Passing of Rich Stallcup
It's been months since I posted to this blog. Not that life has been uneventful, but slogging along from day to day, in the meager time I have between work, sleep, and more work, I've more or less surrendered to inertia. So what does it take to shake off that inertia? It took the sad news of the passing of Rich Stallcup. Here is what I posted to PRBO's Guestbook, in memory of Rich:
I first met Rich in 1982, on a PRBO tour of Southeastern Arizona. That week of birding with Rich remains one of the most memorable of my life. The breadth of his experience, knowledge, and awareness of the natural world was astounding. It wasn't just that he had amazing birding skills - Rich had a holistic interest in all of nature, and possessed a gift for sharing that interest and enthusiasm with others. He always had time for all the reptiles, mammals, and other critters we met along the way, and because he cared about them, you did too. An owling trip with Rich was also an opportunity to learn about bat identification, and even after a full day of birding he still had the energy to take us on night drives to look for whatever creatures might be on the road - I remember his delight at showing us a vinegaroon, and discussing the possibility of getting all four species of skunks in one night ("if we get three, then we have to keep going"). He had a gentle sense of humor, and the patience to put up with me back when I was a punky kid, full of questions and trying to prove myself worthy in the eyes of the REAL master. To me, Rich represented the kind of birder I hoped to someday be. I think Jon Winter said it best. All I can say, without getting too mystical, is that with Rich I had that same feeling, that I was in the presence of someone who was operating on a higher level. Also, he was just a lot of fun to be around, and had a quirky and disarming sense of humor. One particular moment for some reason stands out in my memory. I had once asked him if he knew whether a Bobolink that had been reported was still present. He turned and said, in mock seriousness "Bob sounds a little too familiar, I don't know him that well, maybe I should call him Robert-olink?" That was Rich.
Here is the piece by Jon Winter that I referenced above:
"Conversely, with Rich, birding was a nearly mystical experience and he approached it from that perspective, consciously or unconsciously, I am not sure which. I think I favor the latter description, though. He has the soul of a poet, the mind of a scientist and the spirituality of a shaman. This is not a combination of talents often found in a birder. If Rich hasn't seen the vision, he sure as hell knows where to look for it while the rest of us mortals are stumbling around trying to find out what the hell it is all about. You always felt like a contact hitter when birding with Rich. You always knew at any moment he could put one out of the park. I suspect that it is the same feeling professional athletes get when they are in the same game with a Barry Bonds, a Jerry Rice or a Michael Jordan. You know that you are in the presence of someone extraordinary; someone that has an ability that completely transcends that of an ordinary player. Rich's influence goes well beyond just identifying birds, he has become a part of the flow of life itself, part of the essence of what animates the natural world and he understands that world from that very unique perspective. He crawls around inside the mind of a bird and sees it as a shaman would see it. Placed in that context, the ability to identify birds isn't really very important, it is all rather clinical. To those who have been fortunate enough to know him, Rich leads you to a higher purpose through birding; an understanding of your spirit."
It is a rare annd wonderful thing to cross paths with someone possessing true greatness, and I feel honored and blessed to have had the chance to cross paths with Rich. He touched many lives, and will be deeply missed and fondly remembered.