Writer’s-Block Ramble

Daybreak Friday. Light creeping in over the horizon, sneaking through the tall white pines across the street.

Waiting for the coffee-maker to gurgle its last breath, I’ve already been to Springfield and back. Deer hunters are just now entering the woods, trying to be quiet, hoping this will be the day. Tomorrow will be even better. Saturdays bring more hunters into the woods, which tends to move deer from their beds. Honestly, I can’t say I miss deer hunting. I’ve turned the page. Don’t need it. Been there, done that. Enjoyed it while it lasted. Love the woods, the solitude, the critters. Maybe too much to kill them.

I also love the slow, quiet transition from night to day on the way into a morning stand. Daybreak is the best time of day in my book. And not only for hunting. Mind sharp, body rested, it’s ideal for writing, too. One never knows where the inner consciousness will dance off to at the crack-of-dawn keyboard.

In fact, that’s the problem confronting me this very moment as I sit here trying to settle on a column topic. It happens from time to time, deadline looming, procrastination calling the shots. I’ve been here before, even on a much tighter deadline, pondering where my swirling thoughts will ramble off to. The seat I’m now occupying is couched in uncertainty. Better than being lost in the woods with nightfall near. That’s for sure. Been there, too.

There’s no time for delay. A three-cord load of primo cordwood, seasoned oak and rock maple, will be dropped in front of my sliding woodshed door tomorrow morning. After that, with rain forecast Monday, my first priority will be to get the load under cover. Thus, I must get something written today, anything, a first draft to be revisited at my convenience before Monday’s deadline. That’s my writing routine: blow out the first draft, akin to a black-and-white sketch, then pick away, adding a dab of color here, a dab there during rewrites, all the while tweaking the narrative. Fortunately, it’s not my first trip down this road.


It’s not like I don’t have anything to write about. I’ve been on overload in recent weeks unraveling the settlement of Muddy Brook, a mid-18th-century Deerfield village that became Bloody Brook and is now known as South Deerfield, or in the eastern European dialect that arrived at the turn of the 20th century, “Sowdeerfeel.”

Closing in on a year of intense deed research, I still have more questions than answers. Truthfully, it sometimes feels like a losing battle – like the more I learn, the less I know. Have you ever been there, looking for the next pebble to overturn, the next hintful thread to pull and see what unravels?

Along the way, I’ve learned of many new people, folks I’d never heard of who were big Muddy Muddy and Bloody Brook players. What makes it even more interesting to me is that some are my ancient grandfathers, and many others are related, from peripheral tendrils growing off my root ball. But I’m not ready to write about them quite yet. Maybe never will be, if I can’t pin down their occupations, their trades, their places of worship and political leanings during the Revolution and Shays’ Rebellion. Little details to build an accurate profile.

I’m talking about members of the families named Arms, Frary, Barnard, Cooley, Russell, Dickinson, Dwelley, and Billings, to name some, also Parkers and Shattucks, Hardings and Andersons, and, yes, even my own Sandersons – all of them fascinating hometown pioneers. To me, researching these people, their place and mine, is addictive, an unquenchable thirst that intensifies with each forward step.

Take for example placenames that have been lost over time, hometown locations through which I have certainly traveled and never heard of. That would include Indian Plain, Sugarloaf Gore and Willis Hill, to name the first three that come to mind. I want to pin these places down. Get it right. So, give me time. It’s a laborious process.

I’ll get there, though, and will, with historian friend Peter Thomas, lay out the so-called Long Hill Division of 1688. That land allotment divvied up among 48 early Deerfield proprietors a large chunk of land that became South Deerfield, including the outlying neighborhoods of Mill River, Pine Nook, and Sugarloaf.

Nothing against newspapers, but I don’t believe a column with space constraints like this could ever do justice to what I’ve learned thus far, never mind what’s yet to come. The story of South Deerfield, largely ignored by haughty Old Deerfield-centric George Sheldon, is too comprehensive – of book-, not newspaper-length. Maybe I could piecemeal it out once I understand the whole picture. But can I do so in a paper that doesn’t serve Deerfield? It doesn’t seem to fit.

Still, a South Deerfield addendum to Sheldon’s tired old History of Deerfield should be published. And what better time to do so than in conjunction with the town’s upcoming 350th birthday celebration in 2023? It needs to be done for posterity, and we’re on our way.

