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In his Introduction to The Art of Loading Brush Wendell Berry discusses the movement and migration of his thoughts over long careers as both a farmer and a writer. He has attempted, in the opening pages, to size up his understanding of that work against the fragmentation of modern life, and the extraordinary anxiety and destruction that on-going phenomenon causes in both human and ecological terms. He writes:
“So far as I am able to name them, those habitual movements of thought, at least some of them, are as follows:
- From protest or public advocacy to work and to good work. This is akin to, sometimes the same as, the movement from universal to particular. Obviously, then, this is a movement from the public languages of commerce, politics, the media, and the news to a local, neighborly language, accurately referring to particular persons, places, and things, and to the acts by which they relate to one another.
- From the future, now for bad reasons the most fashionable of all times, to the present.
- From ‘job,’ the manna of the economists and the politicians, to ‘vocation,’ which is the authentic calling to the work that is properly one’s own.
- From anywhere or everywhere to home, which is not a house for sale or a site for ‘development,’ but the place by which one is owned, year after year loved and known.
- From the global economy — which for five hundred years has plundered the land and exploited, enslaved, or murdered the people of the ‘foreign’ or ‘rural’ world – to a local economy that would care for and conserve all the goods of a place, including the membership of its living creatures.
- From my own depleted, disintegrated, and thus somewhat representative rural homeland to instances or thoughts by which its decline may be measured and understood.
- From reality as understood by materialism and industrialism to a reality understood as divine creation, holy, whole, and beautiful.”
I found this summation of his own thinking to be a thing of enduring value, a sort of agrarian prayer, especially as it informs the life we are trying to build here on the Figure 8 Ranch, a tiny slice of land with poor soil and bad winters, on a heavily treed volcanic butte abutting the Cascades of Central Oregon.
Our decision to move here was deliberate, a conscious movement out of, and away from, the soul-sucking and impersonal existence within a spark-throwing industrial civilization machine — where one’s existence is only useful to keep the machine running — toward notions of “particular persons, places, things,” and to an understanding of “home” and self-reliance, of conservation, and toward a “reality understood as divine creation, holy, whole, and beautiful.”
We chose this piece of ground with all of those notions in mind, and we began to build a new life driven by the distinct recognition that “one must begin in one’s own life the private solutions that can only in turn become public solutions.”
But where to start with those private solutions? How does one begin a movement from the “universal to the particular,” and make it count? How does one effectively resist the spiritual, physical, and mental fragmentation both imposed on, and demanded of, the modern citizen? How does one move toward genuine wholeness as an individual within the wholeness of our environments, which is so critical and necessary to the health of all? What can we do, as a practical matter, to arm ourselves with private solutions – to better invest in the intimate particulars of our lives and so finally present to the world “one improved unit”?
As I reflected on those questions, and began sketching the broader notions of this piece, we had an interesting visitor on our place that seemed to sharpen the spear of inquiry.
Working alone in my study – it was just after 10pm — I began to hear a new and intriguing sound in the darkness outside my window, somewhere out by the barn. I listened intently to what at first sounded like an unusual birdcall, something in distress perhaps. I turned off the banker’s lamp on my writing desk in a futile effort to see into the darkness on a moonless night. And I listened as the sound traveled quickly from left to right — loud, clear, and punctuated, until it faded into the forest and was finally gone.
The episode lasted maybe five minutes, and what I heard was a mountain lion.
Among their many vocalizations lions are able to produce a chirping sound that sounds very much like an odd bird, particularly as it echoes through a forest at night. It is at once startling and seductive. This cat was chirping loudly, which might have been an effort to collect her wandering kittens in the dark, or simply to announce her presence.
What I heard was exactly this, and you can hear it about 40 seconds into this clip…
I have had other encounters with lions — one that jumped from a high rock into a good camp that my wife and I had made on a remote alpine lakeshore in the Caribou Wilderness, one that I heard caterwauling like a woman being murdered on a ranch where I worked in Nevada, one that I saw briefly – and what I saw was mostly tail – while riding fence high in the Mogollons, and finally another that I heard growling in the dark outside my tent near Lake Mary, outside of Flagstaff.
