More; toward a history of Modern Sporting Literature….

STILL more Updates!
(SPORT, Steve’s definition, actually used in The (Cambridge) Real Paper back then, for the game dinner to be known as “Bodio kills it, Nadeau cooks it.” “Sport: I agree with the Ewdardian Brits.”Sport” takes place upon or after animals. Anything that uses balls is a GAME!”)

This would be after West Cambridge, premature marriage, running Organisms Prep from my lair on the eleventh floor, and siccing the biker gang on the Weather Underground, but a little before English Literary Renaissance, Phillip Larkin, the firewood biz, and Betsy (mostly) It was inspired by a note from my dear old friend F. Reed Austin, who was my editor at Gray’s Sporting Journal and who alleges my first words to him were “I wore a fucking tie for this?!” I was dressed in my best corduroy jacket with elbow patches, a tie and clean jeans, which i thought I thought made up for my Jim Morrison-esque hair,

but “Mr. Austin” had even longer hair, and stubble, and gold- rimmed glasses, and was cleaning his toes with a penknife, when I was ushered into his presence after a fleeting handshake from a distracted Ed Gray in the hall. I had recognized Ed as the genial new stranger my age who was showing up my grouse coverts in Easton. It seemed this fancy 3rd floor office on Beacon Street in Brookline was keeping some secrets from me.

The ageless Ed and Becky Gray, last year– not only for a shining moment he best magazine editors in the country, but the best hosts.Their hospitality helped me survive Betsy’s death.

Reed, who wrote a lovely eulogy for his wife Gordon, another old friend who died very young, that is in my recent blog archives, was to become my chief companion in sport for several years. Being that it was the Roaring Seventies, and that Reed and I had strong bodies and were no strangers to excess, a lot of this consisted of getting blasted and going out to have adventures. As we were young and strong and resilient, we were not enjoined to moderation; in those days we could get away with it, and for years did, despite our commitment to making art- I will not use a lesser word- of often crummy sow’s ear of Sporting “Literature”. Was it ever a CONSCIOUS genre apart from Ed’s big idea and the remarkable sui generis period when a departing French editor picked a horseplayer’s daughter named Patricia Ryan out of the secretarial pool and gave her the job of running Time- Life’s flagship sporting weekly, Sports Illustrated.

Without Pat Ryan’s stable of young men there would probably have been no “Modern Sporting Literature” as we know it, for they either wrote or influenced all of it; I am not the only one who still keeps SI’s from the late 60’s and early 70’s around. They were VERY young- writing from this vantage, it is hard to believe that Tom McGuane, “Squire Tom” of long fame and respectability, who looks like and IS an old rancher who is also welcome at the Yale Club

was the guy with shoulder length hair known as Captain Berserko in Key West.

But he was about 26 when I first fell in love with his prose,and Jim Harrison was neither gnarly nor rich.

Russell Chatham had long dark hair and and was not fat and had not blown through three (four?) fortunes and a restaurant.In the first photo here, with Harrison, McGuane, and Guy de la Valdene (still another good writer who was one of Pat’s boys), he looks much as he did when he introduced me to Libby twenty- some years ago.

(Well, maybe like THIS ; honesty compels me to say that Russ was skinny when we first met, but years of good cooking and eating at Deep Crick,a sort of second home to me in those restless years after Betsy’s death, put weight on all of us*; this film was made by the late Flagstaff photographer Ed George, who accompanied me on my fist Mongolia expedition on legendary editor Terry McDonnell’s dime). UPDATE; no it wasn’t. No matter; this one is better!

As he is today. He has returned to his native California to paint and write about his roots, often in Richard Anderson’s California Fly Fisher, and lives just down the street from our painter friend and his, Thomas Quinn. Below is the iconic– I WILL say that- portrait of McGuane, from the first issue of Outside. Try writing a hunting article for them today…

(“Gatz” Hjortsberg, the late, was remarkably youthful and serene as long as he lived, an exception to every rule- I treasure a copy of Falling Angel with an exhortation to “Keep those fighting pigeons flying!”)

There were other oddballs of talent around; like the Bozeman poet Greg Keeler, author of “Is the ouzel stupid?”, the Montana poet turned rifle maven John Barsness; the often baroque but always elegant, hyperliterate young Los Angeles stylist Tommy McIntyre, whose 21st birthday present was, I think, the last safari in Kenya… First photo SB & TM with found antelope head, near the Lightning Field in Catron County NM ca 1984, which led directly to a Sports Afield piece that began “They wouldn’t let us run the hounds in the art installation.”

