On my father’s ranch I learned that no task was beneath me, and that if a job needed doing, somebody needed to do it.
I was born in the heart of the Great Depression. Dad considered himself fortunate to find work herding sheep at $30 a month on the open ranges of the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana. With my mother and me, Dad followed the sheep to new grass and a variety of temporary homes—sheep wagons, tents, dugouts, cabins and ranch houses.
When I was about five, I found out comics were written and drawn by people called cartoonists. It had never occurred to me that a person actually wrote and drew comic strips; I’d thought they were some kind of a natural wonder, like Old Faithful or the Grand Canyon. I resolved from that day to someday, somehow, become a cartoonist. Years later, everything came together with my first comic strip, Rick O’Shay.
Growing up, my comic strip heroes were Fred Harman’s Western strip Red Ryder, Milt Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, Al Capp’s Li’l Abner and many others—but chiefly Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant. The incredible artwork and color set a standard I admired and tried to emulate.
In the almost 20 years I did Rick O’Shay, the strip developed a devoted following. My gunfighter character Hipshot regularly received romantic mail, from little girls to women in their 80s and 90s. Now, 34 years since I drew my last daily Rick O’Shay strip, I still hear from readers who grew up with it.
My second strip, Latigo, began syndication in 1979. The strip went beyond the traditional rustlers, train robbers and bad men to the corporate greed of the 19th-century robber barons who used such men and answered to no other law than the bottom line.
I don’t miss the man-killing schedule writing and drawing a daily newspaper strip requires. Producing six dailies and a Sunday page each week is something like shoveling coal on a freighter or trying to go up the down escalator.
My dad once told me, “As you go through life you will make tracks. Be sure to make yours plain and clear.” I came to recognize it as a lesson for life. “Live in such a way that you have nothing to conceal.”
The award I’m most proud of is the 2009 SPUR Award, given annually for distinguished writing about the American West, for my novel, Vendetta Canyon. Receiving the award was especially gratifying, because it was something of a double win; I not only wrote the novel, but narrated the recording as well.
What most people don’t know about me is I love to sing! I especially love the ladies of song: Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee, June Christy and—on the Country side—Patsy Cline.
Of all the places I have lived, I love Montana. I once drew a Sunday page featuring Rick and Hipshot riding in the high country. Rick was going on about all the famous and historic churches there are in the world, and how they couldn’t hold a candle to the beauty of the mountains. Hipshot agreed, but said, “Don’t be too hard on them man-made wonders. These mountains had a better architect.”
What makes me laugh hardest are Peter Sellers movies, comic strips and panels The Far Side, Pogo and Calvin and Hobbes, cowboy poet Baxter Black and stand-up comics George Carlin and Richard Pryor.
Stan Lynde, Cartoonist
A fourth-generation Montanan, Stan Lynde was born and reared on the rangelands of the Crow Indian Reservation. He is the creator of three cartoon strips: Rick O’Shay, Latigo and Grass Roots (you can see cartoons and commentary for the last strip at OldMontana.com). He is also the author of eight novels, the seventh of which, Vendetta Canyon, won a 2009 Spur for “Best Original Audiobook.” Some of his works are available through Mountain Press Publishing. Stan and his wife, Lynda, live in Helena, Montana.