Critical historic context:

5:57 a.m. Friday, August 16, 1996

The sky turned pink through Rockhill Park’s maples and sycamores, and you could start to make out the bends in the trail from 15 feet away. August’s second half began just like its first half: scattered clouds throughout the day, no precipitation, mid-80s at noon, then dipping into the 70s after 6 p.m.

On this day in 1930, Kansas City-born animator Ub Iwerks released “Fiddlesticks,” the tale of woodland conductor Flip The Frog. It was the first sound cartoon produced in color. Gazing into Hinkson Creek 66 years later, one might have wondered what orchestration Flip would have arranged that morning. Would the muskrat strum the invasive autumn olive? Would the weasel pluck the flood-plain wingstem? Would the spry fox drum the sandy sedge?

Governed by the Fifth House and the Sun, Leos born on Aug. 16 are known for their shrewdness and willpower. It was Madonna’s 38th  birthday, the 19th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, and the final Friday before the fall semester. The freshmen were moving into their dorms, and the town’s vibes were changing quickly. Wednesday night’s Soul Coughing / Long Fin Killie show at The Blue Note was a vague, regrettable memory, for the depraved few who attended.

It was the morning after Bob Dole accepted the Republican presidential nomination in San Diego. Dillard’s was hawking back-to-school, his-and-hers vests for $18. Later in the day, Binti-Jua, an 8-year-old western lowland gorilla, saved a 3-year-old boy who fell 15 feet into her habitat at Brookfield Zoo. That night, the Padres beat the Mets 15-10 in the first Major League Baseball game played in Mexico. Greg Vaughn hit a grand slam, and Fernando Valenzuela pitched six scoreless innings for the win.

Over in the funny pages, Marcie and Peppermint Patty went fishing in the rain. Garfield danced on a fence for a snake. Dagwood was visited by a poll worker while shaving. Hagar The Horrible got drunk with his dog. Chip from Hi and Lois didn’t like his new pants. Cathy Guisewite was still on a long vacation. Diary-liar Sylvia called out people who lie in their diary. The rock in B.C. watched a flower die. I have no idea what the Wizard of Id was talking about. The cat and dog in Mutts talked to a dolphin. Slim in Gasoline Alley wasn’t sure if he could advertise on a race car. Ziggy watched Geraldo. Marmaduke was hungry. Dennis The Menace was an asshole, like always. Billy drowned in Family Circus. Sally Forth and her husband apparently fucked. Lynn Johnston exploited Farley’s avoidable, unnecessary death. Killer pretended to know about constellations in Beetle Bailey. Shoe hosted a sparsely attended, all-bird open mic.

If you were interested in the latest books, you might have combed through “The Dilbert Principle,” then lied to acquaintances about wading through more than 20 pages of “Infinite Jest.” If you were interested in the latest films, you might have been excited about that night’s premieres of Robert Altman’s “Kansas City,” the Kevin Costner-Rene Russo-Cheech Marin-Don Johnson vehicle “Tin Cup,” or the Dennis Miller horror-comedy “Bordello of Blood.” If you were broke, stoned, in need of a break from the heat, or all three, you might have caught “Independence Day” or “Mathilda” at the dollar screen.

If you turned on the radio, you probably heard “The Macarena.” It was at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for the third week in a row and would stay there for 11 more weeks. If you quickly changed the channel, you probably heard Keith Sweat’s “Twisted.” If you were lucky enough to be within the six-mile radius of KCOU’s transmitter, you probably heard something off The Olivia Tremor Control’s “Dusk At Cubist Castle” or Modest Mouse’s “Interstate 8” EP — both of which were wrapping up their first full week in format.

If you wanted to get out of town and hear some live music, you might have driven 60 miles to Sedalia to check out Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Doobie Brothers at the Missouri State Fair. If you didn’t have a car or a ride, you might have biked the whole way on the recently completed Katy Trail. If you preferred to stay in town, you might have walked over to Breeze’s place on University. His roommates were out of town, and The Revelators were playing in his living room.

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