, I noticed that Mountain had disappeared in the last few minutes. We called and waited, but it was soon clear she had found something nearby and had gone to ground.

Mike and I circled around through the woods looking for Mountain, and I showed Mike a terrific fortress of a fox sette that I had located last winter. Mountain had bolted a fox out of another sette nearby, and the fox had fled into this beatiful sette which I was reluctant to dig on.

Mike and Knotty found Mountain underground, up the creek bed and on a high bank. I grabbed both packs and all the tools and met up with them. Mountain was out of the ground now, and clearly confused. My guess was that the groundhog had bolted, and sure enough Sailor found it on the opposite bank in a parallel hole.
Mike and I crossed the stream bed, climbed the bank, located Sailor underground, and began to dig. This too was a shallow sette, but it was a little more complicated than it looked. In the end we sank three holes before we got it bottled.

Mountain missed her grab as it exited, however, and a fairly large groundhog zipped out and down across the creek bed back to the first sette where it had been located earlier. Good job, Mr. Groundhog!

We gave this one best, repaired the sette, and headed back to the vehicles to call it a day.

It was a nice day, with no dogs injured, four groundhogs dug to, with one bolted and one released.

Mike left me his Deben Mark III to play with, and since Chris just got a Deben Long-Range Terrier finder in the mail this week (ordered on Monday, arrived from the UK on Friday -- great service!), I should be able to report out on all the locator systems soon.

In the Fall, when Mike comes back this way again, that little fellow we let go at the very first hole of the day is likely to be a bit bigger. It's amazing how fast the kids grow up!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Pittman-Robertson Land

On this South Carolina sign, a lot of groups, political divisions and corporations are taking a bow, but the real source of the acquisition money can be found in the big type on the bottom -- the Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration Act. This is money paid by hunters for hunting property, and it is a terrific federal government program that has been working without a hitch for 70 years.

Earlier this week, I was hunting on some of the 44 million acres of Pittman-Robertson land available to hunters across the U.S.

What's is Pittman-Roberts land? Pittman-Robertson is a law approved by Congress in September of 1937 which provides funding for the selection, restoration, rehabilitation and improvement of wildlife habitat so that wildlife may be readily available to American hunters. Sometimes known by its more formal name, the "Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act," the law now includes money for hunter training programs and public target ranges as well. Most of the property designated as a "Wildlife Management Area" in your state will be land acquired through the Pittman-Robertson Act

About 4 million acres of P-R land has been bought outright, and about 50 million acres are under long-term lease from private land owners for the use of hunters. For the record, this is an area larger than the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey combined.

Pittman-Robertson land is acquired through a dedicated 11 percent Federal excise tax on long guns, ammunition, and archery equipment, and a 10 percent tax on handguns. These funds are collected from the manufacturers by the Department of the Treasury and are apportioned each year to the States by the Department of the Interior based on a formula that factors in both the total area of the state and the number of licensed hunters in the state. Pittman-Robertson is a cost-reimbursement program, which means the states must first cover the full amount of an approved project and then apply for reimbursement through Federal Aid for up to 75 percent of the project's cost.

The Pittman-Robertson program may be the most effective and least written about Federal program ever created. Since its inception, more than $2.5 billion has been spent acquiring land for hunters, and as a consequence every species has benefited. Among the notable wildlife successes on Pittman-Roberston land has been the return of wild turkey, white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope, wood duck, beaver, black bear, giant Canada goose, American elk, desert bighorn sheep, bobcat, mountain lion, and large numbers of raptors, to say nothing of such non-game species as song birds.

While Pittman-Robertson land is specifcially bought and paid for by hunters for hunters, hunting occurs only in season, and most of the time the land is a sanctuary for every other type of wildlife imaginable -- including groundhog (unlimited take, no season) as well as red fox, raccoon and possum (and out west, American badger).

Across the U.S., hunters now spend some $10 billion every year on equipment and trips. Non-hunting nature lovers (birders, hikers, fishermen, campers, picnickers) also spend large sums of money to enjoy wildlife, and both groups count Pittman-Robertson land as a favorite location.

In fact, recent estimates indicate about 70 percent of the people using Pittman-Robertson land are not hunting. That said, the land is not crowded, and 100 percent of all Pittman-Robertson land is purchased or leased by hunters using money obtained from hunters. The primary purpose of all Pittman-Robertson land is its use as a hunting property.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A Pileated Woodpecker Was Here

Digging on the dogs today, I came across this dead tree that had been worked over pretty well by a local pileated woodpecker.

A pileated will leave holes like these -- very vertical, and looking a bit like a rectangular mortise.

A pileated woodpecker looks very much like an ivory billed woodpecker, but is a little bit smaller -- about the size of a crow. Like the Ivory Bill, they have a red crest and black and white plumage.

Pileated woodpeckers prefer to nest in large old pine trees, but in this part of the country, they are as likely to be found in a Hickory, Yellow Poplar, Maple, Sycamore, Red Oak, White Oak, Chestnut, or Sweetgum trees.

Monday, July 17, 2006

A Short Hot Day in the Field

A groundhog, with its body barricaded in the hole by dirt and stone, and with it teeth facing out at the dog, is well-positioned to defend itelf.

Against all common sense and better judgement, Chris and I hit a farm today in order to do a bit of digging. We started at 8 am, but it was already approaching 80 degrees. By noon (when we quit) it was past 90 in the shade and very humid.

Mountain located in a very difficult-to-find sette underneath a jumble of trunks in a small plot of forest in the middle of a field. It took some effort to cut a clearing around this sette, but with machete and folding saw we finally managed to clear out enough room to stand.

The sette had two eyes going into one pipe. The eyes went in from the left and the right under a giant stone, and then joined a center pipe that ran perpendicular to the entrace holes.

The enormous slab of stone at the entrace to this sette was about 9 inches thick and looked like the kind of thing a biblical Abraham might have used to sacrifice a sheep or goat. There was no moving this stone since tree trunks on either side of the slab had grown up over the edge, effectively pinning the stone to the ground.

Smart groundhog -- this one found a fortress.

