Saturday, 7 September 2013

Gerry Bennett and John Keenleyside.

Humour at its Best

    It's a rainy day and I am inside organizing and reorganizing my bird "stuff" and I came across A Tribute to Gerry Bennett to which many birders, including myself, contributed after Gerry died suddenly from a massive heart attack on 10 January 1999, fittingly while filling his bird feeders.
    Many of you will know that Gerry was the long-time publisher of Bird Finding in Canada, a publication which he created and produced by himself, typing it on a manual typewriter. It was much loved and eagerly awaited each month by all who subscribed to it.
    John Keenleyside and Gerry kept up a long standing correspondence which was absolutely hilarious and I am reproducing a letter written by John in 1988. For those who have not previously read it I am sure it will provide great amusement; for those already familiar with it it will bring back memories of one of the golden eras of birding in Canada, and evoke fond memories of a great birder, raconteur and good friend.


April 25 1988

Mr. Gerry Bennett,
Birdfinder in Canada,
c/o Birdfinding in Canada,
Box 519, Kleinburg, Ont.  L0J 1C0

Dear Birdfinder in Canada:

    Enclosed you will find my various lists, for publication in Birdfinding in Canada. Unfortunately, you will notice, once again, that my ATPAT (All the Provinces and Territories) totals are missing. The problem this time is that I have been unable to locate my list for Prince Edward Island, despite prolonged and intensive searching. I am quite certain that I have been there however, since I believe that I can remember seeing a number of House Sparrows at the Charlottetown Airport. I feel therefore that I owe it to you to continue my search for the missing list, and I will leave no stone unturned in this regard.
    I thought that you might want to know that in the past year or so I have been devoting considerable time to one of my other favourite listing games, and this has to do with chasing around after the birds which can be seen in the many different counties of our province. This list, as you are aware, is known as All The Counties Of Ontario Together, (or ATCOOT), and I find it regrettable that so few of the younger birders pursue this particular list. Certainly many of the senior birders know about ATCOOTS, and are actively engaged in this pursuit. One of the most fanatical of ATCOOT enthusiasts was Anne Merrill, former bird columnist at the Toronto Globe and Mail, and the fact that Anne continued to pursue her ATCOOTS for several years after her death caused profound controversy in the local birding community. The alienation of many local birders which resulted from this breech of birding ethics is considered by some birding historians to be the primary reason why for so many years women were excluded from membership in the T.O.C.
    As a prominent birder-publisher, I am sure you are aware that American birders have a game similar to ATPAT, and which colloquially is referred to as Total Ticky. Quite recently I found myself in the Texas panhandle, the primary target being the Lesser Prairie Chicken. However, not having birded this part of Texas before, it is not surprising that I saw a number of new Total Ticky birds. Even more exciting however, was the fact that we were very close to the Oklahoma border, and since I had never even been in that state, (much less birded there), the Total Ticky prospects were limitless. A group of us, therefore, dressed as Oklahomans so as to be inconspicuous, sneaked across the border and started to bird. In no more than two or three hours, I personally added no less than 53 species to my Total Ticky list. It was at this time that I was delighted to learn the ''official'' designation for Total Ticky, which I was told was ''All the States Heterogeneously In Total'', or ATSHIT. In any case, as we were starting to draw a few suspicious stares, we thought that it would be incumbent upon us to depart. Accordingly therefore, under the cover of daylight, we made our way cautiously across the frontier and back into friendly Texas, with no shots fired, and with no casualties.

                                 Best personal wishes.

Sincerely yours,
John G. Keenleyside M.D.

    And here is Gerry's response:

Birdfinding in Canada
Box 519, Kleinburg
L0J 1C0

April 28, 1988

John Gordon Keenleyside, M.D.
1057 Springhill Drive,
Mississauga, Ont.
L5H 1N2

Dear John Gordon:

    Your letter of April 25 was indeed a treasure to receive. All of the staff here at Birdfinders enjoyed it - also one or two of the Board of Directors - although in their case, decision was not unanimous.
    Acronymical alphabetical applications relative to conglomerate geographical parcels of ornithological explorations have indeed become one of the primary and popular pastimes of literary lovers of listing lore, alliteratively speaking. Your own demonstrated devotion and compulsive addiction to this tabulation trend, especially as directed to the creativity and erudition involved in hybridizing scatalogical x ornithological nomenclatural terminology should, I think (and here our Board of Directors is unanimous) result in your nomination (and perhaps eventual election) to the

                               Recognition of
                                            Location               Hall of Fame.

    Your account of penetration into Oklahoma (I knew her sister) was indeed thrilling. We Canadians are certainly a fearless lot. I once had a similarly awesome experience. It was in Grey County, Ontario in search of ATCOOTS. I got out of the vehicle, walked along a bubbling brook, across a verdant field and back to my van. Rates right up there with your Sabatini/Hemingway type of experience, don't you think?
    To direct further accolades and complimentary comments your way, would, I fear, be all too superfluous, resulting in only diluting unit values (seasonally adjusted, of course) and would be tantamount to gilding refined gold, throwing perfume upon the violet, painting the lily, or slicing the salami with anointed pinking shears.
    In addition to our wishes and congratulations, some of your fans keep writing asking that we relay their felicitations to you. These include Halle Flygare, Lova Ream, Benton Basham (of Ooltewah, Tenn.), Hugo Honschopp, Edge Pegg, Fulton Lavender, Kirk Waterstripe, Loy Dean Pike, Aleona Isherwood, Golroux Ostovar and Bill Smith.
    Looking forward to seeing you at Pelee - from a distance.

                                     Gerry Bennett   

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