Seth Boyes joined the Dickinson County News staff in March of 2017. In his first week at the DCN, he covered a train derailment near Graettinger. The tankers carrying ethanol burst into flames. Seth's photo of the event won first place for Best Breaking News photo at the 2018 Iowa Newspaper Association Convention and Trade Show. Since, Seth has won nearly a dozen awards for writing, photography and multimedia content. Seth graduated from Iowa State University in 2009 with a degree in Integrated Studio Arts. His original cartoons run regularly in the Spencer Daily Reporter and the DCN. Both he and his wife Janet hail from Clear Lake and have come to expect summers to be full of the hustle and bustle of tourists and visitors.
Well, the Dickinson County Board of Health asked our county board of supervisors to pass a mask mandate for local residents – they got a proclamation. The difference being a proclamation carries no legal weight, while a mandate would. There's a phrase that gets tossed around in politics – particularly local politics – when it come to things like this. They say "it doesn't have any teeth." Meaning, since this thing has no legal impact, the public can continue to do as they see fit, which makes the proclamation nothing more than a statement of the county government's feelings on the matter – on par with a piece of paper that says soybeans are part of Iowa's economy or that pork chops are tasty.
So, in this case, our county's proclamation has no teeth. The hope is that merely stating their position for the record, the board of supervisors will set an expectation and therefore spur people in the community to wear masks when they can't stay socially distant from one another during this pandemic. That's all well and good. I hope it works that way, but I'm not as optimistic as some at this point.
I can't think of a single law that has been put in place that wasn't created because someone's behavior was causing problems for others. We've got noise ordinances, burn bans and speed limits on the books, not to mention liable and slander laws that put some fences around your First Amendment rights. We agree with dozens if not hundreds of infringements on our personal freedoms every day, but evidently requiring masks be worn for the benefit of the public would be one step too far. So, here in Dickinson County, we've done the next best thing – a proclamation.
Now, this particular proclamation is basically asking the public to please pretty please follow the governor's proclamation that already asked you to limit gathering sizes and wear masks when you can't. I understand the benefit of solidarity among the various levels of government on something like this, and I fully agree with County Supervisor Tim Fairchild's point that a mandate would likely result in local residents wearing fewer masks just because of the social climate we're in right now. I don't mean to come off as critical of the local board. I know opinions vary on the issue of COVID-19 among the five of them, and I was pretty glad to see the proclamation pass unanimously. They've got a hard job to do, and they've also got to consider whether their decisions would violate the authority of the state or the governor in this case (though I for one would be interested in poking that particular bear).
Local government is a difficult horse to ride.
It's hard to achieve meaningful results for thousands upon thousands of people who each have different view points. It's hard to face the choice of voting in line with the public's position or voting in favor of their well begin. But it's also hard to eat even the most tender and juicy of turkeys by just gumming it.
That's when teeth can be helpful.
In all honesty, I had this one ready before the vote. It wasn't terribly hard to predict the proclamation would pass, and I already knew the proclamation wouldn't put any laws on the books – that's not really what they're for. So I started sketching out the concept.
This idea went through a lot of version. At first, it was going to be a split-screen with a dog – snarling teeth in the first half, wrinkled gums in the second. Then it moved to a mountain lion and even a viking at one point, but those ideas conveyed anger in the situation, and there really wasn't. So it became just a pair of dentures being dropped into a glass of water. The composition was pretty clean, and I was a little excited to draw the glass full of fizzy bubbles trailing behind the teeth. The thing was that it still lacked something that stood for the proclamation's goal – something the teeth should be chewing on but aren't. So I added an ear of corn, and pretty soon the lone hand became a full-fledged figure.
I came back to my sketchbook after Thanksgiving, and I decided to use the recent holiday staple as part of the metaphor. That worked out great, and it allowed me to centralize the composition around a head and shoulders figure. I sketched up a toothless old man alongside some thumbnails of the overall composition, and it all started coming together.
I still needed to fit the dentures in though, so I took some more time to sketch out reference photos of my own hands as well as promotional pictures of dentures. You won't see it in the time lapse video, but I ended up combining the separate sketches with a quick sketch of a turkey I drew with the computer. After some quick resizing of the pieces, I was good to go.
I felt strongly about this one, plus I also felt it would be a good looking piece, so I actually made this one twice as large as most of my recent work. That allowed for some finer brush tips (particularly in the shading) and some better texture work. It also made the ink lines seem smoother since they're more condensed than they would have been if I'd kept the canvass smaller. The last little touch was the blurred oval frame. I felt like it would give the piece the sort of feel an old photo from a family gathering has, which fed into the scene some. Aside from the sketches, this cartoon took about three and a half hours to finish.