I was poking around in old newspapers last night and came upon this column heading from the Washington Post of January 8, 1905. It struck me as a fun piece of old whimsy, but, as I was cleaning it up, I noted the signature of Clifford Berryman, who was certainly no backshop hack, and that linked profile is from the Theodore Roosevelt Center, because three years earlier, Berryman had drawn a famous cartoon of the President.
Roosevelt, an avid hunter, had not had any luck in Mississippi when his guides, wanting to give the president something to show for his time there, managed to club a bear and tie it to a tree, inviting Roosevelt to shoot it.
Roosevelt declined the unsporting offer, Berryman drew the cartoon, and it went viral, inspiring a candy store owner to create “Teddy’s Bear,” which went even more viral than the cartoon.
None of which had anything to do with my intentions today, though it’s worth pointing out that, back when publishers gave a damn and newspapers mattered, good papers kept an artist on staff to design column headings, illustrate feature stories, create political cartoons and give the newspaper an identity and a presence in its community.
I guess you had to be there.
Guy Venables has contributed to the ongoing discussion of sewage in Britain with a piece that made me both laugh and think, as good cartoons do.
It’s not that people shouldn’t pick up after their dogs, but it is absurd for municipalities to enforce that law while ignoring what they’re doing themselves.
My first encounters with bagging dog poop came about a quarter century ago, but when I moved to New Hampshire a decade ago, our city was just barely in the process of bringing its waste water treatment plant up to date, and locals at the park tell tales of the filth in the Connecticut River when they were kids.
The river’s pretty clean now and nearly everyone picks up after their dogs, but it’s not so long ago that New York City pioneered the idea of directing your dog to poop in the gutter so it could be swept away into the storm sewers and thus into the Hudson or East.
Which sent me again to old newspapers and this article from the Chicago Tribune of December 4, 1938:
Harry Bliss (AMS) continues this exploration of poop with a cartoon co-written by Steve Martin, who has long since given up saying butt and pooh in front of audiences. I’d note, however, that Martin’s material did contain a bit about “really good shit” that got laughs when I saw him at Red Rocks back in the mid-70s.
To which I would add this photo of families lined up to meet Dav Pilkey, author of the Captain Underpants series of books. I took the picture while I was at the Billy Ireland for a much more important, significant, meaningful gathering of much more important, significant, meaningful cartoonists.
None of whom could hope to compete with Captain Underpants among the under-12 crowd.
A fair number of those kids will likely, and perhaps already, have begun reading books for older audiences.
Gotta start them some place.
At some point, they’ll look back and realize how supportive their little friends were all those years, at which point they’ll come to appreciate Wallace the Brave (AMS)‘s only slightly exaggerated view of childhood.
Will Henry must have hung out with a smarter crowd than I did as a kid, because, while Spud’s friends are just as confident as mine in their theories, they’re also much closer to some form of reality.
In every crowd I hung out in, there was always that kid who was absolutely sure about, and absolutely wrong about, everything.
Mind you, Linus was a small child then, much younger than Spud and his friends, who are all at the Charlie Brown stage and capable of seeing how full of poop Lucy was.
The kids in Peanuts all grew to a certain point and then stopped, such that, by the end of the strip, they were all about the same age, except for Rerun, the newest character.
Similarly, in real life, people get older and smarter until they’re about eight years old and then a whole bunch of them freeze at that “Often in error but never in doubt” stage, which makes for a segue to …
Ron DeSantis, and a cartoon in which Clay Jones departs slightly from political commentary into bitter comedy, with a delightful, profane rant about idiots who preach about the evils of “cancel culture” but then apply it to everyone with whom they disagree about anything, no matter how petty and insignificant.
It is as if DeSantis were actively looking for things he could do to make himself the target of sarcastic derision, though, to be fair, he hasn’t, as far as I know, specifically come out against Cracker Barrel’s decision to serve artificial sausages.
He’s simply created an atmosphere in which the sort of people who trust his judgment get all het up about that sort of thing.
And in which, Jones explains, being considerate of other people is viewed as a fault.
To which I would add that, while I can understand a middleschool putting Maus behind the counter (but still available for students who request it), I am completely flabbergasted by those who want to ban Captain Underpants.
It reminded me of H.L. Mencken’s definition, “Puritanism —The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
Which is lovely in itself, but confirming it led me to the Quote Investigator, whose piece on the topic includes several delightful variations, including this earlier quote from Canadian feminist Nellie McClung:
Which, in turn, brings to mind a quote I came across while researching the suffrage movement, and then rediscovered just the other day, by another Old School feminist, Abigail Scott Duniway. It seems a good counterpoint to McClung’s observation:
Though Owen Wister’s Virginian summed the whole thing up with the taciturn economy that his classic novel ascribed to all cowboys ever after:
All of which suggests that some pretty smart people have noticed the same things you have, so you’re probably not crazy.
Keep on keepin’ on.