comic strip. The following question was once posed to me.
"Where can I find the following strip? Charlie Brown fires
arrows and then paints targets around the spot where the arrows
land. Lucy tells him, `That's not the way it works, Charlie
Brown; you're supposed to paint the target first and
*then* fire the arrow.' Charlie Brown responds, `But this way,
I never miss.'"
I'd heard of this gag before in various guises, but I didn't
think it had ever appeared in Peanuts before. I searched my
books. Nothing. I searched the web for people who talked
about this strip, and emailed them asking them if they had a
copy of it. One minister wrote back assuring me that the strip
existed and that he had a copy somewhere, but he couldn't find
it. Nobody was able to produce the strip.
The fact is, there is no such strip. Due to various miracles
of modern technology, I have been able to search Schulz's
entire corpus and verify that he never drew such a strip.
During my research, however, I uncovered what I now consider to
be a fully satisfactory explanation of why people
*think* there is such a strip. In the book "The Winning
Attitude" by John Maxwell there is the following passage:
One day Charlie Brown was in his back yard having target practice with
his bow and arrow. He would pull the bow string back and let
fly into a fence. Then he would go to where the arrow had landed and
draw a target around it. Several arrows and targets later, Lucy said,
"You don't do target practice that way. You draw the target,
the arrow." Charlie's response: "I know that, but if you do
it my way,
you never miss!"
Note that Maxwell never explicitly says, "There is a Peanuts
strip where..." A casual reader might assume that Maxwell was
describing a strip that he saw, but Maxwell never says that
himself. I think it's perfectly possible that Maxwell just
decided it would be fun to tell the joke using Charlie Brown
and Lucy as characters. Or maybe he saw the joke in some other
comic strip and misremembered which comic it was. The point
is, IT DOESN'T MATTER. Maxwell is just trying to make a point
about a certain wrongheaded attitude. It could just as well
have been Beavis and Butthead instead of Charlie Brown and Lucy.
But the story has a certain stickiness to it. It gets
repeated. Soon people start to assume that there really was a
strip like that. They may even develop false memories about it
and insist that they've seen it. In this particular case, it
was just barely possible for me, with a huge effort, to
determine the underlying truth. In many other similar
scenarios it would be impossible to find the truth. There
would be lots of people sincerely insisting that it was true,
but as this example illustrates, they could all be wrong. And
the point is, IT DOESN'T MATTER. Obsessing over the factual
question causes you to miss the point of the story.