Mountain came out of the pipe -- it was too tight for her -- and Sailor went in and took the corner and began to bay. Along with rocks, we had a lot of roots to contend with, and not much room to maneuver. With the help of the bar, we managed to bore a hole near the rooty base of a tree, and smash our way through a layer of stone just underneath. Though this dig was no more than two feet deep, it was some tough stuff.

The pipe was a decent size, once we got into it, and Sailor was baying it up. We pulled Sailor, and used the posthole digger and bar to expand the hole so we could get a better idea of what was what.

The groundhog was right there (a shallow pipe and not long), so we tied up Sailor in order to let Chris's young dog Moxie have a turn "schooling" on the groundhog. Moxied bayed a little, but was a little too quick to grab hold. I was worried she was going to get drilled by the groundhog, but we managed to dispatch the groundhog while Moxie was still in the hole working it (a well-placed bar and two men applying pressure). When Moxie came out, she was fine, and she spent the next few minutes pulling the dead groundhog out of the hole. The groundhog kept sliding back into the hole due to effects of gravity, so all in all, it was a pretty good work out for her. We will have to be carefull with her -- she is very eager. She may be a little more reticent in the pitch dark of an unopened hole -- I hope so. This Moxie dog is well-named.

Moxie pulls a dead one out of a hole.

After repairing the sette, we noodled around looking for another hole and then called it a day, as the heat was making our legs a bit rubbery.

A short day out, but no day in the field with the dogs is ever wasted.

The dogs rag a July groundhog.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Box Turtle Days

Last week Chris and I found a box turtle cruising down a row of recently mowed barley. He seemed no worse the wear for having had a combine just pass over him.

This week we found two small box turtles, the first in a thick hedge as we were looking for groundhog holes (picture of that turtle above and below) and another on a path by a creek after we had put the dogs up for the day (it was very hot!).

Eastern box turtle shell patterns are quite variable, and the one pictured above is called a "sunburst" pattern.

The second turtle, the one we found on the forest path, was very yellow and had lost a small part of his carapace at the front. He had the more traditional "crown" pattern.

For more on box turtles, and their steep decline across the Eastern United States, >> see here

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Leather Collar Replacement on Deben Mark I

I have been pretty good about maintaining the leather on my Deben collars (keeping them oiled and dry), and have never had a strap break until last weekend. It was bound to happen some time, though. I am happy to report that due to the fact I had some leather scraps in the garage, the cost of a replacement collar was just 89 cents for a small pack of copper split rivets from the local hardware store.

Replacing the leather on a Deben Mark I collar begins with cutting off the leather on each side of the locator, and then drilling out the leather that remains embedded in the plastic slot. Go slow, and it should come out easy enough. There is no reason to cut through the plastic slot -- just drill out the leather.

Once you have the leather off the locator, it's time to salvage the buckle and the two metal "safety rings" that were on your old Deben collar. The safety rings are the little bits of metal that hold the tongue of the collar down after it goes through the buckle. If you have lost these safety rings, you can make-do with a small slice of rubber tubing slipped up over the leather. The metal safety rings that came with your original Deben collar are far superior, however, and you will want to re-use these if you can. One of the metal pieces (the tie-out ring) looks a bit like a horse stirrup, and the other is a rectangular piece that does nothing but keep the leather tongue of the collar down after it goes through the buckle pin. The rectangular bit fits next to the buckle, and the tie-out stirrup fit farther back, between the two rivets.

Finding the right thickness and width of leather for your collar strap may require a small search. I was lucky -- a perfect leather strap was already on hand in a "farmer's bundle" of leather thongs and small scraps that I had acquired at the local hardware store a few years back. Most old-fashioned hardware stores will have a similar "farmers bundle" of leather scraps for sale. So too will most cobblers.

Trim the leather strap at least 6 inches longer than you will need it. Now slip one end of the strap through the buckle and fold over the leather to get an idea of where you will want to cut the slot for the buckle pin.

The slot for the buckle pin can be made by drilling two or three small holes right next to each other. If you need to, you can tidy up the slot with a hobby knife, but keep the cutting to an absolute minimum.

Next dry-fit the buckle with the leather folded over into a bite. The buckle pin should move pretty freely.

You now want to put on the two metal safety rings and see where they fit. The rectangular metal piece will be fitted in the same folded-over bight of leather that the buckle is in. A rivet will hold those two pieces next to each other.

The metal tie-out stirrup will go between the first rivet and the second rivet.

In truth, you should NEVER use a Deben collar as a tie-out collar; they are simply not made for that task. If you use a Deben collar as a tie-out collar, the leather WILL break. In fact that is exactly how this leather collar broke last week.

Once you know where all the pieces go on your new collar, you will need to drill two holes at the proper location for the rivets. Use a drill bit the same size as the rivet or a tiny bit smaller.

You will be drilling two holes which will each go through two pieces of leather, as the leather will be doubled over.

Once you have the holes drilled, fit all the pieces onto the collar as shown in the top picture. Remember, the rectangular metal piece will be in the same bight as the buckle, while the metal tie-out stirrup piece will be afixed between the two rivets.

In the picture on the top of this post, the leather tongue to the right of the buckle is the part that is folded over to afix the buckle and rings in place.

You are now ready to rivet the collar together. This is actually the easiest part, as it can be done with copper split rivets, which require no tools other than a hammer and a flat screw driver.

Take a small copper split rivet and push it through the double collar hole next to the buckle. The rounded copper head of the rivet should be on the outside of the collar, facing away from the dog. Use a flat screw driver to split the rivet wider, and then hammer the two rivet flanges over so they are pointed away from each other down the length of the collar. The two pieces of leather should be tight against each other and holding the buckle and rectangular safety ring in place.

Once the first rivet is afixed slip on the tie-out stirrup and afix the second copper rivet behind it.

To finish, trim the collar to length. Use a razor blade to cut a blunt point on the tongue end of the collar, and use a small drill bit to put holes in the collar to accept the buckle pin. The hole closest to the Deben transmitter should be the hole that fits the neck of your smallest dog.

The completed replacement collar is shown below.

