“The tools would lack something in sophistication”
December 27, 2021 9:34 AM   Subscribe

Cow Tools (previously) is a cartoon from Gary Larson's The Far Side, published in October of 1982. Immediately upon the cartoon's publication Chronicle Features was inundated with queries from readers and newspaper editors seeking an explanation of the cartoon. According to the general manager of Chronicle Features, “the phone never stopped ringing for two days.” “So many people didn’t get it that “Far Side” creator Gary Larson drafted a statement Thursday afternoon, explaining the cartoon’s meaning.” Today’s internet has finally caught up with Larson’s imagination. A growing flood of cow tools memes has helped modern readers explore the uncharted depths of a 39 year old cartoon: Getting cow tools off the streets. “I guess you’re not ready for that one yet.”  For sale: cow tools, barely worn. “hey kid. wanna buy some cow tools.” When mom finds the cow tools. “now I know you were the cow and I was the tool.” “I’d like to borrow two dollars” kicks off a survey thread from Konstantin Boristovich. Readers are “ecstatic to discover there's a FB group dedicated to churning out Cow Tools memes regularly.”
posted by migurski (49 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
 
As an avowed follower of The Far Side since its original newspaper-based form, I absolutely love that this is happening. I'm just sad that as a non-FB person I can't see that group's efforts.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:44 AM on December 27, 2021 [5 favorites]


Thank you for posting this. It's what I needed, if only for this.
posted by Peach at 9:48 AM on December 27, 2021 [9 favorites]


[displays table of mystifying Human Implements]
posted by phooky at 10:03 AM on December 27, 2021 [3 favorites]


There used to be a bicycle shop who would regularly put out "name this tool" contests online for things they found at the bottoms of drawers, having lain there unused for 50 years. This... thing with a flange and a square protrusion and... is that the business end, or the handle?
posted by tigrrrlily at 10:12 AM on December 27, 2021


I'd not seen this one before. I too did not get it. so I read the explanation by Mr Larson and LAUGHED MY F'ING HEAD OFF. it's just silliness. he's so brilliant.
posted by supermedusa at 10:16 AM on December 27, 2021


all in all a worthy reminder that there's nothing particularly wrong with being confused.

Speaking of which, these are probably my two all time favourite Far Side moments, both courtesy of the Dayton Daily News which managed to get the images/text of Far Side and Dennis the Menace confused ... to enlightening effect.

petrified skull
hamsters again
posted by philip-random at 10:28 AM on December 27, 2021 [35 favorites]


If you're not the cow, you're the tool.
posted by chavenet at 10:36 AM on December 27, 2021 [5 favorites]


a-and as long as we're remembering favorites, my two are: Boneless Chicken Ranch and Blah blah blah Ginger
posted by chavenet at 10:40 AM on December 27, 2021 [2 favorites]


"Hamsters Again" is the name of my (non-existent) band's next album.
posted by jzb at 10:42 AM on December 27, 2021 [3 favorites]


I was a Far Side reader but also had all of Bill Kliban's books, the abstract stuff was fun once in a while.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:01 AM on December 27, 2021 [5 favorites]


so basically everyone was overthinking this panel like a plate of beef
posted by supermedusa at 11:04 AM on December 27, 2021 [8 favorites]


also had all of Bill Kliban's books, the abstract stuff was fun once in a while.

You can say that again!
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:09 AM on December 27, 2021 [3 favorites]


The "Spock's Brain" of Far Side cartoons.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:11 AM on December 27, 2021 [2 favorites]


Around that time I lived 10 or so blocks from Mr Larson. Never met. Only instance I wish I'd had the "crazed groupie gene".
posted by sammyo at 11:33 AM on December 27, 2021


there's nothing particularly wrong with being confused.

Sometimes it's even necessary, if you're a cat.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 11:34 AM on December 27, 2021 [2 favorites]


I was a Far Side reader but also had all of Bill Kliban's books, the abstract stuff was fun once in a while.

For a while, GoComics ran a Kliban panel every day, but that went away a couple of years ago. I recenty joined a Kliban group on FB, but too many people are just posting the cats and not the other great ones (although the Hardw meme lives on). GoComics still has the original Far Side panels.

and as long as we're remembering favorites, my two are: Boneless Chicken Ranch and Blah blah blah Ginger
Along with those, my other Far Side all-time favrotie is "Cat Fud".

