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Simple pleasures

Did you ever wonder why newspapers usually print the comic strips near the end of the paper?

This is my theory: No matter what the news may print and whether it’s good or bad, you will hopefully finish your reading experience with a smile on your face.

Think of the comic strips as that fancy mint chocolate candy some restaurants give you after a meal.

No matter what you might have previously eaten, the mint flavor freshens the breath and the chocolate flavor lingers on your palate.

The editorial cartoon drawings and the comic strips serve as creative bookends for the newspaper, employing humor to often temper unpleasant news events. These creative mediums use just one or a limited number of drawings to help communicate their storyline and get their message across to impatient readers.

Unlike myself, who often struggles to contain the length of all my thoughts about the different subjects which I write.

Because my subject matter is often varied, I may also open myself up to criticism dealing with controversial subjects I may ask my readers to think about.

While editorial cartoons often deal with headline news items, the comic strips usually interpret a wide range of subjects for readers.

Employing a limited cast of characters, they feature some of life’s common scenarios and usually finish the final frame with their punch line.

So, what’s not to like about all this?

In the Wednesday, Nov. 4 edition of The Express, my after-dinner mint chocolate had an odd flavor.

Garfield the cat is obviously the master of Jon Arbuckle’s home, while Jon is often portrayed as a loser or dork in just about every way.

But what set of circumstances could be attributed to creating Jon’s abnormal behavior? Jon comes from a farm family, with his brother, Doc Boy, and his parents treated as losers themselves in storylines from other past comic strips.

In the current storyline I’m referring to, Jon tells Garfield about a first-aid class given on the farm and how challenging it was to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the chickens.

Some readers are probably rolling their eyes about now and wondering what this fuss is all about?

But in a culture that claims to embrace tolerance and enlightenment, what other people group would accept this categorization as farmers being losers for others enjoyment?

Farmers now represent a minority group in this nation and the number of family-owned and operated farms continues to decline.

While many Americans enjoyed a robust economy up until the pandemic took over, farmers on the other hand have endured a five-year depression because of low commodity prices and other factors.

The Express recently published letters to the editor from dairy farmers who plead their case to the general public for creating a more stable economic environment.

Because the occupation of farming and farmers themselves are not understood in so many ways by the general population, unfounded stereotypes of this people group can pass through generations.

My father said he was called a dumb farmer by some.

I was labeled a dumb farmer by some, and my children have been labeled dumb farmers by some.

Simply because we came from a farm background as part of our heritage.

At one point in my life, I was focused on writing a series of Reader’s Theater plays based on changes in rural traditions forced on by the encroaching urban culture.

Rural generational traditions seemed to be phasing out during my lifetime in order for rural residents to become more like those moving in around us.

A few years back, there was a bumper sticker that was popular among those in our industry.

It said, “Don’t Talk Bad About a Farmer with Your Mouth Full.”

I’ll close my thoughts with this suggestion.

After you swallow that last bite of food that farmers have worked so hard to produce for your consumption, don’t forget the mint chocolate and all those simple pleasures in life we enjoy because there are some who have sacrificed much to make all this possible.

Hmm…

Ralph Dotterer Jr. is a lifelong Nittany Valley farmer, hayseed philosopher and barnyard artist whose roots in the same soil go back almost 200 years.

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