Rick O’Shay

Back in the day, there was a comic strip that I really loved. It took place in the American old west in the small town of Conniption. The town was so small, it had only a deputy sheriff, Rick O’Shay. His best friend was a (reformed) gunslinger, Hipshot Percussion. The dance hall owner was Gaye Abandon, and the town doctor was Dr. Basil Metabolism. (Ya gotta love those names!)

The strip was called Rick O’Shay, and it was drawn by Stan Lynde.

Of course, we all love cowboys and the old west, but what made the comic a key part of my past was the spirituality of my favorite character, the gunslinger Hipshot.

The strip featured detailed wilderness artwork that was just stunning and amazing!

You see, Hipshot was not much of a church-goer. One can imagine that a gunslinger has seen and done things that make a conventional religion unfulfilling. Even at a young age, by virtue of having a pastor for a father, my view of religion was a bit from the inside, and thus I found it as much “my dad’s job” as anything else.

But to say that no religion does much for me is not to say that I don’t have strong spiritual feelings. I’ve written about this before and will no doubt write on it again. It’s a core topic for me that I’ve explored all my life.

Today I want to share with you some these wonderful comics from my past. They embedded themselves in my heart, and have stayed with me throughout my life.

Sadly, I’ve been unable to find a decent image of the one strip I cherished and most remember, the one I have described to people time and again. The only image I have found is too small to be readable, but here it is:

Rick O'Shay 4

My recollection of the text is that Rick and Hipshot are having a conversation about why Hipshot never goes to church. Hipshot explains that it’s just not for him. In the final panel, he shows his friends his church, the great and glorious wilderness abounding with life and purpose (and the architecture is vastly superior to any cathedral). This comic became a central aspect of how I view God. (And if you ever get into Spinoza (or Einstein, for that matter), you find a very similar view.)

Here is one where Hipshot rides out alone, past the church filled with church-goers singing Silent Night and past the salon filled with another kind of celebrant. He ends up in a snow-covered vista, a bright star on the horizon, to say “Happy Birthday” to his “boss.”

Rick O'Shay 1

You can order a copy of this print from the artist. Click to visit his site.

There are several that take place on Easter Sunday.  This first one sees Hipshot riding off alone on Easter Sunday and the town’s people fretting over his (apparent) lack of religion.  In the last panels Hipshot apologizes for being late (it being high noon), but he didn’t want to bother his boss while he was with those other folks in church.

Rick O'Shay 2

You can order a copy of this very popular print, too!

This is another Easter Sunday strip that features Hipshot riding through a gorgeous wilderness and enjoying the new life and renewal of spring. He reckons that renewal also applies to us “human critters” who “need it most of all.”  In the final panel, hat off, he thanks his “boss” for all of that.

Rick O'Shay 3

This last Easter Sunday strip doesn’t feature Hipshot at all. A townsman apologizes to the reverend for missing Easter Sunday church. He goes on to explain he had to visit his sick cousin. The minister says he understands and cites Matthew 25:31-46. That’s the part with the line about, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”

Rick O'Shay 5

Even as a young man trying to reconcile all that I was learning about science with my religious background I was deeply struck by Mr. Lynde’s clear view that there were many ways to connect spiritually. As the reverend in the strip above says, “I think attending services is important, but it’s certainly not the only way to worship.”

Like Hipshot, I’m not one for church (or even religion, as such). It’s just not for me. But like Hipshot, I just don’t believe it all just happened. I can’t pretend to understand how it could be, but I simply won’t accept this is all for nothing.

Stan LyndeI’m delighted to say that Mr. Lynde is alive and going strong! He has both a blog and a website. You can order some prints from his website, including some of the ones mentioned here (I just ordered the Christmas one).

He’s also written a number of Western novels.  If you’re a fan of Westerns, this guy is the real deal (don’t take my word for it, read his Wiki page)!

He’s also a gracious gentleman. I emailed him this morning, because I wanted to use somewhat larger images than I normally do. I figure most of my usual thumbnails fall under fair use policy, so I don’t worry too much about use. But these artworks are too central to my core to offer any disrespect to the living, working artist behind the work.