Which is often the way with mountain lions — heard but not seen. They remain a secretive, throwback creature that is, incidentally, directly related to African cheetahs – whose own genetic origins are in North America. Fossilized American cheetah bones have been found in several places across the continent.
A visit from a mountain lion is a particularly captivating event, and any brush with an apex predator should rightly be considered a gift to our understanding of the particulars of place.
I am glad lions live here, though I’m under no illusions as to the potential cost of having lions as neighbors. But I want something more than just a spiritual thrill from this nocturnal visit. I want to use it to help inform my own movement from the universal to the particular, to inform my understanding of place, which I increasingly believe is the only way we are going to leave a healthy, whole, and sustainable future for our great-great-great grandchildren to enjoy.
So I began to ask myself a few basic questions. First, how much do I really know about what lives on our property, or in the larger woods around us? How do I put these notions culled from Berry and elsewhere to meaningful employment in my life? Is everything I am doing and writing really just a kind of intellectual masturbation, playing at resistance to the unstoppable monoliths of Amazon, Inc., and the US Government, et. al., or is it a manifestation of real efforts to move away from the protest and sloganeering abyss into the much smaller and quieter tribe of genuinely responsible consumers?
“…the responsible consumer must also be in some way a producer. Out of his own resources and skills, he must be equal to some of his own needs.”
It isn’t enough to grow a garden, or to hunt for meat. Not for me, anyway. It’s a decent start, but what I’m wanting out of this movement isn’t only to sift through my needs and to reduce them. It’s a much larger equation. At the farthest ends I am seeking a kind of wisdom and authority in the preservation and maintenance of wholeness, a reduction in the fragmentation and specialization that works on us incessantly, and relentlessly, and whose only real result is the production of constant anxiety and ill-health, both personally and ecologically. What’s deeply troubling is that out of that anxiety and ill-health millions are driven into the synthetic wilderness where they go shopping for cures they won’t ever find because they aren’t meant to find them there.
Living in one place for any length of time supplies a kind of general knowledge, but that tepid way of knowing is often vague to the point of uselessness. I may be able to see and identify, for instance, the particular song of a western meadowlark, and I may thrill at the extraordinary memories it calls forth from my youth on the Great Basin desert, but other than the sound it makes and the emotionally pleasing memories stirred up in my brain, what do I really know about western meadowlarks?
The answer is, sadly, not much.
I’m not alone. Many of us suffer from the seductive allures of familiarity and half-formed educations, of knowledge so broad and generalized – which is really a survival mechanism induced by industrial society — we somehow convince ourselves that we know more of the particulars than we actually do.
But under scrutiny our supposed knowledge often breaks down and collapses like scaffolding in a big wind. This manifests in humorous ways, arriving surreptitiously in casual conversation where many of us habitually pretend to a kind of excellence and mastery of facts when what we are actually dealing in is perception and speculation. Whole conversations can roll off into the weeds of innuendo and outright fantasy, with every player in the act convinced they are speaking from positions of knowledge and authority.
And the point of pursuing wholeness is that I want to step through the tanglefoot of mere speculation and mere impression, into a place where wisdom resides.
And so to begin that progress, I am seeking a deeper level of intimacy with this small piece of land in the forest, and how it fits into a much bigger picture. Because: how can I be an authority on anything at all if I am not even an authority on the ground I inhabit?
So I decided, after an intriguing late night visit from a mountain lion, to embark on an overdue step in my effort to move from the universal to the particular — to take a census of the life that occupies this ground with us. I want to know what lives here, how it lives here, and why it lives here.
Not everything on the census has a permanent home on our place. But everything on it can be seen here, either in the sky or on the ground as they burrow, hunt, nest, forage, or travel, and all of them exist in the broader picture of the larger forest we inhabit. The Canada Geese, for instance, don’t live here, but they fly frequently and directly over our house in great honking rafts that are lovely to observe and to hear while sitting on the back porch in the evening.
