Aaaand… there you have it…

It was only after a serious pause and more than a dollop of consideration, but Mark has finally recognized Rusty as his son…Not the fruit of his own loins, to be sure, but then that would require him to actually have , um, relations with Cherry, and that whole notion still leaves Mark a bit confused…

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But let’s be clear, Rusty, you did not jump, you dove into shallow water.  Not very bright and not in keeping with the “safety jump” taught in any junior lifesaving class…

So with Barney and Betty looking on in confusion, still wondering what the hell they did to deserve being relocated, Father and son go home to greet Mom and recount lusty tails of fallen trees and watery rescues…

Buck up, son…

C’mon, Rusty…  No time for tears, boy.  And when did you you start calling him ‘Dad?’  He’s always been ‘Mark’ to you… Yup, that log was on a mission.  The laws of Nature, Space, Time and Physics have all taken a brief hiatus in order to make this all happen…  and is that Mark laying face up or face down in the water in panel 3?  Sure looks peaceful, though, don’t he??

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I gotta tell you, the suspense is absolutely killing me.  Is there nothing Mark won’t do to get out of taking Rusty fishing??

Don’t worry boys and girls, he has a really hard head…

What on earth is it with trees falling spontaneously?  Just recently it was the one that started the forest fire, then it was Abbey Powell’s truck, now it’s Mark’s head!  But we needn’t worry.  Mark has been kicked and punched so many times over the years he appears to even enjoy it!  And ever since the environmentalists helped us to realize that even a dead tree is important habitat, we are not allowed to take any of these hazards down, until of course they fall on their own and cause a Traumatic Brain Injury…

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What’s interesting though is that this tree appears to be falling down and falling forward at the same time.  Almost as if it had it out for our hero.  Well we have seen examples where trees are “alive and have souls,” whether they be Ents in Lord of the Rings or the hapless dude in the GEICO commercial

Tell me it isn’t time for “the talk…”

But c’mon Mark, beaver babies are called kits, or kittens…  How can you miss an opportunity to display your matchless knowledge of the great outdoors??  We also know that beavers are monogamous and pop out a litter every year, but like Barney and Betty, get kicked out of the lodge in their third year!  Only to wreak havoc with land owners, so we start the entire cycle all over again…

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Yes, let’s go back to the house before we have to witness the carnage…  that clever and voracious Fisher Cat is eyeing Barney and Betty as we speak!

Too much screen time, Master Rusty…

They must get cable in Lost Forest- or Satellite…  and with the basic package comes Cartoon Network.

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Barney and Betty!  Ha, that’s a good one.  Not very original, but a good one.  What was Barney’s job, anyway?  We knew all about Fred’s job at the quarry- operating the heavy machinery (proof that dinosaurs and man walked the earth together) at “Slate Gravel” run by no other than George Nate (Eugene) Slate…  I always got the impression that Barney was in Public Relations or something like that…  Never any issues, though, never brought work or the boss home with him…

Well, get a good look at B&B, Rusty, one of them is about to meet up with fate… in the form of a hungry Fisher Cat!

Ahhh… Such comfort in routine…

But does the Fisher Cat swim??  Will Rusty get to witness Nature at Her cruelest?  Why is it even called a Fisher Cat unless it Fishes?  Well, that would give it something in common with Mark and his Ward- they like to fish, too…

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That is if Mark isn’t just blowing smoke up the young lad’s arse…  wouldn’t be the first time Mark suggested such an outing only to have the phone ring and Mark be sent off on assignment… Although in the waning days of the Elrod Regime, Rusty was actually allowed to go fishing, thus taking all the air out of that balloon…  so let’s see whether James Allen picks up the mantle and plays with Rusty’s head…

Can I see them (comma) Mark (exclamation point) (question mark)

Oh, visions of Otters past…  the only thing Mark has yet to do is promise to take Rusty fishing…

Yes, Mark, while you were away– for an entire day!  “Of course you can see the Otters, I mean Beavers, Rusty…” Be sure to name them and become attached in order that the release be dripping with sadness and poignancy…

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What the hell is in the tree in panel three?  No, not the squirrel, the other thing getting ready to pounce on the squirrel.  At first I thought it was a mountain lion, but then it’s not looking so much like that…  the head and tail are all wrong.  Some strange mutated predator with tree climbing ability… kind of creeps me out.

Would it have killed you to call??

Seriously Mark.  The new Mark Trail shoulda/woulda been sensitive to Cherry’s needs… What with the 24 hour news cycle, the fire on Slumber Mountain (south face) would have been all over the networks and news feeds…  and considering it’s still the same day as when you left Lost Forest, imagine how much Cherry must have missed you…

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But tears?  Really?  Cherry needs to take a page out of the Big Dog’s playbook… let’s show a little equanimity here…  and remember for whom the Strip is named… Everyone other than Mark Trail needs to realize that it is they who are expendable…  But wait Cherry, your surprise will not be complete until Mark shows you the beaver pair he picked up…  OK, we’ll leave it at that…

Yup, but for those ducks, that never would have occurred to him…

Release the Beavers!  What a concept!  But it’s almost as if Mark wasn’t sure what his next move was going to be once he got the beavers home.  Were they to become permanent residents of Lost Forest?  Live in Rusty’s room?  Share the bathtub, Disney-style?  Well at least Mark put the pieces together and now the pair can start out again, in search of running water to dam up…  and he won’t disappoint Rusty with any notions of keeping them as pets

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I have to say, the forest fire was a completely random and non-sequitur event…  We don’t know the careless campers other than they were careless with fire and over-packed… and it of course introduced us to the BLM, where some of our federal tax dollars go to keep us safe and our interests protected.  Well, let’s hope that Wally Wood and Susan find it within themselves to continue their lives together, proper-like, all married and stuff.  Where will the Trail take us next?  Let’s find out tomorrow!