Happy Birthday, Boss

Happy Birthday, Boss - Stan Lynde's

On the night before Christmas, Conniption’s streets lie empty and dark. The shops and stores of the town are closed for the night, slumbering under a blanket of fresh snow. Only the saloon shows signs of life as a single rider, gunfighter Hipshot Percussion, rides through.

Hipshot is a loner, a hard man. He passes the church, the saloon, and rides away from town. He rides past the home of lawman Rick O’Shay, his best and perhaps his only friend. Hipshot knows he would be welcome at any of the three places celebrating Christmas, and yet he stops at none of them. Instead, he rides to the top of a snowy hill and draws rein. Removing his hat, he raises his eyes to one bright star that hangs above the valley and says,

“Happy Birthday, Boss.”

During my nearly 20-year run with my first syndicated cartoon strip, Rick O’Shay, I wrote and drew approximately 6,300 daily strips and perhaps 1,000 Sunday pages. And yet no other single cartoon that I produced even comes close to equalling the popularity of the “Happy Birthday, Boss” page.

Why, I wondered. What is there about that particular cartoon that has touched so many people across America and around the world?

I think the answer lies in the nature of our relationship with the natural world and with the power that created the universe in which we dwell. As individuals we may have been disappointed or turned off by organized religion. We may have followed dark trails that led to dead ends and pain. We may even have come to deny the existence of a creator at all. (If we can do that, Hipshot says, we just aren’t paying attention.)

Growing up among cowboys, sheepmen, and ranch people in eastern Montana, I noticed a common trait. Men who earn their livings in the natural world are often deeply spiritual men. They may not confess an established denomination, they may not have been inside a church or synagogue since childhood, but they nearly all seem to be aware of a creative power in the world, a power Hipshot refers to as “The Boss.”

How could it be otherwise? Men who live close to creation, whose lives and welfare are affected on a personal level each day by the weather, who witness the cycle of the seasons, the miracle of birth, the progression of growth, decline, and death, how could they not be believers?

This year, whether your journey takes you to the top of a snowy hill on a winter’s eve, whether you acknowledge Hipshot’s church as your own, or whether you find your trail leads to a stable in Bethlehem beneath a single bright star, I wish you and yours every blessing on this birthday of The Boss.

Merry Christmas!

 

About stan

Author of eight novels featuring the adventures of Deputy U.S. Marshal Merlin Fanshaw, Stan Lynde is a fourth-generation native Montanan and the creator, author, and artist of two highly acclaimed syndicated cartoon strips, Rick O'Shay and Latigo. He lives in Cuenca, Ecuador, with his wife, Lynda.
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9 Responses to Happy Birthday, Boss

  1. Ron Scheer says:

    Beautifully put. I saw this strip on your website a while ago, and was struck by it then as I am again now. And I couldn’t express more precisely how you account for its popularity. It speaks to a personal relationship with the Almighty independent of ideologies, and admits to a quiet, respectful humility that comes from the heart. Well done.

  2. Rod says:

    I grew up reading your comic strips and still have the books from them. This strip is one of my favorite. The way you put common sense, basic values and the simple pleasures of life in them were greatly enjoyed. It might be hard to imagine, but as a young boy growing up in Montana, reading Rick O’Shay had a positive impact upon my life. Thank you for the memories, I just wish Rick O’Shay was still under your pen.

  3. Chalie Foxtrot says:

    Merry Christmas, Stan.

    “Happy Birthday, Boss” has been a part of my Christmas for as long as I can remember. It never fails to bring a catch to my breath with the incredible emotional and intellectual content of those few panels.

    Thank you.

    And have the Happiest of New Years!

  4. elli says:

    Mr. Lynde … I’m kinda partial to Hipshot’s Church in the Fall (kept that Sunday clipping for years) … I know exactly where he was going to, I came from down South & I’ve been here going on 35 years now … good to run across you once again … L

  5. William says:

    And lest we forget my favorite, Hipshot’s Easter ride. All three of these strips are what it’s really all about! It took me a while to get to this page of the blog but the previous reads were well worth it. I’ve been enjoying Stan’s work for so many years I can’t remember them. It all started with Rick O’Shay in the Chicago Tribune and has progressed into the Fanshaw series. Can’t get enough!

  6. Sally Hubka Ridolfo says:

    Mr. L ynde … I am so happy to find your page, I was so mesmerized at the age of 10
    by RICK O`SHAY ! I was a born horse lover I wanted my own horse more than ever …. I wanted to be a cowboy in the west ! …getting the Sunday Chicago Tribune color funnies of “RICK” BROUGHT SO MUCH JOY ! THANK YOU !
    … YES I did get my own “Amigo”
    Blessing , Sally

  7. Richard says:

    Hipshot was always the coolest Dude in town. I have always remember this panel from years ago. I was just telling my Father about this comic! I decided to look it up! I am thrilled to have found it again! It has such a deep meaning to me at this time of year.
    I have always thought about Hipshot at this time of year. I would love to know the year and date it was publish so that I can track now a copy of the paper.
    I thank you for great work.

  8. Michael Shelling says:

    I remember seeing this as a kid in the early 70′s. Amidst all the Hot Wheels, G.I. Joes and other toys, this one comic strip reminded me, even at a young age, what we really celebrate when we celebrate Christmas. And it’s stayed with me to this day.

    “Happy Birthday Boss.”

    Thanks, Man.

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