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1999 Highlights: Cleaning Whale Snot off a Ship

8018V Boat Cartoon

My 1999 year-end letter where I talk about frozen pumps, cleaning whale snot off a ship and broccoli that’s growing out of control.

I can’t find copies of year-end letters for 1997 and 1998. I quite probably didn’t write one. What I do remember about that time is that I left the Forest Service to focus on cartooning. I traded my 10-year-old Mac Plus in for a Macintosh Performa and created my first website. I think it had ten pages and the name was something like www.pioneer.net/~mchumor, not exactly something that rolled easily off the tongue.

December 1999

Dear Friends and Family,

As usual, it’s been a pretty uneventful year around here. It got off to an inauspicious start: four 16° degree-days in a row that froze half the pipes in the county, and cracked many a water pump, mine included. For over a month there was such high demand for spare parts that it was easier to buy a nuclear bomb on the streets of Waldport than pipe-fittings.

I’m now a naturalist on the Discovery, a ship that does sea life cruises out of Newport. Within days of signing on the swells off the coast reached 47 feet in height. I was much relieved when I learned our captain had no intention of venturing out in such conditions–opting instead to stay home to watch the shingles fly off his roof.

The day after one big storm I did what I often do after big storms–I went beach combing across from the Waldport Ranger Station. Alas, I couldn’t lug home the most interesting thing I came across–the New Carrisa making its second appearance on the Oregon coast. Within hours of our new visitor, Waldport, population 1600, was invaded by teams in hazmat suits, Coast Guardsmen, TV news crews, and vendors selling t-shirts that said, “The 1999 New Carissa Tour. Floating Soon to a Beach Near You.”

I can sympathize with the captain of the New Carrisa because working on the Discovery has been a very humbling experience for me. While I’m a fine naturalist, I’ll never be named deckhand of the year. Fortunately, the rest of the crew, all of whom have spent their entire careers working on ships of one kind or another has been very kind and patient. They’ve even managed to teach this middle-aged dog a few new tricks. The most important one? How to carry a cup of coffee between decks in twenty-foot swells without spilling a drop.

I’m currently trying to master the art of washing whale snot off windows without leaving streaks. Whale snot? Yes. Whale snot. We routinely have gray whales fluking next to the ship, and let me tell you, first thing in the morning smelling air just expelled from a whale gives whole new meaning to the term “morning breath.”

When on land I helped Elmer, an 80-something year old neighbor recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, tend his garden. What’s it like tending garden with an 80-something year old man with Parkinson’s? Exhilarating when he has as green a thumb as Elmer. For instance, he once came to the door brandishing a humongous knife. “The broccoli is getting out of hand! The broccoli is getting out of hand!” he cried frantically. “We’ve got to get out there now and try to bring it under control!” We didn’t succeed, much to my brother, Peter, and his friend Anne’s delight because broccoli is an expensive treat where they live in India.

The two of them were State side briefly helping with a Herculean labor–moving my parents from East Lansing to Santa Barbara. Now that Mom and Dad are retired I tried to convince them to come live in Oregon, but, for some unfathomable reason, they didn’t think exchanging ten feet of snow a year for ten feet of rain would be a life style improvement.

Speaking of style, when I went to get my hair cut recently Amy, someone who’s cut my hair for almost a decade, asked, “The usual?” I inhaled deeply and replied, “No. It’s time for a change, a walk on the wild side. Part my hair on the left instead of the right.” As you can imagine, you could have knocked the woman over with a rock. “Finally something of note to put in your annual letter,” she said while boldly taking comb in hand.

Hope all is well with you and you and yours and you have a great year.

T-

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Whale Cartoons and Boat Cartoons. So cheap you can use them to clean whale snot off your portholes.

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