It was a perfect summer afternoon on Saturday, August 24th, as I set out driving northeast in the general direction of Amesbury, Massachusetts. I was en route to a 2:00 PM appointment to interview Al Capp’s firstborn, Julie Cairol, about her famous father, her family, and all things Li’l Abner.
Ms. Cairol was a thoroughly gracious host, welcoming me into the house her parents bought in 1939. We spoke for over an hour on the enclosed front porch, having a candid discussion that touched upon the interaction between her two sets of grandparents (no scrapping was involved – the urban, ethnic Caplins and the quintessentially New England Camerons got along like two peas in a pod), the family’s relaxed attitudes toward Capp’s wooden leg (“We always spoke of it in capitals – The Leg. ‘Where is The Leg?'”, Ms. Cairol said with an easy laugh), and her father’s many contributions to society in general and the world of cartooning in particular. You’ll read many of the other intriguing facts, opinions, and insights Ms. Cairol shared with me in our futureLi’l Abner volumes.
Once our discussion concluded Ms. Cairol gave me a tour through her home. The structure has changed over time – running water was long ago piped in, though for the first years the Capps owned the property water was carried in from an outdoor well – but each room still reflects refined country living. Many walls are filled with wonderful family photographs, paintings, or memorabilia that would impress any comic strip aficionado, like original E.C. Segar and Ernie Bushmiller drawings that welcomed newborn Julie into the world.
Bringing me around to a rear door, Ms. Cairol led me into the back yard, where a rise on the other side of the river slopes upward, heralding the more than fifty acres of land, some of it located in New Hampshire and some in Massachusetts, that is part of the property. The immediate yard behind the house is dominated by this patriotic fellow, created by artist Jon Mooers:
More of The Shmoos – a lot more! – coming your way in our Li’l Abner Volume 7, on sale in 2014.
A statue of Buddha sits in the shade of a friendly tree …
… With Pan looking out over a swimming pool that features a small stone representation at each corner: a duck, a hippo, a rabbit, and this fearless Leo.
I told my fine host as we said our goodbyes, it really is both a sincere honor and a labor of love to be writing essays about her father and his unique Dogpatch cast of characters. And experiences like this are a memorable frosting on the cake.
• • • • •
One thing Al Capp and I have in common: we’re both Anglophiles of the first order. Capp made many a trip to the United Kingdom, as have I. Admittedly, however, Capp stayed in much tonier hotels during his visits than the ones I’ve favored during mine! So, since I’ve shared some shots of the Capp homestead with you here, let me share some other photos with you, this time involving me.
Though some of you may have seen enough discussion in posts prior to July 20th concerning my wedding on that day, there have been a handful among you who’ve inquired about pictures from the nuptials. Given the old rule of thumb that for “X” number of folks who take the time to write in with an inquiry, “XY” persons are out there silently asking the same question, I trust you’ll pardon me for sharing this mini-album with you. Some of these pix actually tie in to good ol’ LOAC, as you’ll see, and I promise, what follows is the last word in this space on the subject!
Here I am with the brand new Mrs. Canwell. I trust you’ll agree Krista’s wedding dress looks far better than my tux!
“Are you as antsy as I am whenever your picture gets taken, Mike?” Mr. Dudley’s expression makes his answer plain, doesn’t it? Mike was an immeasurable help to me; his speech brought a tear to more than one eye. There’s no doubt he was the best man, in every sense of the term.
Courtney Lucas, our photographer, had an eye for the offbeat. So when she spotted me with old friend Dave Peabody as he was preparing to leave, she asked if we had any comics material available. Since Dave self-publishes his own historically-based comic, Walking Christendom, we were able to pose for a series of pictures with our own works. Feel free to contact me email@example.com if you’d like to know more about Dave’s Walking Christendom. (And note Dave’s ginchy Nancy & Sluggo tie!)
When I showed this shot to my bride, she said, “It look like I’m giving people a witchy laugh!” She’s entitled to her opinion, just as I am—this is my favorite picture of Krista out of all the shots we received. At background-right, my little nephew Henry is clinging to his dad, my brother-in-law Dave, who was one of my ushers.
If you’ve ever encountered him at a convention, you know my friend Lee Weeks is not just a top-flight comics artist, but also an accomplished magician. Here he is wowing some guests with a few card tricks and a little sleight-of-hand.
While I had a copy of Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim Volume 2 in my hands while saying goodbye to my friend Dave, our photographer asked me to remove my wedding band. As you can see, she had an innovative use for it.
Finally, an artsy black-and-white shot of Mr. and Mrs. Bruce and Krista Canwell walking off into the sunset. This makes me think of the end of a Charlie Chaplin two-reeler, for some reason …