Thursday, February 5, 2009

Grass, Sky, Song Illustrated--the Preface

Here is a second instalment in a series that shows images that relate to passages in Grass, Sky, Song. This first photo, which I am posting with the kind permission of Alberta photographer Allan MacKeigan (check out his website), shows one of the grassland birds that gets a lot of attention in the book. It is a male Chestnut-collared longspur showing off its tail.

In the preface to GSS, “A Way Home,” I write about how I became interested in grassland and its birds. It started with hunting waterfowl and grouse as a boy. This is a photo of me age 12 or 13, just back from a duck hunt. Apparently, dad thought the ducks were more important than the top of my head.

Both my grandfathers hunted to feed their families—antelope, deer, moose, bear, rabbits, grouse and waterfowl. My father’s father homesteaded on the open plains near the Great Sand Hills and then during the hardest stretch of drought in the 1930s moved his family north to the forest just below the southern boundary of Prince Albert National Park. One of his rifles was a Boer war .303 bolt action, which I have inherited. In the preface I talk about the rifle and the notches on its butt, which you can see in this photo. Strangely enough, I somehow miscounted (or misremembered) the notches because in the book I say there were only four but when I got my daughter, Sage, to take this photo last night there were seven!

Later in the preface, still trying to explain how I came by my interest in prairie birds, I tell the story of a kayaking trip on the West Coast and an encounter with Orcas. The photo below shows my wife, Karen, and I and an Orca bull known as “Top Notch.”

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