But enough of that. I just couldn’t resist providing a little nibble into my current preoccupation, and the fact that I am at this very moment infected with writer’s block, which, I suppose, is better than the Omicron variant.


Too bad I can’t get out of this doldrum by going full Hunter S. Thompson on our current state of affairs in Washington DC. Isn’t the time ripe for a full-frontal Gonzo attack on the Supreme Court, the Trump Crime Family, Fox News and the racist Southern foundation of the Republican Party, otherwise known these days as the Trump base? Formerly the George Wallace, Southern wing, which was not insignificant, it seems to be gaining steam these days – even in places where one wouldn’t expect it to catch hold. Yes, even here.

The late Hunter Thompson was on to it way back in 1968, teargas in the air. That’s when Nixon pulled Wallace’s loyal Dixiecrats into the Republican fold to defeat Humphrey in a razor-tight race. Now Thompson is dead, hostile right-wingers rule the GOP, and many respectable, dyed-in-the-wool, New England Republicans with both oars in the water are still onboard. Yes, even after witnessing the Capitol insurrection in vivid hi-def, with the Stars and Bars flapping in the breeze like they did at Gettysburg and Bull Run.

You must be kidding me? Is this unlikely GOP support blind partisanship? Can these loyal partisans not see that the party of Lincoln is now ruled by the secessionists who went to war against him? Are they not aware that home-grown fascism and right-wing thuggery is in the air? Oh my! Where will it end?

It’s crazy-making. Where’s Dr. Gonzo when you need him?

The problem as I see it is that Hunter S. Thompson is the only person who could get away with telling it like it is, in his spicey, unedited diatribes. We need the story told in a style free from heavy-handed, self-appointed arbiters of good taste and bad words sitting in staid editors’ chairs. When HST spoke, people listened, and it resulted in millions of dollars in profit. Yet now an industry on life-support won’t print new voices with Gonzo mojo and moxie. Go figure.

As the timid print-media establishment gasps for air, social media wingnuts and Fox News execs are raking in the millions for quite intentionally poisoning the well. Why does the “objective” print media insist upon keeping it clean while the other side muddies the water with raw sewage from the likes of Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, to name a couple? Has the word objective come to mean afraid to tell the truth?

It now looks like Mitch McConnell’s Supreme Court is going to reverse Roe vs. Wade. Really? Is McConnell Joe Q. Average American these days? The polls indicate otherwise. So how can this be happening in a country that elects its leaders? No clue. You tell me.

All I can say is that I grew up in the ’60s and early ’70s, and never in my wildest dreams thought this could happen here. I thought Joe McCarthy, the Nixon Administration, and J. Edgar Hoover were dead and buried, never again to be heard from. Well, guess what? They’re back, and the tribe is growing like COVID.

Which reminds me, has anyone else had their fill of “balanced” reporting about global warming and climate change? Could you live without the annoying auto-insert disclaimer that reads, “some scientists question whether global warming is caused by human beings.” The obvious question to that cautionary garbage is: who signs these “experts’” checks? It’s beyond ridiculous. There is no denying that humans are destroying our planet on many levels, including global warming.

What we don’t need now is a GOP takeover of Congress in 2022 and a second Trump term in 2024. If that comes to fruition, some may decide it’s time to flee the country or, heaven forbid, even go so far as re-enacting HST’s final act that unfolded on Feb. 20, 2005 at his secluded Owl Farm refuge in Aspen, Colo. There, the high priest of Gonzo journalism treated the media to a front-page story with one thunderous roar of his .357 magnum.

In a flash, the life of a visionary New Journalist was over. Sad and sudden. A great loss to many who gobbled his prose, wanted more. He must’ve had his fill and sensed what was coming down the pike. He didn’t want to stick around for fascist takeover.

Enough! I don’t want to get carried away.

But first, please, just one more little digression – a recommendation for those who enjoy classical country music. So, if it’s pickin’ and grinnin’ at its finest that you seek, go to YouTube on your Smart TV, crank up the volume as loud as you can stand it, and take a listen to Norman Blake and the Rising Fawn String Ensemble in concert at Ohio University. Taped in 1980, it never gets old.




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