Thursday, February 21, 2008

An Evening With Christopher Cokinos

It's not everyday that you meet the author of a well known book, to top that, you almost never get to share an intimate meal with one. I had the fortunate opportunity to sit down to a delicious meal (veggie lasagna, and leafy greens w/ dried cranberries and roasted pine-nuts!) with Chris Cokinos. Actually I sat down to dinner with a total of four very accomplished writers and had a wonderful evening. If you are not familiar with Christopher Cokinos or his work he wrote a book called "Hope is the Thing With Feathers : A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds" it is well accepted and appreciated amongst birders and researchers, and if you haven't read it, I'm not sure what is taking you so long! In any case, before I share any more of my evening I need to share some interesting things about my connection with this book and the author.

It has been almost two years since I worked on the Sutton Centers Lesser Prairie Chicken Project. During one of the first few weeks Don Wolfe (Senior Biologist) and I were talking at the field station when he handed me a copied version of a chapter of Chris's book (with consent from the author of course). It was the section entitled "The Heath Hen", for some that may not know the Heath Hen went extinct around the late 20's. You can still see it's close relatives the Greater and Lesser Prairie Chickens in a few of the Great Plains States. However, if you plan to see the Lesser you had best do it soon, because they are perhaps the next species in that genus to follow the Heath Hen out of existence. But that's another matter for another post! In any case Don gives all of his technicians this section of Chris's book and hopes that they will read it. I did, and enjoyed it greatly no matter how sad the stories were. The current story of the Lesser Prairie Chicken is paralleling Chris recount of the Heath Hens so closely that I almost get sick thinking about the possible outcome!

I enjoyed the book so much that I set out to find my own copy. Well, that was more difficult than I would have imagined, the book had gone out of print and I couldn't find a copy (which speaks highly for the content!) It was almost a year before I would find one. Funny enough I was in Memphis staying with some family, I had been out birding in the morning at a local Refuge and had jumped over to the city to see a little of the big town. One of my stops was at a local used book store where I happened to find a perfect used copy of it. Not to mention it was an uncorrected proof that had made its way to the shelves. Somebodies loss was certainly my gain that day! Happy as a walrus at a clam fest I paid the eight dollars and ran like I had stolen it.

Fast forward a year and a half. I am currently taking a Professional Writing class and it just happens that Chris was coming to read a bit of his new book to some folks at Cameron University. Fortunately I missed the reading, but got invited to a wonderful dinner so that I could meet him and share stories and what not. To say the least he was a very kind and sincerely genuine person. We talked birds of course, shared storied, and had a wonderful evening. I can't speak highly enough, I will look forward to reading his next book which I'm sure will be just as top-notch as his last. Oh and that super special book, yeah, it now contains a kind message from the author.

Chris if you happen to read this, thanks, I hope our paths cross again sometime!


firstcitybook said...

Did Chris happen to mention when his next book will be out? I've been eagerly anticipating his next one.

Eric Beck said...

Actually that is one topic we didn't discuss much, I will do my best to find out. If it's anything like his first book I'll read through it in a day!

Anonymous said...

Hey Eric,

Kathe and I had a great time meeting you and having dinner with Bob and Julie. I'm sorry for Cameron (and you and others there) that they are moving on.

This was a nice thing to run across. Thanks for the kind words!

Oh, the new book, about the passions of meteorite hunters, should be out late next spring, early next summer, probably in an April-June 2009 timeframe. Tarcher is still the publisher.

And speaking of: Back to editing the darned thing.

Take care and keep kicking it in those classes,


Anonymous said...


I guess I should read your posts more often. I didn't know that you had the opportunity to meet Chris (perhaps you told me and I forgot). Anyway, I'm glad you were able to score a copy of his book, and give it such a great review. I still recommend the book to nearly everyone with any interest in prairie-chickens. I agree completely about the parallels between Heath Hens and Lesser Prairie-Chickens; of course, though, the wind industry wasn't a factor in the Heath Hen's demise.