I’ve probably stolen a thing or two in my life. Not proud of it, but I would have to go back to my childhood days when I noticed barrels of hard candy in tubs that just so happened to be my exact height. “How convenient,” I thought as I filled my pockets. Driving home in the car my mother noticed my sugared enthusiasm and casually asked: “Where did you get those?” I instantly burst into tears, confessed and oozed into a puddle on the floor of the backseat. She promptly turned around, drove back, and then made me pace the walk of shame back into the store.
What haven’t I stolen? Hundreds of thousands of dollars of rare bird skins and feathers from the British Natural History Museum. After smashing a window in the middle of the night. But someone else did, and that is what Kirk Wallace Johnson’s “The Feather Thief,” is all about. And a nice little twist, the origins of this book started on the rivers of Northern New Mexico.
Turns out there is a somewhat underground subculture revolving around salmon fly tiers who lust for authentic materials to tie their masterpieces, even though many of these folks don’t fish. Yes, I know. They are relentless and the pay massive coin for a chance to use what’s real even if it means bending a law or two to get what they want.
This was a wonderful book that not only tells this particular story but is also a lesson for anyone wanting to have a go at an undertaking like this. The author spends YEARS untying this little tale. Get it? Untying? I’ll stop.
I won’t ruin the story or the ending. Just get it and read it.