Note that all of my Deben Mark I locators are coated with a thin layer of PC-7 epoxy in order to cover the wires that are very near the surface. If the thin plastic on a Deben Mark I collar wears away, water will get in the electronics, and the collar will fail permanently.

Along with the tough epoxy coating on the transmitter, also note the rubber O-ring between the cap and the body of the transmitter. This too is a small addition that will help keep your Deben Mark I collar running longer -- along with proper taping.

Finally, note the brass slide tag on the collar. This is a 3/4" slide tag (the smallest I could find at the time). It lies flush with the collar and, unlike a riveted tag, puts no unecessary holes in the collar. This tag will slide a bit under pressure, and though my dogs have been in hundreds and hundreds of very tight holes, they have never gotten hung up. Unlike a riveted collar tag, a slide tag can move from collar to collar. Put both a phone number and your name and address on the collar. A brass tag, unlike an aluminum tag, will not scratch easily.

For slide tags, see here (brass 1/2 and 3/4 inch) or here (brass 3/4 inch) or here (brass 3/4 inch). If you want to make your own collars entirely, small metal buckles can be bought at local craft shops

Friday, July 14, 2006

Anti-Hunters Kill with Misplaced Kindness

A deer tries to cross a road near Washington, D.C.
If you oppose hunting, you guarantee a rise in deer-vehicle impacts.

In a piece written for Audubon magazine, entitled "Public Menace," Ted Williams writes:

"There’s only one way to protect yourself, your family, and native ecosystems from the most dangerous and destructive wild animal in North America, an animal responsible for maiming and killing hundreds of humans each year, an animal that wipes out whole forests along with most of their fauna. You have to kill it with guns.

I’m talking about the white-tailed deer. In what Gary Alt, one of the nation’s most respected wildlife biologists, calls “the greatest mistake ever made in wildlife management,” deer are being allowed to overpopulate to the point of destroying the ecosystems they’re part of and depend on. The annual mortality of roughly 1.5 million deer via collisions on the nation’s highways doesn’t make a dent, save in motor vehicles and their operators-damage that costs the insurance industry about $1.1 billion a year.

There are major or minor deer problems in all 50 states-if not with whitetails then with blacktails, mule deer, elk, and such aliens as axis deer. In virtually every case the reason is that natural predators have been eliminated or reduced to the point where they can’t effect control.

The situation is especially grim in the East. No state is worse than Pennsylvania, but vast tracts in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia have been stripped of low vegetation. There are so many deer in South Carolina that bag limits are set by the day rather than by the season. On most of the coastal plain you can kill as many bucks as you want-every day for 140 days, using dogs, if you so choose. (The joke is that the deer are so stunted that the dogs retrieve.) Despite this superabundance, hunters burn and plant private land to encourage even more deer. Georgia, which also allows hunting with dogs in some areas, is so overrun with deer that it has set a seasonal bag limit of 12 (only two of which may have antlers) during two and a half months of rifle hunting. And yet, in order to manipulate national forestland to make room for even more deer, the state’s Department of Natural Resources opposes federal wilderness designation

>> To read more

Not every deer makes it ... and neither does ever driver. In the state of Virginia, there are about 37,000 reported deer-vehicle strikes a year, and across the U.S. about 100 people a year die as a consequence of collisions with deer.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Pound of Pennies

Rocks and roots at the second hole of the day. Not the large uplift rock to the right that has been partially obscured by the sette repair.

On Sunday Chris and I met up at the Buckeystown General Store,
before heading off to some nearby farm land.

It was just two weeks ago that Sailor was bitten by a black widow spider bite. Other than two shaved spots on her front legs, where blood had been drawn and fluids administered, she seemed fit as a fiddle.

The neurotoxins that had left her paralyzed for over six hours, seem to have left no lasting damage.

Mountain, of course, is always "ready for Freddy".

As for Chris' new pup -- eight-month-old Moxie -- this was her second time in the field. As we headed out of the woods and over a freshly cut barley field, she seemed to relax around the two older dogs and began running around, clearly enamored with Mountain who she decided was the leader of the pack.

It was 9 am, but it was already hot. Lucky for us Sailor and Mountain found pretty quickly in a nice shady hedge. The hole was very tight, however -- so tight Sailor could not even get in. We opened up the hole a little, but it still took 20 minutes of digging before Sailor managed to turn the corner and disappear. Once inside, however, she seemed to find quickly and began a furious baying. She was clearly hard against it.

The ground here was rooty, but the soil was OK for the first two feet. After that it was a mass of cobble stone.

These large stones had been gleaned from the fields and pushed to the edge more than 200 years ago when this land was first cleared for agriculture. Since that time, the hedge had grown up among the stones, and leaf litter and tree roots had drifted in over the top.

Digging was hard, but the pipe was not deep. About three and a half feet down we broke into the tunnel. I started a second hole a few feet over, but had not gotten very far before the groundhog managed to bolt out of a small den hole we had left unblocked.

The groundhog ran about 40 feet across the forest with Chris in hot pursuit, shovel in hand. That groundhog flew up the trunk of a tree and was 40-feet up in a matter of seconds.

Chris was pissed, but I was amused. Good for the groundhog. If we won every game, it would not be sport. We could hunt this one another day. He was a smart one.

While we were variously frustrated and amused, Sailor was still underground -- she was having a difficult time squeezing through the impossibly tight pipe that the groundhog had bolted out from. With a little assistance from Chris, however, she managed to pop out. First thing out of the pipe, she followed the groundhog's scent trail over to the tree and looked up. There it was. If only she could fly!

Moxie, Chris' little black dog, followed Sailor and was clearly cranked up from the scent she was now smelling . I think Moxie missed the bolt itself, but now that she could smell the groundhog and watch Sailor, she knew the game was afoot. Moxie paced back and forth from bolt hole to tree, and made an odd high-pitched whining sound as she looked up the trunk in the general direction Mountain was looking. Moxie was learning.

"That little one is putting it all together Chris," I said. "The penny has not quite dropped, but it's hanging there in the slot. She's right on the edge." Chris mentioned he had been doing a little tunnel work with Moxie, and she was already going down the wooden den liner and taking the corner to retrieve her squeeker toy.

Excellent. That's the idea!

