Iron Eyes DogDad

This story takes place in 1971. Anti-Vietnam War protestors were marching in Washington. Charles Manson was sentenced for the horrendous Hollywood murders. Disneyworld opened in Florida and the NASDAQ made its debut. The South Tower of New York’s World Trade Center topped out and the 26th Amendment changing the voting age to 18 from 21 was certified by Richard Nixon.

In a world newly sensitized to environmental concerns, a TV ad appeared that captured everyone’s imagination. You may be too young to remember it when it first aired but you certainly have seen it since.

(Who am I kidding…all of you are old enough to remember the original one, don’t even try lying to me.)

A Native American man paddles his birch bark canoe on waters that start pristine but become increasingly polluted the further he travels into an industrial zone. Tom-toms thunder in the background as he paddles. He pulls up to a trashy shoreline and walks toward a bustling freeway. As the stern-countenanced Indian looks on, a passenger tosses a paper bag out a car window. The bag bursts on the ground and scatters trash, including fast food wrappers, over the Indian’s beaded moccasins. The stern narrator admonishes: “Some people have a deep, abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this country. And some people don’t.” The camera zooms in on the Indian’s face to reveal a single tear falling, ever so slowly, down his cheek.

The “Crying Indian Ad” was hugely popular and is still ranked as one of the greatest TV ads. It expanded beyond TV and the Crying Indian showed up on billboards, in print media and even on tee shirts. It was the essence of “woke” before woke was even born. Today it’s a meme.

President Jimmy Carter and the Italian Indian (AP photo)

Great stuff, yeah? Except, man, it was like sooo totally bogus as we used to say back then. Totally.

The first big lie was the “Indian.” We all knew him as Iron Eyes Cody. Problem was, Iron Eyes Cody was really an Italian guy born Espera de Corti. Yup, the ad, whose impact depended entirely on the emotional authenticity of the Crying Indian’s tear, flat out deceived the public with a non-existent cultural connection.

But it gets worse.

The ad was touted as a public service advertisement for the anti-litter organization Keep America Beautiful. Turns out, Keep America Beautiful was really a front for the American Can Co. and the Owens-Illinois Glass Co., who were later joined by the likes of Coca-Cola and the Dixie Cup Co.

The Crying Indian ad was conceived not to promote ecological sensitivity, but as propaganda to deflect the large amount of criticism about solid waste pollution that these entities had been receiving starting the year before on the first Earth Day. The practice is known as “greenwashing.”

Brought to you by the anti-recycling cowboys.

The container manufacturers were fighting a heated and losing battle against recyclable containers and the ad was specifically planned to make the public think that the average American was the environmental problem, not the corporations who cleverly stayed anonymous behind the Keep America Beautiful logo. Just as the famous tear starts to fall, the baritone narrator shamelessly intones: “People start pollution. People can stop it.”

Keep America Beautiful used the Crying Indian ad in an attempt to sway Congress that so-called “bottle bills” should not be passed because disposable containers led to litter. KAB did not want anybody thinking about the actual environmental costs of strip mining natural resources, the pollution caused by container manufacturing and the real problems of solid waste disposal. Keep America Beautiful went so far in one case as to label supporters of legislation advancing recyclable containers as “communists.”

Today, a meme.

But of course none of this has anything to do with today’s story which is all about me, me, me.

I happen to have a dry eye. Just one, the left one. As afflictions go this is a Nothingburger and my Eye Doc says it will probably go away if I maintain his recommended eye care routine. You also need to know that I am absolutely, positively not a crying-type person unless you spill my beer. I can watch Old Yeller, The Notebook, Bambi and Flowers for Algernon back to back with nary a sniffle. But the dry eye can be a problem on occasion.

See, from time to time, with mere seconds of warning, the “dry” eye will suddenly flood and a gigantic tear will form and roll glacially down my cheek. By the time I realize what is happening, it’s usually too late for a surreptitious flick of the finger.

I wouldn’t care much except the involuntary tear seems to appear at the most discomforting moments. Say, for example, I’m at the Five Finger Discount car repair shop talking to Bruno about the price he quoted for my brake cylinder repair.

