Mike Ragland -Cotton in my Blood

Mike Ragland, Guest Columnist


The Rome Writers have a habit of meeting with the Rome Art Coterie in October. You know, it’s kind of a group get-together of people who spend hours behind a keyboard or with a paint brush. We always have a prompt to write about, and they take the prompt and paint or draw pictures. This year’s prompt was “Lost in the Jungle.”

That prompt conjures up many different pictures for me. The first time I heard our president mention it, I immediately thought of Ronnie Milsap singing “Lost in the ’50s Tonight.” And when I hear the song, it carries me back to the days of Elvis and “Blue Suede Shoes” or “Rock Around The Clock” with Bill Haley and the Comets. Of course, my favorite was Buddy Holly, who was killed in a plane crash way too young. I was lost in the music of the ’50s.

I was also lost in the serial cowboy shows of the era. Roy and Gene saved the world several times. With Red Ryder and Little Beaver in Texas, along with the Durango Kid, the west was safe.

Then I was lost in the jungle. I think my first fascination with the jungle was with Rudyard Kipling’s “Jungle Book,” first published in 1894, about a boy raised by wolves in the Indian jungle. He has a hard time leaving his wolf family and returning to the man village. He had a tiger after him, but a panther and bear were traveling with him and helped a lot. I was hooked. I even loved the 1967 movie version.

Jungle Jim started on radio in 1935 and ran for twenty years. My dad and I would listen to the radio program toward the end of its run. The movie was shown in 1948, and I got to see “the great white hunter” some ten years after it was first released. By then I was captivated and knew all the characters.

Then there was “Tarzan.” He first appeared in a 1912 publication created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He was a fictional character, a feral child raised in the African jungle by the Mangani Great Apes after his parents were killed. He later experiences civilization only to reject it and return to the wild as a heroic adventurer. Tarzan was cool. He could talk to the monkeys and call up herds of elephants by his unique yell. He fought crocodiles, lions, gorillas, rhinos, pythons and all kinds of critters without ever getting a scratch.

He finds the scantily clad Jane (now she would be dressed for a ball), my first love, and they marry and have a son that they call “Boy,” ’cause he ain’t a girl. Tarzan grabs Jane up and they swing through the jungle, him yelling and her holding on for dear life, with their chimp Cheetah not far behind.

His favorite dress is a loincloth and a knife. His favorite meal is raw meat that he has killed himself. He loved to sleep on tree branches. Tarzan had a great influence on our culture. He has been called one of the best known literature characters in the world. In addition to more than two dozen books by Burroughs and a handful of other authors, he has appeared in radio, films, television, comic strips and comic books. It’s easy to get lost in the jungle if you’re a Tarzan fan.

Then there was the Phantom, who was left for dead by pirates on the African coast and nursed back to health by the Pygmy poison people, who introduced him to his new dwelling, the Skull Cave. He takes a solemn oath to fight piracy until it is wiped off the face of the earth. He leaves his skull mark on the jaw of many an evildoer and passes down his grey and black Phantom suit to his offspring until he becomes known among the tribes as the “ghost who walks.” I loved the Phantom; he was the superhero of my youth, and as far as I know, he’s still out there crunching crime.

“Sheena, Queen of the Jungle,” premiered in the UK in 1937 and in the US in 1938. She was the first female comic book character with her own title. She preceded Wonder Women by three years. Sheena was an orphan that grew up in the jungle, learning how to survive and thrive. She possessed the ability to communicate with wild animals and was proficient in fighting with knives, spears, bows and makeshift weapons. She targeted slave traders and evil white hunters, native Africans and wild animals.

“Alley Oop” came to life in 1932. Later propelled to the twentieth century through a time machine, he didn’t seem to find it much different than his home kingdom of “Moo.” The Hollywood Argyles wrote a little tune about him.

He rides through the jungle tearing limbs off of trees

(Alley Oop, oop, oop-oop)

Knockin’ great big monsta’s dead on their knees

(Alley Oop, oop, oop-oop)

He’s the toughest man there is alive, wearing clothes from a wildcat’s hide

He’s the king of the jungle jive, Look at that cave man go.

In 1967 we find a parody of Tarzan, “George of the Jungle,” which becomes extremely popular. George is a big-hearted, dimwit of a fellow living in a tree house with a toucan named Tookie-Tookie and a pet elephant named Shep. He does have a multitude of adventures, but never seems to master the skill of Tarzan in swinging on jungle vines

George, George, George of the Jungle…Look out for that tree.

And who don’t remember “The Lion King?” The jungle has been part of our lives from the day we were born. May we stay lost.

Being lost in our memories is the fun part, and being able to remember the good times and getting lost in our minds, whether its music, cowboys and Indians or being “Lost in the Jungle.”

Mike Ragland is a former Cave Spring city councilman and a retired Rome police major. His most recent book is “Living with Lucy.” Readers may contact him at mrag@bellsouth.net or mikeragland.com