Again with the Cell Phone…

Seemingly another world away, Cherry and Shelley bask in the relative comfort of camp, surrounded by lush green and frolicking fowl…  compared to the moonscape our hero and benefactor now find themselves in…  I think Shelley is just a little OCD with that phone… surprised that by now the battery hasn’t gone dead as the phone constantly tries to find a signal, any signal… It must miss the city along with its owner!  Doesn’t Shelley Realize that she has been transported back to another time and place, where objects of the future do little good?

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Shelley went fishing with that question, though, and is actually a bit surprised by Cherry’s answer, that she and Mark “enjoy living in a wilderness area.”  Good for Shelley to show a little couth in that she did not insert the adjective that no doubt was forming on the tip of her tongue: godforsaken wilderness area…  Oh but what fun awaits once the plane is not back when expected!

Yup, the Hat’s Gone…

AND it would seem as though they gained in elevation since when we first took stock of their situation!  Gone are the pines that would have suggested that they weren’t on the very tip top of the mountains, only to be replaced with the barren, rocky slopes that would suggest that they are in a world devoid of life and other essential things… Even a small flock of geese glide by, looking for a place to land, flying over what looks to be quite a drop along the rocky face.

Poor Wes, foot “wrapped,” leaning against a boulder, suggesting that, in the works of Ulysses Everett McGill, “We’re in a tight spot…”

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Define “long way,” Mark…  I mean how far could they be?  Far enough I suppose to have entered another distinct ecosystem…

And let’s be clear… compared to other “tight spots” we’ve seen our hero overcome, this could be the “tightest” yet, in that unlike other situations where the nemesis is a thief, a cheat, a kidnapper, or a baddy that’s all three at once, this is a test with Mark pitted against Mother Nature herself!

Where’s Wesley’s HAT?

Oh my, Wes’s hat is the first casualty of the C*R*A*S*H… replaced by the always useful goose-down “puffy-jacket-man” coat in not quite blaze orange…  Compared to Mark’s neutral, blend-in-with-mountainside jacket, at least Wes won’t get shot at…

But let’s take stock…  they are below the tree line, which means temperature shouldn’t be terribly extreme, they probably didn’t pack any provisions for their little outing since I am sure they planned to be back to camp in time for cocktails, but it’s damn good thing they are packing, with the rifle #2 (of how many exactly? Just how expansive is this arsenal?) slung over Mark’s shoulder.

OK, they have half a chance of getting out of this one… by the time school starts in the fall, I would imagine.

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A broken foot, though, that’s going be a problem…  and I don’t know that “wrapping it” (what? like a bologna sandwich?) is going to do it, Mark…

And isn’t Mark starting to look an awful lot like Tom Cruise in the second panel?  No doubt taller (I mean, who isn’t?) and certainly less crazy, but still there’s the look…

Oh Dear… More Large Letters and Sounds…

Even with the bad proportioning of the cabin/ cockpit windows which makes the plane’s fuselage look grotesquely large, I will give credit where it is due- the fact that this is a SEA PLANE with PONTOONS, the artist has faithfully included the CLEATS on the PONTOONS, which are de rigueur for such a craft, as in how else would a person secure such a craft and keep it from floating off once brought down?  Of course, the cleats will have little or no use on dry land, and since said pontoon in the second frame is now a crumpled, twisted mass along with other airplane parts, it matters little…  But I digress…

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So now the plane goes, “CRASH,” in equally large, red letters, equal to the “CRUNCH” from yesterday, except that they have thrown in an extra-large, red ‘R’ (or is that an ‘A’?) just in case the dear readers of this saga could not piece that one together…  But then that also suggests the grind-it-out nature of metal scraping along dry ground, when such an activity was never designed into the plane in the first place… or the sound of two frightened grown men going ‘AAAAAHHHH!’  Just for the record, I wouldn’t hold that against them.

But yes. Oh. Dear.  Will our Hero and his client walk away from this one?  Will Wes’s hat survive?  Will Mark’s hair be mussed?  Tomorrow’s installment will tell!

And the Plane goes… CRUNCH!

Ooh, that’s going to leave a mark…  Mark Trail, that is… (ha, ha…) but seriously folks,  the port wing has been cleaved asunder from the failing aircraft, our intrepid hero and the benefactor of Field and Forest Magazine are hurtling into the canopy, large sounds are being emanated, and good heavens what WILL become of them?  Good thing Editor Bill Ellis is blithely unaware of the peril unfolding… his meal ticket and favorite writer are about to go down!  Now THIS is real action!  No more “My cell phone doesn’t work/ I hate the outdoors” from ol’ whats-her-name… We have real danger going on here…

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Assuming that Wes has the chops to set this craft down (oh that’s right the plane “isn’t responding”) he and Mark should be able to continue this story line as a study in survival.  Taking notes everyone?  What Would Mark Do?

Well, let’s at least hope that the plane has the requisite arrangement of survival gear, although given that they couldn’t get her “back over water,” I imagine that they won’t be using their life preservers or seat bottom cushions, clutched tightly to their chest, arms folded and hands locked through the straps… “Hey, were you guys paying attention during the pre-flight?? I bet you weren’t…”

And the moose goes… SNORT!

