Friday, October 23, 2009
Tally Most Incredibly Ho!
Much pleasure from Jeremy Mynott’s Birdscapes: Birds in Our Imagination and Experience. This anecdote, for instance, recalling James Fisher and Roger Tory Peterson’s thirty-thousand mile crisscrossing of the United States, as described in their Wild America (1955), and their sighting of the legendary California condor:
Fisher then makes two remarks which from an Englishman of his class and generation represent pretty strong language:
“Tally most incredibly ho!” I said as I ticked it off on my checklist. “Worth seeing, actually.”
Peterson, notoriously, rarely thought about anything other than birds, as Fisher describes:
I’ve learned several things about Roger in the course of our acquaintance, and one of them is this: that Roger talks most of the time about birds. When the subject switches, a faraway look comes into his eye. He just waits for a lull and steps in where he left off.
A famous example of this habit is when Peterson was accompanying a party of eminent statesmen and others on a bird trip to a UK estuary. Lord Alanbrooke, chief of the General Staff during the Second World War, was holding forth to an attentive audience on his relations with Winston Churchill when Peterson abruptly turned to the group and said ruminatively, “I guess oystercatchers will eat most any kind of mollusc.”