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Folks who keep on pluggin' inspire popular comic strip.

Byline: MARK BAKER The Register-Guard

Plugger \Plugger\, n. One who, or that which, plugs. (2) Steady, dogged and usually uninspired worker.

- Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary

PLUGGERVILLE - They come from Selma, Ala., and Deatsville, Ala. From Lubbock, Texas, and Lima, Ohio. From Rapid City, S.D., and Wheeler, W.V.

They come from all over America.

And, yes, they come from around here, too, those ideas for "Pluggers," that somewhat goofy, somewhat hokey comic strip that lets the readers do the writing.

That cartoon that depicts plain folks who reflect the backbone of America, but in the guise of bears and rhinos, rabbits and dogs.

The creatures come from Pluggerville, according to the strip's Web site, www.pluggers.com. And for an alleged bunch of uninspired pluggers, they seem to have lots of inspiration.

Recently, the comic has received ideas from three folks in Lane County and published them.

"That does seem rare," said a spokeswoman with Tribune Media Services in Chicago, the comic's publisher.

Maybe, maybe not, said Gary Brookins, who draws the daily cartoon panel.

Certain parts of the country tend to inspire more plugger ideas than others, he said. States such as Alabama, Texas and South Carolina; cities such as Lima, Ohio, of all places, and even Santa Barbara, Calif. - about as unpluggerlike a place as you're likely to find - seem to be loaded with pluggers.

And Eugene.

Since The Register-Guard started running the comic three years ago, Brookins has been flooded with ideas from here, he said. "We get a lot of great mail from Eugene," Brookins said. "I'm kind of surprised. Isn't Eugene kind of cosmopolitan?"

Asked how Eugene got two in one week during mid-November, Brookins, editorial cartoonist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Richmond, Va., said he wasn't sure.

"I generally try to spread them out. It could have been that I wasn't paying attention," he said with a laugh.

In addition to the two Eugene residents, Clarene Hample and Pam Huston, an idea sent in by a Coburg man, Michael Boyers, was published on Sept. 21.

"Those things are really fun to sit and think about," said Huston, whose idea - that a home entertainment center is a grandma playing with her grandchild - was published in newspapers around the nation, including The Register-Guard, on Nov. 15.

Six days later, on Nov. 21, "Pluggers" showed some sort of creature - Hample thinks it was a rooster - spooning up hot alphabet soup. "Plugger gourmet soup often has the alphabet in it," read the caption.

Although the idea was Hample's, the box in the comic said it came from Clarence Hample of Eugene. "I wasn't that surprised," said Hample, 67, whose first name is a combination of Clara, her grandmother's name, and Earlene, a great aunt. "It happens all the time."

Hample said she sent her idea to "Pluggers" on a postcard a couple of months ago. "And there it was in the paper on Nov. 21," she said. "I didn't even tell my family about it. I just stuck it on my refrigerator."

The comic always gets her thinking about how different people are, Hample said. "It's very rural," she said. "It's very redneck, which I am not."

According the strip's Web site, "pluggers are the hard-working people the world depends on. They represent the 80 percent of humanity who unceremoniously keep plugging along, balancing work, play and family life. Pluggers encounter and conquer obstacles in their lives, but they always have a positive attitude and a good sense of humor. They're the people who work hard for what they get. Even if they're struggling, they are optimistic about life."

Hample likes the comic because "it's kind of nice for people to put in their two cents worth."

Michael Boyer, who recently moved from his hometown of Coburg to nearby Harrisburg, has put his two cents in with "Pluggers" several times. In fact, his Sept. 21 publication was his sixth, he said.

Other ideas have been published with credit going to "pluggers everywhere," and he's had an idea published in the Sunday "Pluggers," which The Register-Guard does not run.

"It caught my eye when The Register-Guard first started running it," said Boyer, a welder-fabricator for Whaley's Industrial Service in Harrisburg. Boyer, 48, moved to Coburg as a child and the characters in "Pluggers" remind him of the people he knew growing up, he said.

His idea published Sept. 21 shows a dog plugger giving another dog plugger a haircut. "Cut it short," the cuttee says. "A plugger's not worried about looks, just mileage," the caption says.

The idea came from the barber who used to cut his hair as a child, Boyer said. "We all hated going to him," he said, "because you'd come out looking like an onion."

The original idea for "Pluggers" came from David Hume Kennerly, Brookins said. A Roseburg native and a former staff photographer at The Oregonian, Kennerly won a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for his images of Vietnam.

He came up with the idea in the early 1990s and asked his friend, Jeff MacNelly, the creator of the comic strip "Shoe" and also a 1972 Pulitzer winner for editorial cartoons at the now-defunct Richmond News-Leader, to draw it, Brookins said.

Initially, the ideas came from MacNelly, who then started receiving ideas from readers (Brookins said he typically receives 300 to 400 ideas each week).

And that's how today's "Pluggers" was created.

MacNelly, who died of cancer two years ago, asked his friend, Brookins, to take over the strip in 1997 after MacNelly's son died in a rock climbing accident, Brookins said.

Despite the tragic circumstance that led to his drawing the comic, Brookins said, "It's just a whole lot of fun to work on. People really appreciate that it reflects their lives."

But it's not for everyone, he admitted. "There are some people who just don't get it," he said. "And they'll never get it. They're just not pluggers."

WANT TO BE A PLUGGER, TOO?

Send your ideas to Pluggers: c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611, or e-mail them to chiefplugr@aol.com

CAPTION(S):

WAYNE EASTBURN / The Register-Guard Pam Huston of Eugene recently had her idea - inspired by her 8-month-old granddaughter, Flynn - published in the "Pluggers" comic panel.
COPYRIGHT 2002 The Register Guard
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Entertainment
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 30, 2002
Words:1043
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