"Greg and Jim"

The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Sprinkler System

By Greg Clark, July 14, 1945

“How much hose, inquired Jimmie Frise, “have you got left?”

“By golly,” I said, “I’ve only got about 30 feet.”

“That’s about what I’ve got,” muttered Jim. “And even that leaks.”

“Mine,” I informed him, “spurts all over at the tap. It has two main flaws which shoot fine jets about 15 feet. And in between are sundry soft spots that dribble.”

Mine’s exactly the same,” said Jim. “What I was going to suggest, we ought to pool our hose. I’ll bring my section over and we’ll make a new splice and join them up together. It will make one good hose. Then, on alternate nights we’ll roll it up and take it to each other’s house.”

“A fine suggestion,” I commended. “Maybe out of the two 30-foot lengths we could get one decent hose of 50 feet. Which would just about reach the foot of my yard.”

“Same here,” said Jim. “At this moment some of the best flowers I’ve got are parching to death, 10 feet out of range of my hose.”

“Shouldn’t we have bought some of this ersatz hose?” I inquired. “This wartime composition rubber? I see lots of that hose for sale.”

“Not me,” declared Jim. “I’m waiting for the experiments to end before I invest in any wartime substitutes.”

“I’ve talked to some people,” I advised, “who say that these rubber substitute hoses are better than any rubber hose they ever owned.”

“Maybe so,” said Jim. “But if rubber heels and the rubber soles you get on sport shoes these days are any sample of what rubber substitute is, I don’t want any of it. Did you ever notice the black scars the kids’ shoes make on the hardwood floors?”

“So that’s what it is?” I cried. “I’ve been wondering what those black scratches were.”

“Every scar,” asserted Jim, “is a little bit of wear and tear on the rubber substitute in the shoes. At that rate, they can’t last any time. And I bet hoses and tires are the same.”

“But it stands to reason,” I countered, “that science would sooner or later find some substitute for rubber. The minute the motor car was invented and good roads began to branch out in all directions all over the world, we should have foreseen that mankind would not for long be dependent on the juice of a tree that would only grow in certain restricted climates.”

“It does seem silly,” agreed Jim. “The whole world, from the Arctic through the temperate zones to the tropics and on down through the south temperate zone into the Antarctic, hundreds of millions of people with millions of motor cars each with five tires, all dependent upon a few South Sea Islanders squeezing the sop out of some special trees.”

“It isn’t good enough,” I submitted. “Science just had to get busy, war or no war.”

“Yet,” pointed out Jim, “look how dependent the world still is for so many different things on some small section of the world. Tea, for example. And coffee. How is it the whole world has become so victimized by certain habits and customs? Russia drinks billions of gallons of tea every day. Look at Britain, soaking up tea in lakes and gulfs. Up in northern Canada trappers having to have their pail of tea breakfast, noon and supper. And coffee! Millions of Americans, millions of South Americans, Frenchmen huddled over their coffee cups all along those open-air cafes of the boulevards. Spaniards, Italians …”

Mystery of the Moose

“That’s a queer thing,” I admitted. “A little bush grows in China and India. A few famished Chinese soak the dried leaves in boiling water. They’ll soak anything in boiling water. Sharks’ fins, birds’ nests. So they soak dried leaves. Presently, the queer little habit had spread all over the earth, and hundreds of millions simply can’t do without it.”

“Science hasn’t done anything about that,” pointed out Jim. “Maybe they can find a substitute for rubber. But can they find a substitute for all the other odd things men squeeze out of trees or pluck off bushes in comparatively small areas of the earth’s surface?”

“Do you know, Jim,” I mused, “it seems to me mankind is the laziest animal of all. Admitted, a moose is lazy. All a moose had to do, 1,000 years ago, was keep on slowly feeding south, through continuous lily pad ponds and willow brush and all the other things he eats, in order to reach the southern states. And there, in lush comfort, with no severe winter, the moose tribe would have found heavenly habitat. But are there any moose in Louisiana or Georgia? No. They are found exclusively in the hardest, bitterest spruce tracts of the north, where winter comes like grim death and hangs on for six months out of the 12. Why didn’t the moose tribe feed steadily southward? Why were they so lazy as to stick up in the inhospitable Canadian north?”

“Hmmm,” said Jim.

“The same with so many other beasts,” I said. “But man, apparently so energetic, so discontented, so eternally in search of better and more comfortable regions in which to live, is so lazy that If some Chinese shows him how to soak dried leaves in boiling water, mankind thinks the Chinese have the only leaves that can be soaked. Why haven’t we experimented with our own leaves?”

“Maybe we have,” said Jim. “Maybe those of us that are still left are the ones that haven’t – experimented. I think it is safer to let the Chinese experiment with soaking dried leaves and the Turks experiment with roasted berries. Always let somebody else do the experimenting. If they find something good and it doesn’t kill them, okay. Let’s use it.”

“That’s the trouble with us,” I protested. “Is there a sillier spectacle on earth than the past 30 years, with millions of motor cars racing all over the world, in seven continents, surely the most energetic and hectic spectacle in all human history. Yet the whole vast pandemonium dependent on the juice of some trees growing in a couple of small tropic areas. Modern industry may be a marvel. Modern science may be a wonder. But they both ought to be ashamed of themselves, putting the whole traffic of humanity on a foundation of bug juice from some pagan island.”

A Question of Rubber

“The best principle to observe in modern business,” explained Jim, “is, if it works, leave it alone. The first use of rubber in connection with traffic was rubber tires for wealthy men’s buggies and dog carts. Then – came the bicycle. And before anybody had time to invent a synthetic substance for the millions of bicycles in the 90’s, the rubber importers, who had got busy to meet the buggy trade, were able to produce enough wild rubber to meet the first onset of the bicycle tire trade. Then, foreseeing the great days ahead when the whole world would travel on bicycles, the rubber planters began to create orchards of rubber trees. Nobody foresaw the motor car. But by the time the motor car dawned, the rubber growers had got far enough ahead with their dreams of a world entirely bicyclized to meet the first onset of the motor car.”

“And of course,” I put in, “the motor car would have been simply out of the question without rubber tires.”

“Correct,” agreed Jim. “So you see, the rubber growers and rubber importers in every case were far enough ahead to meet the demand. So science had no call to get busy and invent a substitute. Industry always leaves well enough alone. Business says, if it works don’t change it. And that is why, up until now, there has been no call to science to invent a substitute for rubber.”

“Have they really got it?” I questioned. “Don’t you think rubber, like tea or coffee, like leather for shoes and wool for clothes, is something natural-born and right and fitting? Even if they do work out a perfect substitute for rubber, won’t there always be a demand for genuine rubber tires? They’ve invented no end of substitutes for wool and cotton for clothes. They’ve got imitation leather of every description. But people still like wool clothes as the ancient Romans did, and cotton, as the ancient Egyptians did, thousands of years before Christ. And can you imagine the day ever coming when men will give up genuine leather shoes?”

“Rather than be ruined,” Jim submitted, “I imagine the rubber planters of the east will offer their rubber so dirt cheap that the rubber Importers and the rubber processors will see the chance to make a little dough; and the rubber industry will be revived. Then we’ll witness a great pitched battle between the synthetic rubber interests and the natural rubber interests. Cartels will be formed. Little gangs of British bankers and investors, desirous of cutting the throats of other British bankers and Investors, will gang up with little gangs of American bankers and investors desirous of cutting the throats of other American bankers and investors. That’s a cartel.”

“I thought a cartel,” I interrupted, “was where all the British bankers and investors desirous of cutting one another’s throats got together with all the American bankers and investors desirous of cutting one another’s throats, because it was agreed that the public was hardly worth all the throat cutting. So they ganged up and cut the public’s throat instead.”

“I guess that is a cartel,” amended Jim. “And it may well be that rather than stage a pitched battle over synthetic rubber versus natural rubber they will organize a gigantic world-wide stock company of all the natural rubber plantations. All the planters will be bought out. All the importers and processors will be bought out. And then they’ll sell the stock to the public.”

