Sunday, May 30, 2010
And old friend and I often compare notes. We agree that our reading habits have followed much the same pattern. As small boys, our favorite part of the daily newspaper was the “funny page,” while our parents were concerned with the news. Later, we concentrated on the sports pages, and noticed that our parents turned first to the obituaries. Then, far too soon, we found ourselves doing the same thing.
Recently two old comic strip friends, Calvin and Hobbes, have returned for a brief re-run visit. Once again, I turn to the comics first. I’ve never failed to be amazed at Bill Watterson’s discontinued strip. His imaginative genius seemed endless. There was constant variety, with Calvin seeing himself as anything from a disgruntled six-year-old boy to a spaceman or the superhero Stupendous Man or an old Mike Hammer-type private eye.
The art work was always outstanding, with everything from simple close-ups of the main characters to crowd scenes to broad scenic views rendered in brush and ink in the finest cartoon style. And when Hobbes, a stuffed toy, suddenly turned into a fierce life-sized tiger, there was action to burn.
I often think of another great comic strip of years gone by. Walt Kelly, with his Pogo Possum, a cigar-smoking alligator named Albert, and a host of other Okefenokee Swamp animal residents, created an entire make-believe world. Fantasy, yet somehow almost believable. A world of political and social satire that often left us thinking, perhaps at times even slightly embarrassed, and laughing at our own human faults and frailties: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
Animals about which I write rarely speak English or try to impersonate humans, but seem perfectly content in their own animal world.
TALES OF THE RIVER BANK
For me, the best time of the day
Is when the sky turns to gray
At twilight, just as the
Evening’s coming down.
Soon many wild critters appear,
Large and small, both far and near,
Along the stream that flows
Two miles east of town.
Out in the main stream, a large fish
Makes a “splash” and then a “splish,”
”Mooch,” the muskrat, pokes his
Nose from his damp den.
From far off, a lonely shore bird’s
Sad and lonely cry is heard.
A great horned owl gives a
Loud “Hoot” now and then
Wily “Riley,” the sly old mink
Loves to slither and to slink
Near the water’s edge where
He’ll likely find food.
He is quite mean, a surly chap
Who just does not “give a rap,”
His demeanor can be
Described as quite rude.
”Shifty Ritchie,” the sly raccoon,
Beneath the big bright full moon
Wears his burglar’s mask as
He proceeds along,
He is always careful to stay
Out of old ”Stripey” skunk’s way.
Stripey’s been known, at times,
To come on real strong.
Silently,”Huck,” a young buck deer
Trusting his sharp, and keen ear,
Tip-toes to the shallow
Stream’s edge for a drink.
An aged crayfish named “Uncle Spud,”
Climbs up his chimney of mud
Stops there awhile and takes
Time out just to think.
Out in a large patch of tall reeds
And other assorted weeds
A happy chorus of
Toads sing their love song.
Perched on a large half-submerged log,
”Boomer,” a pop-eyed male frog,
Tunes up his deep bass voice
And sings right along.
Such riverbank night life goes on
Till the long, dark night is gone.
Whether morning’s skies bring
On fair skies or rain,
No one seems overly concerned.
Most likely they’ve never learned
They’re part of Nature, and
Of the whole food chain.