…AND, ANOTHER LITTLE RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS (Act 24)

BEEP BEEP!  It’s Road Runner speeding in on foot(???) to Sun City Peachtree!  We’ve had all sorts of birds visit us by air and land:  We’ve had a hummingbird, a toucan, a penguin (which is classified in zoological terms as a bird), yellow bird of unknown species (Woodstock), a yellow canary (Tweety), a duck (Daffy) who waddled in, and even an owl sneaked in under the cover of night.  This time, it’s the Greater Roadrunner species making his way here from the southwest desert.

Debuting in 1949 in Fast and Furry-ous, Road Runner has been portrayed by three different people—Mel Blanc being the most famous.

Of all the characters Mel Blanc has voiced, Road Runner was the easiest.  The only thing Road Runner ever says is “Beep Beep,” which really sounds more like “Meep Meep” to me.

Like the other Looney Tunes Cartoons, there is a protagonist and an adversary.  In this case., Road Runner’s adversary is Wile E. Coyote, and Road Runner always gets the best of him.  In the end, Coyote always ends up looking like a fool and making us all laugh.

Chuck Jones based Coyote on Mark Twain’s book, Roughing It, in which Twain described the coyote as “a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton” that is “a living, breathing allegory of Want.  He is always hungry.”  Jones said he created the Coyote-Road Runner cartoons as a parody of traditional “cat and mouse” cartoons such as MGM’s Tom and Jerry.  In this case the always-hungry Wile E. Coyote is always trying to make a meal out of Road Runner.

Wile E. Coyote’s name is a pun on the word “wily.”  The “E” stands for “Ethelbert” in one issue of a Looney Tunes comic book.

In his book Chuck Amuck: The Life & Times of an Animated Cartoonist, Chuck Jones claimed that he and the animators behind the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons adhered to some strict rules.  As it turned out, though, some of those “strict rules” were broken from time to time.  The following are a few of the eleven rules that were never broken:

3.  The Coyote could stop at any time—if he wasn’t a fanatic.

6.  All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters—the southwest American desert.

8.  Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote’s greatest enemy (e.g., falling off a cliff.)

9.  The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.

10.  The audience’s sympathy must always remain with the Coyote.

In a 1971 interview with Michael Barrier years after the series was made, Michael Maltese said he had never heard of the “Rules,” and he was the writer for the series!

Road Runner will now be making his way back to the desert, so if you are out on the road, watch out for him!  MEEP MEEP!

CHESTER’S MAIN MAN: POPEYE!

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I sure hope they sold out of those eclipse glasses, because the next total solar eclipse to be viewed in the U.S.A. won’t be until April 8, 2024!

Our post-solar eclipse stop along the Mississippi River was Chester, Illinois.  Although Chester was a stopping point on several occasions for Mark Twain when he piloted a riverboat on the Mississippi River, from 1857 until the Civil War, it is best known as the “Home of Popeye.”  Popeye’s creator, Elzie Crisler Segar, was born in Chester, and several of his characters were created from experiences with the people from the town.

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Have you ever wondered where Olive Oyl got her name?  Back in the 1800’s, Chester’s chief commodity was castor oil, which was used as a lubricant.  Guessing there was a connection there, I researched Olive Oyl on Wikipedia and discovered she was the youngest sibling of Castor Oyl.  Aha! I knew that Olive Oyl was named after olive oil; however, I’m pretty darn sure big bro was named after castor oil, after Chester’s chief commodity.  (As you have probably ascertained by now, I’m not exactly a Popeye scholar—or, familiar with all of his buddies!)

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More Chester trivia:  Scenes from the 1967 movie “In the Heat of the Night” were filmed in the town, as were scenes from “The Fugitive” (1993).

Coming up next:  CRUISING TO CAPE GIRARDEAU

HANGIN’ IN HANNIBAL

It had been years since I had read a book by Samuel Langhorne Clemens; however, memories of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Flinn came back to me during our visit to Hannibal, Missouri.

Hannibal was the boyhood home of Clemens (aka Mark Twain), and it inspired the setting for those two novels.  Many of Twain’s haunts have been restored to their historical accuracy, so the entire town has a Mark Twain feel to it.

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Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) visited with the passengers one evening aboard the American Queen.  He never broke character, even during the Q&A session after his monologue!

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Hannibal, Missouri

It’s a picturesque little town with houses dotting the bluffs that border the river, and attractive 1800’s-era businesses that quaint and well-maintained to attract the tourists.  The shops and restaurants are even named after Mark Twain characters.

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We enjoyed our tour of Mark Twain’s childhood home and the Mark Twain Museum—both well worth the visit, especially the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the museum.  They thought of everything, even making the famous fence a tourist destination, complete with paint brush and bucket!

Have you ever wondered how the name “Mark Twain” was chosen by Clemens?  If you remember back to Clemens’ novels, Mark Twain was fascinated by the Mississippi River and wanted to become a river pilot.  Back in the 1850’s, river pilots didn’t have modern navigational aids.  When entering shallow water, a man was sent to the front of the boat with a lead weight tied to a rope.  He tossed the rope out in front and let it sink to measure how deep the water was.  A series of knots were tied in the rope at measured distances.  A “mark” was the distance of six feet (the same as a fathom in the ocean), and “twain” meant two; so, the knot at “mark twain” meant the water was twelve feet deep.  For river boats, twelve feet was safe water and mark twain meant “safe water ahead”, so Clemens like the way that sounded!

The Unsinkable Molly Brown was another famous character from Hannibal.  Remember her?  She was the Titanic survivor who heroically helped rescue many women and children during the disaster.  She was a distant relative of Mark Twain’s, and Hanibal was her home as well.  (Her home was open for touring as well; however, we didn’t visit it.)

We found Hannibal to be quite a charming town and well worth hangin’ out in for a day along our Mississippi River voyage.

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Meanwhile, back on the American Queen Steamboat, the evening entertainment aboard the paddle wheeler took an entertaining turn in a more personal way.  Check back for more details in my next post!