“That would be a good way to put an end to the natural rubber industry,” I agreed. “But in the meantime I sincerely hope they get through with their experiments on synthetic rubber before the tire rationing comes off. Don’t you think one of us ought to invest in one of these rubber substitute hoses?”

“Look,” said Jim. “There’s just this one summer left. Surely we can pool our hoses and get by for the next couple of months. Then, by next year, either real rubber will be back or else a first-class substitute will be available. I have the feeling that with the war still on the best substitutes are still going into war materials.”

“Okay,” I subsided. “You bring your hose over and we’ll see what we can salvage from the two.”

So Jim ran home in the car and rolled his hose and brought it over to my garden. Jim’s hose was already synthesized. Of the 35 feet he had serviceable, 20 was an old smooth-bore type of hose dating back to the year of his marriage, about 1918. And the rest was the ribbed type, part of an extension he had bought about 1926.

Mine was just the one brand. It was the old smooth-bore style and was the relic of the first and only hose I ever bought. It had three splices in it. The passing years had seen soft spots and bends and cracks appear. I cut the defective section of a foot or so out, and then rejoined the good bits with those metal tubes and rings that splice hose together.

Evening in the Garden

Jim’s had an old-fashioned bronze nozzle. Mine had a more modern nickel-plated nozzle, with a knurled section for easy turning. But the connections at both my nozzle and the tap ends were so defective that regular fountains played at both ends. I had to stand at arm’s length from my nozzle; and even so my feet got soaked.

“So we’ll use my terminal connections,” suggested Jim.

A couple of summer bachelors can spend no more profitable evening than pottering in their gardens with hoses and hoes. With a sharp knife I severed from my three-spliced hose both the nozzle and the tap connection. We attached Jim’s hose to the tap to locate the best spot in which to splice in my hose.

His tap connection was flawless. Not a drop oozed. His nozzle was pretty good, but it had only two kinds of spray – either a great heavy flood like hailstones beating the zinnias and phlox; or else a fine mist of spray that would take all night to dampen the pansies.

But it was the mid-section of Jim’s hose that really fell short. There were several soft spots, dozy, like punky wood. These allowed water to seep out. There were also several real cracks, from which spouts of water 10 feet high curved up in various directions when the tap was turned up full.

“Jim,” I said, “this looks to me like a deal you’re putting over on me. There isn’t a five-foot stretch of your hose that hasn’t got a leak in it.”

“Cut it in the middle,” urged Jim, “and we’ll splice your hose in. Maybe with a good 30-foot section in the middle, like that, the water will flow too fast through mine to leak.”

“Nonsense; the more the pressure, the greater the leak,” I stated. “I don’t think it’s worth while trying to splice yours. Wait minute.”

And I went along and counted seven leaks.

“Each of those leaks,” I pointed out, “would require at least six Inches of hose cut out. That reduces your hose by close to four feet. And seven splices would require seven splicers.”

“Oh, try it anyway,” cried Jim. “We’ve got two splicers. Hitch her up and see if we can get enough pressure at the nozzle to reach the back of your yard. If not, we will simply have to go and buy some substitute rubber hoses.”

So we squatted down and went to work on the splices. We cut Jim’s hose at the junction between the old smooth-bore and the later model ribbed hosing. Then we dragged mine up and spliced its 32 feet in between.

When we pounded the end of the ribbed iron splicer into Jim’s hose, the perished rubber split, and we had to keep on paring off an inch or two until we finally hit upon the idea of filing the splicer a little smoother.

We got it hitched at last and then Jim walked back to the tap and turned it on.

It was quite a performance. I was holding the nozzle. If I turned it to the coarse stream a wavering jet, about seven feet long, wobbled and splattered heavily on the turf, digging a hole. If I turned to the fine spray a round balloon appeared, about the size and shape of an umbrella, and most of it drifted back to me.

An Idea Dawns

But back down the hose there was a wonderful display. From Jim’s two sections seven different spurts rose and arched in various directions. From both splices angry little explosions hissed in all directions. And from my section, in the middle, one very fine spurt and two smaller ones divided the north and south about equally between them.

We stood and watched for a moment.

“Turn her off, turn her right off, at the nozzle!” cried Jim suddenly. “Turn the way for the fine spray until she goes tight off.”

I turned. And as I did so all the spurts and fizzles and splutters suddenly arched higher. And three new ones appeared.

Jim strode up to me.

“My boy,” he cried excitedly, “this has been staring mankind in the face for centuries. Ever since hoses were first invented, we’ve been enslaved by the one idea. The fire hose. The hose with one stream to be directed on one target. But a garden hose should have not one but 10 or 20 outlets.”

“Don’t you see?” he expanded, “Talk about substitute rubber and drinking tea and coffee! Why, it has taken the war to show us what a proper garden hose should be like. Instead of the human race having to stand on damp lawns, steering a silly hose yard by yard over the flower borders, we invent a modern hose, a hose with 10 or 15 little nozzles. And then, all we do is walk down and stretch the hose the length of the garden, turn her on, and then sit back in the garden chairs and watch the garden get watered properly, simultaneously and at our ease!”

“Jim, if we patent this!” I gloated expectantly.

I laid the nozzle end down, and we walked the length of the hose, inspecting the leaks. Those that were not quite big enough, I enlarged with my pen knife, until they threw a nice spurt about 10 feet.

“Cut new holes, at regular intervals,” suggested Jim.

And judiciously turning the tap on and off, we spaced our cuts at regular intervals, until we had a series of 19 jets that, with the evening breeze wavering them, covered the whole expanse of the garden.

“Think,” I said, as we sat back in the deck chairs and watched the play of the little fountains, “of the old-fashioned sprinklers. The kind you had to keep getting up every few minutes to walk over wet grass and get squirted yourself, shifting them from place to place.”

“All we have to do now,” added Jim, “when we’re through, is turn off the tap and haul the hose back in. Only our hands get wet.”

As we sat and gloated, my next door neighbor came out and looked over the fence.

“Some hose,” he remarked.

“There you see,” I informed him, “the birth of a great idea. It is going to be patented. Our fortunes are made. This is the Frise-Clark hose. Or the Frike hose. Or maybe the Clarf hose. History is being made before your eyes.”

“Didn’t you ever see a cloth hose?” inquired my neighbor.

“A what?” I inquired.

“A cloth hose that waters the ground all along its length?” he asked.

“I certainly didn’t,” I said. “But anyway, it doesn’t sprinkle.”

“Sprinkling is the worst feature of hoses,” said the neighbor. “If we could water our gardens without sprinkling the flowers and foliage, causing them to weaken and blight, but merely wetting the earth, we would have the ideal hose. And we’ve got it in the cloth hose.”

“Where did you ever see one?” I demanded.

“You could have seen one for the past three summers,” said the neighbor, “by just looking over the fence.”

Which we did. And there, draped along the flower borders and over the grass, was an earth-brown hose of cloth, originally white, he told us. And it was quietly leaking water onto the parched earth, leaving the flowers and foliage to the dew, but richly soaking the ground and the roots.

“I got it,” he explained, “rather than one of those substitute rubber things.”

Jim and I went back to our garden chairs.

“Well, anyway,” said Jim, “I like the look of ours better.”

And we noticed, at the same time, that the spurts were not quite so high.

But when we counted them, instead of 19, there were already 22.


Editor’s Note: Rubber was rationed during World War Two. Innovations in the different types of synthetic rubber was stepped up to meet demand.

Squeaks don’t come any Narrower!

By Greg Clark, July 7, 1930

“I’d like to see Mr. Denison, please,” I said to the lady at the desk in the hospital corridor.

Yes, hospital. Merrill, whether from the after affects of being jiggled on a horse’s back or from too much golf, was taken from the train at an eastern town and rushed to hospital where he was operated on for appendicitis.

And taking the first train after hearing the bad news, I dashed down to his assistance.

“Mr. Denison?” asked the lady in white. “You mean Dr. Denison.”

“Ha, ha,” said I to myself, “the big scamp is masquerading as a doctor is he! Doctor of what? Doctor of architecture, doctor of horse-back riding, doctor of expense accounts?”

