Years ago at what may have been the last San Diego Comic Comic he attended, I had a chance to chat briefly with Stan Lynde and thank him for all those years with Rick O’Shay, Hipshot Percussion, Gaye Abandon, and all the other wonderful characters who inhabited the mythical town of Conniption.
I’m glad I had that opportunity.
Rick O’Shay ended its successful 23 year run in 1981, but Lynde had left the strip four years earlier in a conflict with the syndicate that owned the rights to the character.
He enjoyed some success with his follow up strip, Latigo, as well as his Western and historical novels and a variety of smaller projects, but there’s no denying Rick O’Shay was Lynde’s magnum opus.
As a native of Billings, Montana who grew up on a ranch, Lynde loved comic strips even as a child and in his own words “I wanted to be a cartoonist all my life — from age 5 or 6, that’s what I wanted to do.”
While Lynde was a master at any genre or topic, his specialty was his Western tales, to which he brought an authenticity that was impossible to fake.
A perfect blend of skill, technique, and story telling style that made Rick O’Shay one of the most delightful comic strips in the 1960s and 70s. One of the highlights for young Buzzy Dixon visiting his grandmother and aunt in Greensboro every summer was catching up on Rick’s adventures in their paper since almost none of the towns we lived in were among the 100 or so cities that carried the strip.
Lynde knew how to tell stories with a smile, not a sly wink, and while the characters and events may have been romanticized nostalgia, his draftsmanship and research was impeccable. He brought to West to life in a manner few other artists or writers have done.
Above and beyond his superb talent as a storyteller, Lynde was a masterful artist. It’s a shame that he never got the same attention and acclaim that other artists did who worked in different, more popular genres. He had a clean, precise style that stayed airy no matter how detailed the environment. Lynde’s dailies were always delights of detail and nuance, but he really shined brightest in his Sunday strips.
He displayed low-key approach to faith in his strips that could only be the product of sincere thought and belief; it’s just too easy for that sort of material to ring false under the best of circumstances, and hack word in the fields of the Lord is always obvious.
 One of the key distinctions between Rick O’Shay and Latigo, and one that perhaps explained the latter’s failure to gain the same traction Rick enjoyed, was that Rick O’Shay was first cousins with Gunsmoke and The Rifleman other family / community oriented TV Westerns of the 1950s while Latigo was more akin to A Man Called Gannon. It speaks volumes that I can hair-split among Western sub-genres this accurately…
 One of my favorites that I haven’t been able to locate on the interWebs was a Christmas strip, where Hipshot rode into the mountains to commune with God in solitude. As he spoke, he mentioned how if everyone followed Jesus’ teachings, there wouldn’t be any need for gunmen like himself “and you know, boss, I’d like that jes’ fine.”