We repaired the sette and moved up the field to the forest edge. The forest here sloped down to a creek bed, and on the other side of the creek was a high bank. I said I thought we would find up on that bank, and sure enough, we did.

No sooner had we crossed over than Mountain was doing his "Come here, Timmy" routine.

"Come here Timmy" is a reference to the old Lassie movies, when Lassie would run over to Timmy and bark. It always meant something complicated like, "Come here Timmy, Mr. McPherson has fallen down the well and has a fractured leg."

And Timmy always seemed to understand the whole story.

Now I have Mountain, and she does a "Come here, Timmy," especially if she finds something in a very tight hole she cannot quite enter herself. Now she stood at the edge of a rock-rimmed hole, looked over at me as I came down the creek bank, wagged her tail, and then looked back at the hole grinning.

"Come here, Timmy! Mr. Groundhog is down the hole, and I want to break its leg." Easy dog, I'm coming.

As is always the case if Mountain cannot enter on her own, this sette was very tight. It was located in the middle of four or five trees that seemed to spring from a jumble of boulders. I paused a bit, but decided it was probably doable as it was likely to be a shallow sette. Thankfully, it was.

After a bit of a struggle to get in, Sailor, the smaller dog, opened up to a nice solid bay. She was hard up against it, and the critter was not deep.

The bad news was that there was rock everywhere.

We located Sailor and began to pry up the large stones as we came to them. A little dirt was moved with a shovel, but this dig was mostly about cutting through roots, moving a few handfuls of soil, and then prying up more rock.

I shattered a few stones with the bar -- one of them pefectly round and bigger than my head. It was cleaved into two perfect half-spheres. Amazing.

When we got down to the pipe, we found Sailor hard on the groundhog's front end, and trying to pull it out of the hole face-first.

Sailor is a little thing -- just 10 pounds -- and not very hard, but she was going at this one hammer and tongs.

Enough of that -- time to get the right tool for the right job.

With a bit of a struggle we got Sailor off the groundhog, and swapped her out for Mountain. Mountain is a bit bigger and quite a bit stronger and younger. She gripped on and quickly pulled out a small groundhog of about 8 or 9 pounds.

I dispatched this one pretty quickly, and then we tied up Sailor and Mountain in order to let Moxie rag the carcas a bit. A little work with dead quarry can teach a young dog about scent, and is a small reward for paying attention while the older dogs work

Moxie chased the dead groundhog a bit as we pulled it around on the ground, and then we let her chew on it while we repaired the sette. When we finally placed the groundhog high up in the fork of a tree, Moxie was tongue-out and happy.

For her end of the bargain, Sailor was too tuckered to pucker, and we decided to stake her out under some heavy shade so she could rest. She had worked two good holes solo and in some pretty fierce heat. Mountain would have to find and work the next one.

We headed out of the forest and into an area of tall grassand small trees, with Moxie hard on our heels.

We had not gone more than 50 feet before we hit a big sette. Mountain was off looking for just such a hole. We paused, waiting for Mountain to circle back.

Moxie, however, seemed a little interested in the hole. I slid of my pack and put down the tools. This might be interesting.

Moxie stuck her head into the hole and slunk dowm low to the dirt like she was stalking.

"Look at that Chris, the penny is beginning to drop."

And drop it did. Moxie stuck her head in to the hole, pulled it out, put her head back in a little deeper, and then went in all the way up to the tip of her tail.

She came out again, looked at us, and then slid back down the pipe. Chris and I silently high-fived each other. Excellent! She was out of sight!

If that was all there was, this would have been a great day. But now, rather miraculously, Moxie began a deep rhythmic baying. Hot damn -- she had found!

This sette was big soft-earth pipe,and Moxie had a lot of room to move around down there. The pipe itself seemed to go straight back -- a nice simple sette. This was excellent.

We let Moxie bay it up for a while ("Let's not move too quick here, give her some time to learn a little something. She's in a nice safe sette"). Chris was ecstatic, and so was I. Waiting for the penny to drop? Hell, this dog had just hit the trifecta on the nickel slots.

We barred for the hole and found it two feet down. This dirt was easy digging -- no root and no rock. As luck would have it, we came into the side of the hole. There we found Moxie baying up the groundhog, and the groundhog -- aggressive as hell -- charging her from the stop end of the pipe.


In her excitement, Moxie had bitten her own tongue, but her tail was going like a metronome. She was clearly having a ball, and her deep baying was as solid as a dance hall beat.

This was about as good a first experience as a young dog could ever have.

After a few more minutes of letting Moxie work her stuff, we slipped in the shovel and I snared out the groundhog and dispatched it. This was a small Spring groundhog, but it was just what the doctor had ordered for a young dog like Moxie.

As I said to Chris as we filled in this third hole of the day, "We started off with two working dogs, but we're leaving with three." Yahoo!

Moxie is going to be terrific. The task ahead is to simply go slow. There is no rush now -- we know this little dog has the right stuff in her. She is not even 9 months old yet -- the best game plan now is to reign in the horses a bit and let her grow a little judgement and discretion.

A young dog with a little success is like a young motorcycle rider with his first 60 miles of road under his belt -- an accident waiting to happen due to over confidence.

Moxie rags her first one -- worked solo, front door to back

There will be a lot more digs between now and the first of October.
The goal for the next two or three months should be to make sure Moxie only has positive experiences. That means reserving her for larger simple holes without too many complicatations for her to negotiate.

If a young dog is over-matched and jibes, it's hard to get her back in the groove again.

With a young dog so quick to start, the faster way to success is going to be found in the slow lane. Avoiding mistakes now needs to be Job One.

Chris and I were both hot and tired, and we decided to call it a day. We headed back to the vehicles, losing Mountain along the way. After a bit of looking we found her about 75 feet from where we had last seen her. She was in the middle of a thicket of weeds and broken timber doing her very best "Come here, Timmy" routine. She had found again, but in the 92 degree heat, we were too pooped to party.

Give it up dog, there's always next weekend!

An escapee from J-Unit with his fine young dog and its very first 'hog. There will be many more.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Mammoth in the Hedge

Mammoths roamed the Eastern United States, just 9,000 year ago.

