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Original Issue


Profiling the multifariously active and resourceful Gail Roper (page 34) was a particularly appropriate assignment for Joan Ackermann-Blount of Mill River, Mass., who writes sitting on a Western saddle, in sweat pants, at a desk she constructed out of milk crates and an old workbench. The other day, Joan missed softball practice, because she was busy lining up a piano-playing job, writing another story for us and rehearsing to play four different roles in four one-act plays.

On another day, Joan might have been canoe racing, bike racing, riding a unicycle, skiing, water skiing backward, playing in a racquetball or volleyball tournament, exercising her green thumb, playing the guitar or banjo or clarinet, composing songs, swimming in the Konkapot River, doing yoga, camping out, writing poetry, speaking French, taking a friend's book-jacket photo, painting with watercolors or running up and down and up and down and up and down a hill with her dogs, Molly and Pie; her stepson, Kirven, 13; and maybe, for brief spurts, her horse, Ollie; her cats, Snope and Eloise; her stepdaughter, Ennis, 15; and her husband, former SI staffer Roy Blount Jr., who says that in the face of her example he has "largely retired from active life."

Last October Joan became one of our Special Contributors. She has written for SI about the rowing Geer sisters and about her own ventures into grass skiing, coaching field hockey, swimming with a Polar Bear Club in 30° water and learning how to throw like a boy with instruction by Sandy Koufax and Ron Perranoski.

Other things she has done in her 31 years: win sailing and figure-skating competitions and footraces along the Charles River (she grew up in Cambridge, Mass.); perform at a summer-camp show standing on the back of a cantering horse; whiff tear gas in any number of antiwar demonstrations while at Boston University; teach school in Switzerland and Massachusetts; work in publishing; write for six other national magazines, including Esquire, The Atlantic and The New Yorker, play ragtime piano on the radio; climb Swiss glaciers; act in summer stock; reign as Miss Possum International at an Alabama county fair; and be mistaken for both Jane Fonda and, momentarily, Mick Jagger.

"It may seem like I'm spreading myself thin," she says, "but it all feels like different angles of the same energy. Each thing has a slightly different color or sensation, but the feeling is the same—the intensity. My mother says I was who I am when I was a baby. I used to crawl out of my crib and roam. I just always do a lot of things."

And she writes like this: "After a game we'd drink beer at a rest stop along the highway and whistle at men jogging by. Frogs would be croaking, our hair would be soaked with sweat and our shirts would be hanging out. The warm summer nights made you feel especially disheveled and strong.