Even though we’ve been married for over a decade, my wife Carolyn still tells me stories about her childhood that I never heard before. Carolyn grew up in a small town in Tennessee which had its fair share of unusual characters – including, as I recently discovered, her grandfather.
My wife fondly remembers her grandfather as a grouchy old fellow who looked like Archie Bunker with less hair. Despite his grouchiness, he retained a soft spot for two things in his life: his granddaughter, and his pet quail (yes, I said quail, as in the plump little bird that some people consider food).
The quail was affectionately named Goober, and it followed its master around the house, happily chirping while it hopped to and fro. Goober was a good quail, and by all accounts he lived a happy life…until his unusual and unexpected demise.
You see, one night Carolyn’s grandfather started clipping his toenails on the arm of his sofa, with the ever-faithful Goober at his feet. Thinking it was a tasty treat, Goober grabbed a toenail clipping and hopped away with it in his mouth. He tried valiantly to swallow it, but sadly, it was too large for the poor bird, and it got lodged in his throat. Before anyone could figure out how to save the struggling quail, Goober choked to death on the toenail, an unfortunate victim of hygiene.
After Carolyn told me this story, I sat back and marveled at the fact that I ever attempted a career in cartooning. How on earth could my silly little cartoons have ever competed with the real world, where cranky curmudgeons can own cute quails named “Goober” that meet their untimely end from a toenail? The real world may be more tragic than my comic strip, but it’s also a hell of a lot funnier.