Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
There was only one cartoonist that mattered to me when I was growing up. My Grandfather.
His name was Noah Yeater, but everyone called him 'Bill'. To us kids he was 'Grandaddy'. In our family, he was the adult who was most like us, because he enjoyed the same things we did. He loved kids and delighted in making us laugh with his corny jokes, funny sayings and physical antics, which we never grew tired of no matter how often we heard or saw them. He was clever and talented but always denied it. He would make us things in the garage, and play catch or throw the frisbee in the yard whenever we asked him to. He was the only adult who would sit and watch cartoons with us, and would laugh as hard as us while watching the Three Stooges. He liked to watch wrestling on TV, and called them 'Grunts and Groans'. One night he grew tired of watching wrestling and decided to go to bed 'and let THEM fight it out'. He was always saying funny things like that.
I can remember spending many weekends at my grandparents house, laughing endlessly at his sense of humor, but my fondest memories are of his drawing, and drawing with him. He would sit in his recliner and pull out any odd scrap of paper, tablet or index card from the end table drawer and begin doodling. I would sit on their fancy floor pillows and do the same. We would finish our drawings and then share them with each other, laugh a lot and comment about the situations we had depicted, then we'd be back at it again, creating the next drawings. It would go on for quite awhile. I never once felt I could compete with his talent, but always hoped I could crack him up as much as his cartoons made me laugh. Occasionally he would laugh pretty good at my ideas, but he was probably just being nice to me, the budding cartoonist, who had so much to learn. In my eyes, he was the master gag man, the brilliant artist, and I was the spectator, the rookie... but he did all those drawings just for us kids, never pursuing it professionally outside of our family.
I remember we would sit together in church, and pull out our pens and start drawing on any available space on the church bulletins they would give us. I recall on some Sundays being disappointed to find both sides of the bulletin full of type-written words about that days service or coming church events, with no white space to draw on. On a good Sunday there would be a half page or more of blank drawing space. Yippee! One Sunday we got busted by my mom and grandmother for not paying attention and we were no longer allowed to draw during church. That was a sad day for me. Non-artists don't think it's possible to draw and listen at the same time. Hogwash. We do it all the time.
One day the most amazing thing happened: I was talking to my grandmother about those drawings, as she looked through them laughing, and I told her how much I aspired to be as good a cartoonist as he was. She told me that my Grandaddy had said the same thing about me, that he thought he wasn't as good as I was. I was speechless. I will never forget that day.
What I am posting here are all that remain of the many drawings he did, at least until we get lucky and find more. My brother saved many of them when he caught our Grandfather throwing them out years later. There are no surviving church bulletins festooned with drawings. I am clueless as to why that is. When I get my time machine finished, I will go back in time and rescue all of his drawings for our enjoyment.
One last thing: My Grandfather had a somewhat crude style of cartooning, but he made up for that with loads of personality and attitude in every drawing. Almost every one of his doodles sports some kind of clever gag. That was his genius.
He will always be my favorite cartoonist. I miss him very much.