Animal notions of property and territory exist as an overlay, or perhaps an underlay, on our human notions of property lines and boundaries. And there is a fullness in that understanding of the wider ecology that is utterly lacking in our own, as the existence of Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and any number of large western cities proves beyond any shadow of doubt.
One of the great pleasures of walking the dogs in our forest is the work they do, disguised as exercise, following their noses and constantly rediscovering and redrawing the map of territories that remain largely invisible to the human eye. There is a conversation happening that they are learning through their noses, and occasionally participating in when they pee on a tree or a patch of brush. What I want is to learn that language, because it draws me deeper into the life of our surroundings and better informs my own existence within it.
What is true of the Canada geese that pass overhead is also true of the Golden Eagles. There is a nesting pair of Golden Eagles who live very close, tucked into a rock wall of Wychus Creek Canyon a half-mile east of us, and they are frequently seen hunting directly overhead in the summer months. They can also be seen on this livecam – http://www.goldeneaglecam.com — as they prepare to hatch their eggs this spring.
The Bald Eagles don’t live on our property either, but have a nest within a short walk into the forest behind our place, in the upper reaches of a towering ponderosa where I often walk with the dogs or ride through on a horse. Like their Golden cousins the Bald Eagles can often be seen hunting in the sky above our butte.
The coyotes are frequent visitors. Usually in pairs, sometimes three or four together, but often singly, and I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve watched them trot to within feet of the henhouse door, where they pause in cartoon frustration, and in the same place where the deer bed down in perimeters, a perfect defensive 360° like a squad of soldiers on a long patrol halt.
It’s also possible that we have otters on the place. Our butte runs roughly north and south, a volcanic berm between two sources of water, Indian Ford Meadow to the west, and Wychus Creek – a broad and fast moving tributary of the Deschutes River – to our east. It would not be a surprising if otters were moving between the two, and our neighbor to the north, where a mountain lion was killed not long ago, called one day to ask if I had seen the otters, as she had. I had not, but her call coincided with my discovery of a bag of cat food ripped open and thrown around the barn as if attacked and ripped open by – well, otters.
So otters make the list.
I decided to break this census down into several categories, bearing in mind that everything that eventually appears on it is in some way interacting with every other thing. It is by no means complete. There are at least a half-dozen bird species I have yet to identify, and the same is true in virtually every category I have listed. But how these creatures are all interacting is the ultimate subject of my study, which is both a long-term commitment and a continual work in progress as I learn the particular habits and needs of each.
“The modern specialist and/or industrialist in his modern house can probably have no very clear sense of where he is. His sense of his whereabouts is abstract: he is in a certain “line” as signified by his profession, in a certain “bracket” as signified by his income, and in a certain “crowd” as signified by his house and his amusements. Where he is matters only in proportion to the number of other people’s effects he has to put up with. Geography is defined for him by his house, his office, his commuting route, and the interiors of shopping centers, restaurants, and place of amusement – which is to say that his geography is artificial; he could be anywhere, and he usually is.”
So here it is. A crack at the particular, an attempt to land somewhere in place, a movement from “We live in the forest,” to “We live in the forest with all of these other creatures.” What comes next, even as I set out this spring to whip the greenhouse into shape, to turn over the garden beds and begin the planting cycle, to build a new run for the crop of turkeys we expect to raise for ourselves and our friends, are the more intimate particulars of the lives these creatures of our forests lead. Because that kind of knowledge contributes to the genuine wholeness of our own lives, and thusly our understanding, and eventually leads to the kind of wisdom that simply cannot be found in the economies of culturally enforced anxiety, fragmentation, and ultimately destruction.
2018 Figure 8 Ranch Census:
Large Domesticated Mammals:
Human, Horse, Dog, Chicken, Turkey, Cat
Mountain Lion, Coyote, Mule Deer, Otter, Grey Squirrel, Golden Mantle, Mole, Rabbit, Deer Mouse, Chipmunk
Great Horned Owl, Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle, Red-Tailed Hawk, Wild Turkey, Canada Goose, Raven, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Violet Green Swallow, Western Meadowlark, Mourning Dove, Stellar’s Jay, American Robin, Western Bluebird, Red-Winged Blackbird, Hummingbird, Quail–and numerous others as yet unidentified.
