At Dewclaw’s Fine Meats, the staff predators are holding their own in competition against the Herd Thinners staff. Of course, Kell’s company is only local right now, while Herd Thinners has divisions all over. This is still the Herd Thinners base of operations, though, and it’s a big deal to not be able to crush a startup competitor on its “home turf.” That’s one reason that R.L. sees Kell as an existential threat.
Meanwhile, his employees keep trying to exact revenge on his erstwhile spy, Dip the Sheep. (They’ve apparently seen through his poodle disguise.) On a number of occasions his life was saved only through the interventions of Caniche Chien, the security guard.
Their professional relationship has seemed to develop into a romantic one, although cynical Rudy seems to believe that Ms. Chien is just angling for a green card. The two went to the Dog Park for their lunch hour on Wednesday, and some quick thinking enabled them to deflect the suspicions of the other canines.
Bruno continues to tutor Dip on the ways of a canine, which now has evolved into imparting relationship advice. Judging by how long Bruno and Corrie have sustained theirs, it’s coming from an expert.
Of course there was no way I was going to miss Rudy’s appearance on TV, so after I left the lab at Beige I made the two-hour drive home to Domain.
Around Rudy’s garden the show’s technicians had already set up lights and makeshift bleachers that seated about 150. Cameras and sound equipment were being readied. The same thing was happening at the locations of the two other finalists, one in Oregon and another in Wisconsin.
I tried to stay out of the way as Fiona got Rudy dressed in his tuxedo overalls. (Certainly more stylish than that Easter Bunny costume) Dad and Kell actually seemed more nervous than Rudy. Coney, meanwhile, just enjoyed the spectacle.
The show began with the emcee introducing video biographies of the finalists. They couldn’t not mention Rudy’s trip into space on the space shuttle, but glossed over the fact that he stowed away. No mention of the Easter Bunny job, so that secret is still safe.
There was a musical number by Christine Arugula, and then each finalist harvested their garden. For the first time ever, Rudy impressed me with actual physical grace.
He won, and basked in the adulation. After the show was over, the crew quickly broke down the set. With almost eerie efficiency they and every trace of their presence were gone in ninety minutes.
I stayed up with the family, and at 4:00 a.m. I drove back to Beige, arriving at dawn. Fenton, of course, had seen the whole thing on TV. He’d have come, but he had nocturnal classes at 11:00 p.m. and 1 a.m.
One last revelation. It was actually Elanor who called Gran to request her services in helping Rudy. It’s interesting how *that* relationship has developed.
Even though this show has been on the air for years it never penetrated Rudy’s carnivore awareness, so its format is completely new to him. When he first heard about it he assumed that the judges would just show up at the house and evaluate his harvest on the basis of quality and total weight. That, he learned, was just the qualifying process.
After he passed that test he was booked on the show. He then discovered that the harvesting was a performance. The show would set up cameras at the gardens of the three finalists, who were graded on the poise they demonstrated in yanking vegetables out of the ground.
Gran was enlisted to help. She and Rudy, despite their great differences in age and diet, have developed an interesting bond. Both have the condition known as dystracksia, which makes following tracks a challenge. They’ve also demonstrated athletic prowess; Gran as a track star in her youth and a career as a physical therapist, and Rudy during hunting competitions. They seem to speak the same language, despite their conflicts.
This current conflict lies in teaching Rudy the rudiments of extracting his crop in a way that the judges will favor. (i.e., not like a canine.)
We’ll find out tomorrow night if that dog can learn a new trick.
From the moment that Rudy began gardening (to pay back the Kindle family for helping him one Easter morning to deliver eggs), he’s been as surprised as anyone by his success. He keeps insisting that all he does is put seeds in the ground and keep the pests away, but maybe that’s enough. As someone who grew up among rabbits, I did observe that they often over thought the gardening process.
Rudy also maintains that something akin to a placebo effect is at work; that herbivores just *think* that vegetables he grows tastes better because a wolf grew them. The plant eaters bring the sense of danger to the table with them.
Regardless, the local food critics have taken note, and the most prominent among them has connections to the TV show “America’s Got Compost.” That show’s been on the air for a while and seems to be getting somewhat stale, so the producers were looking for a new angle. Rudy is apparently providing one.
They sent they own experts (worms) who certified Rudy’s gardening prowess. Now I’m not sure if he knows what he’s getting into. Competitive gardening has its own challenges, and he’s about to discover a whole new level.
On your mark, get set, harvest!
Something unusual this week; it’s a message from the creator of the comic strip that has apparently reached its 18th anniversary (despite reporting on just five years of our family’s history). Anyway here it is, via Catherine Aura from the human side of the portal.
Bill Holbrook here. I’d like to address an issue that a number of readers have communicated to me. Namely, their observance that I don’t do “long” storylines anymore.
In a sense, I am still doing long storylines. For example, we’re currently involved in one that’s been going on for over three years, that began with Kell’s ascension to Herd Thinners CEO, her attempts at changing the Herd Thinners culture and her subsequent dismissal, and her efforts at launching her competing company. All of these events have taken place under a single ongoing arc.
What’s changed is that I’ve consciously broken up long story arcs into one- or two-week episodes. The impetus for this shift came about a decade ago when I realized how large the strip’s archives were becoming. As one of the oldest webcomics (and now the longest continually -running strip on the web) it makes sense that “Kevin & Kell” would be the first to create the dread condition of Archive Panic.
That is what afflicts a new reader to a long-running webcomic who hears about it for the first time, perhaps recommended by a friend or by an intriguing link. They naturally start reading from the start, and then suddenly realize how many strips there are ahead of them. Often they experience shock, and never come back.
