For more than three decades, Jim Earle '54 entertained Battalion readers with his Cadet Slouch cartoons.
When I asked Jim and Theresa Earle how long they’d been married (60 years), Jim told me they were “still waiting to see if the marriage would work.” Theresa, amused, responded that he’d been making that joke for 60 years.
In that small bit of humor, I could see in James “Jim” Earle ’54 the man—the boy, really—who created Cadet Slouch, a cartoon about a member of Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets published by
The Battalion for more than 30 years. Many of you probably remember him, and you can . read more in this issue's Time Capsule article
But I came across Cadet Slouch by accident—on a TexAgs.com forum. A thread of former students, reminiscing about how much they’d enjoyed Slouch, posted some of their favorite cartoons. A couple of people who’d had Jim as a professor complimented his teaching as well.
I’d never heard of Cadet Slouch, but he immediately resonated with me. He has the aw-shucks, home-spun kind of humor that I associate with the likes of
The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., which I grew up watching with my father. Slouch, like Gomer Pyle or Barney Fife, is relatable and likeable even when he acts downright clueless.
As I browsed Slouch cartoons in Cushing Library’s archives, it occurred to me that being a cartoonist must be an incredible challenge—churning out a new idea every day and evolving characters with complex personalities, all while knowing you must generate laughs. I would feel tremendous pressure, but Jim wasn’t too bothered. Humor comes naturally to him, even if not everyone understands his particular brand. (Theresa, in fact, told me that her father never could.)
When I met the Earles in their home for the first time last August, I was struck by the influence that Cadet Slouch had in their lives. There were reminders of him here and there, and it became apparent that though Slouch may have been Jim’s brainchild, Theresa is equally fond of him.
During my time at the Texas A&M Foundation, I have been fortunate to meet a lot of remarkable people—those with great accomplishments to their names, others who have made strides in research, and still others who have left philanthropic legacies—but meeting the Earles will always be a highlight for me. Hearing about their lives and interests—Cadet Slouch and otherwise—made me think about two things: how important it is to spend your life doing what you love and how important it is to be remembered for something, however small.
I am proud that we can tell Jim’s (and Slouch’s) story in this issue of
Spirit. They deserve it. I wish to thank Jim for sharing Cadet Slouch with Aggieland and for sharing him, all these years later, with me.