Bruno stands there, arms folded, pits ringed in sweat while chewing gum silently challenging me for a reaction to his obvious attempted extortion. Instead of intimidating Bruno with the sharp side of my tongue, a huge tear forms in my left eye and rolls down my cheek. Not much negotiating room after that little trick.

Sometimes I’ll get an unexpected tear while at the movies and it is always, always, always at one of the sad scenes and just when someone seated near me has casually glanced over. Same thing at a bar when my team misses a score or loses a game.

How ya like these dry eyes?

This Crying Maltese Owner has even been seen at the Department of Motor Vehicles where being weepy was actually beneficial. I had forgotten to bring along a copy of my appointment form and the clerk decided to punish me out of sheer spite. A wayward tear began to form just as she began haranguing me about my carelessness and how I was just the type of a person to bring the entire department to a screaming halt.

Right on cue, the tear started down my cheek. Ms. Sassafras McNasty (not her real name) saw me crying, apologized profusely and proceeded to accept my paperwork without further comment. She even said she was sorry she hurt my feelings. Meanwhile, I was mentally reviewing a hundred and one ways to attach her obstinate, bureaucratic posterior to an ant hill.

The most recent embarrassment came at Max’s Veterinary office. It was the day we first took him to see Dr. C about his heart problem. Now, you need to know that Dr. C is a world-class empath. That’s a great thing in a Vet, I suppose. She knew that she was delivering to us some bad news about the Malt’s health and it was clear she was trying to be gentle.

As she spoke she kept looking back and forth between the Alpha Japanese Female and me. Eyeballing the AJF is like staring down Iron Eyes Cody – you don’t get much feedback from that samurai visage. So Dr. C settled on me as her primary audience.

As Dr. C got into the details of therapies, medicines and expectancies, I could feel a slight welling in my left eye. “Oh God, no please,” was all I could think. “Don’t do it, please.” “No, no, no…stop.” But I knew that, once started, there would be no stopping the trickle and there wasn’t.

Dr. C with non-dog

Just as Dr. C looked up from her charts and x-rays and into my eyes, a giant tear rolled out and started oozing ever so languidly down my left cheek. I wanted to rub it away but you can imagine what that would look like. I wanted to explain I had dry eye but, really, would you believe that story? There was nothing to do but sit there staring back at the tender hearted Dr. C and let the tickling of the falling tear continue unabated.

Convinced that she had brought me to tears, Dr. C started apologizing and asking if I would be all right. The AJF, who knows all about my previous dry eye manifestations, started giggling at my torment and that pushed an uncomfortable situation into the category of “wholly inappropriate.”

The wife was laughing while the husband was crying and poor Dr. C just wanted to get out of that room full of crazy people.

I’ve not seen Dr. C since that day but we are due for another appointment soon. I fear what might happen at the next check up. I think I’ll wear sunglasses and stuff some tissue behind the left lens.

Puppy Eyes Maxwell thinks the whole thing is hilarious.

Shhh…I’m getting some shut eye.

49 replies

  1. My sister was so touched by the crying Indian that she became a naturalist. This would devastate her so of course I’m going to share as a proper sister would. You do realize that it’s ok to cry 😂! I often rest my eyes but people think I’m sleeping.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, it is your sacred sibling duty to devastate your sister. Lord it over her for years and years. Bring it up at Thanksgiving dinners just as the family all gathers for grace. As to crying, I adhere to the Bob Marley school: No woman, no cry.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Of course, in the free world we did not see that advert. In fact at that time I was working with a charity and we had little chance to see TV. I still don’t miss TV, I have a life.
    Imagine a big business inventing a lie to save itself cash, who would have thought?
    It is always good to search out who is behind some of the good ideas in this world, always surprising when you do find them.
    Sorry about the eye, I may try that next time I need to pay for something, though I doubt the checkout girls at Tesco would care.
    Well done Max, good to see you taking this responsibly.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think one could make a great Scottish version of the Crying Indian. Some guy in a kilt, maybe carrying a caber in one hand and a bottle of single malt in the other walks up to the tracks to do a bit of train spotting and gets hit with a canned haggis tossed from one of the train windows. It breaks his whisky bottle and that, of course, leads to tears. I agree with you that it is hard to believe that a mega corporation would act purely in self interest but I guess strange things do happen. I doubt the checkout girls at Tesco ever raise their eyes high enough to look at their customers.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh! Max, your DogDad is such a character. I remember those ads and thinking that that Indian looked like one of the Indians in all the John Wayne movies….even the war movies!!