Trees, Shrubs, Grasses:
Ponderosa Pine, Western Juniper, Aspen, Apple, Japanese Fire Maple, Bluebunch Wheatgrass, Indian Ricegrass, Cherry, Cascadia Hops, Lilac, Rabbitbrush, Bitterbrush, Daisy, Mushroom, Hydrangea, Krokus, Daffodil, Tulip, Poppy, Catmint, Lavender–and numerous others as yet unidentified.
Frogs, Snakes, Invertebrates:
Frogs–many as yet unidentified species, Salamanders, Fence Lizard, Rubber Boa, Racer Snake, Western Skink
Scorpion, Stink Bug, Potato Bug, Skeeter-Eater, Carpenter Ant, Formic Ant, Harvester Ant, Ant Lion, Mosquito, Aphid, Ladybug, Earthworm, Gnat, Moth, Housefly, Horsefly, Onion Fly, Bumblebee, Honey Bee, Yellowjacket, Hornet, Black Widow, Jumping Spider, Wolf Spider, Daddy Longleg, Moth, Butterfly, Dragonfly, Beetle–and numerous others as yet to be identified.
This little census is by no means a complete record, but the quest to flush it out is an important feature of moving toward wholeness and health, and it is fulfilling to be enjoined to the work.
It is also a far more interesting and valuable kind of census than the US Department of Agriculture Census that sits heavily on my desk, with its threatening suggestion on the envelope that I am “REQUIRED BY LAW TO RESPOND”, and which seems, by the nature of its questions, far more interested in how much money we are making than in how or what it is that we are actually producing.
Which, as the official product of a diseased and fragmented culture, isn’t the least bit surprising.
Paul McNamee says
An animal census is a fine undertaking. On my little suburban plot, we’ve seen darn near every creature that I witnessed on the larger, more wooded suburban plot where I grew up two towns away.
Two nights ago, I saw movement under the street light — a haunch. I thought I’d see a coyote but it was a gray fox, and under the new, improved streetlight, we had a little nature show. Rather then just flitting by, the fox stopped and started pouncing at the snow under a bush where it proceeded to secure an evening snack.
That Agriculture Census is a surprise — did you need to declare your property as a farm?
We’ve been getting calls from the [regular] Census Bureau about filling out a survey on monetary spending. The calls claim they will followed by a letter. I’m thinking it is a scam. If it is legitimately the Census bureau, I don’t believe they have the authority to ask such questions and I will see them in court.
Craig Rullman says
The urban wildlife can be just as wild. We had a raccoon walking around in our kitchen and dining room at our old place–came in through the dog door with muddy feet and walked all around the place. Left a great story on the tile floor of his travels. Funny stuff.
I am a favorite target of the census people. I refused to fill out the normal one so they sent a guy out with a clipboard and we had to negotiate which questions I would answer. It was all very cordial but I told the guy there were certain things I just wasn’t going to tell the government. Most of it is public information anyway, so if they want it, they can do the work and find it. And since we are declared as a farm, the USDA has now bracketed us for heavy shelling.
