…and 2013 goes out with a… portage?

As Mark in panel two contemplates the arc of his life (perpetually 35 years old, has never done anything except what he is doing right now, got married to ensure a roof over his head and three squares a day, tricked into becoming a step father)  he thinks of jumping off the rock face to his death as a viable option to doing Jeff’s bidding…  thinking of the peace that Johnny Walker must know, having hurtled over the edge with the angry, grazed elk, never to scheme again…

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…and yet, all Mark can seem to think about is the location of “those artifacts.”  Otherwise, this whole thing will have been for naught.  Like a terrier on a bone, this guy is… even in the face of certain death, he can only think of that which is driving the plot line.  Because really, does anyone think that Mark is actually in mortal danger here?  I mean, the strip is named ‘Mark Trail’ after all… But even as we manufacture some tension, the mind still races as to how Mark gains the upper hand…  does he put the canoe up on his shoulders and then do a 360, taking Jeff out?  He can’t kill Jeff, since he knows where the loot is hidden.  Oh, such a conundrum…

What an idiot…

Mark I’d like to keep rooting for you, but this is getting old.  What are you now, oh-for-three in trying to get the upper hand?  And all you keep getting for your trouble is a whack on the head!  Maybe Jeff would be doing you a favor by shooting you…  it’s got to be better than another rap on the noggin…

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And there goes Jeff B. monologuing  again… he could have just smacked Mark again and been on his way, but no, he has to show off his superior bad-guy intellect and let Mark know that he’s not so clever after all…  But like Anakin Skywalker thinking he could take Obi Wan in the river of lava, Mark is probably thinking he still has the “upper hand” against this guy holding the high ground AND a loaded gun…

Ever hear of STEALTH?

Apparently Mark has not… I mean, how much noise can a man make running along the “rocky ridge,” anyway?  And to be heard above the sounds of paddling and rushing rapids?  Remember, Mark, he has A GUN, and your only advantage, the element of surprise, has just been taken away from you.  But of course you don’t know that… Oh, this doesn’t look good.  Jeff Baucom is a professional bad guy, not like these schlubs  who cheat at fishing tournaments or poach game…

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But again, let’s recap… Jeff Baucom has left his partner in crime (literally) behind to fend for himself (I mean how was Jared going to “go the authorities” anyway?)  He has buried the treasure, what he would hope to somehow monetize by what means, a week’s canoe paddle away, upstream, replete with portage opportunities… and they are somehow going to return to it and get it at some date to be determined?  Is this all part of a master plan or is he improvising?   And now he has one angry Nature Writer bearing down on him?  Gun or not, Jeff Baucom has to feel like the heat is closing in on him…

And his hair is perfect!!

Seriously… and where is he grabbing a shave these days?  As Mark’s supersonic hearing detects the faint strains of a waterfall, he crafts his strategy to intercept Jeff at the Portage… And off he goes, skipping along the sheer rock face like a mountain goat!!

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I could be wrong, but Ruffed Grouse, featured in panel three, are not native to the Appalachian Forest, but rather prefer open grasslands… is it Rusty’s spirit come calling?  Remember how he was buried in a shallow grave earlier in this series?

I can see it now… Mark takes the high ground and overcomes Jeff with his surprise attack.  Surprise because how in the world would Jeff have figured Mark to be on his trail? (Ha! Get it?!?)  I mean, he left Mark for Dead, after all, hands tied

 

 

Uh, he went… that-a-way?

I am sure that Jeff would be interested in knowing that he is heading “for Bent River.”  Just in case anyone is wondering, (I was) the only hits I get on the Google for “Bent River” is a Brewery in Mankato MN, and a couple of street names in GA.  But here we are, Mark has neither slept nor eaten well in days… yet his tracking skills are still razor sharp.  To quote Princess Buttercup, I am sure that Mark could “track a falcon on a cloudy day.” Whatever that means…

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We need to return to the scene of the crime though.  What are all the rest up to?  Is Mr. Dunlap still disconsolate?  Muttering declarative statements (“I skin squirrels and make coats out the pelts!) Have they gone to the authorities?  Where is Rusty?  Who is feeding the horses back at Lost Forest?  So many questions so few answers…

I guess the people who abandoned the cabin also liked to throw axes…

…but soft, what hangest so opportunistically from yonder birch?  It’s the always available sharp edge necessary for Mark to free his fists of steel, so he can go after Jeff and bring him down.  Like I said, this is always way too easy.  “I will leave my nemesis in an overly elaborate, escapable situation and assume that it will all just go to plan… what? why do you question my evil wisdom?”

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Judging by the knot that Mark is cutting through Jeff has skills.  That appears to be a perfect square knot, which unless you know what you are doing can end up granny style and not very stout.  I hope Mark takes that into consideration as he heads out in search of his quarry.

And thanks, TrailCo, for not interrupting the story on Christmas day… I am not sure I could have taken a day off from this riveting sequence… Sundays are almost more than I can stand…

Good bye, Mr. Trail…

I can almost hear the Dr. Evil voice coming out of Jeff… This is all so Dr. Evil anyway, with Mark being left in an easily escapable and overly elaborate “trap.”  Of course in panel three Mark looks like he just woke up from a heavy night of drinking, except he doesn’t do that, right?  At least I don’t think he drinks anything stronger than coffee…

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I swear we have seen more canoe portaging in this story than at any time in the history of the funny pages…  if nothing else, we all have a good dose of what high adventure with canoe looks like- it’s hard work!!  So if you are into that, have at it, but now you know…

Question is whether Jeff left Mark his share of the beans?  Although, left unattended I am sure they burned to a crisp, then as the fire went cold, solidified into an inedible mass… yuck.  Reconstitute with water?  Probably not worth the effort.

Again, thanks to everyone vocalizing their thoughts.  At least we don’t have to be left wondering what is being thought or planned.  This is still the silliest “caper” ever devised.  All they have accomplished so far is to break an old man’s heart…