Seafood Platter

One of those days, I guess.

Maybe it was the clear, cool air that greeted me at 6 a.m., perhaps the strong, black coffee, possibly even lingering effects from that red-hot, spicy marinara sauce I concocted in a flash Tuesday afternoon, then devoured in the evening over a thick bed of linguine. Whatever the impetus, it was powerful, strapping me into a single-seat gyroscope that got spinning out of control, like a top on polished linoleum. So captivating was it that I extended my daily morning walk, taking a refreshing diversion through the knee-deep Green River before returning to my truck and walking right past it to follow the hayfield cuff to a path descending into a second hidden riverside meadow. There a mowed meandering lane looped me to a large red river rock that I believe harbors Native spirits, happy ones I hope to someday meet.

Truth be told, I’m switching on the fly. I had a column all written before I sat down, but I’m all fired-up by the election chatter that’s abuzz with — go figure — idiotic right-wing lunacy. Anyway, that first column can wait; it’s about the joys of watching Chubby, my young Springer Spaniel, develop before my eyes with pheasant season looming. He’ll be fun. I can’t wait to bust him loose. But I put that story in the freezer, will thaw it out for another day. This time of year is always lean on local sports and, to be honest, I feel guilty when filling pages with wire news that readers have typically seen on TV the previous day. It’s a good excuse, I suppose, to ramble a bit, always dangerous with my wife on the Cape, me “batching” it, not sure what to do with my freedom. Yeah, right! A colleague I call “The Big Boiczek” got a kick out of that playful complaint, reacting like he does whenever I whine about being a victim of small-town gossip. He gets a kick out of that claim, too.

Enough of that, though; onto other stuff, beginning with a quick follow-up on last week’s story about a mother/daughter cougar sighting in East Charlemont, one I hesitated from the start to publish. Why? Because I always shy away from nighttime sightings, potentially risky and unreliable. But those sinister green eyes and that guttural sound from dark woods, eerie indeed, tickled my fancy and I guess more than anything else I am a storyteller, albeit one sporting a thin white scoundrel’s streak down my back. It was a great tale that had to be told. And in my own defense, I did, if you care to check, cast subtle doubt early, a disclaimer, so to speak. Good thing.

After that wild tale hit the street, a few concerned West County sources fired off emails warning me that I may have been snookered. “I wouldn’t say they made up the whole story,” wrote a critic familiar with the witnesses. “I believe they saw eyes, maybe raccoons, and their imaginations ran away to fantasy land.” The source, a gentleman who worked around Western cougars, called it unlikely that any cougar would permit a human to walk within “five or six feet” without fleeing. He also said cougars prey on live animals, not road-kill and garbage, thus wouldn’t be attracted to seafood like the pungent mussel shells the witness described on the ground near a torn plastic rubbish bag. I had honestly tossed that factor around in my head before going forward with the tale but decided to go with it, considering troublesome cougars I had recently read about in LA and Chicago. Maybe urban cats can be temporarily reduced to scavenging, I thought. Oh well. You win some, you lose some.

Whew! With that in the rearview, let’s tippie-toe into a couple of other subjects that had my wheels spinning to a shrill scream during that extended walk through the sunken riverside meadows. I’ll try to be brief, can’t resist, am “Akin” to chime in on a couple of controversies, one from my boyhood home, the other from the national campaign trail that’s heating up for the stretch run to November 6. I’ll start in South Deerfield and jump briefly to Rep. Todd Akin (R-Missouri), who’s taken Romney/Ryan to a forbidden place called the uterus. No, forget “Sowdeerfeel” for a moment. I’m going to stay with Akin and his flat-earth Republicans. The more these Christian-conservative whack jobs talk, the more I like it: indecent exposure for sure, opinions that ought to send any woman in her right mind straight to the polls to vote for any candidate followed by a capital D on the ballot. Oh my! Where do these Neanderthal creeps come from? Is there any way to herd them all onto an ark headed for Timbuktu? Now they’re giving the uterus a brain and conscience to guard against rape pregnancy. Lord have mercy. These folks spew hate and fear of big government in one frothing breath, then ask the very same demon to define “legitimate” rapes and stand sentry to enforce the Christian way in bedrooms. What’s most frightening is that 40-something percent of the voting public will actually vote for these cavemen. Actually, the Cro-Magnons knew better. When they ambushed a female and took her like a buck intercepts a doe, they did so to propagate, not violate. We’ve come a long way since then, with the evolution of courting, engagement, marriage and nuclear families, but there’s little an unprotected, ovulating female can do to prevent rape fertilization, regardless of male intent or day-after prayers. It just don’t work that way.

Before I split, back to my old hometown, where it’s getting pretty wild concerning what appears to be the inevitable hiring of a native-son police chief town officials seem determined to install before thoroughly vetting baggage from Erving, where the man was chief of police for several years. Rumors are swirling, people are buzzing in the coffee shops and taverns, and now a supposed “group” of concerned citizens has appeared at the 11th hour to write an accusatory letter to the town fathers, The Recorder and The Daily Hampshire Gazette in an effort to stall, if not derail, the imminent hiring. Stay tuned. From what I’m hearing, this one is far from over. Problem is that people in Erving and elsewhere are hesitant to talk due to fear of reprisal. Count me among them. I don’t need the hassle. All I can say from my lofty perch in a tall white oak along Sugarloaf’s spine is: Where there’s smoke there’s fire. I see the smoke rising from a place I know well, have taken a deep whiff and it smells fishy — definitely not stinky roadside mussel shells, either.

Enough! I’m outta here. I can clearly read the signs tacked to trees. They say “No Trespassing!”

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