Lane Batot says
Man, I could easily total wear out my right index finger on THIS post’s comments! I’ll probably havta break my responses up into several replies.….to start–I can personally attest to the incredibly odd, UN big-catlike sounds cougars(mountain lions, pumas, panthers, painters, catamounts, etc. etc.) can make, having taken care of them in the zoo I work in, and, getting to help raise 3 orphan cougar kittens(which came from OREGON, no less!). The chirp-like calls ARE contact calls, often given by mothers calling their kittens/cubs–but, adults will also call to each other like that, and siblings will also when they get separated. I myself learned to call the cougar kittens I helped raise by chirping like that. The loud caterwauling–“screaming”–that cougars definately do, are usually females in heat calling for a male. They also will hiss and spit and caterwaul when fighting–this would be self-defense fighting–they are deadly silent while hunting. Cheetahs also make very similar chirping contact calls–just another similarity between the two species.This relation between cheetahs and cougars was previously questioned and doubted by many scientists–genetic research has proven it true now. Cougars, cheetahs, and, surprisingly, jagurundis, are all in the same closely related genetic family tree of cats. I’ve always thought cougars and cheetahs–though very different physique-wise–have very similar heads and expressions facially. I listened to the youtube thing you linked–it is kinda hard to hear, actually–some of the first sounds did sound like cougar “miaows”(which are surprisingly, kitten-like for such a big cat! But full grown adults DO make these silly little “miaows”!), but later, there were DISTINCT fox barks–do you guys have grey foxes there? And not surprising–foxes will often bark warnings like that when larger predators are around. It is usually that one, squalling note–rather like a small dog straining to bark. And the rubber boa? I’m not familiar with western species of snake, but, uh, that looked a lot like a black racer to me.….Just sayin’.….Anyway, learning all about the critters one shares a territory with has been one of MY passions for over half a century, so I’ll havta wax locquacious some more on THIS subject.….to be continued.….
Lane Batot says
.….the otter references I found interesting. Otters have made a marvelous comeback here in N. C. where I live, and I’ve gotten a lot of tracking and sighting experiences with them in recent years. They will travel overland for long distances between water sources(and they have VERY distinctive tracks!); something a lot of people don’t realize. Where I live, otters have overland routes between small farm ponds, that they traverse regularly. I unfortunately found a beautiful big dog otter hit by a car one winter morning, on a paved road on a route he used between two local farm ponds. I wonder if the person that hit him even knew WHAT they had run over! Usually near their dens(commonly burrows in creek or river, or lake banks, with underwater entrances–often taken over from beavers or muskrats) and also on their regular routes, they maintain territorial scent marking stations with their very distinct feces–called “spraint”, especially in the UK–which I am told are very “fishy” smelling–I wouldn’t know, having no sense of smell at all. Their spraint is usually chock full of undigested crustacean shells, as well as fish bones–they eat far more crayfish than fish in their foraging–something fishermen who kill off otters thinking they compete too much for gamefish often find out to their woe, as areas where otters are exterminated usually see an immediate drop in gamefish numbers, since otters eat far more crayfish than gamefish, and crayfish eat a lot of gamefish EGGS! That “balance” of Nature we often ignorant humans are better off learning to understand and live with, than making selfish, knee jerk decisions to exterminate this or that critter for our own selfish purposes!.….to be continued.….
Lane Batot says
.…and don’t knock Amazon–USE IT! And use it to learn about yer local critters! ALL KINDS of I.D. books out there–especially for birds, and for specific areas! I often just peck in the name of the animal I want to find some books on, and get all kinds of great choices! You DO havta be careful, like for instance, specifically, looking for information on “cougars” will often conjure up some other, unrelated subjects! But luckily, cougars have other call names, or just peck in “animal” along with it to insure you get the critter, not anything else! I am always looking up and reading about ALL KINDS of animals, not just the ones I live among, but I AM very interested in learning all I can about my local wildlife neighbors. It is a marvelously enriching, fascinating, ongoing project for your entire lifespan, learning about all the secretive lives that are going on around you all the time, day and night. What an inspiration for a good life well lived they all are, too. And you shouldn’t be overwhelmed by all there is to learn, as NO ONE can possibly learn it all in one lifetime! This despite what pompous, arrogant “experts” try to pretend, with their bloated egos–don’t ever let THAT type discourage you! You can take ONE species, spend your entire life studying it intensely, and you will still never learn all there is to know about it! People that pretend they know it all, in my experience, are often some of the most IGNORANT folks around!.…..
