"Greg and Jim"

The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Garden Chef

“Fire,” yelled the neighbor, leaping up and heading out the drive…. The steaks were just ready to turn.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, July 27, 1946.

“A Surprise?” inquired Jimmie Frise.

“Yes, sir, a real surprise.” I assured him heartily, as I unwrapped the bundles.

“Well, it will take something to surprise me,” sighed Jim gloomily. “This summer bachelor stuff is all right when you are young. But when you get to be our age, I don’t think a man should be abandoned alone in the city by his family.”

“We’ll get along all right,” I asserted, as I drew from the larger carton the upper works of the charcoal garden barbecue outfit.

“What the heck’s that?” demanded Jim.

“You’ll see in a minute,” I gloated.

“What gets me about this summer bachelor business,” went on Jim grumpily, “is the eating. When you are in your thirties you can eat at any old neighborhood restaurant, Chinese, Greek, or just nice old ladies running a neighborhood Tea Shoppey.”

I lifted from the carton the legs and substructure of the charcoal garden grill.

“What IS this?” insisted Jim, leaning out from his garden chair and inspecting the black tin objects.

“Go ahead, go ahead,” I suggested. “Tell around at the neighborhood quick-and dirties.”

“Well, I was saying,” said Jim, still inspecting what I was pulling out of the carton with mystified interest, “I don’t think men of our age are supposed to be left alone in the city during the summer. We need to be taken care of. We ought to be properly fed…”

I drew triumphantly from the carton the wire grill, the broiler part of the garden barbecue outfit.

“Holy smoke,” cried Jim, leaping up. “What have you got here?”

I hastily set the legs into the charcoal stove part of the outfit and then laid the heavy steel wire grill on top of all.

“Jim,” I announced, “it’s a charcoal broiler, a charcoal barbecue for the garden. I’ve been reading all about them in those home and garden magazines. So I got one.”

“What do you do with it?” asked Jim expectantly.

“Look,” I said, “We fill this deep pan with charcoal. See the little draught holes underneath and along the sides? Well, we get a red hot bed of charcoal in that. Then we lay two beautiful thick juicy steaks on top. And then…”

“Enough, enough!” cried Jim. “When? When do we try it out?”

“Now,” I stated, “This very minute. In the house I’ve got a bag of charcoal. In the house I’ve got two of the slickest big porterhouse steaks with the tails cut off. In one hour from now…”

“Hey, let’s get going,” exclaimed Jimmie, drooling. “How do we fasten that thing together, solidly…”

“Now, just a second, son,” I cautioned him. “We’ve got lots of time. Run in to the top kitchen drawer and get a pair of pliers and a screw driver.”

A Bit of Ceremony

So, in a matter of 10 minutes, we had the barbecue broiler fastened securely together. In another 10 minutes, we had the card table out. In another 10 minutes, I had opened the next parcel, which contained a chef’s hat and white pants.

“What’s all this!” protested Jim anxiously.

“Now, Jim,” I reasoned, “don’t get into such a fuss. This garden cookery is an art. I read all about it in the magazines. You’ve got to dress the part. You’ve got to make a bit of a ceremony out of it…”

“Aw, ceremony,” growled Jim. “If you knew how hungry I am. If you knew how I feel about those two steaks. How thick are they?”

“Look, relax,” I pleaded. “Sit down in that chair there. Relax. This is my party. This is my surprise.”

“How thick?” repeated Jim.

“Two … inches … thick!” I said slowly.

“And what else is there?” demanded Jim, relaxing heavily into the garden chair.

“Salad,” I said, “I bought a ready-made green salad and it’s in there, in the kitchen, in the covered pot, to keep it crisp. And there’s coffee.”

“No bread?” said Jim.

“You’ll have no room for bread when you face that steak,” I informed him, as I put on the white pants and the chef’s hat. From behind the kitchen door, I got one of the family aprons.

“Get the fire on, get the fire on,” muttered Jim in the chair.