Unbelievably, Steve and I were beat out by actor Ted Danson. Danson beat us with simple logic, arguing in his "long bet" with Mike Elliot (editor-at-large of Time magazine) that the Red Sox would win the World Series before the US men's soccer team would win the World Cup. As Mr. Danson explained:

"The Red Sox have had such bad luck in the 20th century, I have to believe that in the new millennium it can only get better. Besides, statistically, scoring goals is harder than hitting a home run, and in the World Cup, you have the whole WORLD against you, but in baseball, the Red Sox only really have to beat the Yankees."

Danson was right. As a consequence, Steven and I will forever be minor footnotes in the history of Long Bets. Damn that Ted Danson!

But I get ahead of myself. Let us start at the beginning.

But which beginning?

That's always a puzzler for me. When in doubt, I generally start chronologically, so I guess I will do that this time too.

We will start 10,000 years ago.

Ten thousand years ago we had mammoths roaming around my back yard. As far as anyone knows, humans had no written language. Humans had just arrived in North America. No one knew who Bill Gates was.

It was a long time ago.

About 10,000 years ago humans came and spread across this hemisphere. The result was a massive die-off of many large animal species, including the mammoth.

It was more than simply the arrival of the Clovis Point; it was also that humans, with limited ability to store knowledge or record history, had no foresight and no communication. Humans had no past and no future. All we had was a short "now."

Let's jump ahead a few years -- to 1996. That's the year Brian Eno, Stewart Brand and Danny Hillis began an extended conversation about the future. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, when folks were talking about energy, water, population, and economics, everyone was keying their predictions to the year 2000.

But it was 1996 now, and the year 2000 was right around the corner. What was the "Next Future" going to be?

The obvious thing to do was to simply set a new "future point" 20 or 50 years ahead. The obvious thing to do, however, is not necessarily the genius thing to do. The genius looks at the question upside down and sideways, challenges the base line, and thinks in four and five dimensions (time and space), not just three. And so Brian Eno, Stewart Brand and Danny Hillis (true geniuses all), leaped the fence of convention and began to think about 10,000 years.

  • 10,000 years is about the age of the oldest living thing on earth -- the bristle cone pine.

  • 10,000 years is about the time that man first began to turn the wolf into the dog and when the first clay pots were made.

  • 10,000 years ago is about the time that man first began to irreperably hammer-damage the planet.

The human ability to wreck things has expanded exponentially faster than our ability to consider the future.

Clovis points have been replaced by "Daisy Cutter" bombs, dams large enough to flood entire civilizations, and mountaintop removal.

And yet most people still have not planned for their own retirement, much less considered the ramifications of genetic engineering, or the building of entire cities on rapidly dwindling reservoirs of fossil water.

And so, in order to try to shift the time paradigm, Steward Brand, Danny Hillis and Brian Eno decided to build a clock -- a physical, visible thing that would run for 10,000 years. The clock would chime once every 1,000 years, and its very presence would require a different kind of thinking about the future.

What would power the clock? Solar power needs too much maintenance and so too does nuclear power. Could geothermal energy do the job? What power source would never run down and would never submit a bill? And thus was born the beginning of the struggle to answer the first great design question: what would power the clock?

Who would maintain the clock? Clearly not one person, so there would have to be an organizational structure -- and thus was born the Long Now Foundation.

Where would the clock be located? It had to be some spot free from destruction for 10,000 years. And so the Long Now Foundation purchased part of a mountain in Nevada where the clock will be situated deep inside a limetone cliff.

Who would explain the clock? Ten thousand years from now people will not be using any language we know today. And so was born the Rosetta Disk to serve as a translation tool for the future.

The 10,000 year clock being built by the Long Now Foundation.

Changing a paradigm is not easy.
In fact, it is so hard, and so rarely done, that the very idea of it seems more than a little Quixotic.

And yet all important change comes from paradigm shifts, and a paradigm shift about time is, I think, exactly what humans need. Or, as Stewart Brand has put it, "we need to think slower and deeper, not faster."

But to tell the truth, a 10,000 year clock is a little abstract for most people. Never mind that it is physical and visible and magically corrects itself for the long-term global wobble that will result in a deviation in solar time.

People are simply unable to grasp 10,000 years. They have more immediate concerns. Like lunch.

In any case, the future is not built in a 10,000 year lump any more than a cathedral is forged from a single block of stone.

The future will be built like a cathedral, made up of thousands of blocks of action and consequence, each carefully cut and interlocked into place.

And so was born "Long Bets," to promote more robust short-term thinking. Better building blocks to make a better cathedral.

The Long Bets idea was forged when Paul Ehrlich said he would give even odds as to whether Great Britain existed in 2000. Ehrlich was prone to making such provocative apocalyptic statements. His most famous book, "The Population Bomb," predicted massive die-offs in the developing world due to a shortage of food and a "longage" of people.

In fact, such predictions started with Malthus who postulated that population grew exponentially and food arithmatically, and for that reason doom was inevitable and that aiding the poor was foolish and would only abet more misery.

Malthus's tract on population was written to justify land clearances for the Enclosure Movement. Without writing a long essay on Malthus, it is enough to say that he was quite wrong. Since Malthus' time, global food production has outpaced human population growth, life expectancy at birth has increased, and literacy has spread.

Those facts, of course, have not stopped a small parade of apocalyptic predictors from following Malthus, from William Vogt to Paul Ehrlich, Garrett Hardin and William Paddock.

On the other side of the coin have been a few people like Julian Simon -- a University of Maryland economics professor who claimed human ingenuity could solve ALL problems. I will not delve into Simon's intellectual mistakes, but they are as legion as any of those on the opposite side of the coin. My aim here is not to get trapped in the quagmore of Ehrlich and Simon. What we are talking about here is Long Bets -- let's get back to the Long Bet that was made.

Simon challenged Ehrlich to bet on the future price of any 10 commodities. The bet would last 10 years, and the winner would pocket the price differential in the commodities.

Ehrlich quickly accepted the challenge, picked a portfolio of 10 metals, and crowed that he would make out like a bandit.

