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!)
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.
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:
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
I’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 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!