“Look, the evening has just begun,” I said. “Relax and watch. The magazine laid emphasis on the fact that eating a charcoal broiled steak in the garden was a pleasure for all. It was a pleasure for the host -that’s me – to prepare it. It was a pleasure for the guests to watch it. That’s you.”

At which moment, our neighbor, with his newspaper, came out with that sort of burping manner that a summer bachelor adopts after he has just eaten a measly supper of corn flakes and milk in his kitchen.

“Well, well, well,” he called across the fence, sizing up my chef’s hat and get-up.

“A little garden barbecue,” I explained to him.

“Hmmff,” he said, setting himself with his paper.

“Full of his evening corn flakes,” I murmured to Jim.

The next item on the agenda was preparing the fire. I went in and unwrapped the two big steaks. They were superb. Beautiful deep red, with little flecks of fat through the lean. The fat mellow white. They were a good two inches thick.

I left them on the table where Rusty, Jim’s Irish water spaniel, couldn’t reach them; and carried the charcoal bag out to the garden. I made a small kindling bed of paper and small sticks, and poured the charcoal over it. From underneath, I ignited the paper. In a moment, the kindling caught, and in no time at all the fire had taken hold of the adjoining chunks of charcoal. And it began to spread rapidly.

“Jim,” I commanded, “go in and put the coffee pot on.”

“How long will it take to broil them?” Jim asked.

“Get the coffee started,” I ordered,

By the time he had returned the brazier was a humming mass of bluish flames from the charcoal, with a hint of the cherry red that was to come.

Whetting the Appetite

Jim came and watched as the charcoal slowly grew in fury. I didn’t fan it. The holes underneath and along the sides of the pan drew all the pressure needed for a steadily mounting glow.

“Put them on now?” asked Jim.

“Sit down,” I explained. “You’re the audience. You should be relaxed and enjoying the show.”

I went in and inspected the steaks. I trimmed off almost all the fat, although the butcher, when he trimmed off the porterhouse tails for me, had taken most of the fat. But the instructions I had read said that very little fat should be left on.

I lifted the lid of the salad pot and the salad was crisp and cold. I carried out the plates and cups.

“It’s bright red now,” warned Jim.

I inspected the charcoal.

“You’ve got to let a little sort of gray film come on the top of the red, before it’s perfect for broiling,” l informed him.

Jim swallowed eagerly.

“Jim,” I announced, “a steak broiled over charcoal is unparalleled in the realm of food. No other kind of cooking can even remotely compare with it.”

“Harrummph,” said the neighbor next door, shaking his newspaper testily and shifting his position away from us.

So I talked lower.

“There is something about charcoal,” I went on, “that seems to transmit a special flavor, a special zest, to the taste of the meat.”

“Aw, for Pete’s sake,” groaned Jim.

“It cooks the steak,” I explained further “without changing the lovely rare quality of the fibres. It has a kind of charred crust on the outside and inside …”

“Listen,” barked Jim, “are you going to cook the steaks or are you going to gas all night …?”

I examined the fire. The bed of cherry red charcoal was a solid bank of shimmering, quivering coals five inches deep. And on top, I could detect the first faint shadow of a gray film…

I hopped smartly into the kitchen and got the two huge steaks. One draped over each hand, I marched down the back steps.

The neighbor, squinting, I could see, around the corner of his newspaper, gave the paper another shake and turned farther away than ever.

Jim stood up as the steaks passed him, the way he would stand up for royalty. He came and watched me as I laid each steak, with the aid of the big fork that came with the outfit, on top of the grill.

As I set it on the sizzling hot grill, a blare of flame leaped up from the charcoal. This was the fat instantly melting and taking fire. Those pure fat flames seared the meat.

“Now you see,” I explained, as the aroma lifted around us, “why they cut off nearly all the fat. You don’t want too much flame…”

“Turn them over, turn them over,” cried Jim, anxiously.

“Stand back, Jim,” I warned. “Sit down. Relax. I am doing this job.”

“But turn them,” begged Jim, sitting down. “Turn them quickly to seal both sides…”

“You couldn’t be more wrong if you tried,” I informed him, as I stood guard with the fork.

