- Associated Press - Sunday, December 6, 2015

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Jerry Palen, creator of the “Stampede” comic strip for more than 40 years, says he is retiring and will stop producing new cartoons on Jan. 1, 2016.

Palen, 73, cited health and wanting to spend more time with family.

Palen, who lives in the small south-central Wyoming town of Saratoga, quit his job as a bank examiner in 1973 to start producing the comic strip that features a lovable agricultural couple, Flo and Elmo.

“Stampede” became a weekly syndicated cartoon feature in both the United States and Canada, reaching an audience of more than 2 million readers via newspapers and magazines.

“Being a cartoonist is a wonderful job,” Palen told the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/1Tu8LMu). “You go to work in your pajamas and you quit in your pajamas.”

But rheumatoid arthritis makes that difficult for him to produce the cartoon because his hands swell and the medicine he takes makes it hard to concentrate and stay awake.

Palen said the key to his comic strip was listening to people he met in real life.

“‘My wife did this today, or my husband did this today,’ and I would write it down real fast and go home and draw a cartoon about it,” Palen said. “That’s the secret. Just listening to what people have to say, and listening to their stories. You can learn a lot just listening.”

Palen also created bronze sculptures and oil paintings.

He said he will continue making the popular “Stampede” calendar.

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Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com

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