Ten years later, however, when the value of the portfolio was added up, it turned out that every single metal had declined in value.

Simon pocketed Ehrlich's check with a wink and a nod.

Much has been written about this bet in the past, (google Simon Ehrlich bet). I will not delve into it too deeply other than to say that both men were overly simplistic in their analysis of both resource use, pricing and population.

That said, the idea of a financial bet between two parties intrigued Stewart Brand and his small band of talented brethren.

In their quest to promote "slower and better" thinking, a "Long Bet" seemed like an excellent mechanism to encourage both increased participation and better prognostication.

Money has a way of focusing the mind.

And so was born

I came across this web site five years ago when I was looking into what Stewart Brand was now up to. Brand had been the creater of The Whole Earth Catalogue -- a series of simple catalogue-like publications, assembled by a merry band of hippies, that were so sweeping in their interests that Steve Jobs (of Apple Computer fame) has credited Brand with creating the paper-and-print conceptual forerunner of the World Wide Web.

All I know is that The Last Whole Earth Catalogue is still worth reading -- again and again -- even today.

When I checked out the Long Bets web site I found some real brainiacs making serious bets -- people like physicist Freeman Dyson, voice-synthesizer guru Ray Kurzweil, Vint Cerf (father of the internet) and Mitchell Kapor (inventor of Lotus software), to say nothing of Stewart Brand, Brian Eno and Danny Hillis themselves.

Very cool, but the bets were too steep for a nonprofit wage-slave like me. Two thousand dollars was the minimum bet, and all "winnings" were to go to charity. That was more than I could give away in a single stroke.

A while later, however, I was on a list-serv in which people were talking rather broadly about the energy crisis. I tried to explain the limits of M. King Hubbert's oil data, a well as the fungibility of energy types and other such thoughts.

As usual no one was convinced of the other person's point of view, and after a point the list drifted off to other topics.

A few months later, on the same list, I mentioned that Stewart Brand had sharply reduced the money limit on a "Long Bet," and that now it was just $200 on each side. Almost immediately, Steven B. Kurtz -- one of the previous energy debaters -- asked me if I wanted to make a "Long Bet" on future energy costs.

Sure, I said. Let's make it the price of a kilowatt hour of electrical power, and let's park the bet two years into the future.

In truth, I had in mind winning the first Long Bet. I bet Steve did too.

Steve took the bet. Now, three year later, it appears he has won it, though not before a serious bit of confusion occured over at the U.S. Department of Energy which initially published data suggesting the price of electrical energy had declined.

Apparently DOE had at least two or three years worth of data wrong (including the initial price of energy at the start of our bet) due to lies, deception and data confusion that grew out of the Enron energy fiasco. In the end, looking at the re-published data, it appears the price of electrial power has gone up very slightly due to the disastrous Middle East policy of George Bush which has (among other things) resulted in a very significant decline in Iraqi oil production. Score one for Steve!

Steve and I actually have a longer, more serious bet on the human condition, in which I argue that "Over the next ten years, we will make measurable global progress in all five areas of the human condition: food, access to clean water, health, education, and the price of energy."

I let Steve pick five data sets from a closed list of about 20 options, all of which are kept by the United Nations, and which therefore have (hopefully) some continuity of collection methodology. If Steve wins on any single point, he wins the entire bet. So far, I think he is losing on all points, but the wager is still young, and we shall see.

That said, I think both Steve and I thought we really would beat Ted Danson. What was the chance that the Boston Red Sox would win the World Series in the next three years?

And yet Danson won. Though the Danson-Elliot bet seems a trifle lightweight on the surface, it's actually a wager about probability and risk, and not mere sports.

With the World Cup played only once every four years, and with far fewer Major League Baseball teams than World Cup soccer teams, Ted Danson had about a 20:1 chance of winning over Mike Elliot.

But I figured I had at least 8:1 odds of beating Ted Danson to win the first Long Bet. After all, the Sox had been losers a long time, and the window for my success was a mere two and a half years.

Of course, luck does play a hand in all things, and on this roll of the dice I lost -- twice.

Such is life.

What does all this have to do with hunting and dogs? Well, not a lot, to tell the truth. But maybe a little. I did manage to work hunting and dogs into the beginning of this piece. Now let's see if I can work it in at the end as well.

There is the small point that Thomas Malthus had quite a lot to do with the Enclosure Movement, which in turn laid the foundation for the fox and terrier work that followed, as well as the speciation of terriers following Robert Bakewell's use of enclosures to improve livestock. To read more about that see this >> illustrated history of working terriers.

Finally, for those who dig in the Eastern and Midwestern United States, the legacy of the mammoth can be found in our hedges and forests. If you are in the right thicket you may find Osage Orange, Honey Locust or Kentucky Coffeetrees.

All three of these trees have large fruits and seed pods with thick protective coatings or thorns -- natural defenses designed to help protect them from over-grazing by mammoths that roamed through this area just 10,000 years ago. The mammoths are gone, but their ghosts remain in the form of these tough and defiant trees.

Hopefully, all this will make you think, just a little, about how fragile this earth is ... about how much damage humans can do if they do not plan ... about the mammoth responsibility that comes with the powers we now have to shape the natural world.

Let's not screw it up this time .... We cannot afford to bet the farm again.


  • Note: Of the famous and smart people named in this piece, I personally know only Julian Simon and Garrett Hardin, both of whom are now dead, and Bill Paddock, who is very much alive. Steven Kurtz and I know each other only through the internet. The rest of the folks mentioned are waaaay too smart to even know I am alive. Hats off to Stewart Brand though -- he continues to nudge the world along in the right direction. Amazing. As for Danny Hillis -- he is straight off the planet. Read about him (and the mechanics of the clock) >> here

The last mammoth, a dwarf species, was killed on Wrangle Island about 3,800 years ago -- about the time the pyramids were being made.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

"That Dog Don't Hunt."

Note the working gun, the dead raccoons, and the focused dog. This is NOT the AKC way.

As the article below makes clear, the AKC now has its eye on bringing more coonhounds into the AKC, complete with a full retinue of "field trials".

