By Catherine Merlo
The first time I met Leigh Rubin, I was already laughing.
I had wandered by his booth during World Dairy Expo 2006 and picked up one of his cartoon books. The first cartoon I saw made me laugh out loud. Before I knew it, I was drawn into Leigh’s world, a place where cows, people and other animals show their funny, slice-of-life, sometimes sardonic, side.
I looked up and saw a short, unassuming man with round, wire-rimmed glasses and dark, curly hair watching me quizzically.
“These are so funny,” I said.
“Thank you,” replied Leigh.
“These are yours?” I asked incredulously. (How rude of me, now that I think about it.)
|One of Leigh Rubin's cow cartoons.
|Turns out, it was Leigh’s first appearance at Expo and the cartoons were from his daily “Rubes” cartoon panels. Since 1989, Rubes has been syndicated by Creators Syndicate to over 400 newspapers and magazines worldwide. To top it off, Leigh is from California, my home state. He, however, lives on the beautiful Central Coast, a glamorous setting compared to meat-and-potatoes Bakersfield.
Leigh attends several shows around the country each year promoting Rubes. He’s come to rank World Dairy Expo as one of his favorites. “The shows are always fun and my humor seems to really be appreciated,” he says. “I enjoy Expo as I meet so many interesting people from around the world, not to mention Madison is a fun town.”
I’m no stranger to Leigh’s work anymore. I have several of his books, a Rubes T-shirt, greeting cards and his “Zoo in a Box” calendars. In fact, I give Leigh’s calendars as Christmas presents. The students in my husband’s high school social studies classes love Leigh’s calendar. It’s the kind where you tear off each page to find a new cartoon each day. The students can’t resist turning the pages to see what’s next.
There are some people who inexplicably spark our laughter. Leigh does that for me. It took getting out of my everyday world to discover a new wellspring of inspiration and laughter – and about cows, no less! World Dairy Expo can do that.
Does a cartoonist belong at World Dairy Expo? Covering the dairy industry typically isn’t a barrel of laughs. It’s a tough business. The producers I talk to these days are keeping their noses to the grindstone as they try to survive high feed and fuel costs, daunting regulations, and an increasingly demanding market.
But, sometimes, we need to step back, breathe deeply –- and laugh. It’s good, simple, inexpensive therapy. If you’re in need of such a treatment, stop by Leigh’s booth next week in Exhibition Hall, space C-1. That’s across from the ice cream stand. If you won’t be at Expo, log on to http://www.creators.com/comics/rubes.html for more about Leigh and his Rubes cartoons.