Only weeks after moving back to Homer with her husband, Lorraine Williams was in a terrible mood.
The switch from living in a huge adobe house in California to a cabin in small-town Homer with no washing machine was not an easy adjustment. Williams decided to drive out to the Homer Spit to talk to a friend. On the way home on the deserted Spit road, Williams said she forgot she wasn't in California, and was caught speeding.
Adding insult to injury, the police officer thought Williams had been drinking, when in fact she had been crying. In a burst of anger, Williams called the young cop a name or two and demanded her ticket.
It wasn't until later when she got home that the repercussions of living in a small town sunk in, Williams said. In Homer, as most know, you see virtually everyone at some point at the grocery store, the post office or other community gathering spots, including young police officers.
"I thought, wait, I'm in a small town. I'm a pastor's wife. The whole reality of it kept coming at me," she said.
The incident did little to improve her mood, until a thought crept into her head.
"I remember thinking, this is kind of funny," she said.
Funny enough, in fact, that she grabbed a sheet of paper and created a cartoon about the unusual dilemmas small-town life presents. Using a cartoon style developed with childhood friend Katie Peacock, a cartoon strip was born.
That was more than three years ago. The cartoon appears on the front of her latest book, "You Know You're in a Small Town When," and her series of cartoons has been running in the Homer News since the summer of '99.
Williams finds weekly comedy in the facts and foibles of living in a small town in Alaska, like knowing the people streets were named after, holding down a dozen small jobs to make ends meet, or driving etiquette on potholed roads.
And she doesn't mind poking fun at her own experiences with small-town life.
Cartoonist Lorraine Williams
Photo courtesy of The Homer News
"I've got nothing to hide," she said with a laugh, adding that friends have also become accustomed to being in the strip, as has her dog.
When she first started the strip, Williams said, she was afraid she might run out of funny ideas after a while, but life has yet to let her down. She has learned to constantly be on the lookout for cartoon ideas, and Ho-mer rarely disappoints her.
On occasion, however, Williams said she finds herself walking the fine line between funny and hurtful.
Once or twice, she has held back a cartoon because she was concerned the subjects would be offended.
Even so, a few people have commented that they didn't like the cartoons because they were proud of Homer and felt the cartoon made the town seem simple.
"For a few people, I guess I hit too close to home," Williams said. "I guess I come from a different perspective coming from Ventura County. But part of comedy is you always risk" that someone will take it personally.
On the flip side of the coin, friends and acquaintances who know Williams does the cartoon often bombard her with ideas for the strip. And many voice their approval of her candid take on small-town life.
Williams said she is working on a more universally applicable cartoon based on the "You know it could be worse when..." theme, but has yet to find a buyer. Far from giving up, however, Williams said her work with the small town cartoons has given her confidence as an artist and a cartoonist.
"I think anything born out of adversity like this is powerful," she said. "That's how God is."
Carey James is a reporter at The Homer News. She can be reached at cjames@homernews.-com.
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