“You turn a steak only once when you are broiling it! Only once! You leave those steaks over the charcoal until you can see the transparent bubbles of fat forming on the raw top. THEN you turn them. But just once.”

Jim was scrunching down in the chair to peek under the grill.

“But,” he expostulated, “they’ll be black as soot on the bottom…”

“They’ll have a black crust on both sides, my boy,” I assured him. “And that’s the way they should be.”

Jim got out of his chair.

“Sit down,” I warned.

Down Wind

“I just want to get down wind from them,” explained Jim, “so I won’t waste any of that aroma.”

He got down wind from the broiler and stood, his head back, slowly breathing in the almost indescribably heavenly odor of the broiling steaks.

The neighbor was down wind too, and as I looked at Jim, I could see the neighbor slowly shifting and fanning his newspaper so as to waft as much as possible of it his way. Rusty, Jim’s spaniel, got down wind too and started softly whining and whimpering. Two cats came from different directions and sat on the fences at a respectful distance.

“Don’t you salt them?” asked Jim earnestly.

“Never,” I informed him. “Salt would draw the juices. You salt them when I put them on the plate.”

The neighbor got up and pretended to be studying the perennials along the fence. I could easily see that what he was really doing was shifting his position to get into the best breeze to smell that ravishing odor.

“Smells good?” I called to him friendly.

“Eh?” he said, glancing up. “Oh, yeah. That’s a nice smell…”

Jim shifted, so as to stand between the steaks and the neighbor. He didn’t want to share the perfume any more than he could help.

“Can’t you see transparent bubbles yet?” Jim demanded anxiously.

As a matter of fact, I could. The sizzling steaks were crisp around the edges and you could observe small bubbles and grains of fat beginning to ooze up through the red surface.

“Get the coffee, and the salad, Jim,” I announced.

Jim went and brought the coffee pot and the tin pot containing the green salad.

“Whooeeeee!” went a siren unexpectedly close.

“Hello?” said Jim.

“WHHOOOOEEEEEE!” screamed the siren, and we could hear the screech of giant tires.

“WHHOOOOEEEE!” whooped the siren, and out the side drive, we could see the fire reels coming to a furious stop.

“Fire!” yelled the neighbor, leaping up and heading out the drive.

“See what it is, Jim,” I ordered angrily, for the steaks were just ready to turn.

Jim laid down the coffee and salad and ran out the drive.

“It’s just across the street,” he yelled back. “The minister’s house, I think …!”

I took an instant and turned the steaks. I set them true on the grill. There was another burst of blaze as the released fat seared up under the meat.

Then I too ran out the drive. For you can’t have a fire almost next door without taking a neighborly interest.

It WAS the minister’s house. As a matter of fact, all it was was the ironing board on fire in the kitchen. The minister is a summer bachelor too, and he was trying to iron those little white tabs ministers wear under their chins when they are dressed up for the pulpit. He had laid the electric iron down for a minute…

Without a Trace

All the neighborhood crowded around and it took five minutes to express the proper condolences to our good friend. And then Jim and I broke away and hurried across to the garden.

“They’ll be just about done,” I assured.

Jim was a little ahead of me as we rounded the corner of the house.

He stopped so suddenly I bumped into him.

“Gone!” he whispered.

“GONE!” he roared.

The brazier stood there, redly, grayly glowing.

The chairs, the table, with the coffee pot, the salad pot, everything, just as we had left it.

But the two steaks, the TWO steaks, the great succulent, sweet smelling porterhouse steaks, were gone.

I whipped around to look for Rusty, Rusty was still across the road with the firemen.

I whipped the other way and looked over the fence.

The neighbor was gone. His chair was there. The newspaper lay on the grass, where he had flung it.

“Jim,” I gritted.

We strode out and looked across at the crowd around the fire reels.

“Go and see if he’s at the back with the minister,” I commanded.

Jim hurried across the road.

I went and made a rapid search of the hedges, the shrubbery. There were no footprints, no traces.

The two cats still sat, eyes closed, purring on the distant fences.

I heard Jim’s footsteps returning.