(The last is Tommy last week, starring in a well received production of Beckett’s Endgame in Sheridan, Wyoming, his home of Many years– you can take the boy out of Hollywod but maybe you can’t take Hollywood out of the boy…

A few were older, like the wisest and most modest outdoor writer who ever wrote, Charley Waterman, Mason “Tim ” Smlth, writing from the genteel wilderness of the Adirondacks on such things as traditional canoes; and, uniquely, “Bad” Bob Jones over from Time and soon up in Vermont, Bob, the consumnate not quite Boho (but Gonzo avant la lettre, ie before Hunter Thompson) reporter and the hippest foreign correspondent since Negley Farson; he had more than fifty TIME covers to his name, an unsurpassed number, coined the word ‘Hippie’ in its demotic form, and was briefly Dylan’s Mr Jones.. I can see his gray flannel Brooks bros suit,sure, but also those ever- startling blazing blue eyes under those brooding black brows, obvious even to his loving daughter who painted a portrait very much giving them prominence, called Mean Dad with Nice Dog- one of his beloved yellow labs– as he told of taking tons of acid and speed at the Formula Car races soon thereafter to prove to himself– no one one else ever doubted his physical or moral courage ; he wasn’t afraid of such things… Meanwhile, a couple of book covers, including the Spanish edition of Blood Sport with a Tyrannosaur on the cover (there are no dinosaurs in Blood Sport), which Bob inscribed “Con pazienza y saliva el Elefante se culo la hormiga”– that was our Bob, who nearly started two fistfights at one of my weddings, for and against the Vietnam war, and somehow had time to tell an old New York society woman, Joanie van Ness, a bit of history that she didn’t want to know. “Who is that odious Bob Jones? He just told me that Pope Innocent some numberorother buggered altar boys!” Here he is at that very wedding, with his Louise, his wife of forty- some years (don’t let her gentle looks fool you; not only is she among the most formidably literate humans I have ever met, and my friends include Anne Proulx and Tom McGuane; she once allegedly skinned and butchered a bear naked, as a sort of study for a scene in Slade’s Glacier; true or not- I believe it–i adore her. Look at the amused, resigned, but still affectionate look she gives the old warrior as he looks around for another battle..

Bob loved over- the- top plots, killing off his friends in books, and “Blood” in a book’s title.

“Bad Bob is the Blood MASTER!” said then girlfriend and Canadian literary critic Elaine Duffy- and that after Bob had thrown us out of his car at 2 AM in a sudden fury, after drinking the night away with Annie Proulx in her half- finished house, leaving us to walk five miles drunk at 3 AM and talk our way into a motel… I forgave him easily when I found this note waiting for me in New Mexico:

Then there was Nick Lyons, the last gentleman editor, without whom sporting lit probably wouldn’t exist….

WHOA! I digress , and will, because my recent PD therapy & REDUCTION in drugs has released a flood of energy. Therefore expect (unless everyone hates this!), an occasional rambling instalment of my (ahem) MEMOIRS, which I have planned for a long time. They will be episodic and “thematic” according to subject because I like to do it that way. And I owe Mary Karr, who I don’t know, for writing her tragicomic redneck/ Catholic convert/ recovered drunk memoir The Liar’s Club, which I read aloud to Libby on the way to Utah a few years ago, and who has now done the definitive book on memoirs,from Stop Time to Nabokov, and who has inspired me to get started (note to Helen Macdonald if she reads this: get me Mary’s contact info!)

So since there will be a lot more, let me bring this segment to its temporary end.

The New Sport Lit was overwhelmingly talented– and virtually all male. I don’t want to blame this on editors- Ed Gray in particular went all- out to encourage female writers But all too few came forth.

The main exception was to be Anne Proulx, unique there as in many things. She and I tried for a while, with the help of Bob Jones among others, to buld the foundation for a new sporting lit at at Wildbranch, but… that was not what was wanted. I stayed nine years and was insulted by their anthology, while Annie had the sense to leave. Oh well, anyway, a few good years is all anyone can expect…

More TK

*Proudest I have ever been of my cooking was a dinner there after which Russ said “I wish I had four cook stations here so you, Guy, Libby, and I could all cook at once!” He didn’t mention Harrison…

History 101

Ok, this is going to be long– many posts, not necessarily consecutive. Tell me to stop this “series” if it is boring.

My old editor at Gray’s, Reed Austin, is stitched deeply into the sporting tradition of our times — his grandfather AND his commitment to making good prose (his grandfather Francis Reed “Frannie” Austin and his then landlord, Parker Perry, appear in van Campen Hielner’s Duck Shooting in America, but the fact that I am the newest neuvo that ever existed did not matter to him, or later to his late wife, Gordon– I was their pal and that was that. Actually, I last saw Reed at Betsy’s funeral in 1986 when he got out of his hospital bed, split the leg on his Brooks Brothers suit and attended on crutches, visibly wincing with pain. But since I published in Angler we have been in touch and I am plotting to get him out to New Mexico. Here’s some Reed stuff, the kind of thing of which he said to Bill, the publisher of Anglers, publish anything he writes and don’t believe a thing about anything he said we did in the Seventies.