“Very well,” said I to the lady, “Doctor Denison.”

Far be it from me to disrupt any of Merrill’s little schemes.

“You are expected,” said the lady in white. “If you will just come this way, I will hand you over to the nurses.”

It was a nice little hospital, surrounded by beautiful bushy gardens, and its corridors were spotless and shiny. I was glad Merrill had the good fortune, if he must be stricken away from home, to land into such a hospital as this.

The lady in white led me down the corridor into a small white room. On a table lay a quantity of linen. And at one side of the room stood one of those wheeled cots on which the sick are taken for a ride.

“Just undress here,” said the lady in white, and put on that white gown there. When you are ready, ring this bell and the nurse will come for you.”

I looked at her in astonishment.

“Undress?” said I.

“Of course,” said she.

“Why undress?” I demanded.

“You can’t go in your business clothes,” said she.

“Ah,” said I, “for sanitation’s sake?”

“Exactly,” said the lady in white, going out the door.

Well, the last thing in the world I would do would be to carry germs into Merrill, lying there exhausted from his operation. But how wonderful, I said to myself as I unbuttoned my collar, the way science is advancing! Here in a small city hospital you couldn’t even go in to visit a friend without undressing and putting on a sanitary nightgown.

“I suppose,” said I, as I removed my boots, “the next thing they will be doing will be making you take a bath before you can visit a friend in hospital.”

The hospital nightie did not exactly fit me. It was more like a tent than a nightshirt. But I liked its extreme modesty.

I rang the bell.

Two nurses entered the room.

“Will you come this way, sir, for your bath?” said the one with the blue eyes.

“Bath!” said I.

“Yes, sir, you must take a bath.”

“Well, I’ll be jiggered,” said I.

So they led me through an inner corridor and left at the bathroom where I had a real good shower. It was a dandy needle shower. I felt fine. Merrill, said I, will be glad to look at a chap as fresh and rosy as me. After the train journey, this bath is a good idea.

“This Gentleman Pulls a New One”

When I came out of the bathroom, the nurses were sitting waiting for me.

“Now we will go to the ante-room,” said the blue-eyed one, “where the male nurse will prepare you.”

“Prepare me?” said I. “Is anything wrong?”

“No,” said the blue-eyed nurse. “Prepare you means shave you and that sort of thing.”

“But I shaved this morning,” said I, somewhat indignantly, for even on a train I pride myself on giving my chin a good clean scrape.

The blue-eyed nurse laughed prettily.

“He’ll do a much better job,” said the nurse.

“Well,” said I, “your hospital is away ahead of anything in Toronto. I never heard of such precautions as you take. Why, you would think I was the world’s champion germ carrier. But if you don’t mind, nurse, I think we will pass up the shave. I feel perfectly presentable now.”

“Dr. Denison insists on everything,” said the nurse.

“He would be to glad to see me if I was covered with mud.” said I.

“Well,” said the nurse, “I’ll have to see the superintendent. Will you wait here?”

I waited. Presently the two young nurses came back with an elderly lady with a peculiarly cool and determined face.

“Good morning,” said she. “How do you feel?”

“Great,” said I.

“Have you any pain?” said the superintendant.

“Pain,” I snorted. I never felt better in my life.”

“That’s splendid,” said the superintendent. “Now, tell me, did it have a flexible handle?”

“I beg your pardon,” said I.

“Did it have a flexible handle? Or a stiff handle? In other words,” said the superintendent, “will it bend?”

“I certainly beg your pardon,” said I, entirely bewildered.

“The toothbrush,” said the superintendent.

“What toothbrush?” I asked.

The superintendent turned and winked at the two nurses who were smiling shyly.

“The toothbrush,” said the superintendent, “that you swallowed.”

It was like a dream. I have had looney dreams like this often.

“I didn’t swallow any toothbrush,” said I, laughing.

“No?” said the superintendent. “Now, like a good man, you just come with us to the ante-room where the male attendant will prepare you. It’ll all be over in no time.”

“Look here,” said I, “there’s a mistake somewhere. I didn’t swallow any toothbrush. All I came here for was to visit my friend Mr. Denison.”

“Now that is ingenious,” said the superintendent to the two young nurses, talking to them just as if I were not there at all, or as if I were a specimen in a case. “It is not at all uncommon for patients to lose their nerve at the door of the operating room. And they are very clever about it too. But this gentleman pulls a new one. He was coming to visit his friend Mr. Denison. I must tell Dr. Denison that.”

She led on. I stood fast.

“Look here,” said I. “Excuse me. Just be good enough to ask Mr. Denison if he is expecting me.”

“Dr. Denison is expecting you,” said she. “He is changing now. You must be ready in five minutes.”

“But I don’t know any Dr. Denison,” said I, shakily, for I could see no way out of this. “I just got off the train half an hour ago and dashed up here to see my friend Denison, who was operated on for appendicitis yesterday.”

Bound, Gagged and Bathed

“There is no Mr. Denison operated on for appendicitis here,” said the superintendent. “Come, come, sir, pull yourself together. You are in a very dangerous situation.”

“I know it,” said I.

“If that toothbrush gets past a certain point, you are likely to have peritonitis and die.”

“Look here,” I yelled, “I swallowed no toothbrush!”

The superintendent turned to the nurses.

“This is the gentleman?”

“He was handed over to us,” they said.

“Short, medium stout,” said the superintendent, sizing me up. “How was he dressed?”

“In a brown suit,” said the blue-eyed nurse.

“Rather shabby?”

“Well, yes,” said the blue-eyed nurse. Never put your faith in blue-eyed nurses. They look at you with such sweet eyes, but they think your suit is shabby.

“This the man all right,” said the superintendent. “Just call MacWhirtie.”

It was impossible to look dignified in that nightshirt. I knew that. Then the door opened, and in came great giant of a sandy-haired Scotchman in overalls, the kind they have one of in every hospital. His hair grew down almost to his eyebrows, and he had blue, simple eyes.

“Just help this gentleman into the ante-room,” said the superintendent.

“Hand’s off!” I roared as MacWhirtie advanced.

But, making soothing and clucking noises, MacWhirtie swept me up, smothered me in the colossal nightshirt and laid me down on a table. I struggled. He held me down.

“Careful,” said the superintendent. “He’s got a toothbrush in him. Don’t let him struggle like that.”

So MacWhirtie got one of those crag-climbing strangle holds on me, and pinned me down.

I could see, from under MacWhirtie’s arm, a pallid little man in soiled white overalls approaching me with a shaving mug and an old fashioned razor.

“Get away from me,” I yelled.

The door opened and in walked a tall thin blond man.

“Well, well,” said he.

“Dr. Denison, this the gentleman that swallowed the toothbrush,” said the superintendent, “and he has got a little fright just at the last minute.”

“We’ll soothe him,” said the doctor, “Get off, MacWhirtie.”

I sat up.

“Doctor,” said I, “there will be the devil to pay over this. I just came in on the train half an hour ago…”

“Where do you feel it now?” asked the doctor, sitting down on the edge of the table, and putting a kindly arm around my shoulder.

“I say,” I said stoutly, “I came up here to visit my friend Mr. Merrill Denison who yesterday was operated on for appendicitis. And they have seized me, bound me, gagged me, bathed me, put me into this nightshirt…”

“Well, well,” said Dr. Denison.

“Well, well, nothing!” I shouted. “I warn you I am not the man you think I am.”

“Then why did you accept the nightshirt and take the bath?” asked the doctor, good-humoredly and patiently. “Like a good chap, now, pull yourself together.”

“Listen,” said I, desperately, and probably by this time I did look like a man who had swallowed a toothbrush, “how do I get out of this?”

“Just as soon we get the toothbrush,” said the doctor. “All right, MacWhirtie, just assist the gentleman into the operating room and we’ll do without the shave. I’ll use plenty of alcohol first.”

Blue-Eyed Nurses Should be Forbidden

MacWhirtie assisted me.