“No sign of him over there,” said Jim in a low voice.

I snatched off my chef’s hat. I yanked off the apron.

“What are you going to do?” inquired Jim hastily.

“I’m going in and ask him for our steaks!” I hissed.

“You can’t do that…” protested Jim. “You can’t accuse a man of stealing…”

“He’s got ’em,” I gritted. “He’s got ’em! Did you see the way he was sniffing and trembling when I was cooking them…?”

“Go and rap on his door,” said Jim, “and merely ask him if he saw anybody around the garden…”

I did so. I rapped. I rang. Nobody answered. The door was open and I was tempted to tiptoe in. I called. I rang and rapped.

No answer.

I stuck my nose in the doorway and sniffed.

But even if there were any telltale odor, I had lost the power to smell it from standing over those steaks for so long.

“Let’s sit and wait,” suggested Jim, when I came back.

“It’s too late to buy another couple of steaks,” I reflected.

So we sat and waited. No sign of the neighbor.

Dusk came. Jim and I nibbled the salad. We had a cup of coolish coffee.

Dark fell. No sign of the neighbor.

“Well,” said Jim at length, “I’m starved. I’m simply weak from starvation. So let’s…”

So we went up to the nearest neighborhood quick-and-dirty and had fried eggs and bacon.

And when we got back home, the neighbor’s house was all closed up, chair folded away, newspaper picked up, and a soft low light glowing in an upstairs bedroom.

But mind you; it is purely circumstantial.


Editor’s Note: Backyard barbeques were a new invention after World War Two, hence Jim not knowing what it was. Of course, cooking over fire or charcoal was nothing new, nor was barbeque in general. But up until then, barbeques were usually fixed things, that you would do at campsites or picnics. The idea of a small, portable barbeque that you could have in your backyard was new.

1930 Election Posters

These posters were created by Jim for the 1930 Canadian federal election, held on July 28, 1930. William Lyon Mackenzie King lost power to the Conservatives led by R. B. Bennett. This was at the beginning of the Great Depression, so, ironically, it was better for the Liberals not to be in charge during the worst of it.

Wotta Picnic!

July 17, 1937

The Mechanics of the Thing

“… in the mechanical arts you have a true demonstration of social effort.” “Ouch,” screamed Jim.

The first rule is: Leave things alone. Particularly things like lawn mower blades

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, July 18, 1942.

“You’re looking particularly gloomy,” observed Jimmie Frise.

“I’ve been thinking,” I explained, “and it always makes me bilious.”

“You want to be careful,” warned Jim. “You should leave the thinking to those whose job it is. Suppose everybody started thinking. What a fine mess we’d be in then!”

“Don’t be cynical, Jim,” I cautioned. “Isn’t it time everybody started thinking? We have been leaving everything to the guy whose job it is. Or was. If some bird was interested in politics, we left polities to him. If some bloke liked soldiering, we left soldiering to him. If some other baby liked making great big steel tractors, we left making great big steel tractors to him. Then along comes a war. So we leave the conduct of the war to the guys who like politics. And we leave the soldiering to the bloke who likes soldiering. And we leave the making of tanks to the baby who likes making tractors. It never occurred to us that maybe these people who liked doing those things were no more fitted to save us from disaster than any other three busybodies we might pick out at random.”

“Now, now, now,” protested Jimmie. “Doesn’t it stand to reason that people experienced in government should be trusted with government in an emergency? Isn’t it reasonable to suppose that people interested in soldiering should be entrusted with handling our soldiers when we raise them? And doesn’t it make sense that industrialists should know more about producing war material than anybody else?”

“What you say proves,” I informed him, “that you haven’t been thinking. You’ve got faith. But you aren’t thinking.”

“Then,” smiled Jimmie loftily, “what should I think?”

“I suppose,” I weaseled, “that because a kid likes to play hockey, you should let him on the championship team?”

“But the way you find your championship team,” crowed Jim, “is by scouring all the lesser teams. You don’t make a championship hockey team out of wrestlers and tennis players. That is precisely how we get government, soldiers and industrialists. Out of all those playing those games, we select the best.”

