Buck Fever

 

The drive out to greet the ghost of Buck Fever was meditative as I passed fields of corn, soybean, corn — a dead deer beside the road — corn, corn — a barn, milkcows tromping mud, bird flock, cornfield, dead possum. Every time I see a possum struck on the road I think of intuition, impulse and self.

I think of D. H. Lawrence and how he felt the answer was in the blood and I thought of how I put my head down and feet forward and ramble, a rambler and a rover, white-faced, ghostly, unaware but going forward into the night — damned, damned writer.

It’s no use asking why I drove to Camden, Ohio. I hadn’t a bit of evidence in why, other than it was only two towns over from my birthplace of Germantown. And the why’s are just as the where’s and the when’s and the how’s—questions, mysteries when I’d rather have a direct object: a grain shovel.

I drove by a green, arched sign that said “WHISKEY” and then saw Buck’s bronze marker that was placed there, I’m guessing, by the State of Ohio to mark his birthplace. Mark of a literary phenom, the grand wizard of Hemingway, Faulkner.

Buck Fever was as remarkable a Bethlehemic writer as D.H. was. Gertrude Stein liked him enough to write a poem about him, thought him more original than Hemingway – that good old Ohio boy, Bucky.

I didn’t even think of taking a picture of the marker for facebook, just looked at its shape then read it, was unimpressed, drove around the small streets seeing only the calm repose of a drowsy town that was closer to a meadow than a town, so much so that I wanted to lie on my back and see a hawk.

Sure, some criticize the community for not worshiping the literary champion but I don’t blame the citizens of Camden. For one, Anderson was basically only born in the town, then moved with his family to Clyde, Ohio, up near Sandusky. Second, most of the community doesn’t give a damn about writing. They are more impressed with some stud boar. And, really, I am too, mostly.

Who’s to judge those honest people of the good earth?

I, David, I.

I did the wave test when I went through and damn near every last person waved back at this Jew, though none knew me. Try that in the Metropolis. Damn friendly people, the Camdenites. But, god, not all. Camden is very similar to my town in that there are strict satanists who weed out the eccentrics in favor of the strong old stock, the tough organic seed. In fact, they only allowed one old split-screw live in my town because he could make hundreds of cement lions.

Camden and back in an afternoon. I stopped only to eat what is known there as a “Trolley Burger” in a trolley and I was home, not so much changed at all. I tried to write and I wrote shit. The Buck Fever hadn’t gotten into me at all. I was a friend to deer—a damned good friend to deer.

“Buck,” I imaged myself saying weeks after the drive, sitting on the floor with my back against the wall, staring out my window at a pine tree getting blown around, always dreaming up probabilities. “Do you know me?”

“Barely,” whispers the ghost of Buck Fever. “You once visited my birthmarker.”

“What else?” I say.

“Two-headed rooster.”

“Yeah?”

“Five-legged hen.”

“Yeah?”

“You’re neither,” whispered Buck. “But I do christen you—”

“I’m grateful,” I say to the spirit, “I’m happy.”

“Banty Cock!”

A shame, I thought, for some to laugh at his death by toothpick. Doesn’t anyone have a shred of class in them now, these days? Isn’t anyone artful in that old Russian Chekhov sense?

The smart asses of the Metropolis laugh at such trivia and then discuss not Chekhov but Camus, discuss political narratives — I can hear them now saying draconian repeatedly. It stays in my head like a horrid flu-state, claws my stomach walls and, no matter the vomiting, those vulgarities stay only to be one day shucked by dementia.

Draconian.

I’m not a Draconian, I’m not. Not one of them.

Hell, the thing punctured his colon

Buck forgot all the who’s and where’s and what’s and when’s and how’s when he was up near Cleveland after a bout with a nervous breakdown. I thought that strange and I was envious, since mine only left me laughing at the stars of the cosmos. The trees, they were hilarious. They did not dance. The grass was more comfortable than my bed. Why hadn’t they told me?

“I will climb to the top of the covered bridge!” I kept saying – Dad, dad, dad, dad, dad.

Soon after the breakdown Mr. Fever left his wife and child for ART which made good sense to me — since nervous breakdowns are a step above a midlife crisis, the same aftermath or similar feeling of traipsing away from domestic items that build up, close you in, and bore-suck you.

Buck walked thirty miles before he was found in a drugstore. He was gone for four days. A messianic man of ART.

ART, my god! LITERATURE, my god!

If you worm into the LITERATURE you’ll be sucked dry by the old gods with names like Bill Shakespeare, Joe Conrad, Mike Cervantes, Steven King, etc. Big goddamn names.

They sit on your bookshelves and drain you.

You read them and they take even more ghost out of you, make you want to kiss their feet and kill yourself. They crack you and see what kind of beak you have, see if you’re willing to struggle out of the shell.

And what if you’re a freak? They both hope for and then try to drown the freaks with the two heads. Just imagine Hamsun drowning Henry Miller in a hog trough in Southwestern Ohio. The potentiality, the potentiality! “Life—what else is there?” What is in there? Is anything? Does it have muscle-bucking hips? Does it it have a desire to hunt? What kind of kill will it make?

Will it be clean?

Will it be fresh?

I hear Buck Fever, that coon dog, baying, and chasing communist Kurt Vonnegut up a tree:

And that, I conclude, is but another evidence of the complete and final triumph of the egg—at least as far as my family is concerned.

 

 

posted in: Biography, David M. Morton, Essays, Writers

2 Comments

  1. T. E. Hieatt says:

    A great piece, David. Bittersweet and thoughtful.

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