He laid me down on a cold marble table with dazzling lights in my face. I lay there wondering what Merrill would have done in such a predicament as this. Merrill would have said something witty. But I couldn’t think of anything witty. MacWhirtie was standing over me, with a great compassionate look on his simple face.

I smelt druggy smells. I heard something making sizzing noises. The nurses were busily dashing about the dazzling room. They rolled a big thing like a tank on a baggage hand truck over beside me. I sat up. MacWhirtie laid me down.

A silence fell on us all. The doctor smiled down on me.

Then the door of the operating room opened.

The lady in white who met me at the door of the hospital, stood there.

“The gentleman who swallowed the toothbrush is waiting downstairs,” said she.

The silence continued.

Nobody moved.

The smile faded from the bending face of the doctor.

MacWhirtie put one hand under me and helped me sit up.

“Well,” said I.

The blue-eyed nurse started to giggle. I think blue-eyed nurses should be forbidden. They have no sense of other people’s dignity.

“Well, sir,” said I, “you nearly had me disembowelled!”

“We were just going to X-ray you for the toothbrush,” said the doctor. “It would have been quite a hunt.”

“Now, how about taking me upstairs to see Mr. Denison,” said I.

“There is no Mr. Denison here,” said the superintendent in a business like voice. She was the sort of lady who takes the offensive especially when she in the wrong.

“I have a telegram in my pants, if I can get them,” said I, “informing me that he is here.”

“Maybe he is at the other hospital,” said the doctor.

“What other hospital?” I asked.

“There are two hospitals here,” said the doctor, “Just go to the phone and ask if there is a Mr. Denison over there.”

The blue-eyed nurse hurried out.

By the time I got my clothes on, which I donned in the same room with scared little man who was hastily undressing, the nurse informed me that Mr. Denison was indeed at the other hospital.

I shook hands with everybody, the doctor, MacWhirtie, the little man who was now wearing the large nightshirt, and even the blue-eyed nurse.

Then I took a taxi over to the other hospital.

“Mr. Denison?” said the lady in white sitting in the corridor of this hospital. “Just come this way.”

She led me down a corridor.

“Just a minute,” said I. She halted.

“I shaved this morning,” said I. “I’ve had a bath, this suit was French-cleaned only the day before yesterday, and I’m in highly sanitary condition.”

“Yes, sir,” said the lady in white, stiffly.

She opened door.

And there, pale, weary, but with one eye shut in silent greeting, lay Merrill.


Editor’s Note: This is one of the early “pre-Greg-Jim” stories that Greg wrote co-starring fellow writer Merrill Denison, from the Star Weekly. He also worked as a playwright and would later move to New York and still contribute occasionally to the Star Weekly. Jim would often illustrate these stories.

This is the Life!

July 6, 1946

The Evening’s Fishing

By Greg Clark, July 3, 1937

“What is it,” asked Jimmie Frise, snuggling deeper behind the steering wheel, “that makes us so nuts about fishing?”

“It’s like having red hair,” I explained, “or being able to sing. It’s just born in us.”

“I’m not so sure,” said Jim. “Here we are, heading north at a high rate of speed for the opening of the bass season. We’ve spent every week-end in May and June trout fishing, to the neglect of our business and our families. We’ve spent far more money on it than any budget normally allows for pleasure.”

“Fishing only lasts,” I pointed out, “from May first to the middle of October. Five and a half measly months.”

“Most people,” stated Jim, “take two weeks’ holidays in the summer and let it go at that. Here we not only take two weeks but about twenty week-ends.”

“Everybody does something with their week-ends,” I countered. “Golfing, driving in the country. Lots of them take trips south.”

“Most of them,” corrected Jim, “just stay home.”

“Well,” I agreed, “it’s a free country. And if a man takes more pleasure staying home on week-ends and saving his money, that’s his pleasure. I would no more think of interfering with him staying home than I would permit him to interfere with me going away.”

“What I mean is,” said Jim, “those who stay home feel that they can’t really afford to go busting off on trips.”

“They’re welcome to feel anyway they like,” I admitted happily, “so long as by deed or word or facial expression they don’t attempt to interfere with my way of thinking. These people who stay home on week-ends are probably looking forward to a comfortable old age. That’s a form of amusement I have no use for. Comfortable old age! Imagine guys in good health sitting around all Saturday and Sunday greedily looking forward to a comfortable old age. Of all the disgusting habits.”

“I’d say it was mighty good sense. Farsighted.” said Jim.

“Short-sighted, you mean,” I insisted. “Can’t they see all around them that old age is hardly ever comfortable? It’s full of aches and pains. They’re so fat they can’t breathe or so thin they hurt all over even lying in bed. All the things that have happened to them in their lives seem to pile on top of them in the end. They’ve eaten too heartily or have got round-shouldered at sedentary jobs. What they thought all their lives was just being careful turns out in the end to be only mean and it shows in their faces. Unless you die when you’re about twenty-five life is always disappointing and the longer you live the more disappointed with it you grow. That is unless you go fishing or something.”

“You’ve got the worst philosophy I ever heard,” said Jim loudly and stepping on the gas.

“Well, show me something better than fishing,” I retorted.

“It’s the most selfish pleasure, on earth,” stated Jim. “A golfer only leaves his family for few hours and an occasional evening. But a fisherman runs away Friday night and never turns up until late Sunday night or early Monday morning, looking sunburned and guilty.”

“His family are glad to be rid of him,” I cut.

“Even week-end trips cost money,” said Jim. “A man runs away with a lot of money fishing.”

“I suppose it would be better,” I sneered, “if he were to save it little by little until the next depression. Surely nobody in the whole world believes in saving money any more.”

“Aw,” scoffed Jimmie.

“All right: all I say is, anybody is a fool to save,” I assured him. “And of all the ways of not saving, I think fishing is the best.”

“And,” questioned Jim, “when you are old and can’t go fishing any more and all your money is gone, how will you feel?”

“Far better than most of my generation,” I declared. “For I can say, ‘Here I am without any money, but I’ve had a hell of a good time.’ And the rest of the inmates of the poorhouse will be hunched up, their hands clasped between their boney knees, moaning. ‘Here I am without any money and look how I’ve suffered.’ I bet I’ll be the happiest old guy in the old men’s home. That’s something to look forward to.”

“I’m looking forward,” stated Jim. “to some swell fishing in about three hours. We’ll have the evening from at least six o’clock on. We ought to get our limit of six bass before dark in dear old Lake Skeebawa.”

“What a lake,” I agreed. “And to think we have it practically to ourselves.”

“What I like about Skeebawa,” said Jim, “is there are no motor boats on it. No engines humming and snorting and putting. No oil fouling the pure water. Just a little secret lake that seems to have escaped the march of progress.”

“What I hate about motor boats,” I said, “is that they allow wholly undeserving people, fat, cushion-sitting fish hogs, to race around the lake taking in only the very best fishing spots. Good fishing belongs to those who are willing to take the trouble to win it.”

“Of course, our guides’ do the paddling,” reminded Jim.

“Good old Simon and good old Sandy,” I cried. “Will they be glad to see us? I’ve brought Simon a couple of my old pipes and a pound of that cheap tobacco he likes.”

“I’ve brought Sandy that hunting knife I got for Christmas,” said Jim. “It’ll make a big hit with Sandy.”

“This makes ten years,” I mused, “that Simon and Sandy have paddled us the rounds of Skeebawa.”

“They’re grand old boys,” said Jim. “Let’s see: we’ll do the usual round. We’ll take to the left from the boathouse and cast all along that rush bed. Then cut across to Simon’s Point and fish the shoal for say half an hour. Then along those lily pads on the far side and so home by dark. We can do that in three hours.”

A Disturbing Sound

“Easy,” I agreed, turning to take stock of my various items of tackle, rods, boxes in the back seat. “What are you going to start with?”

“Red and white plug,” said Jim.

“I think I’ll start with that copper casting spoon,” I considered. “It’ll be a bright evening and after the hot spell the bass won’t be any too frisky.”