The Eternal Battle

“I have trapped you,” I announced. “You still think war is a game. Our government, our army and our industry are not bridge tables. Neither are they private clubs or lodges in which only members may play. War is a convulsion. It is a desperate illness of the body social. It is a natural disaster like smallpox or infantile paralysis. It is like the eternal battle between the birds and the insects. It is one of the awful manifestations of nature. Periodically, one of the tribes of man that is down suddenly struggles to rise up. It happens endlessly, all across history, like the struggle of water to seek its level; like the battle of the jungle; like the fight in a garden between the plants; or the never-ending combat between the trees of the forest.”

“I admit war isn’t a game,” submitted Jim.

“Peace is a game,” I asserted. “A shabby, sordid sort of game, at that; in the hands of a lot of cigar-chewing promoters. But war is life and death; as it was in the beginning. War calls for fighters. And now the fighters must come to the top. By fighters, I don’t mean the noisy boys, the assertive, star performers who drew the big gates in the game of peace. What is there about government that a strong fighting man could not learn in 30 days? All he has to do, after 30 days’ study, is push button and call in a chief clerk to give him the technical data he wants. You and I have both been soldiers. What is there about soldiering that a clever man who has never soldiered could not learn in 30 days? All he has got to do is push a button and call in a department manager in the uniform of a general, to get any technical data he needs at the moment. What is there about one industry that a good man in any other industry cannot take in at a glance? The greatest successes in industrial and financial history have been created by clever, outstanding and fighting men who came in from the outside. War is neither a matter of government, of soldiering nor of industry. War is fighting. And what is fighting? Is it a game? Is it a thing of rules? A lot of dead men thought so, like Caesar, Alexander, Napoleon. They all ended in ruin, because fighting is another thing entirely – a matter of imagination of courage, of intellect and of soul. And as Caesar, Napoleon and all the rest found out, too late, the fighters hardly ever wore uniform, hardly ever had any political connection and hardly ever had the patience to collect, like raspberries, one by one, a billion dollars.”

To Help the Fighters

“You’ve ruled out all the ways we have of selecting our leaders,” complained Jim.

“And our leaders are ruling themselves out,” I assured him, “to make way for the fighters.”

“How will we select the fighters,” demanded Jim.

“You never select the fighters,” I explained. “They are a gift from on high.”

We sat in silence, thinking biliously.

“How useless my life has been,” muttered Jim. “Thirty years drawing cartoons. What good are cartoons now?”

“Thirty years emitting words,” I mumbled, for myself. “Like the drip from a pump.”

“We’re too old to fight,” said Jim, “but isn’t there something we could do to help the fighters?”

“We aren’t even good enough in the legs,” I snorted, “to be water boys, like Gunga Din.”

“We can still shoot,” calculated Jimmie. “We could be guerrillas.”

“I’ve often thought,” I suggested, “that we men from 50 to 60 years of age, if we were trained, could be recruited into special maintenance companies for the tank corps. Did you ever notice, around a garage, that the fellow who really does the problem jobs, on ignition, or on faulty timing, or any of the tricky cases, isn’t the strong, husky bird in his 20’s and 30’s? It is nearly always a middle-aged man, often in his 50’s or better.”

“By jingo, that’s a fact,” said Jim.

“The big husky boys,” I went on, “do the tire changing and the jacking up and the big, noisy jobs. But when your car has to be approached as if it were a murder mystery, it is always some middle-aged gent, in the dirtiest overalls, mostly wearing spectacles, who comes in, quiet and bold, and solves the puzzle. It seems to me that in this modern tank warfare, they are trying to get along without the very men they need most.”

“The men who fight the tanks,” agreed Jim, “can be the young, dashing, tough lads. But the maintenance squads… do they have to be young and dashing?”

“The light aid detachments,” I explained, “and the repair units that follow tanks into action have to be as nippy as the tanks themselves.”

“So they say,” added Jim.

