The first books I remember reading because I wanted to, not because a teacher forced me to, were 'Peanuts' comic strip books. By the time I was eight years old I had amassed a collection of about two dozen 'Peanuts' books. This collection was my most prized possession, and I still have it to this day.
In addition to boosting my reading skills, 'Peanuts' books awakened my interest in cartooning. I always thought that one of the greatest things a person can do is create a successful, entertaining comic strip. I never thought that by the time Charles Schulz retired I would be in a position to publish a comic strip paying tribute to 'Peanuts'.
For the past two weeks, I have been trying to re-discover why I was so "hooked on 'Peanuts'" as a child. So far, I’ve come up with two possible explanations, both revolving around the character of Snoopy.
I was an only-child and I had to create a lot of my own entertainment. I spent a lot of time in fantasy worlds I created for myself. I saw Snoopy (back then he was an "only-dog") doing this too, so I thought it must be OK. Perhaps Snoopy’s flights of fantasy in his Sopwith Camel were the way he dealt with being the only dog in the comic strip. Perhaps Snoopy’s fantasy world was how he got through all those lonely days when all his human friends were in school.
Second, there was Snoopy’s obsession with shooting down the Red Baron. I loved it when a strip began with: "Here’s the World War One flying ace…" Snoopy, as far as I know, never succeeded in shooting down the Red Baron. He got himself shot down every time. But that didn’t keep Snoopy from trying again. Snoopy was a hero to me because he never gave up, not because he always won.
Then, of course, there was Charlie Brown. He was the misfit in the strip, as I felt I was a misfit in my world. But just as Snoopy never gave up trying to shoot down the Red Baron, Charlie Brown never gave up trying to hit a home run, pitch a winning game, kick a football, fly a kite, or manage a baseball team. Charlie Brown was an example to me of one who had few advantages in life, but never gave up trying to succeed at what he thought was important.
Unlike the characters in 'Peanuts', I grew up. I went to high-school, college, and then worked my way up, at least to some degree, in a profession. Looking back over the past thirty years, I wish I had spent a little less time studying and working, and a little more time reading 'Peanuts' comics.
Goodbye Snoopy. Goodbye 'Peanuts'. Thank you, Charles Schulz.