NFL Briefs: The Cowboy Cartoonist
Never being one to boast when good news befell me, I have always tended to express my fortunate experiences rather calmly, distinctly and all in one breath.
“YouknowthoseCowboycartoonstheyhaveinthepaperevery SundaywelltheguywhodrawsthemmissedaweekandIdrewaca rtoonandsentittohimandhewrotebackandsaidhereallyli keditandthatImighttakehisjobatthenewspapersomedayc anyoubelievethat!?”
Rather than being impressed, most teachers and students sat with their mouths open more than amply enough for a procession of dentist flies carrying miniature pliers to caravan in, remove every tooth in their mouth and caravan out once more, leaving a bill on their tongue. One of the teachers even offered me oxygen, for she was sure I had hyperventilated or was about to.
Gradually, at least I think so, everyone wanted to see what I was so excited about.
It was 1987, and the Dallas Cowboys were in the middle of a 7-8, non-playoff, strike-shortened season. I was in third grade, and our family received the Wichita Falls Times Record News every day via subscription, as opposed to someone else’s driveway.
Each Sunday throughout the season, a cartoon by Don Vickers was printed in the Sports Section, titled “Trailboss Tom & the Cowboys.” Ever present in each strip were quarterback Danny White, a cheerleader named Sunshine, a talking jackrabbit, a talking snake named Smedley that wore a Cowboys helmet and the trailboss, who represented head coach Tom Landry, even though the trailboss wore a 10-gallon hat, bandana, spurs, gun and occasionally smiled.
(Smedley and the jackrabbit were friends, though their relationship would be comparable to one you would have if you ever befriended a talking hamburger.)
There were also various players that appeared, including Steve Pelluer and Herschel Walker. The theme of the comic strip was the Cowboys’ trail drive that represented their season. With each subsequent loss, a bullet was fired into the trailboss’ hat.
Being interested in art and sports, I found these strips to be the highlight of the Sunday paper. I tried to cut out as many as I could, though I only managed to collect six, which are part of a framed collage now. The earliest cartoon I have is from a Week 7 Monday Night Football matchup with the New York Giants.
I remember watching the game and Dad telling me that if the Cowboys won, he would fly to the moon and stack greased BB’s on his head. The Cowboys were ahead at the time I was supposed to go to bed, and I wanted so much to stay up and watch the rest of the game. I had school the next day, though, and my parents calmly tucked me in bed and chained my neck to the bedpost.
The next morning I came into the kitchen for breakfast, only to see my dad jumping on a piece of paper that was on the floor. Drawn on the paper was a picture of the moon and a stack of BB’s, though one could not tell whether they had been greased. The Cowboys had won, 33-24, and Vickers’ strip the following Sunday depicted the trailboss standing over a fallen Giant.
“Ya’ know…I enjoyed that little ruckus ‘bout as much as any I’ve ever had…on any trail drive!!” the trailboss beamed.
“Finally! Something to cheer about!” said Sunshine.
“I kinda enjoyed it myself, Trailboss!” quipped Danny White.
“Ain’t it wunnerful how a big win can cheer a body up!!!” Smedley said to the jackrabbit.
The strips went on through the season until Vickers missed a strip the week before Thanksgiving. The Cowboys had lost to the Dolphins, 20-14, and I had lost the highlight of the Sunday paper. So I decided to draw the strip myself.
“Trailbos I’ll play some good football for you,” offered Sunshine.
“Those Dolfins mite have shot my hat but those Vikings aren’t,” the trailboss steamed.
“That’s what you think,” a lurking Minnesota Viking thought, as he aimed a gun at trailboss’ smoking hat.
“Trailbos, I’ll do my best next time!” White chimed in.
“Maybe we should be Dolfin fans,” said a Dolphin helmet-wearing Smedley, to which all the jackrabbit could say was, “Bo Ho! Bo Ho! Bo Ho! Bo Ho!”
Though there was no such thing as spell check back in 1987, my dad thought enough of my strip to send it to Vickers.
And I was the one flying to the moon when Vickers replied. I came home from school one afternoon to find a manila envelope sitting at my place at the table. Inside was an 8x10 cartoon of Smedley and the jackrabbit, smiling and addressing me.
“Hi, Christopher! We enjoyed your cartoon of us and the Cowboys! Keep up the good work and you might take Don’s place at the paper someday! Thanks for your cartoon! It’s a super job!”
For the next few days, that cartoon never left my side, as I had it stapled to my wrist so it would be handy for boasting. I took it to school and showed it to all my friends. The teachers caught wind of it and asked me to go to all three classrooms to tell the entire third grade about my news. And after four days of nonstop bragging, my friends collectively began plotting ways to rub me out.
The season ended with the trailboss’ hat getting the top blown off and him giving the eulogy for another lost year: “Well…this drive is just about over…but maybe…just maybe we got one little shot left!” Trailboss held one bullet in his hand, an arrow pointing at it that read “For St. Louis.”
The Cowboys won their last game, but Vickers’ strips didn’t return. Obviously, I wrongly assumed that when Vickers said I might take his place at the paper that he meant after I received a high school diploma, rather than a third grade certificate. And that is why I’m not a professional cartoonist, though I know I could’ve done a good job, even as a fourth grader.
I wouldn’t have changed the strip much, except Smedley would have eaten the jackrabbit at season’s end.
Try on a new pair of NFL Briefs every Friday on FanStop.com. Christopher Wilson is a senior NFL writer and the NBA Managing Editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
. You can also order Wilson's new book, "Sports Briefs: The Best of FanStop's Christopher Wilson", a collection of 67 of his funniest columns, as well as one sad one. A portion of the proceeds will be going to the American Cancer Society.