“One thing,” I summed up, “in this day and age, every man ought to know some mechanics. The time has come, in human affairs, when it isn’t enough merely to be a smart buyer or a clever, seller; lawyers, parsons, accountants, salesmen, executives, even doctors, are so much baggage when fighting comes to the bare fists as it is now. Every living man, regardless of his age, should be trained to be able to make something with his hands. Every man should be a mechanic, if only to dig swiftly and cleverly with a shovel; or to splice a telephone wire or do rough carpentry.”

“Look,” said Jim. “At all the technical schools, at the universities, they are conducting classes, night classes, to teach people any one of the many mechanical arts.”

“Then…” I said with finality.

“Of course,” cried Jimmie. “Let’s get going. Let’s make a team specializing on heavy motors. You become the ignition expert and I’ll be the carburetor expert. It will be something,” cried Jim eagerly, “to fill our nights, this autumn. Every night we work, we’ll feel of more use. This awful feeling of sitting. doing nothing…”

“And in the course of a few weeks,” I stated, “we would be fit to grab hold of a job, instead of standing by and watching.”

“Even if we can’t be of practical use,” pursued Jim, “the training will at least make us the better able to understand what our fellow men are doing with their lives. In Norway, there are no private schools. All rich and poor, farmer and banker, are given the same education as far as they go. They all speak the same language, understand the same ideas. It knits them closer together as citizens. In our country, everybody ought to be made to master some mechanical craft and everybody should be taught literature, agriculture and business practice. Then, when we part to go our separate ways in life, we won’t feel like foreigners to one another as we do now.”

“Jim,” I confessed, “in the past 30 years, I haven’t mended a tap or repaired a broken switch. I haven’t even tacked down any weather-stripping. I blush to think of all the hundreds of little jobs I have passed up, around my home, in favor of calling in the plumber, the electrician or the handy man.”

Repairing the Lawn-mower

“It isn’t that you are lazy,” suggested Jim. “It is merely that you have been taught, from your earliest childhood, in school and in life itself, that you must be smart enough to be able to employ other people to do the work that is done by hand. The beau ideal of our educational system is not the white collar man. He is the white-handed man!”

“And now, in all our war camps from the Arctic to the tropics,” I exclaimed, “the commando is our ideal in a desperate effort to convert all our soft white hands into hard brown hands.”

“Okay, carburetors for me,” cried Jim, rising and rolling up his sleeves in expectation.

“I’ll run up tomorrow noon,” I said, “and find out what I can about these night classes at Varsity and at the technical schools.”

“After all,” said Jim eagerly, “just because I have been an artist all my life, surely all the stuff my farmer ancestors had hasn’t petered out of me.”

“One of my grandfathers,” I asserted, “was a stone mason and the other was a farmer who worked 200 acres. I bet I’ve got the stuff in me, if only give it a chance.”

With his sleeves rolled up, Jimmie walked around the room, tested the light switch, tried the window latches, lifted up a chair and felt its rungs.

“There are a hundred things a man can do…” he mused.

“I’ve got it,” he cried suddenly, “My lawn-mower. There’s the very thing. I’ve been intending to repair my lawn mower for two years now.”

“Clocks and lawn-mowers,” I cut in, “are two things my grandmother told me no man should tinker with.”

“Come on,” said Jim, rolling his sleeves still higher. “We’ll begin at the beginning. We’ll tackle the job on hand, just to show our hearts are in the right place.”

First he led me down cellar where, from shelves, drawers, boxes, he assembled the most extraordinary collection of tools. A wrench, hammer, file, oil can, at least half a dozen spanners of assorted sizes.

“Who said you weren’t mechanical?” I demanded in admiration.

“Some of them,” said Jim, “workmen have left behind. Others I borrowed from neighbors so long ago I forget whose they are. Every home has a scattering of tools like this.”

Out in the garden, Jim brought forth the lawn mower from the corner of the garage.

“Why, that’s a swell lawn mower,” I cried. “What’s the matter with that?”

“It needs sharpening,” said Jim, file already in hand. “And the blades need adjusting, Every once in a while, they jam some way.”