Craig Rullman says
Thanks Lane. The clip I use here isn’t mine, it is borrowed from the inter web for that first call at 40 seconds. I have yet to personally see the otters, but my neighbor is a reliable source, and of course there was the barn incident that goes otherwise unexplained. They are marvelous, and they are most certainly around, so I’m a believer they were there. I’d like to get some game cameras set up because I think the nocturnal life would be fairly amazing. I have not seen any foxes here, which doesn’t mean they aren’t. And as I write this I can hear the woodpecker hammering a tree by the garden. This is the good stuff.
Lane Batot says
I checked a range map for Grey Foxes–you certainly do have them, your own Northern California/Oregon subspecies, to be exact! And no doubt Red Foxes, too.……
Lane Batot says
…yeah, but WHAT KIND of woodpecker? I’ll bet you have foxes–not sure as to the range of the grey foxes out West(but they are in the West in places), and most likely red foxes too. We have both here in N.C.; the greys tend to stick to the thicker brush and forest, and the reds like the more open areas–but no hard and fast rules on THAT. I have heard greys following coyotes and barking warnings–rather a nuisance to the hunting coyotes, no doubt! And I wouldn’t be surprised if they did it to cougars(which I am EXTREMELY envious that you have them where you live–our “panthers” were all kilt off long ago–although they ARE recolonizing the East, slowly but surely–we WILL have them, in time, in the Appalachians again, if nowhere else–and I hope I live long enough to know about it!) And yes, a camera trap is an IDEAL way to learn what critters are lurking around–especially if you have some sort of wildlife feeder or baiting area to set it up near. Some of the evidence of cougars coming East is from just such self-taken photos! Such cameras used to be quite expensive, but have gotten more reasonable(and better made!) in recent years.…..
Lane Batot — raising those cats sounds like hard, noble work. Must have been a cool experience.
One of my favorite subjects Craig and in the spirit of your census and not trying to go too deep off the plate — here are a few of mine:
On Duty — Santa Barbara Mountain Lion capture with Ca F&G (see news link below). I spent 40+ minutes in the back yard with that cat, staring at each other with a .223 in hand (99.9% sure I would not be shooting any lions that day — I was the F&G cover unit). He was darted, ran towards us at which point we both yelled “No!”, he stopped, then charged the fence and head butted it before the ketamine turned him off. Beautiful animal and hopefully he wasn’t killed by the resident male where they relocated him. I wanted to leave him there so he could go back home that evening, but those above my pay grade were convinced he would start eating school children as soon as we left. Sigh.….. Also the sight of 265 pounds of McGrew hanging off the end of a fire truck ladder as it began involuntarily sagging down towards the cat, will forever make me smile.
Mountain Lion on Romero Trail @ 2130 hours for an approximately 20 second staring contest from 30′ away (he won). He realized there were two humans behind the blinding mountain bike helmet lights when ex — State park Ranger Andy R. said “here kitty” at which point he disappeared silently into the darkness. We looked at each other and Andy said, “We should probably go now”.
Truck versus a very large Tom (180+) on SR126 near Rancho Sespe (late 1990’s) in which my CHP graves partner and I were able to watch him pass before us. I might have gotten a little emotional on that one.….
Another rear half / lion tail blur on Romero during a solo night ride and getting tracked / investigated on a morning hike up Elephant Knob in the Sequoias.
Bears on the bike (one in uniform); raptor, raccoon, snake, lizard, possum rescues on duty and lots of Sequoia National Forrest, Santa Barbara and Idaho back country wild residents big and small. Better human for each encounter and I am sure this represents a fraction of the times I have been observed, food/prey optioned, as opposed to being the observer.
There are countless examples of frustrated, messed up “wild” animals eating their human owners/captors during an ill advised hug session. We cannot forget they are wild and should probably remain so. I will also admit as someone who has killed and eaten wild animals, we would all be better off and more connected if we spent more time in their company, respected them for what they are to us, why we need them as humans and took better care of their (OUR) habitat.
Craig you said to me years ago, “It wouldn’t bother me to never kill another living thing for the rest of my life. Anything.” I’m not sure how much of it is the job, being weary of all the pain and suffering, or just getting older — but I definitely enjoy my animals alive and wilder than ever these days. I plan on teaching #3 and #4 of the wolf pack to hunt if for nothing else to understand the taking of life for sustenance including the burger at the drivethrough. They will ultimately decide whether or not to continue.