My absolute favorite Kliban is "Bring some shit for my fly"
posted by briank at 11:42 AM on December 27, 2021 [12 favorites]


"In the meantime, you may want to ask yourself, 'Am I a happy cow?'"

And my Far Side pantheon includes cat fud ---> and the Liver & Onions truck
posted by thecincinnatikid at 11:55 AM on December 27, 2021 [1 favorite]




loss rules
posted by signal at 12:11 PM on December 27, 2021 [3 favorites]


Recent riff on Larson: Cyanide & Happiness: Far Sided
posted by straw at 12:13 PM on December 27, 2021 [4 favorites]


It was late and I was tired...

Which I don't seem to be able to find online.
posted by emmet at 1:48 PM on December 27, 2021 [2 favorites]


My favorite FS cartoon, and one that apparently someone also needed explained.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:00 PM on December 27, 2021


I recenty joined a Kliban group on FB, but too many people are just posting the cats and not the other great ones (although the Hardw meme lives on).

I know the group. I delight in spotting a HARDW in the wild, where fortuitous framing of a snapshot has rendered a deep cut reference.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:00 PM on December 27, 2021 [1 favorite]


I'm disappointed the statement didn't mention a "cow-ntroversy"
posted by Pronoiac at 2:02 PM on December 27, 2021 [2 favorites]


My favorite FS cartoon, and one that apparently someone also needed explained.

If someone needed that explained, I'd seriously re-evaluate whether I wanted to know this person.

One of my favourite jokes:

Two racehorses are standing in adjoining stalls in a stable the night before a big race. After a time the older one clears his throat and addresses the younger: "So... we're both going to be in the big race tomorrow, and as you may know, this is my last race. I've had a long career but I'm not getting any younger, and with this season wrapping up, I heard my owner say that he is retiring me. I've been a pretty successful racer and I know that if I win in my final race, I will get to live out my days on his farm, giving little rides to his grandchildren, eating hay, maybe doing a bit of stud duty. If I don't win, it's off to the glue factory with me. We both know that I am not as young and strong as you, but I'm asking you just to take it easy tomorrow... coming in second is a minor setback for you, but it's huge for me. So please, for the love of God, can you hold back a bit tomorrow and let me win?"

The younger horses chews his hay thoughtfully for a long moment before answering: "I understand what you're saying, I really do, and I'd like to help you out. But consider this from my point of view. I'm just entering the prime of my racing career, and if I were to lose to a horse as... well, no offense, but as senior as you, that would make a huge mark against me. I'd be viewed as damaged goods, with maybe some undiagnosed medical condition. Maybe I get shunted down to the second- or third-rate opponents. My future would really change. I wish I could help you, but I am sorry -- I really can't. I owe it to myself to run as hard as I can tomorrow."

A dog sitting nearby in the stables has overheard all this but can't keep silent any longer. He addresses the younger horse: "What is wrong with you?!? This guy is pleading for his life and you can't be bothered to do him one favour? Some day it may be you in his position. Have you no sense of mercy or justice?"

The horses are astonished at this and turn to each other in amazement: "That dog can talk!"
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:22 PM on December 27, 2021 [16 favorites]


I still live by what I think of as Kliban's Rule.

Never eat anything bigger than your head.
posted by philip-random at 2:38 PM on December 27, 2021 [4 favorites]


My personal favorite: Larson’s 1982 Thagomizer (and its subsequent scientific nomenclature).
posted by cenoxo at 3:01 PM on December 27, 2021 [3 favorites]


One Far Side comic that I didn't get as a youngster was this one, where a cow holding a martini has turned from staring out the window to say to her husband, "Wendell, I'm not content." A few years later I heard for the first time the phrase "contented as a cow", and finally understood the joke.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:05 PM on December 27, 2021 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: cow tools
posted by parmanparman at 3:25 PM on December 27, 2021 [1 favorite]


HARDW
posted by Windopaene at 3:40 PM on December 27, 2021 [1 favorite]


There are so many iconic Far Side cartoons, but my favourite will always be Midvale School for the Gifted, and not just because I re-enact it every week or so.

(I did my big grade nine English project on Gary Larson and The Far Side - maybe I was a little obsessed.)
posted by jb at 4:13 PM on December 27, 2021 [7 favorites]


I still live by what I think of as Kliban's Rule.