“Do you sharpen a lawn mower with a file?” I inquired dubiously

“You sharpen everything with a file,” explained Jimmie.

With a small spanner, Jim explored around among the nuts and bolts until he found the one that held the blade assembly in place. And in a jiffy, he had the blades, all in one piece, out on the ground.

“Feel them,” he said, “dull as a hoe.”

So while Jim scrubbed at the blades with the file. I tinkered around with the frame, oiling here, wiping off there: tightening loose nuts and screws and discovering, for the first time, the simple principle of gears which makes a lawn mower operate.

In 10 minutes. Jim had a nice gleaming edge on all the blades, including the big one in the frame. He wished he had a scythe stone to finish off the job, he said. When he was a boy on the farm, the thing he liked best was to watch a man stoning a scythe with long, strong strokes of the stone and a flexing wrist, making a sweet ring of steel in the summer air.

To Go to Night School

“Now,” said Jim, lifting up the blade assembly.

As his helper, I held the frame steady and helped direct the little ends of the axle into place.

“Gimme the small spanner,” ordered Jim, very mechanic like.

He tightened the nut carefully. But the blade assembly wobbled very loose in its frame.

“Have you touched any of those other nuts?” he demanded.

“I tightened a few of them up,” I explained. So Jimmie went all over the various nuts and screws, loosening and tightening, while feeling the set of the blades in the frame.

“It doesn’t hang level,” I pointed out.

“Not likely to,” muttered Jim, “with people tinkering all over the job. The first rule of mechanics is, don’t tinker. Leave things alone.”

“All I did was oil it,” I protested indignantly, “and tighten up a couple of these nuts that were just about falling off.”

“Here,” said Jim, “take this spanner. I’ll hold the blades in the proper position, and you tighten up the different nuts until it takes hold, just the way I’m setting it.”

I took the spanner and tightened. I tightened here and I tightened there, little by little the way you put on a spare tire.

“Easy now,” warned Jim.

“How’s she coming?” I inquired.

“It’s starting to grasp hold,” admitted Jim.

“One thing about mechanics,” I said, “you always have to have a helper. There is something very companionable about mechanics.”

“Easy,” said Jim. “Pay attention.”

“In most other lines of work,” I said, “you work alone. Writers, artists, lawyers, salesmen, they all work alone. But in the mechanical arts, you have a true demonstration of social effort…”

“OUCH!” screamed Jimmie very unexpectedly.

“Oh,” I replied, turning the wrench firmly in the other direction.

“Oucheeeeeee!” yelled Jimmie in agony.

The tip of his finger was caught between the blades and the edge of the mower.

“Turn it the other way,” he roared.

“That’s tightening it,” I gasped, heaving in the opposite direction.

“Take your foot off it,” bellowed Jim,

And with the littlest move of the mower my way, the blade opened and Jim snatched his finger out.

“It was your darn foot,” he accused bitterly “shoving on the mower that made the blade catch me.”

“I was just getting a good purchase on the spanner,” I explained. “Is it cut?”

“No,” growled Jim, “but it might have been.”

“I’m very sorry,” I assured him. “I was just shoving with my foot…”

“Don’t describe it,” said Jim, standing up and shaking his hand rapidly, to take the pain out of his finger.

“I was doing the best I knew how,” I insisted.

“Listen,” said Jimmie, “there is a mechanics to all things. There is a mechanics to lawnmowers. If you shove one way, the blades go one way; if you shove the other, the blades go the other. It is the same with politics, soldiering and business. There is a mechanics to them all. First, you have to be an apprentice. Then you have to be a journeyman. It takes a long time to be a master mechanic.”

“It’s a funny thing we can’t tinker with a lawn-mower,” I asserted, “a simple thing like a lawn-mower. We’re not saps exactly.”

“Yet,” said Jim, putting the end joint of his bruised finger in his mouth, “you are prepared to let guys at least as clever as us tinker with government, soldiering and industry?”

“There’s a big difference,” I claimed, “between waging war and mending lawn-mowers.”

“You’d be surprised,” retorted Jimmie, “how much alike they are, in the main.”