“Six bass apiece,” sang Jimmie; giving the gas to her. “And then in the dark walking up to Andy’s cottage for one of Mrs. Andy’s glorious fried bass dinners.”

“Then sitting out under the stars listening to the whippoorwills,” I joined in, “and talking slow and lazy with old Simon and Andy about last winter and how they worked in the lumber camps and what they trapped and the big lake trout they caught through the ice.”

“And,” sighed Jim, “going to bed knowing that tomorrow we have the whole glorious long day, from misty sunrise to moonlit dark, just casting, casting, casting.

We fell silent and watched the long road rolling under us and the bright summer fields and the farmers already in their hay. And, thinking the idle thoughts of the true angler, we watched the woods grow thicker and darker with the northering miles, and a tingle come into the air, and the smell of the lakes, the little lakes, come cool and secret through the summer.

We reached at last, both of us eager and sitting up fresh, the road that goes to Skeebawa, loveliest of the little lily-margined lakes. and wound down through familiar narrowing roads of cedar jungles and high stumpy barrens and aisled forests of maple and oak, seeing with joyous hearts the narrowing, the roughening that meant the ever nearer approach to the little lost water where Simon and Sandy would probably be waiting for us at the old broken rail fence at the turn down, as in all the happy past.

We reached the fence at last, both of us emitting ceremonial shouts and hurrahs. But neither Simon nor Sandy was waiting for us at the usual spot. Down the sandy ruts towards Sandy’s cabin we turned.

“Been a heavy car in here to-day,” said Jim briefly

“H’m,” said I. “Of course there are other guests always. But Simon will always save his canoe for me.”

“One thing is certain,” agreed Jim.

Over the knoll we rose and, as usual, stopped the car to feast our gaze on wrinkled blue Skeebawa spread below us. Jim turned off the engine and said,

“Aaaaahhhh.”

A curious and horrible sound came to our ears. It was the distant drone and whine of a powerful outboard motor engine.

“Jim,” I cried.

Jim snatched at the key and started the car.

“Sandy never,” Jim said, “never would have bought an engine. He couldn’t afford one, for one thing.”

“Let’s get there,” I said, and took hold for the bumps down the few hundred yards of sandy ruts to the cabin.

Mrs. Sandy came out as we drove in the yard, wiping her hands on her apron and waving to us.

“Mrs. Sandy,” I said, leaping out, “is that an engine?”

“It sure is,” said Mrs. Sandy delightedly. “An old gent arrived last night with a trailer and his own boat on it. See, there?”

Under the pines where our car usually rested was a big rich car and attached to it a trailer such as big skiffs are carried on. It was a rich man’s car.

“Where are the boys?” demanded Jim.

“Out with him,” said Mrs. Sandy. “What a time they’re having. That boat skims, so it does. Just skims. They’ve been all around the lake half a dozen times and got no end of bass, but he puts them all back over the six he’s allowed by the law.”

“Mrs. Sandy,” I said, “didn’t the boys know we’d be here?”

“Certainly they knew,” she cried. “Of course they did and come in and I’ll take you to your room.”

“But, Mrs. Sandy,” said Jim, “we were hoping to go right out. For the evening’s fishing.”

“The canoes are right where you’ll find them,” said Mrs. Sandy. “He’s paying the boys ten dollars a day to ride in that boat with him. Ten dollars a day. My, he’s a rich man.”

“Mrs. Sandy,” said Jim, “is there nobody to paddle us?”

“Simon tried all night nearly,” said she, “to get one of his nephews, but they were busy. The boys said you wouldn’t mind paddling yourself to-night and they’ll have some nephews for you in the morning.”

“In the morning?” said I. “Is the rich gentleman staying?”

“Staying?” cried Mrs. Sandy. “He’s crazy about the place. He says he’s been looking for it all his life. He’s telegraphed all his friends…”

“Ooooohhh,” moaned Jim, and I joined in and harmonized my groan.

“Why, gentlemen,” cried Mrs. Sandy, “the lake’s full of fish. He says he never saw such fishing. He’s hooked forty if he’s hooked one. And him and the boys, in that skimmer, has just been scooting from the one good spot to the next all day long, wasting no time…. He’s taking me for a spin in it after dinner tonight.”

“Indeed,” said Jim. “Let’s get on the water,” I muttered.

Hurriedly we carried our duffle to the house, where Mrs. Sandy showed us to the room next to our old one. Our old room was strangely packed with foreign duffle, scads of it, rod cases, big leather and canvas bags, expensive-looking tweed coats, rugs, tackle boxes flung about.

“Can’t we have our old room?” I demanded.

“He’s paying twenty dollars a day,” whispered Mrs. Sandy tremendously; “twenty dollars a day for this room and he says he won’t give a cent less.”

We dropped our bags in a little room with a slanting ceiling and stuffy smell, a room I had not even glanced into in all the years. We changed into old clothes, snatched up rods and boxes and walked down, in the evening to the ramshackle boathouse and got out Simon’s red canoe.

“I’ll paddle,” I growled so determinedly that Jim didn’t even haggle.

Silently I drove the canoe along toward the long-rush beds while Jim mounted his reel and tied on his favorite red and white bass plug. As we cast along, the drone and snarl of the engine resounded from the far end of the lake, starting and stopping, as we pictured just which best spots this old devil was fishing in turn. We fished the two hundred yards of rush beds without a single strike. Not a swirl. In past years we each always took two bass off this rush bed. Two and three pounders.

“Simon,” I said, “has probably had him along here.”

“Sandy, too,” said Jim shortly.

Far down the quieting lake we heard distant merry shouts and the familiar music of a man into a fish. It sounded like a big one.

I paddled Jim heavily across to the boulder point and set him just the right distance to cast over the shoals. Ten casts, not a bass. Twenty casts, not a bass.

“He’s probably been over this ground a dozen times to-day,” I suggested.

We heard the distant engine start up and around the far point came the smoothly skimming skiff. The water was still and like a creature of evil the skiff came boring and arrowing up the lake. I heard the loud calls as Simon and Sandy saw us, and the skiff turned and came for us, racketing the echoes of the quiet hills of Skeebawa and breaking the peaceful lake into waves and wash. In an instant the skiff curved alongside us and Simon, all grins like a child, turned the engine off.

In the middle, easy and quiet, sat a skinny little man. He was beyond seventy. He was wiry and bright eyed. In his hand he held the most expensive type of rod and it was mounted with one of those twenty-five-dollar reels.

“Good evening, gentlemen,” he said, as our craft touched sides gently. “The boys tell me this is your private little heaven. I hope you will welcome a new and unworthy angel?

And Jimmie and I, a little stiffly perhaps, welcomed him and denied it was any private heaven and that all lakes were public property and anybody who cared could come on them, and then we drifted off on the pretext of having just another couple of dozen casts at a special spot where some cedars hung out over…

“We done that,” cried Simon. “We done it twice this morning and three times this afternoon.”

And with a flourish he started the engine and away they snored for the cabin.

“Jim,” I said, “I can’t stay. I can’t even stay the night.”

“Me, too,” said Jim, reeling up.

And we slunk in and packed our stuff amid the lovely odor of frying bass while the stranger sat at feast. We told the boys and Mrs. Sandy we had just dropped in for old time’s sake, but that we had to meet a gang of friends at another lake forty miles up.

And into the night, directionless, not knowing whither, we drove, back out the old twisting road.

“The only thing a man can do,” said Jim, “is save his money and work like a fool when he’s young so as to be able to go fishing when he is old.”

“It’s the only way to compete nowadays,” I agreed.

“You never said a truer word,” said Jim, relapsing into the silence that befitted the dark and pine-girt night.


Editor’s Note: Lake Skeebawa is not real. If Greg and Jim did have a secret fishing spot, they would not reveal it in a story.

Toronto Star Ad – 07/02/32

July 2, 1932

“Sitting Pretty”

June 25, 1932

Dogs Are Only Human

By Greg Clark, June 26, 1948

Even a big and fighting Airedale can be licked by an irate lady, Jim and Greg find

“That dang Airedale!” barked Jimmie Frise.

