Get your good clothes on, kids, and get ready for Sunday School! No, I don't care what's on TV. Anyway this particular Sunday School lesson also features cartoon animals, so it's kind of like TV.

You guessed it, time for more Al Hartley Christian comics for an audience slightly younger than the intended readers of his Christian comics starring the Archie gang. Perhaps not as apocalyptic? Maybe more apple pie and baseball? Maybe.

One thing's clear with these Barney Bear comics, the pacing is leisurely. Here on page five (!!) we're finally getting to the meat of the story, which is that eternal tension between "cleaning your room" and "playing baseball."

A lot of questions about this panel. Why is Barney's house perched on a hill as if it was some sort of medieval stronghold? What Little League team gets all dressed out to go and holler at one outfielder's window to come on to practice? And who is the crazed hillbilly axe murderer in the foreground about to murder?

Look at these freewheeling, undisciplined children, who can do whatever they want, whenever they want! That's why they're all dressed in Little League uniforms, all going to practice at the same time, like clockwork right on schedule, because they're so free and unguided and non-regimented. Sure, Al.

Usually when you see a scene like this, it's because the family is in the Witness Protection Program, or hides a three armed mutant baby in the attic, or are actually space aliens from the planet Frazneroniz, or are harvesting souls for their dark lord. Here in the Hartleyverse, what sets them apart is... making their kid do chores. Shocking!

Oh, maybe we ARE going to get to the "harvesting souls" part? Are they fertilizing their garden with HUMAN BLOOD? Maybe they are. These are bears we're talking about here!

I'm gonna say this, as much as I poke fun at these comics, I love the casual, open panel layouts and how effortlessly Hartley moves the characters through space. It's simple but effective, a confident approach that trusts both the reader and its own craft. If only he could have cured himself of that addiction to always using three exclamation points in all his word balloons!!!

So, one half of the garden gets... gardened. Got it.

And the other half of the garden just gets left to fend for itself, just like your wild-child baseball pals. Say, isn't this more of an indictment of the PARENTS of the wild-child baseball pals? Shouldn't THEY be getting this lecture?

Hey, we wouldn't want to let plants just lay in the dirt, now would we? Agricultural science has proven plants and dirt are mortal enemies!

Uh oh, looks like somebody didn't let somebody's people go, because here come them locusts.

Raising children is just like growing strawberries - keep 'em off the dirt and hose 'em down with pesticides every chance you get, and they'll grow up big and strong.

When you take care of things, you don't have to worry! Except... worrying about taking care of things, you're gonna be doing a lot of that.

Our fenced-in, mulched, insecticide-drenched Family Strawberries are fat and ready for picking, while the ignored strawberries, left to fend for themselves, are a disaster. Proof positive that God's Nature is a failure and that only corporate factory farming can save us.

Well, we didn't build a fence, so we couldn't keep the groundhogs out, because if there's one thing groundhogs are known for, it's respecting surface-level boundaries.

Just saying here that "The Bible Belters" is a great name for a church Little League team. Also if there was a violent Christian biker gang, that'd be a great name for them too.

Dang it, we were promised baseball and now it's raining. Oh well, maybe those neglected, kicked-to-the-curb strawberries might have a chance now.

Sure you can play ball in the rain! Lightning wouldn't DARE strike a Bible Belter!

Judging by the general 19th century vibe of the place, I'm gonna say "nine really intense games of checkers."

Not the dessert, but the actual person Strawberry Shortcake, they're going to eat her. They're bears! That's what they do!

Well, everybody's glad about being taken care of. Now let's cut to the chase. Are we going to get a few panels of the terrible, neglect-filled home life of Barney's free-range baseball pals?

Nope, just a reminder that God wants you to be weeded, mulched, sprayed, watered, and fertilized. Then comes... you guessed it, THE HARVEST. Now, sign here!

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