In my life there are people with talents I admire: horse trainers, good ropers, cattle traders, backyard mechanics, welders, guitar players. A.I. technicians, farriers, purebred breeders and rough stock riders, for instance. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that you can’t be good at everything, so, even though I admire these talents I don’t envy them.
However, there is one gifted group that I come close to envying — cartoonists. I am lucky to be friends with many of this wacky persuasion. I’m partial to cowboy cartoonists. I can relate closely with their deadpan looney observations or bug-eyed, cinch bustin’ cow catastrophes that they spread across a slice-of-bread-size scene like bumpy blackberry jam.
I admit to secretly draggin’ out quill and ink in the dark of night in an attempt to imitate them. I’ve been doing it since the third grade and even today my drawings looks like a third-grader did it. My cows all have heads like a garden rake. My horses look like scaffolding. My cowboys look like smiley faces with gorilla arms and Bozo the Clown feet.
I’m constantly amazed that these agriculturally afflicted cartoonists can give their animals expressions-surprise, confusion, malice, boredom, contentment, intelligence and pshaw. They make it look simple. Usually black and white line drawings that we see in all our cowboy magazines and ag trade papers. But it ain’t simple.
It is one thing to be able to draw funny. But then these cartoonists put a caption to the drawing that ties the bow on the package. Short, simple and funny. I try and write funny columns but it takes me two lead pencils and a yellow pad to say what they condense into one line.
I’ve always felt it is the truth in humor that makes it funny. If you can see yourself in the cartoon, you can relate. It also shows that the cartoonist has to have “been there”.
From Ace Reid to the kid in the back of class drawing cartoons during algebra class, they continue to draw snapshots of our lives as we muck and stumble our way through the livestock business. God love ’em, it’s like they keep sendin’ us pictures every week for our family albums.