At this point I want to deeply thank those of you who soldiered on and made the long journey through the archives all the way up to the present. My gratitude is boundless!
Currently the “Kevin & Kell” archives number about 6,000 strips. What I’ve tried to do for the past ten years is construct the strip so that a new reader doesn’t have to go back to the start to enjoy it, but so anyone can jump right in with the current day’s strip. That’s why the individual episodes are short self-contained stories, in service of long multiyear arcs.
At Dewclaw’s Fine Meats, Frank Mangle had a problem. Namely, R.L. had been alarmingly adept at sneaking spies onto the payroll. So far two had confessed and turned away from their allegiance to Herd Thinners, but that didn’t mean more could be in the building.
Protecting Dip the sheep, one of those former spies, was a top priority since employee morale was at stake. If R.L. (or Angelique, most likely) could show that revenge could be exacted against any one of his former employees, most of the DFM staff would begin looking over their shoulders in dread.
Frank had to hire a personal bodyguard for Dip, and he had to go all the way to France to find one that could be guaranteed to be free of ties to R.L.: Caniche Chien, a poodle. She had an excellent resume with a background in law enforcement, with decorations for physical combat.
That came in handy when one of R.L.’s employees hijacked an empty city bus and got to the bus stop before the real transit vehicle. After picking up Dip and Caniche he drove it into the Wysiwyg River where he thought he’d have the advantage, but the new arrival quickly got the upper hand on the reptile. The alligator was charged with felony theft and a host of traffic violations.
Dip is safe for now, but quite infatuated. Me, I wonder why Caniche left her country in the first place. Is she running from her past? Is Dewclaw’s Fine Meats a reverse version of the French foreign legion?
Dip was terrified when he and Corrie reached the boarding house and he saw Bruno for the first time. Despite his artificial ram horns and fake sheepskin Bruno is still unmistakably a wolf on the outside. It took quick explaining to reassure Dip that Bruno has had trans-diet surgery on both his teeth and digestive tract to become as much a ruminant as Dip is.
Even so, Dip rebelled against the idea of adopting a poodle lifestyle to throw Herd Thinners predators off the track. Rashly, he dressed himself in the clothes he’d worn to work and set out without anyone protecting him.
It seems as if the predators who stayed with R.L. were several skill levels below the ones who joined Kell when she was dismissed last year. A defenseless, oblivious sheep was able to avoid their repeated attempts on his life, mainly through blind luck. It wasn’t until a rain of cutlery barely missed him that he realized he’d better dash back to the boarding house.
He resigned himself to the identity of a poodle, although I believe that at this point Herd Thinners is aware of his disguise. One new development, however, may cause him to reconsider his objection to being canine.
Trouble at Dewclaw’s Fine Meats this week, when Dip the sheep left the office at 5:00 only to be almost taken by a Herd Thinners employee. Fortunately his boss Rhonda was right behind him, and predator became prey.
The carcass was added to the next day’s inventory, and during the skinning and butchering process his identity was revealed. Kell was notified, with the concern that Dip’s identity as a double agent was no longer a secret to R.L.
…Or to Angelique. This has her written all over it. Nobody bears a grudge longer than she, and it’s just like her to extract the ultimate revenge again someone who double-crossed her. I should know; she raised me.
Dip’s safety was the number one priority, and Corrie was called in to give him an effective disguise. She sheered his fleece to resemble a poodle as she had done to herself once. It was…passable…but what made hers so perfect was being Kell’s biological neice. (See here for the Family Tree.) She’s already half-canine. Dip didn’t have that advantage.
She’s now taking him back to the boarding house where Martha Dewclaw has a room waiting for him.
About six months ago, the ad agency that Kell uses for Dewclaw’s Fine Meats suggested that they demonstrate the company’s variety of offerings by showing all of us eating at home. Kell asked if that was okay with us, and we all agreed.
Filming took place over Spring break, and I drove up from Beige. It was on stage set built to look like our home. My role was to eat insects of the type provided by Kell’s insectivore hunters. I was able to do that in just a few takes.
I’d pretty much forgotten about it until this week when the ad aired. It was totally innocuous, but somehow the Comment section on its online posting created a firestorm.
It had been years since anyone had criticized the blended nature of our family, so our initial reaction was astonishment. It made national news, which pleased the ad agency to no end.
Still, it’s an unnerving reminder.
Coney is back from Predator Camp, and for the first time she had an experience that was thankfully devoid of extracurricular drama. Lin also stayed within the rules, but the same could not be said for Harcourt…or Wendell.
After encountering each other Wendell delivered an uppercut to Harcourt’s jaw that freed him from his grasp. To Harcourt’s credit he was able to immediately recover and give chase. Wendell ran directly into a snare trap, and seconds later another ten feet away caught Harcourt.
They each knew time was of the essence, as the predator who set the traps was likely close by. They couldn’t free themselves and the only sharp objects at hard were Harcourt’s claws.
Wendell made the calculation that it was his only way out, and his trust was rewarded when Harcourt freed him with one swipe. Wendell then did what he’d been taught by every authority figure in rabbit society: run.
That would have been the end of Harcourt if Wendell had followed the training and instinct instilled within him. But something pulled him back, and Harcourt was saved from a large wild feline with a blow to the head. Together the two boys tied it up with the ropes used for the snares.
Harcourt summoned Coney and Lin. Wendell, who had just incapacitated a predator three times his size, fled at the instant Lin’s name was mentioned. Hmm.
Harcourt was given credit for the feline, which was only fair. It was his decision to free Wendell that led to the catch. Teasing was no longer an issue for the rest of the camp stay.
Eventually, though, he’ll actually have to catch something, and he knows it.