Johnny, you are an a**hole…

Seriously.  Is he going for humor and coming off as a jerk, or is he skipping the middle part and just being an ass??  I have to say, this character sort of plows new ground for “Mark Trail…”  Not physically aggressive or brutish, but mean in a sociopathic kind of way, completely self- absorbed and blatant with his motives, as if only he and they matter…  “Did you get MY elk?” he asks.   And Mark, ever obtuse (returning to form after exhibiting a glimmer of clever in the previous days’ strips) responds cheerfully to Johnny’s question… “No Johnny, but I will try again tomorrow, and every day after that until I find YOUR elk…”

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But what on Earth does Johnny have in his hands?  Such awkward gestures, even for the Trail-verse.

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And the look on Senator Hudson Mason’s face…  it’s a  look that says ‘I am getting too old for this sh*t…’ There’s going to be a slap-down coming for sure!

Mark’s phone keeps getting bigger!

The look on Ranger Dusty’s face is priceless.  As in “What the f*ck is THIS thing in my hand???”

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Should have been?  How about IS?  Mark is right up there with Mike Hammer!  He just needs to trade in Cherry for the busty blonde and keep a bottle of whiskey in his knapsack and he’s in!  Of course they will over-react!  Oh boy is this great!  Excuse me, may I have 10,000 marbles, please?? But I digress…

Looks like Mr. Chipmunk feels the impending comeuppance… Better get to high ground… Johnny Walker’s going to blow!!

Not Following you, Mark…

“I am just a simple public employee, Mark, a ‘servant’ I dare say… I am not schooled in the ways of eavesdropping and espionage…  I am not even sure what it is you are talking about.  Recording? Cell Phone?  Battery? Died?  You have lost me, Mark.”

Or maybe Mark, You just don’t know how to use the phone.  Was it turned on??

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But oh, Trail, aren’t you the wily one!  Watch Ladies and Gentleman as Mark begins to spin the biggest lie of his life- can he pull it off?  “You see this phone, Johnny? I left it behind set to record when I left you and the Senator alone (whom he had ‘put together’ for that expressed purpose…) and I have captured here, and backed up in the cloud, a very interesting conversation about what you are up to…”

Or something like that.

This is new territory, for you Mark; but really, when does the punching start?

Milking this one, or what??

And Dusty!  You’ve been furloughed!  Why are you still at your post??  You should be home with the little ones…  or maybe this place is your home.  I’ve never thought of how many people in the forest service never go to the trouble of actually buying a home…

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Thanks goodness Mark has returned to his habit of talking out loud to no one in particular.  All those thought-bubbles were starting to freak me out…

The Senator and Johnny must already be in the cabin enjoying each other’s company, and have already told Dusty lusty tales of Elk scoped and wounded…  Where is Anne Marie, though, and was it Dusty’s “job” to keep her “entertained” and “out of trouble” whilst the men folk went on their little Elk-shooting-spree??

But clearly it’s Mark’s “job” to track down wounded Elk.  He’s gotta be pissed right about now…

And where is the groom?  In the Trailverse, one never sees horses getting tacked and untacked…  they just appear, as if by magic, ready to mount…

What is this wistful look you have, Mark?

Yes, maybe it did, Mark.  Maybe it did.  Maybe this technology you are so at odds with did, in fact, deliver.  Did not fail you.

That look on Marks face in panel three is new, but we keep seeing it over and over again.  It’s sad.  It’s tired.  It’s thoughtful.  As in “What the hell am I doing out here?  Why am I always to one to save the great outdoors?  I picked up this Rusty kid hoping that he might pick up the mantle some day, but he hasn’t shown a predilection for anything other than taking bad pictures and getting locked up in houses, cabins and vans…”

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Not seriously wounded?  The “Old buck” said with reverence.  Or maybe you should be taking a clue from the soaring raptor above you.  Circling the downed animal in hopes of finding food enough for the flock!!

Well, plug it in, dummy!

OK, maybe I am just jealous.  By the size of the device in Mark’s hand, it would appear that he went all in and picked up a Galaxy by Samsung…while I remain “content” with my Blackberry Curve.  Alas, choices we make in life can continue to haunt.  Like deciding to hang poolside for 4 hours without so much as a dollop of sunscreen.  I fear I shall peel like banana is the coming days, a continued reminder of my bad judgment.  With age comes wisdom, but also the ability to miss the obvious…  Mark, are you in that stage too?  But don’t fear, my friend all will turn out, it always does for you.

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I am quite sure that there was a gasp of power left when you set your device in the bushes to capture incriminating words from Johnny… and I am of sure that those words are safe on the memory card nestled in the guts of the phone.

And what will we see when Mark finds the elk?  Will he pull out a pistol and dispatch it?  Shoot it at close range with his rifle?  And then what, pull out his Bowie knife, hang it and gut it?  Where are we going here?

What. a. Brat. Seriously.

“So, did you get an Elk?,” Mark asks…  “Yea, and it’s invisible, you moron… That’s why you don’t see anything large and hairy down on the ground”

Arms akimbo, Mark says in a scolding tone reserved for those who do not follow the ‘Track and finish off any large herbivores that you only wing with a wild-ass rifle shot’ code, “WTF, Johnny, now we have an Elk bleeding out somewhere on the game preserve… and you aren’t going to go find it?”

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Senator Mason Hudson is growing increasingly irritated with Johnny.  Johnny must have some serious goods on him, as he continues to behave in a way that suggests it doesn’t matter how much he pisses anyone off…

Ow! that hurts!!

The gun makes that annoying “WHAM” sound.  Really?  Front left leg quivering, Mr Elk is going down.  How do you know that he only wounded the elk, Senator, is your distance vision unimpaired? Or did you recently have the cataract surgery that left you with new lenses and super human sight???  Really, they are not that far of, are they?  Not for a high caliber rifle, with scope…  Maybe I watch too many movies where former special forces snipers line up and take shots from over a mile away?

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Trail a guide?  His Job?  Where’s it say that Johnny?  Would it be that your silver spoon upbringing took you on hunts fully flanked by servant huntsmen?  Who would do nothing but praise even the wildest of shots, while covering behind just to make sure you didn’t lose face?

Mark isn’t getting much incriminating dialogue on his phone, though, is he?  Just a bland threat of “exposing something…”  C’mon! let’s move this along!

do I have to do EVERYTHING?

“Honestly Senator… your inability to pull the trigger (literally- ha!) on anything is becoming more tiresome by the day.  Makes me think that Term Limits are a good thing-  Wait What am I saying?  That would mean I would have to “train” and corrupt a new politician every 12 years or so…  and who has time for that?” Johnny seemed to say…

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And Mr. Elk seems to be frozen in place…  hasn’t moved a hair!  But then these installments are days apart, while the conversation is going on in real time… I have to continue to remind myself that split second in the Trailverse can equate to days in real time- like when Mark starts throwing punches…

Who am I to doubt??

When I first looked at the Elk in the second panel, I thought, “Elk?? No, more like PIG!  With antlers!”  But here’s proof that the artist sort of got it right!

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At least the Senator has his powers of observation down, being able to distinguish between a crook and an elk… “Johnny- CROOK!  Large hairy beast with prodigious rack off in the distance- ELK!”

Don’t you love the look of glee on Johnny Walker’s face as he says the word “money?”  or maybe the still caught him as he uttered the final syllable- hard not to smile when you say that word… but the real reason that Johnny is so down with oil is the fact that in a world where there is none left, he would not be able to keep his coiffure in check…