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The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston Part X – Doug and Farley

The book has several pages devoted to Lynn’s life at McMaster University, which I may go into at a later time. We are going to discuss the entrance of Farley the dog on the scene in Lynn’s life after the cut.



Page 69

Katie:

While Lynn was enjoying her job and her friendships at McMaster, her relationship with Doug was getting rocky. Despite the arguments and the frustration, Lynn did her best to keep the marriage together.

Lynn:

By now we were too entrenched in the east to return to Vancouver. We bought a small house in Dundas overlooking a pretty ravine. In the evenings, I did freelance work from a greenhouse we turned into a studio. We fought, made up, and fought again.

Me:

“too entrenched” means that Lynn has found her excuse for ignoring the previous intent of their move being “temporary”. Entrenched in this case means they bought a house. As the story will go on, we will see Lynn is not really all that attached to her work at McMaster and the house is the only thing which entrenches them.  When Doug leaves, he leaves Lynn the house, which is the thing that was entrenching him too.

Katie:

Occasionally on the weekends, Lynn and Doug would go on road trips to get away from everyday stresses. One weekend they visited Walsingham, Ontario, wondering what there was to do. A sign in the corner store read, “Old English Sheepdog Puppies For Sale.” With nothing better to do, they set off to see what the puppies looked like.

Me:

Walsingham, Ontario is a new detail. It is about 1.5 hours drive south of Dundas.

Lynn:

The address to us to a rural farmhouse. The latest litter was ready to go. We had no intention of buying a dog. We’d just moved into our first house, we had full-time jobs, and we enjoyed our freedom. Still, Doug grew up with a dog, so before we knew it, we were writing a cheque and bundling this funny, squirmy pup into a cardboard box and taking him home. We named the puppy “Farley” after Farley Mowat, the author.

I had met Farley several times at the Different Drummer bookstore in Burlington. Like many independents, the Different Drummer provided exceptional opportunities for readers to hear their favourite authors speak and to meet them afterward. I did many illustrations for this lively and innovative shop, and when I was asked to draw caricatures of Farley Mowat, I was thrilled. I was able to get to know him personally, and it gave me great pleasure when he later accepted my original Farley comic strips as gifts.

Me:

A Different Drummer Books is the actual name of the place. It’s website says it has been in existence for over 40 years, which means somewhere between 40 – 45 or 1970 – 75. That means when Lynn went there, it was a very new bookstore.=

http://www.differentdrummerbooks.ca/

Drawing of Farley Mowat wearing a kilt and sitting on a globe with the caption:
A caricature of Farley Mowat by Lynn that was used to promote a newly published collection of Mowat’s stories at a bookstore in Burlington, Ontario.


Given the time period, the books would be either:
• The Siberians (1970) ISBN 0-14-003456-0
• Sibir: My Discovery of Siberia (1970) ISBN 978-0771065767


Katie:

Farley [the puppy] gave Lynn and Doug something to do together, and because of him, their relationship improved.

Lynn:

We both adored the dog, but as the dog grew, he became an arduous task: he shed everywhere, was hard to train, and needed a great deal of attention. After a while, he became my responsibility, which was OK. He was funny and fun and good company when I was alone in the house – which was often.

Me:

Lynn starts to make the case about how Doug left her alone at home so he could be out cheating on her. However, Lynn will destroy that argument in a few paragraphs.

Katie:

Farley the dog was, of course, the inspiration behind the most popular and most loveable characters in For Better or For Worse.

Picture of Lynn with Farley caption:
One of the few images of Lynn with Farley as a puppy, 1972. They are posing behind her house in Dundas, above the ravine in the backyard, the same ravine that the character Farley would later rescue April from.

Me:

Considering that Lynn is going to get pregnant with Aaron in 1972, there is not much of a time period when Lynn is with Farley before she gets pregnant.

Katie:

Outside of her full-time job at McMaster Lynn was building a growing number of freelance clients for whom she did advertisements, illustrations, and other design work. When she wasn’t doing work for hire, she submitted cartoons to the Dundas Valley Journal.

Me:

In the 10th anniversary book, Lynn makes a case that she can quit working at McMaster because of the strength of her freelance work that was she was doing in addition to her McMaster work and also helping out at CHCH-TV.

Katie:

She wrote long letters home to her parents, illustrated with cartoons of life in Dundas, and practised the guitar: Lynn spent a lot of time hanging out at the studios where Doug was working and pitched in whenever they needed an extra pair of hands. (This was before union rules made it impossible for anyone outside a particular position to touch the props or move a camera.) One of the “props guys” there at the time was Rod Johnston, a talkative character who set up backdrops, fixed puppets, moved furniture, and did whatever else was necessary to create a stage in the studio. Lynn admits she liked him and enjoyed seeing him whenever she was there.

Me:

Here we have a problem. How does Lynn go from being the wife who is at the TV station helping out all the time to Lynn the woman who is sitting alone at home waiting for Doug to come home? Nevertheless, this story does add that detail, which explains why she would have met Rod Johnston and more importantly, why she would have spent time with him.

The way she described this in the 10th anniversary collection was:

As a freelance graphic artists, and wife of one of the cameramen, I had spent a great deal of time at CHCH-TV, a midsized television station in downtown Hamilton. One of their props people was a rather countryish character who wore black plastic-rimmed glasses, corduroy jackets, and, on occasion, a fur tie which he described as “Rabbit, between seasons.” Rod Johnston was from somewhere in Northern Manitoba, and it was rumoured he lived in a bread truck parked in a friends’ backyard. I never really go to know him, but I instinctively liked him. There was something that attracted me to him… a sort of…silliness.

What I didn’t know was that over the years he’d developed a soft spot for me, and when my marriage dissolved, he hoped to find the courage to call me – sometime.


This time around Lynn does not mention that Rod also found her to be attractive. However, I am shocked that this admission comes in this book. Other than the 10th anniversary collection, Lynn had maintained that her first meeting with Rod Johnston was at the airport well after she and Doug had divorced.

Katie:

The new teaching system at the medical centre was excelling; some of the teaching aid techniques Lynn had helped to develop were gaining popularity, and more and more professors were asking for graphic art to accompany their lectures. New people were hired to help keep up the pace, and Lynn began to feel herself breaking away. She was twenty-six by now and was starting to think about having a family. And her freelance work was steady enough that she was prepared to establish a small business at home.

The subject of having a baby drove a wedge between Lynn and Doug. She desperately wanted a child, and he wavered. He eventually left the decision entirely up to Lynn, who chose to let providence take over.

Me:

“Providence”, or a less-than-accidental accident, which is the running theme of all the Patterson pregnancies.



Next we will go into a strange trip Lynn when she had enough of Doug that I had never heard before and it genuinely surprised me.


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