Friday, December 22, 2006

I Go Pogo

There’s a little guy I used to read about all the time back in the ‘50s. His name was Pogo Possum who lived in the fanciful Okefenokee Swamp. He also lived in the newspaper comics and in a couple of books I kept under my bed.

Pogo had many great swamp friends such as Albert Alligator and Porky Porcupine. Walt Kelly, the renowned cartoonist created this popular Possum as well as the others. It seems that Dell Publications wanted to try getting an original cartoon character up and running along with the well-established Our Gang and Donald Duck.

But really this is not about Pogo Possum and his swamp friends per se. Rather this has to do with the wisdom wrapped up in his outlook on life. Wisdom also is known as common sense, the ability to know what is right and true. In other words, good judgment.

As a kid I did not realize just how wise Pogo was. But in later years, some of his remarks emerged from memories that carry a lot of meaning. For example one of his more famous quotes was telling Porky Porcupine that, “Yep, son, we have met the enemy and he is us.” This slogan originated with Walt Kelley in 1970 when he used it on a poster for Earth Day. In 1972, this was the title of a book, “Pogo: We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us.”

The context of the foregoing quote had to do with a trash-filled swamp. Evidently Pogo thought we were trashing our land away with … well, with trash, so he identified correctly the culprit(s) of this misdeed. Us!

But the meanings of this story go much further than the pages of a book or comic strip. Most of the time, “ourselves” cause our problems. I remember when Mom would give me a spanking. My general practice would be to mope around following the occasion and sob a bit with the hopes of receiving a little sympathy. Mom would say something like, “It won’t do you any good to cry,” or “You don’t have anyone to blame but yourself.” Always knew that was true but never admitted it. Yep, I met the enemy and it wasn’t my mom. The enemy was “me.”

Or like the time I hid our lawnmower behind the garage so I wouldn’t have to mow the lawn. My dad searched for the mower and finally decided it had been stolen. But before calling the authorities somehow he knew to look behind the garage. Then, somehow, he knew that not only had I hidden the mower but had lied when I told him I didn’t know where it was. Did you know that when you roll a lawnmower through St. Augustine grass that the grass stays bent over for up to two hours? All Dad had to do was to follow the tracks. My backside got a good reminder in character training. It must have worked. I was about 10 years old and to this day I have never hidden another lawnmower. Yep, I met the enemy and it wasn’t my dad. The enemy was “me.”

Now when Pogo was feeling good about something, he would say, “Within, I is all a’glow.” I learned early on that I would feel “all a’glow” when I chose to be a good boy.

And so we live with the decisions we make and we walk along the paths we take. And really our problems are not everyone else’s fault. I know from personal experience that Pogo Possum was right when he said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Winston Hamby
Published Beaumont Enterprise
Saturday, December 23, 2006


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