Tumbleweed Smith
Tumbleweed Smith

Donnie Pitchford of Carthage wrote 15 episodes of the Dick Tracy comic strip. They started last December.

“The series was called A Minute Mystery,” says Donnie. “I wrote the Dick Tracy cartoon that appeared on a Sunday in late December and then I did the next 14 days. It was a big deal for me.”

Donnie spent 30 years teaching broadcast journalism to high school students. Many of them won awards for their work. After he retired from teaching, Donnie took up cartooning, something he had wanted to do all his life.

“I started drawing almost as soon as I can remember being able to hold a pencil. I decided at age 5 I wanted to be a cartoonist. I read the Sunday comics, every comic book I could get my hands on. I watched animation on television. That’s what I wanted to do. I drew a lot of Popeye when I was a kid. I’m glad I did because I got to do some Popeye art in later years. That was fun. I was accepted into the National Cartoonist Society a few years ago which was a lifetime goal.”

Donnie listened to the Stephen F. Austin University campus radio station that played some old radio programs. Donnie had never heard them before but his parents talked about them. The Lum and Abner radio program intrigued him.

“It had a jot ‘em down store in a country town called Pine Ridge and had a cast of characters. The two actors played all the parts. It started in 1931 and was a national sensation for almost a quarter of a century. Seven movies were made starring Lum and Abner.”

Donnie decided to start a comic strip of the old radio series.

“I contacted a guy in Arkansas who had a news agency online and I proposed my Lum and Abner comic strip. He liked the idea and now my Sunday Lum and Abner comic strip is in newspapers and magazines from Arkansas to Florida.”

Not content to just have his cartoons in print, Donnie started a three to five minute audio version for blind people. He does most of the voices and sound effects. He demonstrated his ability to sound exactly like the characters on the old radio show and I was amazed. He has a broadcast studio where he does his recordings. Occasionally he’ll have friends come in to do some voices. He’s been doing his cartoon eight years and produced more than 400 strips.

“They’re in Sunday comics style. I start with a radio script, which takes about 30 minutes to write, then I start drawing. The color is added digitally. My cartoons and audio versions are at LumandAbnerSociety.org.”