The "field trials," of course, involve no guns (Heaven forbid!) and no animals will be killed (Good Lord, no!). Instead, raccoons will be placed in solid wire cages far up trees and towed across ponds on little styrofoam rafts.

This is hunting as boy scout competition (Campers, everyone will get a merit badge for this activity!), as opposed to what it is really supposed to be about -- a meditative contemplation of nature, a working demonstration of field craft, a partnership between dog and man, a test of some small physical abiltity of dog and human over a long day in cold, wind, heat, rain and sun.

These raccoon "field trials" are to raccoon hunting what go-to-ground trials are to real terrier work, and what clay pigeons are to bird hunting.

In short, they will have almost no relationship to the real thing at all.

What is the rationale for bringing more coonhound breeds into the AKC ? According to the article, below, the goal is to make sure coonhounds are "preserved" for the future.

But look at the numbers given in this article. How many non-AKC registered coon dogs are there in this country? And how many are in the AKC?

And how many dogs of any breed are in the AKC as compared to the number of unregistered coonhounds?

Hmmmm. You don't need to be a scent hound to smell the bullshit coming off this one.

The real deal, of course is that the AKC wants and needs dollars. Never muind the dogs. Plush offices on Madison Avenue are not cheap.

Before prospective coonhound hunters go down the AKC road, I would recommend they look and see how many AKC huskies are winning the Iditarod, how many AKC greyhounds are winning at the track, and how many AKC terriers they can find being dug to in the field.

Go into the field in duck, quail and pheasant season and ask the owners of the best working dogs how their four-legged companions are registered. Go to a working sheep farm and ask them if their working border collies are affiliated with the AKC

And then ask yourself this: Is this the road I want to go down?

Most serious owners of working dogs will tell you the same thing about the Kennel Club: "That dog don't hunt."

In the AKC, honest field work (i.e. real hunting) is always given the hind post, while progessive inbreeding within a closed registry is the norm. As a result, in its 130-year-history, the Kennel Club has never made a working dog; but it has ruined plenty of them.

And so it goes, once again. . . .

American Kennel Club Promotes Coonhound Initiative
By COKE ELLINGTON, Associated Press Writer, July 08,2006

The American Kennel Club is trying to make coonhounds couth.

The nation's largest and most recognized dog registry is in the early stages of a major push to add coonhounds to its prestigious rolls, hoping both to increase its membership and to assure these sad-eyed symbols of country life stick around a while longer.

"We're interested in the registration of these dogs and their litters, but we're most interested in preserving these dogs for the future," said Steve Fielder, who moved to Raleigh in late 2004 to launch the club's coonhound initiative.

To meet its targets, the AKC has found itself negotiating with governments to assure there's ample hunting land for the dogs, setting up competitive hunts and working to enlist more of the estimated 1.2 million coonhounds in the nation.

It may seem like unlikely work for a club headquartered on swanky Madison Avenue in New York City and more closely tied to images of pouffy poodles than howling hounds, but Fielder insists it's right in line with the club's mission.

"The AKC wants to be all things canine," said Fielder, one of about 300 people at the AKC's operations center in Raleigh.

To help with its initiative, the AKC began offering free registration last year to coonhounds already enlisted with two other national clubs. The move resulted in about 10,000 registrations, up from about 500 the previous year. The club expects to have another 10,000 registered by the end of this year, pushing the total number of AKC registered coonhounds to 22,000.

Still, coonhounds make up a tiny part of the club's registry. Labrador retrievers were the most popular breed in 2005 with nearly 138,000 registered by the AKC. Almost 921,000 dogs were registered in all.

Registration costs just $15, but acceptance by the AKC is invaluable to breeders and others who need or want to prove their dogs have pure bloodlines.

For coonhounds, registering alsoopens the way for the dogs to compete in AKC-sanctioned hunts and competitions that offer titles, trophies and cash prizes of as much as $25,000. Just in July, the AKC is sponsoring about 70 coonhound competitions across the nation, including contests for youth, field trials, water races and night hunts.

Night hunts tie most closely to the tradition of the coonhound owners across the South who once led packs of dogs on late-night winter hunts, forcing the raccoons up trees where the hunters could get a clear shot at them. The raccoon hides fetched $20 to $30 each in the late 1970s, according to Perry Sumner, a biologist with the state Wildlife Resources Commission. With demand dwindling, a raccoon hide today is worth about $5, he said.

"Now the money is more in the hounds than in the coons," Sumner said.

A good coonhound can sell for $4,000 to $5,000, with some bringing up to $100,000, said David Gardin, the president of the North Carolina Coonhunters Association. Running the dogs has become more of an expensive hobby than a vocation, he said. Outfitting a hunter can cost up to $5,000, excluding the cost of the dogs, and the AKC doesn't allow guns or the taking of game during any of its events.

"It's more politically involved and it's more expensive," Gardin said.

The AKC first registered black and tan coonhounds - one of six coonhound breeds - in 1945, but during the past 60 years there had been little mingling between hound owners and the AKC. Coonhound owners were more likely to register with the Professional Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club and the AKC didn't seem to mind.

Coonhound handlers cared mostly how well a dog could tree a raccoon, while the AKC largely focused on the appearance of dogs.

Now, their interests seem to have merged.

The AKC is expected to fully recognize Plott hounds sometime next year, while the treeing Walker, the American English, the bluetick are in the early stages of being fully recognized, perhaps by 2008.

"The coonhound has been kind of like a subculture in the world of dogs," Fielder said, "but with the AKC involved the spotlight is shining on the breeds."

Friday, July 07, 2006

"Wrote a Song About It"

For those with a musical bent, Hark Forrard specializes in hunting shirts, ties and stock pins, but also has a small collection of hunting music available on CD's.

The CD entitled "More Hunting Songs" (above) contains the music to "The Terrier Song" as well as "John Peel." Two other CD's are pictured below. Some part of the proceeds will go to aid the Countryside Alliance.

Monday, July 03, 2006

An Extraordinary Talent Lends a Hand for Rescue

Woman's cap sleeve T-shirt, front and back.

These extraordinary logos with created by Tracy Riley in Ontario, Canada.