This topic really needs some type of conference and workshops preferably in the forest (think CNOA format without the infidelity and high BAC’s) to really dig into this. You are correct Sir — this IS the good stuff.
Couple of cool docs below that touch on the matter for those interested. I can relate to the need of periodic isolation, the internal conflict and the company of animals.
Touching the Wild
The Man Who Lives with Bears
Our Big Santa Barbara Lion Capture
Nothing was going to keep Sgt. Mike away from carrying the tarp out that day. One of the coolest things I have experienced in 25 years of police work.
PS — that looks like a Racer in the photo. Great photo of one of the few ambush / pursuit hunters in the snake world. Super cool snakes!
Lane Batot says
HA! TJ! “Hard, noble work?” Gosh, nuthin’ “hard” about it–I basically got PAID to play with and love on 3 incredibly cute cougar kittens for several months! It WAS one of THE BEST experiences I’ve yet had as a zookeeper for over 20 years. Sure, there is the cleanup aspect, but cougars being cats, they mostly just poo and pee in a giant litter box in their indoor holding, or go outside–both very easy to clean up! And I consider training and socializing FUN–and these cougars are trained better than most peoples’ dogs! Since the Zoo provides all the food, medical care and facilities, it also didn’t cost ME anything! The kittens had been orphaned by a hunter in Oregon–he at least realized(too late) he’d shot a lactating female, and was able to backtrack her to her den, and find the three cubs, whose eyes were JUST opened. Turned them in(a VERY conscientious hunter, at least!) to the Oregon Zoo, which has, by coincidence, the BEST, most knowledgeable cougar rehabilitator in the U.S.! After they were weaned, we got them(N. C. Zoological Park) to finish raising, and as they were raised by hand from so young, they could not be returned to the wild(alas), and will have to live their lives out in a zoo. Hence the need to properly socialize them with people, which makes for a far happier, less stressed life in captivity. And they ARE happy, playful beasts! We kept two(a brother and sister–spayed and neutered of course), and one–the BOLDEST!– female went to a zoo in Wisconsin where they had another orphaned male cub that really needed a companion, and they’ve done GREAT together! Our zoo has a “protected contact” policy with large, potentially dangerous animals, so people cannot go in with them anymore after reaching adulthood(which is wisest), but because of that early hands-on contact and love and training, they are outgoing and very cooperative and friendly, which makes for a better quality life for them, and far easier for the keepers and staff veterinarians! Alas, I no longer work in that area anymore, but I can occasionally go visit “my babies”, and they always recognize me and are glad for a visit! Just by coincidence, I visited them YESTERDAY, and you should have heard the CHIRPING, purring, and miaows in greeting!
Lane Batot says
.…And yeah–I’d LOVE to sit down and hear ALL your experiences wrangling mountain lions, etc., TJ–and am immediately curious(TOTAL canine fanatic that I am–especially regarding FUNCTIONAL dogs.…) on just who and what #3 and #4 in yer pack are? I hope to soon(just trying to wrap my head around how to BEGIN, I have so much I’d like to relate!) start an ongoing guest postings “Frontier Partisans” dogs section over on Jim C’s other blog, in the hopes folks like you will join in with their thoughts, philosophies, factoids, and experiences of their own. I got a few days off–maybe I could get the beginning pecked out during my break. DOGS, I think, ARE our best bridge between our civilized selves(although some folks are more civilized than others.…) and our own feral ancestry–a wonderful connection and reminder of our real, natural selves. And you, to, Craig–you mentioned dogs–but who, what? I want DETAILS! I am only dogmatic about.….DOGS!
Craig Rullman says
I am a long time addict to Border Collies. Had them for many years, and had a great dog named Jake that helped me bring in a lot of cows. We had 3 but the oldest one walked-on last year. Now looking for a pup. As a kid we had Aussies, BC’s, and Great Pyrenees. Great dogs but don’t live long enough.