He touched this off with a little remark he made in my comments:

“The truth is, on the many adventures that Steve and I embarked, I don’t recall we actually ever shot or caught anything, and we almost died several times. But that, as they say, is another story(ies), and best told by Steve.”

I replied: Truth, generally— the infamous time we cast onto dry land for about an hour on Duxbury marsh, until dawn’s light revealed what we were doing (I wonder what your grandfather & your landlord, both of whom shot there in van Campen Heilner’s duck book, would have thought of the incident); the time we got lost in the fog off your summer house at Mishaum * (spelling?); the tme we got “turned around”, to use the Yankee expression– I wont say lost— in the cold woods above Quabbin, remarkably devoid of landmarks, deer hunting with a hangover…

I can remember ONE productive hunt, although it must have been bittersweet to you— the farewell hunt at your famiily place on Martha’s Vineyard, after your family had decided to sell it. Wasn’t there a date in the 1880’s cut by the diamond of some female predecessor in one of the windows? I don’t remember much of the company other than ubiquitous obnoxious Ben A. , shooting well as always damn him, that time with a 32” Sauer I envied so much I am unable to remember which gun I shot with myself (unusual). I do remember that my shooting partner one day was amazed all over at your naturalists approach, even that you cooked your ducks. “He loves ALL this stuff?” Well, so did I, even if I was shy to admit it— I would have loved to hunt like that forever. My two most vivid memories are you, slogging through two feet of water covered with thin ice, dragging a boat beheind you… and breaking occasional ice with your Model 21 (It was before Dave Costa refinished it); and me, flattening myself out to crawl across thin ice to get- a female wigeon I think, nothing big, but I was determined to do EVERYTHING.

My entire bag for that somewhat bluebird weather weekend was the wigeon and a Bufflehead. You evened it out with a couple if Goldeneyes and a godawful seaduck of some kind. My cookery mission— even then I had those-was to cook them so perfectly that the Allston Hillbillies— my fellow bouncers and bartenders at the Inn Square- I almost wrote “Golden Spur” would see how splendid duck (& by association all game) cookery could be (I had a dubious rep as “The guy with GUNS”). I remembered a Monty Montgomery tip for the most rank sea ducks, “coot stew” (did you know I finally met him out here and continued to see him until he died last year?)–and decided to try it- you cube the meat small, soak it overnight in buttermilk, and MAKE CLAM CHOWDER WITH IT.

Amazingly it all worked. Old hippies ate seconds of coot stew.The Goldeneyes went into a Sam Fadala stew, and two vegetarian ducks, the wigeon and another , got the Russell Chatham run-through a hot oven. I gained a somewhat precarious status among old hippie gourmands..

To Be Continued

Eastern “Coyotes” & Wilderness

Zoo Paul McCormack sent us this article on the “eastern Coyote”.

I replied; “Two versions of this:

“One is the conventional, presented here: E Coyotes are a product of modern breeding between wolves and Coyotes who got here after humans altered the landscape.

“Two: They are a coyote x wolf hybrid like the red wolf from the south, but like it pre-Colonial, only with different proportions of genes.

“I rather favor the second hypothesis. I don’t think the Massachusetts colonists were country enough to tell the difference between C. lupus and C. latrans. I think different genes would be selected for in the North woods than in the southern bottomlands. But what do I know? You do know that C. latrans is a Native American, lupus a Eurasian invader. Eastern coyotes have much heavier dentition and occipital crest than the western ones. I used to have quite a collection. I also used to watch these and Eastern coyotes chase deer out onto the ice on Quabbin reservoir and kill them; ecologically, wolves in every way…

I LIKE them, but will will shoot ANY of them who kills my falcons. The (standard Western) ones on the West Mesa owe me, but I am without a varmint- caliber rifle at the moment…

That got a correspondence going. Westerner Mike Kiester wondered what the “Massachusetts Wilds” mentioned by my old hunting companion Reed Austin WERE; Nantucket?