“Fighting again?” I inquired.

“No: he jumped the fence,” growled Jim, “and scratched and kicked our zinnia bed all to pieces.”

“Aw, at this time of year, Jim,” I soothed, “all dogs are pretty frisky. Maybe it was some other…”

“No, no, the family saw him,” snorted Jim. “He just jumped the fence, glanced around the garden and saw the zinnia bed all nicely laid out. He jumped right into the middle of it and started scratching and kicking for all he was worth. Malicious damage, if ever you saw it!”

“What are you going to do? See McGillicuddy?” I asked.

“Something has got to be done,” declared Jim with finality. “That dog has become a public nuisance and a public menace.”

“McGillicuddy is very fond of that dog, Jim,” I submitted. “After all, like master, like dog. McGillicuddy is a big, rough, cheery, quarrelsome sort of guy.”

“I don’t care how big and rough he is,” snapped Jim. “I’m going up and have a showdown about that dog.”

“Look,” I reasoned. “All dogs are public nuisances and public menaces. If every dog was as tame and docile as Dolly here …”

I had Dolly on a leash out for an evening stroll. That is how I happened to walk around to Jim’s.

“Hi, Dolly!” greeted Jim.

Dolly, puffing, gave her tail a brief wag. She is a cocker spaniel, black and white. Veterinary science has condemned her to permanent spinsterhood. She used to have too much coat, so we clipped her. That made her coat grow into fur. Now she is as broad as she is long, round as a bolster and finds life pretty heavy going. But she is the gentlest, mildest, least playful little spinster in the world.

“Dolly is at least a lady,” said Jim. “I don’t suppose she ever did a mischievous thing in her life.”

“Oh, yes, when she was a pup, she chewed up slippers and things,” I admitted.

“I suppose,” said Jim, “she is the only dog for five blocks around here that hasn’t been chewed up by that dang Airedale!”

“Aw, even fighting dogs don’t fight with females,” I reminded him. “That’s one thing about dogs. They know enough to leave a lady dog alone. Lady dogs can be pretty spiteful.”

“That Airedale of McGillicuddy’s,” declared Jim, “has nearly killed every dog in the neighborhood.”

“I don’t think McGillicuddy would be bothered,” I reflected, “with a dog that wasn’t the boss of the street.”

“Terrier!” said Jim, caustically. “Airedale terrier, they call it! Why, that dog weighs 50 pounds, if It weighs an ounce.”

“It’s still a terrier,” I pointed out.

“Terriers,” countered Jim, “are small, handy dogs: not moose. I bet a true terrier doesn’t weigh 10 pounds.”

“Oh, yes,” I assured him. “A fox terrier can weigh as much as 18 pounds. Maybe an Irish terrier can go as much as 25 pounds. A good 45- or 50-pound Airedale isn’t out of the way…”

“But terriers,” complained Jim, “are supposed to be rat-killers, vermin-killers. What kind of vermin could a 50-pound Airedale find to kill?”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “Airedales are used out west for hunting grizzly bears and mountain lions. They’re mighty fighters.”

“I think I’ll suggest to McGillicuddy,” said Jim acidly, “that he send his dog out to the Rockies. I’ll suggest that if he admires pugnacity, he ought to give his dog a chance, instead of letting him tear up little spaniels and house pets…”

“Aha, has he been at your Rusty again?” I exclaimed seeing the light.

“No, no,” assured Jim. “While I object to his fighting, it’s this malicious damage to gardens that has got me roused up.”

“Why don’t you report it to the police ” I suggested.

“Aw, everybody in the district,” scoffed Jim, “has reported that dog one time or another in the past year. And what happens? The cops call on McGillicuddy. He invites the cops in, and they sit around talking about he-man dogs and sissy neighbors. And then the cops come out, laughing, and waving good-bye to McGillicuddy like birds of a feather.”

At this moment, we heard barking up the street. And down came Rusty. Jim’s Sinn Fein Irish water spaniel, like a brown streak, while behind him, bellowing like a lion, came McGillicuddy’s big Airedale, Pete.

When Dolly saw them, she promptly sat down a bared her little teeth.

The two raced past, as Rusty made for the shelter of Jim’s house. Pete, suddenly distracted by Jim’s shoulder and waving arms, gave up the chase and rather indignantly paused, stared at Jim and then retreated with dignity back up toward his own house.

“See what I mean?” growled Jim fiercely. There was a fight, if Rusty hadn’t run. Did you ever see such a sullen, impudent stare as an Airedale can give you? Why, they don’t look you in the face at all. They look at your calf or your thigh or some place on your anatomy, as if cogitating whether to make a grab or not.”

“Pete’s quite a dog,” I murmured.

Rusty came out, looking a little verminous, and glanced cautiously up the street. He trotted over to greet Dolly. But she bared her little white teeth and snarled. Rusty, respectful as all dogs are to ladies backed away and ignored her.

Up the street, there was a sudden squall and yammer of dogs fighting, and down came a small black dog running for his life, with Pete, the Airedale, in large bounding pursuit.

“Awfff!” cried Jimmie, suddenly. “I’m going to deal with this business RIGHT NOW! Come on!”

“Why not write him a letter, Jim?” I suggested.

But Jim was striding up the street. I hauled Dolly to her feet and we followed.

As we neared McGillicuddy’s house, we could see him kneeling on his front steps. He was painting them. In the cool of the evening.

When we drew close, I noted that he had just finished painting his verandah, a pretty Spanish tile red, and was now starting down the steps. He had the top one done.

Pete, the Airedale, was sitting on the lawn watching his lord and master. And as we drew level and paused, Pete stood up and barked at us loudly and vulgarly, as only an Airedale can. His button eyes studied us anatomically.

“Shut up,” commanded McGillicuddy, turning around. “Hey! Hullo!”

McGillicuddy is one of those big, brindled, freckled characters, jovial and hearty, the Airedale type himself. He will be friendly or quarrelsome with you at the drop of the hat. Whichever you like. He is one of those breezy obliging type. I am rather fond of McGillicuddy; but he isn’t my near neighbor, you understand.

“Mac,” said Jim, “I’ve got to complain about Pete.”

“Shut up. Get away. Sit down!” commanded McGillicuddy, and Pete obeyed. “What’s he done now?”

“He came into our garden,” enumerated Jim, “he jumped the fence, see? And after a brief look around, he leaped square into the zinnia bed and proceeded to scratch and kick it all the pieces.”

McGillicuddy looked long and steadily at Jim, with an Airedale expression in his eyes.

“No dog,” he said. “would do such a thing!”

“But I tell you,” cried Jim with sudden heat, “the family saw him. He just jumped the fence, stood looking around a minute. And then took one leap into the zinnia bed and started scratching and kicking for all he was worth. A straight case of malicious damage!”

McGillicuddy began to get a little red in the face. His freckles stood out.

“Look!” he said, “It doesn’t make sense! Why would dog do such a thing?”

“That isn’t for me to answer,” retorted Jim. “That’s for you to answer. That darn dog of yours is a public menace. He is fighting all the time. He upsets garbage pails. And he tears up gardens.”

McGillicuddy took a long, slow breath, and took a couple of strokes with his paint brush on the top step to cool himself off.

“Now, let’s be reasonable,” he said. “Dogs are only human. You can’t expect a big, vigorous dog like Pete to sit around like a bump on a log like that silly little spaniel there.”

He indicated Dolly, who was sitting rather like a bump. I pulled the leash and got her to her feet. She panted with the effort.

“Every man,” explained McGillicuddy heartily, “to his taste in dogs. I can’t see what you see in that flop-eared Irish water spaniel you’ve got.”

“I’ve got a golden retriever too,” declared Jim with dignity. “but a farmer keeps him out in the country.”

“Every man to his fancy,” agreed McGillicuddy. “But you see, I like Airedales. I like big Airedales, big, lively, spirited dogs. Sure, he fights a little; sure, he is a little rough and rowdy. But there you are!”

“I think,” said Jim levelly, “I’ll bring my golden in to town for a few days. He’s about the size of that Airedale. He might teach Pete a little lesson.”