In point of (very sad) fact, the strip and characters don’t actually belong to Mr. Lynde; they are owned by a corporate syndicate. For commercial use, I would need to seek out their permission, but this is not (and never will be) a place of commercial use.

However, I have the blessing of the artist himself, which is really what matters to me most. I imagined I might wait for some period of time before hearing back, but I just got an email from Mr. Lynde (how cool is that?!). And so I can share these with you today.

If you like them, you might consider buying the Rick O’Shay Dailies book where you’ll find some of these and much more (he also has a memoir book that looks interesting).

And thank you, Mr Lynde, both for Rick O’Shay and for your response!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

22 responses to “Rick O’Shay

  • reocochran

    I have to say that I had never seen this comic strip. I love the outdoors is our cathedral idea in all senses of the world. Happy birthday, Boss is such a wonderful Christmas message. Like the Easter one with nature plus critters. Thank you and how cool is this walk down your memory lane?

  • heysugarsugar

    You never cease to fascinate me. There is more to you than meets the eye x

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Aw, thanks sugar! I’m like a great big castle: lots and lots of rooms to explore. (I actually have begun to think that’s the problem: too many rooms to explore! It’s like the advice they give for for having a successful blog about being focused on a single topic. Not many people want to explore all the rooms. Ah, well, me and Popeye; we yam what we yam. Ironically, I’m usually not big on yams… :grin:)

      • heysugarsugar

        oh well my blog is doomed then..one single topic? mine as we know is completely of the f’ ing grid then 🙂 i could never write on one topic..how do people do that? its about whatever bakes our cakes on the day ..never change this blog highly entertains me x

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I don’t know how they do it either! There’s just too many interesting things to explore and talk about!

        Bakes our cakes, floats our boats, tickles our fancy and warms our cockles (also: lights up our minds, warms our hearts and gives us lulz).

  • Damyanti

    Never seen this comic strip. Thanks for sharing– this was a fascinating post.

  • bronxboy55

    I used to read Rick O’Shay, too. I’m pretty sure it was in the Sunday New York Daily News, but I could be wrong about that. This is a great profile of Stan Lynde and his work. Much obliged, WS!

  • Wyrd Smythe

    I was very saddened to learn today that Stan Lynde died yesterday (Tuesday, August 6, 2013) at his home in Helena, Montana. He was 81.


    (I can’t tell you how glad I am I was able to communicate with him for this article. It’s one I could easily have put off until now.)

  • Dan Richmond

    I called Stan a friend for about 23 years. He certainly was a very gracious man. When I joined SASS, I called him for permission to use Tom Foolery’s name as my alias. He called me the No 1 Rickie and considered me part of the family. I miss him.

    Dan Richmond

    Tom Foolery SASS 2348

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting. It sounds like he was a fine man and true gentleman. For me, Rick O’Shay was on par with my two other favorites, Bill Watterson’s Cavlin and Hobbes and Berke Breathed’s Bloom County. It was an honor and a thrill briefly corresponding with him. It would be nice to think he’s in Cartoon Heaven with Walt and the other greats.

  • frank

    Cant tell you how importent your posting of Hipshots Christmas talk with God was for me tonight. I was raised Cath. And nolonger believe in organized religion. My wife on the other hand is Muslim. She is from the Middle East. Love her to death but at times this can be a sticking point. Just a word of thanks.

  • Burglar

    Recently I wrote my own Credo Statement as the culmination of a “Build Your Own Theology” course I took at my Unitarian Church. I included the impact on the 10 year old me of that Easter comic where Hipster visits God at what i described from my memory as “a gorgeous canyon drawn in full Sunday comic color”. I found the sacred in nature way back then and still do. I was thrilled to find the comic and read your like-minded take here. Thanks. (love your name too). God Bless the Internet.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Hello and welcome; I’m glad you found the post. It’s like being in a foreign land and meeting someone from back home — instant recognition! 🙂

      As you share the personal importance of Stan Lynde’s work in your foundation, you can imagine what a true gift it was being able to correspond with him about this post. And to be able to thank him for his role in my foundation!

  • Michael Sims

    Tears came to my eyes when I read this. I couldn’t help it. I’ve told people about Hipshot Percussion’s natural spirituality for decades, especially the Easter strips, and here is my testimony written by someone else. Happy Sunday.

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