‘Mr. Nature’ (2013)

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I don’t know how I got elected “Mr. Nature.” It just happened. Maybe on account of reading Mark Trail throughout my childhood.

Mr. Nature

I dassn’t tell you how long it took me to realize “Mark Trail” was a pun.

Anyway, I never outgrew my interest in animals of all kinds, from the water bear to the ancient short-faced bear. And if you have no idea what those particular critters are… you need Mr. Nature!

We can celebrate God’s stuff together.

‘ Mr. Nature’ (2013)

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I got named to this post without campaigning for it. All of a sudden there were people asking me questions about nature.

Mr. Nature

Now, how would I know what kind of a snake you’ve got in your garden, or how to discourage armadillos from hanging out under your porch? Well, most children, I think, are interested in animals and such. I know I was–and I never grew out of it. I’m still learning.

So, yeah, I’ll field your nature questions if I can…

Just call me Mr. Nature.

Memory Lane: A Quiet Sunday Afternoon

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It’s 1957 again, early Sunday afternoon. I’ve already been to Sunday school, we’ve had our Sunday dinner. Usually on Sunday we visit someone else in the family, or someone visits us; but not today. It’s raining, too early in the year for any baseball on TV, and everything has sort of wound down for a little while: a Sabbath rest.

As for me, it’s time to revel in the Sunday color comics. Prince Valiant. Mandrake the Magician. Flash Gordon. Blondie. Freckles and His Friends. Bugs Bunny. Oh, so many of them! An eight-year-old could spend half the afternoon, doing this. And of course my favorite, Mark Trail.

I didn’t care much for the black-and-white Mark Trail stories on the weekdays, I didn’t understand them, but on Sunday it was goodbye to all that, it was color, and it was one cool animal after another. I didn’t care if I was the only kid on the block who knew about wart hogs, four-eyed fish, and bolas spiders. This was stuff worth knowing! Today I call it God’s stuff. Creation. Back then it was just wonderful, I didn’t have a word for it.

It’s been decades since I’ve had a Sunday newspaper, so I have no idea if any of those old comic strips have been continued. If Mark Trail’s still there, betcha anything they took away his pipe.

But at least he’ll never run out of animals; and neither will we. God never skimped on His Creation.

‘Another Thing God Thought Of, but We Wouldn’t Have’ (2015)

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Remember Mr. Nature discoursing on the chuckwalla? Some of you may not know what a chuckwalla is; but Mr. Nature grew up on Mark Trail in the Sunday color comics, so he knows. To see the lizard in action, click the link.

Another Thing God Thought Of, But We Wouldn’t Have

How is it that you can actually make friends with some being as different as a lizard? Well, maybe we’re not as different as we thought: the same God made us all.

Screaming Fish–Really?

Mr. Nature here–and today our safari takes us to tropical shores around the world.

These small fish, mudskippers, have intrigued me ever since I first encountered them, as a little boy, in Bertha Morris Parker’s Natural History–and in the Sunday color comics, Mark Trail.

But I never knew, until I found this video today, that they could, well, scream.

Mudskippers live in intertidal zones and when the tide goes out, they emerge from their burrows and wander around on the mud, feed, mate, court, and fight over territory. They can breathe air through their skin, like frogs: which means they don’t dare dry out or they can’t breathe; but as long as they can stay moist, they can live out of water. And roll their eyes independently of one another. Like chameleons.

As for the screaming, suffice it to say I have doubts as to the reliability of this assertion. But even without the screaming–they can make other sounds as well–it makes for pretty cool video.

God’s stuff–just when you think you’ve figured it out, you run into mudskippers.

Memory Lane: Mark Trail

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You want to know how I became Mr. Nature? Mark Trail color comics in the Sunday papers, that’s how! I never missed ’em.