Never eat anything bigger than your head.


It may predate old Hap. Isaac Asimov once said he had three rules for trying new food: Nothing bigger than your head, nothing that resembled vomit, nothing with tomatoes in it. He added that he broke all three at once when he had his first pizza.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:23 PM on December 27, 2021 [2 favorites]




Along with those, my other Far Side all-time favrotie is "Cat Fud".

My mom would get me a Far Side wall calendar every year as a kid. One year they had the "Cat Fud" comic in it, and, of course, I thought it was hilarious. My mom didn't get it, "Why did the dog spell it 'Fud'?" "Well, why would you expect a dog to be a good speller?"
posted by dirigibleman at 6:57 PM on December 27, 2021 [2 favorites]


I would like to find

* the one with the two alligators in a stream and something (zebras? some kind of prey animal) on the nearby shore with one alligator saying "great, Carl (?). I was floating here, just like a log, and you had to come up and start talking to me!"

* chocolate? vanilla? maybe vanilla with chocolate on it?

* Blah blah blah GINGER blah blah blah GINGER
posted by lon_star at 7:01 PM on December 27, 2021


One Far Side comic that I didn't get as a youngster was this one, where a cow holding a martini has turned from staring out the window to say to her husband, "Wendell, I'm not content." A few years later I heard for the first time the phrase "contented as a cow", and finally understood the joke.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:05 PM on December 27


I've never heard that phrase but always found that comic hilarious without needing any further context. They're living a life of idle luxury, complete with bougie malaise, but they're cows. As with cow tools, it's the ridiculousness of the situation that makes it funny for me - and the question of what more a cow could possibly want from life.
posted by ZaphodB at 7:03 PM on December 27, 2021 [6 favorites]


Is this the part where I can finally figure out this one?

(In case the link is bad: “Okay Jimmy, you can have that new bike if you can answer one question: What’s the average rainfall in the Amazon basin?”)
posted by bjrubble at 7:06 PM on December 27, 2021


I think the dad is just a jerk in the bicycle one. However, like Zaphodb I also had no idea that “contented as a cow” was a phrase until today and I just found the inexplicable ones hilarious when I was a kid.

My personal favorite is the frog singing the greens: “My baby left my lilypad / Both my legs were deep fried / I eat flies all day and when I’m gone / They’ll stick me in formaldehyde” 
posted by migurski at 7:36 PM on December 27, 2021


I always enjoyed the music-related strips, especially this one (even funnier if you're aware of the famous Wolf Club) and this one
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:19 PM on December 27, 2021


You buy your cow tools at the hardw store, of course.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:37 PM on December 27, 2021 [1 favorite]


The bike question feels like "oh, you want a dog. One question, do you promise to feed and water and walk them?" only, well, less linear.
posted by Pronoiac at 9:00 PM on December 27, 2021 [1 favorite]


For anyone else wondering, what's up with Kliban and hardw, here you go
posted by Pronoiac at 9:05 PM on December 27, 2021 [5 favorites]


"Blah blah blah Ginger"
posted by clavdivs at 9:46 PM on December 27, 2021 [3 favorites]


A few years later I heard for the first time the phrase "contented as a cow", and finally understood the joke"

I believe Larson was making fun of an ad campaign that was around for years and became very well known "Borden: milk from contented cows."
posted by jamjam at 10:55 PM on December 27, 2021


Wikipedia via Google tells me it was Carnation milk and dates from 1907!
posted by jamjam at 11:01 PM on December 27, 2021


My favorite is one that never apparently made the actual papers.

"Well, I know YOU do, Angelo."
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:28 AM on December 28, 2021


milk from contented cows

Which, despite it apparently having been around for decades, I somehow also hadn't heard at the time. *shrug*
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:12 AM on December 28, 2021


"Oh my gosh, Andrew, don't eat those! Those are poison arrows!"
posted by rifflesby at 9:16 PM on December 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


And continuing on the B. Kliban derail, I bought something at the hardware store today, after having posted "HARDW" in the thread yesterday, when the little card reader was showing me my purchase, it showed "ACE HARDW", which was awesome, and I had to tell the cashier to wait for a sec while I snapped a picture to send to my high school best friend, who was also a B. Kliban fan...
posted by Windopaene at 9:18 PM on December 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


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