What th’?!

Albo P Fossa—March 3, 2023

Cartoonist Ed Dodd introduced Mark Trail in 1946. Trail’s a photojournalist and outdoor magazine writer. He’s a sleuth, watching for danger and environmental misdeeds. His catch-phrase was “What th’?!” Jules Rivera now keeps up the comic strip in print and online.

Daily strips build the plot. In one, the editor suspects an attack in Water Bear Country. (“What th’?!”) Trail tells him “Water Bears” are microscopic tardigrades. In the Sunday funnies, Mark Trail’s strip shows tardigrade size, parts, and kin. These critters can live most anywhere, even in space! “Out of this world!” Next week, Trail goes to “Water Bear Country”. And the adventure goes on…

In 1997, NOAA began using Trail as its official mascot. “NOAA weather radios should be as common in homes and public places as smoke detectors!” Trail’s legacy: TV watchers may press “Mute” for the blare. “THIS is a test…this is only a test…” iPhone owners may opt out of WEA alerts. Blasts and lights at government discretion for “Winter Weather Advisories”. (“What th’?!”)

With weather apps we may see climate change. Now, on “Weather Gone Viral”, we may see extreme conditions “in almost every corner of the world.” With almost we may wonder about which other corners. Where would Mark Trail find the most boring weather in the world? A true topic for an environmental sleuth. (“What th’?!”) Extremes in all seasons of fire, flooding, wind, heat, and cold seem to have become the new normal.

Be fruitful and multiply. By the mid-twentieth century the world’s human population reached three billion. Concern for climate change grew. Like all critters, we leave a trail. Words mark our trail in the dust.

Dust to dust. What th’?!