    Good lesson to be learned here…don’t just believe, research.

    I don’t know how you kept a straight face at the Vets Max. I would have been hysterical with the AJF. 😂😂

    Murphy and I hope your are feeling well Max. You certainly look, ahem….”comfy” while sleeping. Is that a position you’re copying from DogDad?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The “one leg in the air” position is fairly new to Maxwell. When he sleeps like that he also snores loudly. Must be getting old…like me (there, I said it before you did!) The AJF loves my dry eye problems because she sees them developing and knows the tear is gathering even before I do but she holds back mentioning it just so it can fall at the most inopportune time. Dr. C must be completely baffled by what took place.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m Italian on my dad’s side. It was whispered among family that one of my uncles was in the Mafia. He was married to my dad’s sister. And always the joke about his nose: He has a Roman nose. It’s Roman all over his face. You can see where my sarcastic humor comes from, right? Also, fun fact–my dad retired from Coca-Cola in NJ. Those are tears of laughter, right? Not tears of….whatever. 😢😭

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yeah, I heard you used to do a stand-up schtick in Camden. Jersey girls are well known for their sarcasm. Like Philadelphia girls on humor steroids. Cross the bridge and a) the pizza got better, b) closer to the shore and c) more sarcastic girls.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Being European by birth (with a tiny bit of Cherokee from the other side of the family), I always regarded Espera de Corti (aka Iron Eyes Cody) as a fraud. As you so artfully detailed, the propaganda machine was very alive and quite active back then. Sorry about the one dry eye condition though as you pointed out, comes in handy at times. I can imagine the cardiac vet was taken aback by Max’s parents and good on you for the fortuitous tear at the DMV (which is the great equalizer of humanity). Not much in the way of sympathy ever is emitted from DMV clerks so with a bit of justice, that lady will get HUGE demerit points and a written write up in her HR file. Fitting justice for some of the most inhumane people on earth. Ear scritches to the Malt…but not before he’s finished his latest nap, please. 💧

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, with a pinch of Cherokee you could go to Hollywood and join the ranks of other folk with just a touch of native American who played Indians: Burt Reynolds, Elvis Presley, Anthony Quinn , and Clark Gable for example, As for the Paisano, he was a con man, but man o’ man he sure looked like what an “Indian” was supposed to look like back then. The folks who yell about cultural appropriation these days would have stroked out on old Iron Eyes. But then again, we also had so many movies where the Indian was played by a non-Indian. My favorite was Mel Brooks as the chief in Blazing Saddles simply because it was so tongue in cheek. Yeah, the DMV is a loathsome place, full of very unhappy folks putting in their 20 to get the retirement and health bennies. I try to be extra nice to them because I sort of feel bad for them stuck in their job but when they turn on you and lay out the sass, it’s war, a passive-aggressive war. I should take scalps.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hmmm, what is it they say? “Methinks the lady doth protest too much?” It seems that you have gone a long way to try to make it seem that you are not an old softie capable of expressing emotions but the victim of a “medical condition”.

    Or, perhaps karma is visiting after you made fun of a certain dog mom with dry eye last year….

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, no, no…you need to understand. When you discuss your dry eye it’s complaining. When I discuss my dry eye it’s a serious consideration of complex medical issues. I hope that clears up any confusion on the matter.

      Liked by 1 person

    • You’re pretty much right. I have an inappropriate sense of humor and find amusement at times and in places where I shouldn’t. Indeed, I have had some belly laughs at funerals but then again one side of my family is Irish and Irish funerals (and wakes) always have something to laugh about.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I remember seeing that commercial as a little kid and it made me cry when he cried. As a young adult I found out he was an Italian from Louisiana. I said, “Oh, gosh!” I did! 😧 When I found out, I said, “Oh, gosh!”

