Morristown Mafia & Fly Fishing In the Smokies, Part one
I’d like to say that my success as an outdoor writer, relative as it certainly is, was the result of hard work and talent, but that would hardly be the case. What I saw in outdoor writing was a tremendous opportunity to make a living hunting and fishing, without having to keep other people happy so I could receive a monthly paycheck. While I had no formal training as a writer, photographer, public relations specialist, or bookkeeper, nonetheless I surmised it was worth a shot while I was between wives. I am a little embarrassed to tell of under-the-table help provided to me by the members of the Morristown Mafia.
Morristown is a quirky enough place to grow up, beating the **** out of any town its size in North Korea purely in terms of meeting basic creature comforts. Davy Crockett grew up a couple blocks from my boyhood home— until he had enough of Morristown to run away from home. It is a blue-collar town that once was the recliner-making capital of the world, until companies like Berkline could not find enough unskilled labor willing to eat sawdust and crap 2x4’s for a dollar an hour. During the 1930s, the town was the Phoenix City of east Tennessee.
Outdoor writing in a small community of semi-literate sportsmen is a pseudo occupation, although it is not recognized as work by the so-called established schools of creative writing or journalism. Nash Buckingham, dean of outdoor writing in America and at one time the outdoor editor for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, aptly described the job of a local newspaper outdoor writer as that of editor of the men’s Sunday social page. It’s honest enough work if you apply the most liberal of definitions to the words “honest” and “work.”
I’ve always contended that Davy Crockett was Morristown’s first native son to become a well-known writer of hunting adventures, but I would be hard pressed to make a believable argument that the many tall tales published under his byline were indeed his own writings. This is especially true of the hundreds of stories published a couple of decades after his presumed demise in the Lone Star State. It makes for great bovine scat filler, but I think it unlikely that the legendary hero of the Alamo penned very much in the way of sporting-journal-applicable copy. However, in part two, rest assured that the remaining souls identified as outdoor writers certainly did produce their own copy.