“Oho, is that so?” scoffed McGillicuddy, suddenly roused. “Well, mister, any old time you like…”

He stepped down off the steps.

Pete, sensing his master’s ire, leaped up and jumped toward us.

Dolly, like a flash, jerked the leash out of my hands and with a small fierce feminine snarl and her lady teeth bared viciously, made a dive for the big dog.

Without a yelp, Pete turned like lightning and bounded past McGillicuddy’s legs.

He bounded up the steps. On the wet top step he skidded. On his side and rump, he slid across the full depth of the freshly painted tile red verandah and came up with a bump against the wall. Little Dolly, fairly fizzing with rage, was right after him.

Around and around in a mad, slithering scramble, the two raced and snarled and fought, the big dog desperately trying to avoid the nasty nips the bulgy little cocker was inflicting on him. McGillicuddy bounded on to the verandah and booted them both off, I caught the leash as Dolly yipped past, and Pete, all red with paint, fled down the side drive.

“Okay,” wuffed McGillicuddy from the wrecked verandah. “Okay! You win, boys. Any dog that would run from a little wee whiffet like that thing…”

“All dogs are scared of irate ladies,” I apologized for Pete.

“To heck with it!” panted McGillicuddy. “Look at my verandah! The clumsy big oaf! Chased by a rabbit, by gosh! Okay: I’ll send him out to my brother in the country. He raises rabbits.”

“Sorry, McGillicuddy,” said Jim, with stiff lips.

“To heck with it,” growled McGillicuddy, turning to stare at the mess.

We walked back down the street, Dolly fairly staggering with exhaustion.

“Dear,” breathed Jim, when we got a few doors down, “dear little Dolly!”

And with my permission, paint and all, he picked her up and carried her.

This is Jimmie Frise’s last contribution to the Magazine. The beloved cartoonist, who brought humor to hundreds of thousands of Canadian homes, died suddenly June 13.


Editor’s Notes: As indicated by the last note in the story, this was the last published Greg-Jim story. His obituary was written by Greg in the previous week’s issue. After a week off, he returned with a story called “The Young Volunteer”, about a boy volunteering to be his new partner. Greg speaks with him suggesting that it is not that easy to find a partner.

“What kind,” he asked, as we fell in step, “of adventure do you think we could have?”

“My rule is,” I informed him, “just walk along and adventure will befall you.”

The next few weeks had stories illustrated by different artists until Duncan Macpherson became the regular artist on August 7, 1948. The new stories included fictional relatives and neighbours, and continued weekly until June 3, 1950, and then became infrequent, with Greg sometimes writing stories, and other times straight up reporting. Macpherson would eventually become a celebrated editorial cartoonist in Canada. The magazine and newspaper industry was undergoing rapid change due to changing consumer tastes and competition from television. The Montreal Standard ceased publication on August 18, 1951, and became “Weekend Picture Magazine” on September 8, 1951, and shortly after changed to “Weekend Magazine”. Greg’s stories in these publications were usually not illustrated, and were the basis for many of his books published in the 1950s and 1960s.

Weekend Magazine was distributed free of charge with 9 daily newspapers across the country in 1951. Weekend offered high-quality colour reproduction to advertisers, good photographs, feature stories and recipes to readers, and a profit-making supplement that boosted circulation for the newspaper publishers. By the 1960s Weekend Magazine was carried in 41 newspapers with a circulation over 2 million, and it was the most popular advertising vehicle in the nation. Colour television and the turn away from general-interest periodicals hurt the magazine, and it got thinner each year. By 1979 it had been merged with The Canadian, and in 1982 Today, the successor supplement, ceased publication.

Toronto Star Ad – 6/27/31

June 27, 1931

3 A.M.

June 19, 1937

Ginseng Hounds

By Greg Clark, June 18, 1938

“It’s too hot,” gasped Jimmie Frise, “for trout fishing and the bass season isn’t open.”

“The song birds,” I agreed, “are too busy hunting worms for their young, to sing decently.”

“All the best of the wild flowers,” added Jim, “are through blooming.”

“So what is there to do,” I sighed, “but put on cream flannels and go, like all the rest of the saps, and sit around on wharves and verandas, looking sporty?”

“Never,” gritted Jim.

“Never, too,” I coincided. “I sometimes think that our prejudice against golf is ill-advised, Jim.”

“A man has to have some prejudices,” pointed out Jimmie. “All my life, I have found it a little difficult to form a prejudice. No sooner did I form a good one than I met the guy, or did the thing, or in some way contacted my prejudice. And lo, it vanished.”

“If we played golf,” I said, as we sat on the edge of the trout stream in the shade of a cedar tree, “we could fill up all this part of the year very happily.”

“No, the trouble with golf is,” explained Jim, “that it steals away all a man’s other recreations. Golf is a thief. Golf is the only thing there is to do in early April, so a man goes forth to this earliest amusement. And before he knows where he is, he is committed to a dozen pleasant golf engagements with friends. By the time he should be going fishing or taking his children into the wilds to hear the first songbirds or to see the first wild flowers blooming, the golf season is in full swing, and the poor devil can’t disentangle himself from its insidious meshes.”

“It’s the easiest way, too,” I agreed. “Here is a man faced with a week-end. He can either go out fishing or tramping in the woods or visit the summer resort in advance of the season. Or else he can slip out to the golf links and play golf. Of all the choices, golf appears the cheapest and handiest.”

“Never let golf get us,” said Jim, devoutly, and we sat in silence in the fragrant cedar shade, while a catbird, its bill full of pale green worms, came secretly and looked at us, on its way to some hidden nest. In a moment, we heard it mew, and knew its young were fed.

“The great thing in life,” said Jim, “is not to get entangled. Don’t commit yourself to any belief or sect or sport or business. The essence of freedom is detachment.”

“Most people,” I disagreed, “are looking for an anchor. Most people love to be moored fast to the shore, instead of being adrift on the sea, calm or stormy.”

In Tune With Nature

“Which is better?” inquired Jim, bravely, since we were safe in the sweet safety of a pleasant woods. “Which is better? To be wrecked at sea? Or to sink at the wharf, a decayed and rotted old hulk that has never even crossed the bay?”

“For,” I added sententiously, “we all sink, in the end.”

“You said it,” confirmed Jim. “I would rather be sitting right here, in this idle glade, with the limpid stream barren of trout and no cow bells, even, to be heard, and no sense of activity or industry or improvement, no birds calling that we can pretend we are studying, no flowers to make us imagine ourselves amateur botanists – just sitting here, in utter idleness.”

“Not even thinking,” I pointed out.

“I often think,” mused Jim, “that the Chinese are going to inherit the earth. They are the only race that seems in complete tune with nature. They have no great ambitions. They have only the ambitions that nature itself has, like these trees and that catbird and that stream. To live and grow and flow along. If storms come, fine. If the weather’s fine, fine. But all the powers of man, in the past centuries of trying, have never succeeded in making the weather fine, if the weather wants to storm.”

“But we’ve improved housing,” I protested proudly, “and invented raincoats and cars and trains to keep us dry on our way to work. You can’t say we haven’t done something to make our lives more comfortable than a catbird’s.”

“I was speaking,” said Jim, loftily, “in the allegorical sense. Unlike the Chinese, we have been trying for centuries to improve our physical life. With what result? That our world to-day is in greater confusion and terror and anxiety than ever before. It seems to be hovering eternally, day after day, year after year, on the brink of an immense precipice.”

“Yeah,” I said, “and where are the Chinese, may I ask?”

“Oh, they’re suffering a little storm, at the moment,” said Jim lightly. “But you know and I know and even the Japanese know, by now, that when the storm is spent, the Chinese will be there, as yesterday, today and forever, multiplying, living strangely and happily and slowly Inheriting the earth.”

“That gives me an idea,” I said. “Let’s hunt ginseng. Come on, let’s walk through the woods here and hunt ginseng?”

“You mean jinsin,”corrected Jim, not getting up.

“Ginseng is its proper spelling,” I informed him.

