Over the course of an amazing 19-year run, Bill Boles stepped into a nearby phone booth seven times per year, and emerged toting yet another installment of The Old Coot. Starting with Dirt Rag #15 and running through issue #153, The Old Coot dispensed a potent blend of riding tips, mechanical tricks, and practical New Englander wisdom—in a unique, homespun style.
Contributing a legacy of 139 columns was not only a mind-boggling demonstration of journalistic superpowers, but it was also a boon for artists. All of those columns would need illustrations, after all.
Over the years, Dirt Rag has been graced with a dazzling array of artists’ interpretations of the Coot. I thought it would be fun to recap the artistic history of the Old Coot, and share some of my favorite Coot artwork.
Let’s start at the beginning. Scott Fisher drew the very first version of The Old Coot, which ran in issues #15 through #22. In those days, The Rag came to you in glorious black-and-white, and word-wrap was all the rage. Note that his subject was not a likeness of Bill Boles (pro tip: that what’s known as artistic license.)
Dirt Rag changed things up in issue #23, introducing a Florian Lungu caricature that offered a more true-to-life depiction of our hero—the mild mannered librarian from the Boston Globe. This likeness of Bill Boles ran through issue #27.
In issue #28 Scot Fisher battled back, and recaptured the Coot illustration credits with a caricature of his own. Fisher’s version of Bill Boles ran for a total of eight issues.
Dirt Rag staff art slinger Mark Tierney rolled out a stylistic makeover in issue #35, when he created a series of scratchboard illustrations—each one bearing a unique icon that represented a particular column or department in the magazine. His consistently styled illustrations provided a unifying aesthetic theme throughout the pages of the magazine. A classic high wheeler symbolized the Old Coot.
Art direction shifted gears again in issue #58, when Dirt Rag switched back to running artistic interpretations of the Old Coot. Dirt Rag invited readers and contributing artists to join the party and submit their vision of the Old Coot. From that point forward artwork flowed in, and the best pieces made it into print, with Dirt Rag switching up the Coot illustration as often as possible. Stephen J. Miller’s cowboy Coot appeared in issue #58.
Long-time art and editorial contributor John Hinderliter chipped in with several versions of the Old Coot over the years, not to mention some of our most beloved covers. His Depends humor appeared in DR #63.
Brent Muir is another gifted artist whose works have appeared both on the cover and inside The Rag. His Coot appeared in DR #76.
The distinctive style of prolific art contributor Captain Black (a.k.a. John Fleischman) rocked DR #77.
Talented artists have always found a welcoming home for their work in the pages of Dirt Rag. The issue #83 Coot from Patrick Love is a case in point.
Awesome sauce from Peter Vergis, via DR #94.
The technocrats never delivered the jet packs that they promised us, but Olivia Edith fulfilled our fantasies in DR #103.
I’m a sucker for anthropomorphized critters riding bicycles. Thank you Carol Newsome for this reptilian rendition from DR #104.
I’m a card-carrying member of the Rudy Nadler fan club. His Coot from DR #108 is bloody brilliant.
The devil made Wes Benson draw this Coot for DR #114.
It looks like I have room for one more piece of Coot art, before I clog the Internet’s tubes and bring worldwide e-commerce to a screeching halt. Cheers to Jonathan Estella for spilling beer foam all over DR #115.