Tracy has more creativity in her toe nail clippings than most New York design shops have in their entire buildings. And it's not just in the computer-graphics arena that Tracy can knock you out. Check out these fabulous pen-and-ink drawings: >>

This is true talent, combined with hard work, a discerning eye, and a real love of craft (and dogs!). Check out Tracy's web site at >> and her blog at: >>

Tracy created these wonderful working terrier logos to support a little idea. The idea was to generate a small bit of pro-working terrier art that could be put on T-shirts, and sweatshirts. One hundred percent of the profits from the sale of this logo-branded "stuff" would then go to support terrier rescue.

Golf shirt, front and back

A simple enough idea, but ideas are cheap. Someone has to operationalize them,
and Tracy did that, supplying this wonderful art at the urging of Gregg and Soo Barrow down in Texas (Thanks Gregg and Soo!).

I realize I am biased, but I consider all of this to be a near-miracle. You do not get art of this quality if you set off with a bankroll and a carefully selected focus group, and this came over the transom at the mere suggestion of an idea. Wow!

A miracle. And now it's time to see if this little miracle chain can be continued. That's where you come in. You see, some small bit of money will flow to terrier rescue only if people like you buy a little stuff.

And we have lots of stuff.

Please take a few minutes to visit the TWO on-line stores I have created using Tracy's wonderful art. We've got everything here: T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, note bags, mousepads, aprons, real useable postage stamps, halter tops, notebooks, golf shirts, license plate holders, pillows, dogshirts (dog shirts?), and more.

All proceeds from the sale of this stuff will go to terrier rescue. 100 percent! But for the money to go to rescue, people have to buy a few things. Now you could just buy stuff somewhere else AND give to canine rescue on top, but for some reason the second half of this equation is too rarely done. So we've made it easier for you to do well (this is great stuff) and do good (this is a great cause) in one simple transaction.

Please help keep this little chain of miracles going! Think about it ... a small idea begats really great art .... and through the miracle of the internet we are able to put that art on a whole bunch of cool stuff and offer it for sale, with 100 percent of the money going to support terrier rescue.

All we need is YOU to complete the chain of love. You have friends in the terrier communtiy -- strengthen those friendships by giving an "American Working Terriers"-branded gift today.

And don't you think you deserve a little something too? Of course!

This little idea might get you a few farm permissions.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Polar Bear in a Roadside Zoo

The internet is this beautiful thing. It's a million times more powerful than the ancient library that burned in Alexandria, and a million times larger than all the coffee houses of Vienna. And though a lot of true ugliness comes out of it, sometimes some really great people are located and some shining talents rise up to smack you in the head

This is one of those stories.

A daisy chain of good things started with a note from Gregg and Soo Barrow in Texas. Gregg is houndsman and breeder of working Giant Schnauzers. He had been reading the blog from time to time, and had also stumbled across a speech I had given on street drug markets. He liked the speech and shot me a line to say so -- much appreciated

Gregg, in turn, mentioned the blog to Matthew Mullenix, a hawker in Louisiana who has his own web site and blog. I love hawks (I used to work for Audubon). It turns out that Matthew and I have at least one common acquaintence in the hawking world. It is a small world, after all.

Mathew, in turn,, mentioned this blog to Steve Bodio in New Mexico, another hawker and dog man who also happens to be an author.

Steve shot me a line to say "hi" just as I was coming to his essay in David Peterson's anthology on hunting ("A Hunter's Heart").

How odd is that? Pretty odd.

Well, to be make a short story long, I started reading Steve's Blog which he writes with Matthew Mullenix and Reid Farmer, and then I started reading the blogs linked to that blog. And then I ordered off for two of Steve's books.

Let's start with a quick book report. The blogs are great but the books are really good stuff. I will not review two books at once, but this is what I wrote Matt as I started the first:

I got one of Steve Bordio's books in the mail yesterday (On the Edge of the Wilds) and I am just 9 pages into it and am knocked out. It's depressing to find smart sons of bitches who can really right and actually have something to say, 'cause basically you know you will never be able to say it half as well. On the other hand, it's exhilirating too -- new ideas and turns of the phrase that just pop in your brain. I feel like an apartment dog taking his first long walk though a zoo. Pretty grand this place!

In the pages I've covered so far, Steve's talking about the smug disdain that the well-bred, over-fed, I-got-me-a-medical-plan and a college education crowd feel towards people that work with their hands and, conversely, the folks that actually own large ranches and farms.
It's more than the fact that Steve says it all very well (smooth, smooth); it's that he has something to say that really needs to be said and (as far as I know) has not been said before. I think it must help to be from the East and have gone West and stayed and really paid attention -- it is an expatriot journey every bit as clarifying as what deToqueville did (and certainly just as far geographically). It is an old observation that to write best about Somewhere it helps to be from Elsewhere -- Hemingway in Idaho and Florida writing about Paris, etc. Anyway, it is at some level depressing and inspiring to read something this well put together. Writing this good reminds me that done properly writing is more than typing -- it is craft.

All of this to say that I have finished the first book, and will start the second today. A third book on pigeons is already ordered.

Does any more need to be said? This is a writer worth reading and I am going the distance with the books. And the blog is a link off this one now -- as are the others.

As I told Matt after reading Steve's Blog (and Matt's and Reids) and several of the blogs linked off of it (The Alpha Environmentalist, Operation Desert Dove, the Nature Blog):

"For the longest time I have felt a little like a polar bear at a road-side zoo -- pretty sure there must be others like me, but without much evidence of that reality. Now I see there are others out there with a similar bend in the brain -- not a lot of us, but more than one, and that's a pretty thrilling thing on this end. I know some professional environmental types, but I have to say most seem to know almost nothing about critters -- it's either an academic excercise or a romantic thing, or a legal construct (lots of lawyers!) or else it's just the fear-mongering tribe they chose out of college. For whatever reason, there is often not much real connection to things that snap or go squish under foot, or that fly up or bite back in the hedge. A dissapointment."

But not a permanent disappointment. One of the great things about the internet is that all of the red-headed Eskimos on the planet can now find each other.

There may be only a few of us in the tribe, but the world as we know it did not really start with too many more than that.

Two will do, and we already have more than that.