“Say, listen,” scoffed Jim, “don’t you try to tell me anything about jinsin. I was born on the farm. Lots of my neighbors grew big covered acres of jinsin. Why, every farm newspaper carried big advertisements about the fortunes that were to be made out of growing jinsin.”

“Wild ginseng,” I informed Jim, “is the only kind with magical properties.”

The Root of Life

“Listen,” laughed Jim, “I’ve seen all around our neighborhood, when I was a boy, big yards all roofed over with boards. There were posts stuck up every few feet, and the whole jinsin field roofed over with planks, with big cracks between, to let only a little sunlight in, just like in the deep forest where the jinsin grows.”

“Call it ginseng, Jim,” I insisted. “That’s the way it is spelled in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, although the Chinese call it Jen Sheng, the root of life.”

“All right,” said Jim. “if the Chinese call it Jen Sheng and the encyclopaedia calls it ginseng, then I’ll call it jinsin, which is what everybody called it up around my old home, and they grew it. So there.”

“Jen Sheng,” I said. “The root of life. The Chinese paid fabulous prices for the root of this wild plant. They paid as much as $3,000 for a forked root.”

“They paid what?” said Jim, sitting up and almost standing up.

“They paid,” I said, clearly, “as high as $3,000 for a good big forked root. Forked roots, which the Chinese thought looked like a man, have greater magical properties than plain roots. They restore youth. They lengthen life. They were the monkey glands of the Chinese, a thousand years ago.”

“Where did you get all this?” demanded Jim, actually rising.

“In the encyclopaedia,” I informed him. “Whenever I haven’t anything else to do and it’s raining. I go down and read the encyclopaedia. You’d be surprised at some of the things I’ve read.”

“But $3,000,” said Jim, grimly, gazing off into the leafy shadows of the woods around us.

“Ordinary ginseng,” I said, “sells at around $5 a pound for the roots. They’re sort of translucent, half-transparent, brittle. It takes years to grow a good root.”

“All the years,” muttered Jim, “that I lived right amongst all those fields full of jinsin.”

“Ah, but the cultivated stuff,” I explained, “doesn’t command the price of the wild root. The Chinese find a far greater power in the wild root.”

“Do you know what it looks like?” demanded Jim. “Would you know it if you saw it?”

“Jim,” I said stiffly, “perhaps you forget that I am something of a botanist.”

“Okay,” said Jim, throwing off his creel and other useless gear. “Let’s go look. What kind of ground does it grow on?”

So as we started to explore the woods, I explained to Jim in starts and fits of how ginseng grew in the deep woods, in shade and on high humus soil. I told him some of the legends of ginseng, and how the Chinese emperor, a thousand years ago, had to forbid the Chinese to search for it, because they were exterminating it from the whole of China, and it is a vast country. Ginseng hunters pushed back the borders of the Chinese empire. Into Manchuria and northern Siberia the ginseng hunters went, seeking the green treasure. I told him how it was discovered growing wild in America and how clever Americans began to cultivate it for the Chinese market. But how the Chinese were clever enough to know the cultivated from the wild root.

I explained that European doctors and pharmacologists had studied the root and found that it had no real virtues, but that it had a psychic value, since anything you believe in is as likely to help you as anything else. Far better than epsom salts, anyway.

And then we discovered, the ginseng. At least, I should say, I found it, because Jim’s boyhood memories were pretty vague. All he could recollect were shadowy green jungles under plank roofs which the local farmers guarded with violent jealousy.

“Are you sure this is it?” asked Jim.

“Am I sure?” I scorned. “I tell you this is the genuine article. Look. I’ll pull one up and show you the root.”

I pulled tenderly, digging around the root with my fingers, and drew up out of the earth a queer, transparent, brittle root, about two inches long. And it was forked!

“Forked!” cried Jim. “My gosh, man, maybe you’ve just yanked up $3,000 by the roots.”

He knelt and began digging furiously.

“Don’t waste time,” I explained, “taking the roots only. Take the whole plant and when we get an armful we can sit down and remove the roots.”

So did we ever dig? And did we ever get some forked roots, Jim getting one nearly four inches long? And did we ever have an armful each when a little dog suddenly appeared out of the underbrush and begin barking furiously at us?

And in a minute, did two little boys with fishing poles and freckles ever come out of the underbrush like groundhogs and stand staring speechless at us?

“Hey, mister,” said the forwardest little boy, “ain’t you scared?”

“Scared?” I inquired, from the kneeling position.

“Ain’t you scared of poison ivy?” asked the child.

Jim dropped his armload violently.

“This,” I said, leaping up, is not poison ivy, my son, this is ginseng.”

That ain’t ginseng,” said the little boy swallowing. “It’s plain poison ivy, mister. You’ll have spots all over you.”

“Poison ivy,” I stated firmly, has shiny leaves and the leaves have a reddish color at the base of the leaf.”

“Yeah, in the fall it has,” agreed the little boy, tenderly, “but when it’s young it hasn’t. You’ll have blisters everywhere, on your hands and arms and all over.”

“I thought it was poison ivy,” rasped Jim, his hands dangling far out for fear he would inadvertently touch his face. “I know ivy when I see it. That’s poison ivy.”

“Jim,” I said.

“Come on,” said Jim. “Let’s get to the nearest drug store, quick. We can bathe in soda or something.”

So without even thanking the little boys, we went plunging through the woods and got our tackle and hurried out the path to the car and, throwing everything in, started for town, the nearest town where there was a drug store being 11 miles.

The druggist was half asleep when we burst in but he came immediately to life when we explained that we had just submitted ourselves to serious infection from poison ivy.

“Look,” I said, pointing to my chest, where there was already a slight rash.

Too Far to Go Back

Jim examined his chest and neck, and there was not only a rash but some little red spots already showing.

“Gents,” said the druggist smartly, “step in to the back here; I’ve got a tub. I’ll fix up a bath of ferric chloride and stuff and we’ll see what can be done. But I’m afraid it’s too late to allay the infection if you actually touched the stuff.”

“Touched it?” groaned Jimmie.

And out in the back, while we peeled off to the waist, the druggist ran a tub of water in a wooden washtub and dumped ferric chloride and glycerine, and Jim and without ado plunged into the tub and slathered the stuff all over us. The druggist helped us, pouring additional little bottles of this and that into the tub as he recalled the various cures and antidotes to poison ivy. We sloshed and splashed and labored mightily, wasting no time for talk, until, as we had thoroughly saturated ourselves and had the water running down into our pants, the druggist inquired how we had got messed up with the poison ivy.

“It was ginseng we were looking for,” I explained humbly. “I thought I knew ginseng when I saw it. We picked armfuls of it.”

“There’s lots of ginseng through here,” admitted the druggist.

”Two kids came through the woods, with a little dog,” I elucidated, “or else we would have carried armfuls of the stuff up against our faces and everything.”

“Two little boys, with what color of a dog?” asked the druggist. “Whereabouts were you hunting?”

“Two concessions north and the sixth side road west,” I explained, also going into details as to the little dog and the little boys, gratefully.

“Were these kids,” asked the druggist, “freckled and did one of them do all the talking?”

“That’s them,” said Jim.

The druggist stepped forward and examined the rash on our chests and the red spots on Jimmie’s neck.

“That’s prickly heat,” he said, “and that’s mosquito bites. That’s from over-exertion in the heat.”

“Not poison ivy?” said Jim.

“No more poison ivy than I am,” said the druggist. “And that was ginseng you had. And those two kids are the biggest ginseng hounds in the whole county. And they interrupted you pulling up one of their favorite beds of it I suppose.”

“Nnnn, nnn, nnn,” said Jimmie and I.

But when we got dried up and everything, and paid the druggist for the bath, we decided it was too far to go back, and anyway the kids would be vanished by then, and besides, what could we do if we did find them?


Editor’s Notes: The “little storm” Jim mentions in the story is the Second Sino-Japanese War which began in 1937. It was the prelude to, and some say the real start of World War Two.

This story appeared in Greg Clark & Jimmie Frise Go Fishing (1980).

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