Friday, September 28, 2007

To the manor wished


A falcon will go to the highest perch. Which is why I must keep my arm canted upward, the thumb on top. Otherwise Victor, the Harris hawk who is my hunting partner this afternoon, becomes unsettled.

I open my leather-gloved hand and cast a pitch…and he flies off, just as he’s been taught, to a nearby perch, then flies immediately back. The impetus, as falconer William Duncan has explained, is simple. Food. Upon arrival on my glove, Victor receives a bit of steak tartar.

The falcons are kept as close to an ideal weight as possible…so they are a little hungry, but still with plenty of energy for hunting. For that was the purpose of falconry, at least in it’s earliest days … to catch food.

The falconry program is one of many country sports available at Gleneagles, an estate hotel built by the railroad in the early 1920s.


By a sad quirk of fate, I was not to the manor born. Had things been as they should have, I would have been born to a place like Gleneagles.

Patrick, the private butler that goes in the newly designed suites in Gleneagles’ former maids quarters, has just arrived to make me a special cocktail with 15-year-old Johnnie Walker Green, a mint-and-ice concoction that, to a Southerner, seems remarkably like a mint julep. The tray of canap├ęs plays to the salmon theme, with salmon curls, salmon on brown bread with cavier, salmon tartar.

They’re delicious. Too bad I have to save room for dinner.

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