My family, what is left of it, is scattered across the country, from Alabama to Texas to Hawaii, so it seemed only natural early on that I claim my wife’s family as mine. I have known Joyce’s two nieces since they were babies, and now their offspring of five boys. One niece is now a grandmother, and I am as close to the entire group as I ever was with the two as girls.
When the boys were in fact boys, I began writing them silly letters, telling them, for instance, my mistake of traveling all the way to WashingtonState to try out for the Washington, D.C. football team. Later I told them that some carpentry work was vastly speeded up by a friend who could spit nails all the way into the wood as fast as a machine gun firing. One letter announced that I wanted to buy an aircraft carrier, to be anchored in the James River near the family river house. This would provide more space for their overnight visitors. To raise money for the ship, I said I would buy and operate a railroad. Accordingly, I took pictures of myself examining derelict cabooses in the pasture of a neighbor who is a railroad buff. I told my readers that people who lived on property where I would lay the tracks probably wouldn’t mind a few trains cruising sedately through their yards. Other planned fund raisers, supported by photos, were the sale of snow (I held a for sale sign near a large drift from my inventory) and used cars—a total wreck of a pickup truck was the lone example depicted.
When the boys were older, I included my granddaughter in the list, and identified myself as “The Awesome Dude.” Every Christmas I have given them all something with “Jim Davis, Awesome Dude” printed on it. Examples: T-shirts, baseball caps, six packs of beer. (You can get anything printed online, and my beer labels featured me holding a frosty, foaming mug--actually fruit juice topped by bubbly shaving soap--with bragging claims that the water used was from the James River.)
One year there was a door mat featuring my image gesturing “welcome.” Another year offered a model sailing ship with me, in a skipper’s hat, depicted on the flags and “Awesome Dude” on the bow. There have been chocolate bars bearing my name, a mocked up newspaper with me on the front page (my arm around a famous magnate), a book of photographs (borrowed from parents) showing me peeping at my subjects at various events they attended: all of them in a group at Christmas, me peering from a TV in the background; trailing in a sailboat race; attending a graduation; joining a trip to Paris; with others on a raft at Grand Canyon. You get the picture, I’m sure. And did you know that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a book titled Jim Davis?
There ought to be an award for silliness, a sort of Academy Award for guys of my ilk. But the annual gift gets lots of laughs and, I like to think, provides a small family tradition helping to hold us together when we are apart, as, of course, we are most of the time. This year’s Awesome Dude gift? Well, anti virus masks, of course, bearing my picture and the motto. “The Awesome Dude says Stay Healthy.” And that is my message to you!
Have you heard this joke? It was my mother’s favorite, though she used words vogue in her day. A mother told her son there were two words she wanted him never to use. One was awesome and the other was cool. “OK, Mom,” said the boy. “What are the words?”
AKA "The Awesome Dude"