    HA! You make me snort-laugh! 😛 Poor Dr C! She’s like, “Oh, gosh!”
    HA! I love AJF’s reaction to you. 🙂

    Well, I genuinely cry when something or someone is sad. I cry joy-tears at sweet and happy things. I cry while reading books, watching movies, watching commercials…you get the picture. I cry enough tears for at least a few other people. Oh, gosh! -) When there’s a sad scene in a movie my whole family would take their eyes off the movie to look at me to see if I was crying yet. Oh, gosh! 🙂

    I’ve, also, been known to get a giggling fit at something that no one else is laughing at. Oh, gosh! 😉

    I hope your dry eye heals and your other eye stays healthy.

    Max has the right idea…just nap through all the foolishness goin’ on! 😉
    PATS and RUBS!!!
    PS…I’m sure a LOT of people have cried at the DMV! Oh, gosh!
    Or as Goofy would say, “Oh, gawrsh!” 😛

    Liked by 2 people

    • I figured you might be a crier. That’s probably good. Emotional release and all that. Who am I kidding…I don’t have a clue what I’m saying. I wonder if crying is an inherited trait? I was just thinking that no one in my family cried easily. Oh well, just call me Mr. Crusty. No. Don’t do that.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Spin in 1971! I always thought that that was confined to America saying the price of gold would plummet once they removed the support…..

    Needless to say i did not see the ad….but would have gven a great deal to have been a fly on the wall in the vet’s surgery…..poor soul must have had to lie down in a darkened room.

    if ever the inadvertent andmisplaced tear does not work, try the Violet-Elizabeth Bott technique – “I’ll thcream and thcream and thcream till I’m thick”.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Deflecting and distracting from the truth. Sounds very familiar in today’s administration. Well, I can see how sensitive folks would be upset to know he’s Italian, but isn’t it ACTING! as Jon Lovitz would say? Did we really think he was a Native American? Now, unemployed rioters would have him cancelled because cultural appropriation. That’ll give you something to cry about. It reminds me of the folks who were upset that JLo played Selena because her hispanic was not the right Mexican hispanic. I guess ads have always been as fake as the news. Next, you’re going to tell me the lady who said, “You call it corn, we call it maize” in the Mazola ads was Greek or Colombian! Mutiny!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. So glad I popped in to see how you and Max and the AJF are doing. For some reason your posts don’t make it to my email .. I’ll have to go check da spam folder. Anywho … I enjoyed your fellow bloggers comments ALmost as much as I enjoyed your post!!! Must tell you … I have dry eyes too … and have made the leap to those amusing wrap-around sunglasses (that old people wear … sigh) for winter time. Walking Buddy on a cold, blustery winter morning brings me to tears every time. The wrap-arounds help a leeeeetle-bit … but not much. At least they hide the drippy mascara until I can find a tissue. Doing two different kinds of eye drops … not much help … but one does what one can, right? So glad Max continues on a healthy path … he’s a lucky boy!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey! Hey! Hey! What’s with that “that old people wear” stuff? You snapper of whippers will probably be ranking on cargo shorts next. How about socks with sandals, Missy? Got something to say about that, too? Humph. 😛


      • … Laughing … noo …. I’m fine with cargo shorts … all those pockets are very handy … are they on the doomed list now too? Yes, those snappers of whippers who make broad pronouncements that thus and so is “out” will, one of these days, get the sharp side of my tongue. Or … keyboard … finger … sigh .. you know what I mean.

        Socks with sandals … well … shhhh … don’t tell anyone I said so, but they are comfy aren’t they? Except the ones where the plastic bar goes between the toes. I can’t manage those!!

        Btw … I hope it’s okay … I should have asked first, but it was way late and I was tired … ergo … feeling reckless and impetuous (and sleepy, therefore stupid) … I mentioned and linked your blog in my latest. If that’s a bad thing … let me know and I’ll re word!!!

        Liked by 1 person

        • OK, I can see you are walking back all those ageist comments so you’re welcome back into the fold. You can link anything you want on this silly dog blog. There’s no copyright stuff, nothing is protected, everything is just thrown out into the internet ether and ignored by all. Since we lack any semblance of originality just know we already stole the stuff that shows up so if there’s a beef about pilfered material it’s not going to come from Max.


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