President’s Column – April 2004

Title: The Many Faces of the RMAG: Part II: The Comics
Author: Donna S. Anderson
Publication: The Outcrop, April 2004, p. 3

One of the less-publicized and under-appreciated traits of some of our colleagues is humor. Delving into the history of the RMAG written by Hal Kellogg in 1997 (The Mountain Geologist, v. 34, no.4), we find that humor has incurred the wrath of some of the membership and the exultation of others. Let’s face it: humor is subjective. One person’s wit is another’s disdain, and at worst, an insult.

Yet, the comedians in our midst flourish. Those of you who regularly have attended the monthly luncheons and Rockbusters Ball and read the Outcrop have witnessed the antics of a select few members of the RMAG: the recipients of the Shaft, the RMAG humor award. Since publication of Hal’s history (witty and well-written), we have seen the addition of three Shaftees. Traditionally, the Shaft award ceremony at the Rockbusters Ball (late fall of each year) includes a reprise performance from the Shaftee. In 1997, the performance of one of the Shaft co-awardees was almost single-handedly responsible for “excommunicating the Rockbusters Ball from everyone’s social list” (GN, personal communication). Recalling that performance in my first attendance of a Rockbusters Ball, I was impressed. Not only had an unfortunate guest accidentally caught part of her dress on fire from a table candle earlier in the evening, but here we had a counterpart to tragedy: base humor coming from a member of our distinguished society. The co-Shaftee of that evening didn’t say too much because she expressed herself in cartoons that are part of the permanent archive of the Outcrop. I will always recall, however, her cartoon of fluvial models that showed well-proportioned women dressed in fining-upward successions of sedimentary structures.

After 1997, a long dry spell persisted, perhaps in conjunction with global warming. No Shaftees rose to the surface until recently. In 2002, we had the privilege/misfortune (circle one) to witness the 2nd Vice President give a “talk before the luncheon talk” commonly accompanied by PowerPoint presentations, including a memorable one featuring his genealogy. That year’s performance culminated in a karaoke/disco program for the distinguished guests of the Rockbusters Ball. Although there were no talent scouts in the audience, this gentleman was clearly a prime candidate for the Shaft award. He received it last year.

I had forgotten that the Shaft award consists of a rubber-tipped bamboo spear that originated, according to written and oral tradition, as a prop from a 1965 “South Pacific” theme party at the Petroleum Club. However, I can lend some insight into the true origin of the Shaft. In 1958, my cousin and I went to Jungleland at (the real) Disneyland in southern California. We went on the Jungle boat-ride where unfriendly natives brandished spears, attacking our boat. Well, we just had to have one of those spears. Amazingly, rubber-tipped bamboo facsimiles were for sale at the concession stand at the end of the boat ride, along with assorted rubber snakes, which we were not allowed to purchase. Later in the summer, my cousin and I were at Dana Point (pre-marina for you southern California natives), with our spears, hunting for sea cucumbers, starfish, and surfers. My cousin threw his spear at a surfer, and we never saw it again. It likely floated through the Panama Canal into the Gulf of Mexico, up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and up the South Platte to Denver. Ripley Marks, a keen observer, noticed it as it came to rest on a sand bar. Knowing this was somewhat unusual and being in the market for a costume for an upcoming South Pacific theme party, he picked it up. When he accidentally left it at the Petroleum Club, the Jungleland spear became the impromptu Shaft award. April Fools.