Lane Batot says
I JUST finished a splendid novel about a Border Collie: “Flash”, by Joyce Stranger–a FAVORITE author of animals and the country life in the U K. She also wrote “Rex”, as the 3rd part of her trilogy “The Running Foxes”, and “A Breed Of Giants”–ALL highly recommended! Also, SURELY you’ve read Donald McCaig’s “Nop’s Trials”? CLASSIC Border Collie tale set in Virginia. The sequel, “Nop’s Hope” is not really much about the dogs, though–a great disappointment to me. But “Nop’s Trials” is a MUST for all BC people! Another unique, wonderful book, recommended to me by none other than Steve Bodio, is “Beth, A Sheepdog” by Ernest Lewis. A bit harder to find(and likely havta order it from the U K, but I did from Amazon some while back successfully) based on a true story where a fellow trained his Border Collie to STEAL his neighbors’ sheep–send her out at night, and she’d–by herself!–round up and drive home surrounding herds under the cover of darkness, after which the fellow proceeded to sell them off! He also had an otter trained to catch fish for him–not far fetched at all–lots of people have used tame otters for that. Aussies are great all-around farm dogs, too. Although I haven’t(yet) kept either, I’ve been around quite a few–liked them all. If your looking for a Livestock Protection Dog like a Pyrenees, checkout the Turkish Anatolians–incredible dogs–and as long-lived as any large dog, despite their giant size. Extremely agile and personable with their people, too–they remind me more of LIONS than any other dog type! And your livestock and property guaranteed SECURE with these guys on duty! Hopefully you’ll chip in with some stories/experiences whenever I FINALLY get around to getting some “Frontier Partisans K‑9s” guest posts going over at the FP.…..
Ditto American Bulldogs Craig. We said goodbye to Mia a few months ago. They shine bright — just not very long.
Lane Batot says
.…Sigh.…I am “down” to 8 dogs in the pack just now, and 6 of the 8 are either 12 or 13, so my pack dynamics will change sadly and abruptly too, too soon. Having kept packs of a self-imposed limit of no-more-than 10 at any one time(that I didn’t go over.…much.…) over the past 3 decades, I’ve seen a lot of beloved canine friends pass on to the other side, and it NEVER gets easier. I am going to TRY and readjust my self-imposed limit to just 5 at any given time, to make things easier in my rapidly advancing senior years, and to better suit the more developed and human controlled territory I now roam, and only keep good “trespassing dogs”. More on that over on the “Frontier Partisans” blog soon–I DID get my first canine installment pecked out and sent–up to Jim as to when it’ll git cleaned up and posted.….. Ahhh, American Bulldogs–the still actually FUNCTIONAL bulldog(although I love English Bulldogs personality, they are such genetic wrecks now, alas). And I suppose I should follow my own demands and list my present packs’ make-up–after me, there’s my now doddery 13 year old Bluetick hound, a 13 and another 12 year old Siberian Huskies(last remnants of my last-?- sled dogteam), a 13 and another 12 year old pair of smallish mutts, my 12 year old Weimaraner(BEST “Trespassing Dog” ever!), and two(brothers) 6 year old Tazis/Salukis, whose grandparents are from Kazakhstan. And despite my new self-imposed limit(which I haven’t reached yet anyway), a stray, dimunitive, but incredibly bold Siberian Husky bitch, about a year old(just when most people get thoroughly exasperated by them and dump or neglect them)showed up on my property 2 days ago, no I. D., no collar, in an area she WILL be shot or hit by a car if left to run unattended, that I will be trying to find her home. Wish me luck–I need her like a hole-in-the-head. Even if I am about the only person I know who actually gets Siberians to live to old age(I’ve probably had more Siberians and crosses of Sibes than any other dog type, but then I maintained a sled team for numerous years.…..)
Breaker Morant says
I worked with Tom Anderson from “Aligning With Nature” on an appraisal project about 10 years ago. He is a kindred spirit and some might enjoy his blog.
Jim Cornelius says
Thanks for the resource, Breaker.