During the week, the daily Mark Trail comic strip in black and white concerned itself with story lines. I can’t say I remember any of those. The real action was on Sunday, when the story was set aside and Mark Trail discoursed on spiders, lizards, birds, butterflies, rodents, and every other kind of animal you could think of. How else does a kid find out about the four-eyed fish, the archerfish, the chuckwalla (that’s a lizard, for us Eastern folks), ants “milking” aphids like miniature cows, and all sorts of other cool stuff? And the artwork was superb!

God’s creation is an inexhaustible source of inspiration, and it’ll last you all your life–as long as you don’t let other aspects of our benighted pop culture dry up your brain.

The Four-Eyed Fish

Hi, Mr. Nature here, with a very unusual little fish that lots of people have never heard of: Anableps, aka the four-eyed fish. I met this little creature in a Mark Trail comic in the Sunday paper when I was a small boy, and never forgot it. Not that I was ever going to catch one in my net in Tommy’s Pond. The four-eyed fish lives in ponds and streams in Central and South America.

Does it really have four eyes? Well, just about! Its two eyes are each divided into two different parts so that the fish can see above and below the surface of the water at the same time–something I have tried to do with a swim mask on, but no dice. So this otherwise unremarkable fish has a highly specialized eye, unique to its kind.

This is God’s stuff, marvelous to behold. None of this pfud about the fish’s eye “evolving” from one form to another–it’d be pretty useless at the half-way point; and if a chance mutation resulted in a couple of four-eyed fish hatching out of the eggs of an ordinary two-eyed fish, that’s not much to build a viable species on.

I’m Mr. Nature, and I can end my sentence with a preposition if I want to.

The Honey Guide

No, it’s not a catalogue. It’s a wild bird that has a business relationship with the human beings in its neighborhood. (Thanks to Mike S. for sending us this video.)

Hi, Mr. Nature here. I don’t remember when I first learned about the honey guide. It was either in a “Mark Trail” Sunday color comic strip or one of those Golden stamp and coloring books.

But this bird is really cool. It will lead people to a beehive so they can collect the honey. In return, they share with the bird. This is not something that they teach the bird, so we wonder how the bird learns it. My guess would be from its parents. I’m not interested in any Darwinian fairy tales about “instinct” and “survival strategies.” It’s interaction between people and a wild bird.

It’s God’s stuff, and we love it.

In Praise of Sunday Color Comics

Tomorrow I’ll go back to telling truths that will make the progs and lib’rals  mad at me. To honor God, I do try to refrain from doing battle on the Sabbath Day. By obeying His commandment to rest on that day, we proclaim our God’s sovereign lordship over His creation.

Among the pleasant memories that lower my blood pressure are the quiet Sundays of my childhood and, whatever the weather, the Sunday color comics. Crack of the bat and clink of horseshoes in the summer; Sunday school and maybe an afternoon at the movies, if my father was willing, in the winter: but in all seasons, the funny papers.

My folks stuck to the local New Jersey papers, but my grandparents, both sets of them, got the New York Daily News, so they had New York comics. I read those, although a few of the strips in the New York papers, like Moon Mullins and Gasoline Alley, I couldn’t quite get, and one or two others, like Smilin’ Jack, struck me as vaguely sinister. But our local papers didn’t have The Teeny Weenies or Smoky Stover, so I couldn’t afford to ignore the comics in my grandma’s Sunday paper.

But here at home, every Sunday–aah! Prince Valiant: Hal Foster’s spectacular artwork made the Age of Arthur come alive for me–and it still is. Mark Trail midwifed my lifelong fascination with bugs and snakes and other critters. And does anyone out there remember The Little People? And not forgetting one of my all-time favorite lines on a Sunday afternoon: Mandrake gestures hypnotically… And then there was Peanuts.

Stretched out on the floor, quietly reading the comics–there was something to be said for that. Not that it did me any spiritual good, that I know of (although certainly Mark Trail was for me a gold mine of information about nature); but I have since learned that I belong to my Lord seven days a week, for every minute, and I don’t think He minds if I enjoy some undemanding fun on a Sunday.

But those old comics are gone, and the new ones are distasteful.