This is what we call, in the writing business, a PLOT INFLECTION.  I think, anyway, because I am not actually IN the writing business.  I just hack away and let flow whatever comes to mind…  but let it be known that there are no clumsier plot inflections than in a Mark Trail story line.   Or more imagery or metaphor…  I mean where else could an inanimate object – a plane- get so scared as to go all ashen and pale?? We have a problem, Mark, the union in China, or wherever this strip goes to get colored in, is sending us signals that they aren’t going to work for the “bowl of rice a day” that is in their current contract…

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And I don’t pretend to be an expert in avionics or an aircraft engineer, but is the plane getting larger, I mean relative to the windows?  If the windows are an indication of relative cockpit size, then suddenly this beast of a craft has the cargo capacity rivaling a C-130…  Is that the issue? Is the plane growing?  Or does Wes just want to secretly put-er-down and create the tension that is so badly needed in this particular story?  So far the Whiny wasn’t Working, so let’s introduce some real drama!  The Trail-verse’s own version of LOST!  Will they go back in time?  Meet up with Charles Lindbergh or Amelia Earhart?  Stay tuned!

Nope, don’t Worry about US…

“We will be JUST FINE, man with the Bengal Tiger hat band…”  And off the MEN go, up into the wild blue.  Spending their valuable, limited resources on a joy ride to go look at SHEEP.  Really?  Hard to know where this one is going.  Hard to not repeat previous story lines… but then that has never stopped Trail, Inc. before, and it’s never stopped me from waiting impatiently for the next installment…

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“Well, Mark, if you have been paying any attention at all, you would know that so far you are failing mightily in what was your prime directive- getting my sour-puss, outdoors hating wife to appreciate what is my passion and where I am pouring my hard earned money in support of ‘Woods and Wildlife Magazine.’  No matter how many times I have told her to ‘Not ask me about my business’ she persists.  If this little gambit doesn’t work, I will have to kill her…  now we wouldn’t want that, would we?  Let that not be on YOUR conscience…”

Whoa! Cherry!

Showin’ her “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle” chops… And not so much with a shotgun where she’d have many chances with many shot dispersing after the target, but with a rifle!  What a dead-eye! Kind of begs the question as to why they chose to fly in CANNED food, since they have to pack out what trash they brought in, and the weight would certainly have to be a factor with four people plus gear in that little plane… but this is 1953 (isn’t it?) and freeze-dried food and lighter packaging hasn’t made into the vernacular, if in fact cell phones being out of range have…Meanwhile, Shelley is dabbing herself with a kerchief, not having figured out that wearing a woolen turtleneck sweater is bound to make a person hot…

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At least now we know what Cherry’s up to when Mark is off on his “assignments.”  She is practicing, polishing her guns, and shilling for the NRA… Notice Mark nestled calmly and figuratively in the crook of Cherry’s neck, enjoying a draw on his pipe (when’s the last time we saw that??) as if this is all too familiar… I guess now we get to see the Real Cherry Blossom.  It is almost May and high time!

Oh Bless you Wesley!

The product of good schooling!  And relentless nagging by mother and school marm!  Using the objective form of the pronoun and a avoiding the classic blunder of thinking one should use ‘I’ instead of “me.”  My heart sings!  Nouveau Riche and refined.  Would we expect nothing less…  That he so willingly is in on the “take pictures of sheep” excuse is funny.  Really?  Mark? Like you don’t have enough pictures of wildlife?  But here’s a challenge for the writers of Mark Trail- Create a story line that involves neither fishing nor cameras.  I dare you to try!

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Meanwhile in the third panel, Shelley, hand raised, is casting her vote to stay behind with Cherry…  I am sorry- was this subject to a vote? Do we care what whiny noise comes out of your mouth next?    But where will the attention stay? On Mark and Wesley as they fly off, or on the ladies, who will dish dirt on their respective life partners??? Oh boy, this should be interesting…

I guess no one ever explained these things to her…

Someone please explain to the whiny person (he says resisting a stronger term) that cell phone reception is a function of proximity to a transmitting tower… and that perched high in a mountain range, one is probably well beyond the 2-3 mile range offered up by said towers… which is why one typically sees them dotting the landscape even along I-35 heading south from Minneapolis to Des Moines…  But yet she stares at her device, no doubt a Galaxy or an iPhone judging by the shape (was there ever a Trail story that featured a brick phone or a flip phone??) and looks peevishly at it, wondering, “Why won’t it talk to me??”  And who is it she wants to talk to, or what is it she is after?  The latest Kardashian Dirt?  One has to wonder…

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Turn page to the greatest Cherry Trail “look” of all time… Sort of a cross between Lockjaw and “what <on earth> am I doing here??”  Not that long ago, while still in the relative comfort of Lost Forest, the girls were bonding and chatting it up… what a difference a couple days and a few thousand feet of elevation makes!  Meanwhile, Mark, ever the schemer, and in direct reflection of wanting to get the hell away from this annoying female-type human being, doubles down on the ol’ “Let’s go flying and take pictures of Bighorns gambit.”  In other words, “If you don’t mind (please…) doing a little flying, we could get the hell away from your wife, who clearly is beyond redemption…” Maybe that’s why Cherry is gritting her teeth and setting her jaw- “not without me, you don’t- I want to get away from this too, you know…”  If being spoiled and whiny is the makings of great drama, we have now set the table!