McKibbin’s Scribblin’s: It was just a few extra letters…
If we ignore the two extra letters – and the fact it had no basis in fact – one of the world’s most popular cartoon strips could have helped promote Rifle to thousands, maybe millions, of people.
To some, it may have already done so.
Several people mentioned to me last week that they wondered if the “Doonesbury” cartoon strip, carried by the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and thousands and thousands of other newspapers, might have been about our little ol’ town out here in the wild, wild west. The thought crossed my mind, too, since I’m a loyal reader of Garry Trudeau’s usually on-the-mark lampooning of all things political.
For those who don’t care for Trudeau’s take on certain issues near and dear, or who might have missed a week’s worth of strips, let me sum up. It took place at a meeting of the town council in “Riffles,” Colo., where the council was debating whether to allow recreational sales of marijuana. One character, Zip, who may look to some people like a stereotypical marijuana user, has a few of what you might call “memory problems” getting up to speak in favor of the town allowing the sale of one of Zip’s apparently favorite products.
You can go online and search for them if you want to review. Suffice it to say the town council, just as Rifle City Council did, voted to ban the sales of weed, which allowed some other Doonesbury characters to opine on the wisdom of such action.
As the only reporter who attended every workshop and Rifle council meeting, with two different councils, where the marijuana issue was discussed, I knew these Doonesbury strips were not exactly accurate. I’m sure most readers did, too.
I never saw anyone like Zip get up to urge our elected leaders to allow marijuana sales. I’m not saying Rifle doesn’t have a Zip or two, every community probably does. I just don’t remember him speaking his piece on the issue.
But still, the fact Trudeau called a Colorado town “Riffles” and focused on the marijuana issue was humorously similar and I enjoyed several chuckles through the week.
To get to the bottom of the matter, I emailed Sue Roush, managing editor for Universal Uclick, the syndication company that sells Doonesbury to newspapers. Here’s what she responded when I asked if Trudeau might have done a little research into what our council did regarding the issue to base his strip on:
“I’m ‘Doonesbury’s’ editor here, and I wondered the same thing you did when I read the week’s strips. Garry told me that he chose “Riffles” as the town name because it’s a mining term. It’s totally made up.”
Trudeau’s definition is one of several that’s correct. According to Dictionary.com, one meaning of “riffles” is “the lining of transverse bars or slats on the bed of a sluice, arranged so as to catch heavy minerals, as gold or platinum.”
I’m more familiar with it from my dad’s fly fishing lessons as a youngster. “Cast the fly right next to the riffles,” he’d say.
Wikipedia calls a riffle “a short, relatively shallow and coarse-bedded length of stream over which the stream flows at higher velocity and higher turbulence than it normally does in comparison to a pool.”
Way too wordy for my tastes, but accurate, I guess.
Still another definition from Wikipedia is “In the fishkeeping world, a ‘riffle tank’ is one specializing in aquatic life that originates in places with powerful currents like riffles.”
But I digress.
It’s just kind of disappointing our community missed out on a little playful limelight. All because one very creative man added a couple letters to our moniker.
But it was still a fun diversion, right?
Mike McKibbin is the editor of The Citizen Telegram.
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