(from mug)
I would plunge from the highest mist
Down to the lowest deep,
Or I would from my maker’s wrist
Die with the falcons sweep
I would know the ecstasy
Of unhooded hunting lust,
A power dive from sublimity
Down to the groveling dust.
Unerring should my death-cast be
But, obedient to his nod,
Swift I’d soar to my hood once more
Back to the hand of God.
Bill and Joan Mattox, Sheryl A. Shaughnessey, Sandak Hennessey & Greco,
LLP., Rocco Cassone, Saul A. Rothman, William J. Hennessey, Pamela Riley,
Berit U. Sissener, Michael Lazarus, Susan Stewart
Stamford, Conn., and Tipton, Mich., Colorado Springs, CO
Favored birds: Peregrine falcons and goshawks
incent Cassone was part of the old school” of falconry in
the U.S. who strongly believed falconers should adhere to
the classic, medieval techniques. Likewise, he did not think
highly of using electronics to track birds or even of the purchase of
Born in 1926, Cassone came from the era of American falconers
who were fascinated with falcons and hawks and were intrigued
by the same National Geographic article that inspired many of
that generation. He was well-read and became familiar with other
writings such as the Craigheads, and classic literature, especially “De
Arte Venandi cum Avibus” (“On The Art of Hunting with Birds”),
a Latin treatise on ornithology and falconry written in the 1200s by
Frederick II, a powerful, Holy Roman Emperor from the House of
Cassone also loved to trap falcons on Assateague Island, off the
Maryland and Virginia coast. The island is famous in the lore of
falconers before the age of regulation and the decline of populations
due to DDT.
His son, Vincent M., himself a biologist who has studied birds and
is head of the Department of Biology at the University of Kentucky,
remembers those trips to Assateague.
“When I was a kid, he would take my brother and me on the annual
trek to The Island, where we would camp with a great group of
falconers, he said. “It was a long time ago, but I can’t forget Corny
McFadden, Heinz Meng and Dr. Jim Gerlach (who stitched my hand
together one year after I was injured). Ed Riley and Vernon Seifert
were also close falconry friends of my father.
His son was also his major apprentice — this was, of course, long
before today’s formal and legal system of apprenticeships — but
he occasionally took on others, such as Jackie Bleuler and Kent
Christiansen. He also gave talks on the sport at least once a year, his
son said.
Cassone was the first falconer to import the Argentinean peregrine
subspecies F. peregrinus cassini to the U.S. He had an exotic bird
permit to bring the birds in, but Fish and Wildlife confiscated the
birds, claiming them to be F. peregrinus anatum. F&W wanted to
put the birds in the Bronx Zoo, but after much haggling and legal
jousting, the birds were given to Tom Cades breeding program at
Cornell. He was promised an F2 or F3 but never received one.
He was also a collector. He particularly liked the 19th Century
bronzes made by French sculptor Pierre J. Mene, who had several
statues of falconers. The first of those was of an Arabian falconer on
an Arabian horse with a falcon on his wrist.
Over the course of his career, Cassone was also an inventor who went
from the family bakery business into sales and manufacturing, then
back to the bakery business at the end of his career.
He was a partner with his brothers in Stamford, Conn., at Cassones
Bakery, where he invented a bread crumb machine. Today, the bakery
is owned by Pepperidge Farm, but is still active in the Northeast.
He left the bakery to become an international salesman for a tool
and die company, Easco Sparcatron in Ann Arbor, Mich., which built
electrical discharge machines (EDM). He became president of the
company, but soon started a new company, Axon EDM, a competitor
of Easco. During that time, he was instrumental in the invention and
design of a tabletop EDM called the Sparkdrill.
Eventually, Cassone became frustrated by the nature of the financial
aspects of the business, which was based on large lines of credit and
accounts receivable, which could be frustrating when dealing with
international clients. When Axon began to flounder, he decided he
wanted to get back into an industry that was recession-proof and
based on cash sales. Clearly, his experience in the bakery business
fit the bill, and he started a bakery in Brooklyn, Mich., called
Stonehearth Bakery. His eventual goal was to franchise the company,
thanks in part to a new invention/design of his — miniature bread-
baking equipment for use in small-market bakeries that utilized
high-tech ceramics that were lighter than stone but simulated the
stone-baking process that creates Old World style breads.
“He will be remembered as a very creative man, someone who was
certain of his opinions and willing to argue about — I mean discuss
— anything with anyone, said his son, who described him as a bit
of a gadfly. “He was known to pose uncomfortable questions and
make unpopular statements in the presence of people who usually
did not agree with him. This was true throughout his life, although it
increased as he aged.
But, as with all falconers, it always comes back to the birds. He loved
peregrines and goshawks. And he had many birds over the years. Of
course, there were problem birds — a Harris Hawk that wouldn’t
work for him or an Ornate Crested Hawk-Eagle that was dumber
than a rock — but then there were all the others.
All birds liked him, his son said. “I had a Red-tailed Hawk for a
long time (maybe 15 years) named Sam that would fly for me very
well, but who was enamored with my father. I mean inappropriately
enamored. And my father could get parrots to talk more quickly than
anyone I know. He just had a way with birds.
— Reminiscences: Vincent M. Cassone (son)
He loved peregrines
and goshawks.
All birds liked him....
He just had a way
with birds.
Falconer’s Plunge
There lies Riley; dashed to the rocks
His backyard full of empty blocks
A tting end for a man so absurd
Who’d climb a cli to steal a baby bird
-Vincent D. Cassone
Background of Riley’s Plunge Poem
per Vincent Cassone (Vinny’s son):
Riley is Ed Riley, one of Vinny’s best
friends in Colorado. Ed’s brother Jim was
Vinny’s good friend in Connecticut. Ed
and Vinny would ham it up at the eyries.
Vinny would ice skate down the rivers in
Connecticut to search for peregrine eyries!