I replied:
“Well, THAT. But also where I used to live in forgotten west Central Mass, in the January Hills between Quabbin Reservoir and the Connecticut River Valley, a truly wild region (much more so than the more famous Berkshires further west) that includes land now classed as an essential “wildlife corridor” in the larger Appalachian ecosystem. Only eighty- some miles from Boston, it is cut off on the east side by huge Quabbin reservoir, which nearly bisects the state, where human passage has been legally banned since the thirties (yeah, right); on the west by the tobacco farms and universities of the Connecticut valley. Resident species are “northern”; include deer and sometimes wandering moose; bear, fisher, porcupine in your yard, at least one documented lion, the Eastern “Coyote” — a wolf in every way that matters— Goshawk and Bald esgle. Balds scavenging deer carcasses killed by the coyotes on Quabbin’s winter ice are not a rare seasonal sight).

It is a beautiful, dark, haunted, sometimes slightly creepy land, with a sort of regained virginity, which land can acheive.

But not without traces. There are deep wells you can fall into and never be seen again in the woods, traces of everything from King Phillip’s War to Boston’s edict to drown five towns in the 30’s .There are also houses built in the 1600s and still on dirt roads, secret underground rooms ditto, and the settings for AT LEAST two H P Lovecraft stories (“The Color Out of Space” and “The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward”). My hills TERRIFIED Lovecraft!

Wild Poem

From a wild poet friend, Tim Murphy, as he fights his cancer battle…

The Four H’s Again
for Steve Bodio

Last night I dreamed I flew an eagle-owl,
her wing span just six feet,
the talons of her feet
clutching my fist, horned ears above her cowl.

We hunted high, hard scrabble Kazakhstan,
my barrel-chested horse
scrambling aloft in force
for wolf, the war bird’s muffled glide our plan.

The peaks above still buried deep in snow,
we rode on broken ground,
hunter, hawk, horse and hound
as sheep and goats lay grazing far below.

A wolf flushed far under a bergshrund’s rift.
Launched, and the stealthy strike was blinding swift.

Tamgaly petroglyphs, Kazakh Steppe N of Almaty, 6000 years old; “4H”. The rider is the stick figure across from the quarry…

LIfe and all that

Here are some of the things that have happened in the last two weeks:

Finally, we got an appointment with Dr. Jill Marjama-Lyons, a new neurologist, who came highly recommended. When we got in — she has a long waiting list — she mentioned, as we suspected, that one of the electrodes was in the wrong place in my brain. She had other things that she wanted to discuss with us, and suggested we come in the following Saturday morning before her karate lesson. This involved us getting up and leaving before dawn, but we had little to lose. For one thing, I was now seized up about half the time. She has a lot of Japanese art in her office, and I mentioned my falconry. She asked me if I knew Bodie Littlejohn. When I replied that he was a dear friend, she answered that she had been studying swordsmanship under him. The next morning we got there in time, but having had a long drive and coffee, I couldn’t urinate. She banged impatiently on the door and demanded “Hurry up! I’ve got to get to my karate class. When I got out of the men’s room, she started doing the adjustments while I was still in the wheelchair I had used to get from the bathroom (I HATE wheelchairs!) without my taking the time to get me comfortable.

But I was not bored. First, she did something interesting. She ran each channel out to its “edge” where the charge made me physically uncomfortable and unable to speak. She was apparently mapping the scope of my gizmo. She kept muttering that she would have liked to have done the job herself. When she finished, she told me to come back in a few weeks so she could reprogram the other side. She also confirmed that one of the electrodes was in the wrong place, and told us that all the controls had been switched left to right. We talked (she is also a shrink) about how she might fix this. She spoke to Libby of my being a driven perfectionist who is never satisfied, but I think it takes one to know one!

Three miles from the office, my tight painful legs became loose and I “cleared up”. Except for one sick day (see below) , I have since been free of freezing. Previously I had been frozen about half the day. A half hour on one electrode had done more for me than 2 ½ years of therapy. Afterwards she talked to Libby on the phone and asked if I wanted to try another operation in which she would remove the electrode in the wrong place and put a new one in. Despite more danger, I’m up for it.

Earlier this week, the Wilderson brothers came by with their usual fund of stories and info. I took them by the old Pueblo ruins, John Besse’s, and the bar, rather more social life and outdoor life than I have been used to lately.

I got tired when they were here, and felt sick when they left; I did not know what was going on. I had a bad neuro day, and ended up passed out in the bathroom at 2 AM, raving! I was taken to the ER in Socorro by the ambulance crew, driven by the mayor, where I found out that I had a deep-seated urinary tract infection, probably left over from the hernia operation which has been rife with complications including infections. I suspected something was still wrong, but everyone tried to talk me out of it.

I am now taking antibiotics, am again not freezing, and scheduled to see Dr Jill early (tomorrow!) My old Aplomado has just laid eggs. I sold a bunch of my rare books and am retrofitting the house to make it more Parkinson’s- friendly, with help from friends. Life is interesting.