"He told the truth, mainly." - Mark Twain (Huckleberry Finn)
Although Charles Fisher ("Chip") Cooper has provided cartoons for magazines like The Saturday Evening Post, CHEMTECH, The Doctor's Review, and Physics Today (not to mention the prestigious SHEEP! Magazine) and has had his cartoons used in business and academic presentations and publications from Alaska to Nijmegan, he began life quite humbly on January 12, 1952 in the town of Rusk, Texas. This was about a mile from the Texas State Hospital which housed the unit for the criminally insane, and given his later behavior, there is some speculation that there was a mixup with the real Chip Cooper and an illegitimate progeny of one of the inmates. Alternatively, it has been pointed out that just prior to his birth the US government had begun its massive nuclear program and that the prevailing winds blew from the test sites in New Mexico and Nevada toward the Texas and Oklahoma prairies.
After being told by a Broadway set designer and magazine illustrator, that his cartoons would be better if he learned to draw, he began investing in Continuing Education Courses at the venerable Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. From the comments of the teachers and the grade from his first course (which was an "A") he figured that either he showed some promise or the teachers drank heavily at lunch. Either way he decided he might as well continue his family tradition of tossing good money after bad, and he has continued to sign up for PaFA's CE courses.
Studies at the Academy
But was in the small Oklahoma town named after the famous frontier lawyer who, to win a point during a trial, fired his pistols at the jury, that he received his first formal instruction. Later his family moved to the "urban megalopolis" of Oklahoma City where his classmates and teachers noted and commented on his rather pronounced rustic twang. Because of this, he made special efforts to polish his speaking style so that soon he was often mistaken for Sirs Michael Redgrave, Ralph Richardson, or James Mason.
The interlude in central Oklahoma was relatively short, however, and the family soon moved northeast to the smaller, but nevertheless bustling metropolis of Pryor Creek where after school he worked each day in the back of his father's newspaper shop. Despite the claims of some, there is no real evidence that he tried to have his father prosecuted for violation of child labor or minimum wage laws. But it cannot be denied that it was at this time that his attitude toward the American judicial system, the establishment, and authority in general became rather bitter and antagonistic. Nonetheless, he did get along quite well with the backshop employees who quickly dubbed him "Wedge" ("the simplest tool known to man"), a nickname of which he was justly proud.
During the summers he also worked for the Pryor Creek Municipal Utility Board, and there he came into contact with the American Common Man, that bulwark of American Democracy and the veritable Salt of the Earth, the "Good Old Boys". Their influence on the impressionable young man was great. Indeed, it was many years before he was aware that all males over 21 were not legally required to drive pick-up trucks with campers on the back, have gun racks hanging in the cab, and use slurred and incomprehensible words like "liberalpress", "lawnorder", and "goddamcommiehippies".
At the Utility Board
But it was as an employee of the Pryor Creek Municipal Utility Board that he was first introduced to the field of chemistry by his friend and mentor Alton G. "Monk" Wigley, superintendent of the local waste treatment plant. In addition to helping Monk run routine wastewater analysis and clean up after the 100,000 gallon digesters would overflow, one of his duties was to help round up Monk's cattle who grazed on the site and made cutting the grass unnecessary. The advantage of having the cattle keep the grounds in good order was probably the origin of his own keen distaste at performing lawn care. Analysts have suggested that it is this distaste which has been responsible for some of his more bizarre behavior which soon began to border on the abnormal and possibly even certifiable. But readers will be happy to hear that there is no truth to the rumor that his wife has been taking legal steps to have him involuntarily and indefinitely confined because he was about to have 25 head of Charolais installed on their quarter acre lawn.
It was also in Pryor Creek that he had the first of his infamous brushes with the law. Each instance is, of course, a matter of public record and need not be dwelt upon at length. His claim that each was really an act of civil disobedience and were inspired by the works of Henry David Thoreau has some credibility in that recently he proudly and courageously affirmed his actions under oath. So rather than being the ill-advised antics of an immature and misguided sociopath, there can be no doubt that these were simply the unique way of a concerned and courageous young man to protest the inhumanity and injustice in the world. Further proof is that in each case his moral position was so strong that the authorities declined to prosecute. And so it was with his honor vindicated that he soon left town to seek his fortune, and he did so tall and proud, a free man.
Like many young men from deprived and humble backgrounds, he realized that his only road to advancement lay in education. But he was uncertain as to whether this should be acquired formally or by attending that "Great University of Life" as going on the bum is often called. The receipt of a college music scholarship decided the issue for him, but when he found that the amount was only $50 a year, he was convinced that he should try making a living at something else.
Reading in Life Magazine that a Ph. D. chemist had applied to 80 companies without finding employment, he decided that was the job for him. After finally receiving his doctorate and marking time by post-doctoral studies, by some strange statistical fluke and much to his chagrin, he found himself hired by the research and development department of a large multinational corporation. By that time he was married to the former Connie Jeanne MacDonald who had made sure their vows had been exchanged before she introduced him to her parents.
Seeing that many of his co-workers had set up in private enterprise with their own consulting firms and were raking in the dough, he decided he might as well take advantage of the gullibility engendered by the modern American corporate culture, too. If they could set up side businesses that had no economic value and produced no real benefit to society, by golly, so could he. But having little or no inclination for hard work and possessing no skills that could be turned into a practical business, he was at a loss for a possible venture until one day his son showed him a picture of Garfield that he had drawn. So he figured, what the heck, he'd give cartooning a try.
To his amazement (and everyone else's), CHEMTECH not only accepted but actually paid good money for a selection from the first batch of submissions he sent to them. And when he actually made a sale to The Saturday Evening Post, he figured it was OK to start his own website. And so CooperToons was born.
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