By Kevin Wilson
Does a rattlesnake have to be coiled to strike? Can a turtle leave its shell? Will a toad give you warts?
Retired Eastern New Mexico University biology professor Tony Gennaro got these kind of questions in his classes and on the phone, and they became inspiration for a series of cartoons and a book set to be published next year.
Gennaro, who retired from ENMU in 1998, created a set of 52 cartoons about animals in an effort to debunk some of the tales that had been associated with them.
The cartoons were published in the News-Tribune in 2002, along with short essays about the separating fact from fiction when it came to animals.
“What the essays do is refute the falsehoods with references as backup,” Gennaro said. (In the case of the three aforementioned questions, the answer is “No” to all three.)
Gennaro said he submitted the book idea to about 15 different publishing companies, and got acceptance from Coda Publishing, an independent company which was founded in 1951 and is currently in Raton.
William Carroll, the manager of Coda, said Gennaro’s book was worth a shot because its approach isn’t the norm.
“It’s an unusual viewpoint,” Carroll said. “We all have our own ideas about how an animal thinks and acts and Tony points out that more often than not, we’re wrong.”
Gennaro said he limited himself to 52 cartoons, because he wanted to stick to the most common misnomers about animals. The book will include essays about several subjects, including items about a hyena’s laugh (it’s actually a call for help) and what determines the lead duck in the “flying V” formation (it’s simply a matter of chance).
“I didn’t do much to it,” Gennaro said. “but I reworked each essay.”
Gennaro said creating the cartoons often took much longer than the essay. Each cartoon provides a situation where the animal myth comes into play. That myth is printed, along with the truth about the animal.
Gennaro added that the book will also include nature photos from Larry Brock of Portales.
The still-unnamed book is scheduled to be published in the summer of 2005, but Carroll said that may change depending on the status of three to four books that are ahead of Gennaro’s on the publishing schedule and “heaven only knows” what will happen with the book.
“The book business is rather strange — you’re planning two years ahead,” Carroll said. “You think it’s a good idea, then you’ve got to give it to bookstores two years later. You think Las Vegas is gamble? This is a gamble.”