So when his finger stopped hurting, Jimmie held the blades steady with a stick. And I braced both feet on the frame and took hold of the spanner and tightened all the nuts until the veins stood out on my forehead.

And the lawn mower hums like a Spitfire.


Editor’s Note: A scythe stone is a long narrow sharpening stone.

Radio in the Kitchen

No longer is the radio mere novelty in a few of the rural homes of Ontario, but it is an established institution, presenting a regular galaxy of stars and entertainment

By Gregory Clark, July 15, 1933.

Into the village of Terra Nova – which lies somewhere between the desert sands of Camp Borden and the jungles of the Nottawasaga Valley – we drove and pulled up by the garage.

Over on the general store steps sat five young men. They had on faded overalls, shapeless caps and hats on the back of their heads. They wore that air of doing nothing forever that seems a gift of general store steps.

I got out of the car and walked around to the radiator cap which I pretended to be examining.

And then, very casually, I started to whistle some bars from “Stormy Weather,” the Cotton club tune which at the moment is making snakes hips from the Panama canal to the Arctic Circle.

Out of the corners of our eyes we watched.

The five lads on the general store steps tired lazy heads to look at each other. They grinned mildly.

Then two of them joined me in the tune, whistling, moving sympathetically in snakes hips motions on the general store steps.

Another softly clapped his hands to the sweet, moving rhythm of this up-to-the-minute tune.

The fourth rolled his eyes up in the familiar ecstasy of the jazz.

Hicks nevermore!

Hick towns are suddenly vanished from the face of our earth.

The same night that Cab Calloway in his Cotton club with coffee-colored Ethel Waters electrified exotic New York with “Stormy Weather,” these same boys of Terra Nova, fresh from the plow and the harrow on the lonely hills of remote and lost portion of Ontario, heard it, stilled to it, rose to it, thrilled to it, through the magic, the distance-destroying timeless, house-changing, farm-changing, style-changing, habit-changing magic of radio.

Ten years ago, those five youths, up from their solitary toil on these steps for a soft drink, might never have heard “Stormy Weather.” They might have heard it when it was old and stale in some Chinese restaurant in Shelburne or Barrie, sizzling out on a worn victrola record, when they came to town for their monthly or half-yearly bust of recreation.

In blue suits, stiff-legged, dangle-handed, they would have sat shyly, and red of face, in the cubicle of a Chinese restaurant in country town, half pickled with the bright lights, the spaciousness, the busy thronging crowds of Barrie or a Shelbourne Chinese cafe. And they would have barely heard it and at once have forgotten it.

Today, they know it, they know their popular, their classic, their artists, their humorists, their stylists of the earth and the air better than the very New Yorkers who sit in the club where these elegances are first born. For radio is a selector. And country people, with silence and space and loneliness all about them, are selective, too.

We went out all over central Ontario, down side roads up clay back roads, visiting farms and finding out what radio means to the farm.

We found many curious and delightful things. We found, for instance, that in the farm, the radio net is in the kitchen.

We found that it has transformed lonely houses into homes filled with life.

We found that lonely women, who spent all day listening to the far music of their men’s voices directing horses on distant fields, now have company all the long day, bright clever women talking about women’s affairs, music, funny talks by funny men, and talks by that heart-breaker, Tony Wons.

They see their men-folk coming hurrying across the meadows in the middle of the day to listen to some special program, some speech, debate, discussion of affairs. Or to join with the women in laughing at some favorite joker. Because in the country, they love fun.

“It seems to me,” said Adrain Bateman, whose lovely and prosperous farm lies between Bradford and Bond Hend, in little known but rich section of Ontario, “that radio must mean twice as much to the farmer as it does to the town men. For example, I can’t say how much I would miss the weather forecast and the news. It is a small thing to you. But an important, all important, thing to the farmer. Until lately there was a noon broadcast of livestock prices taken at the stock yards that same morning. That is bread and butter to the farmer; when a buyer came along in the afternoon, you knew and could refer to the current prices of stock. You can watch from day to day the prices of the very thing you are producing, stock, grain and produce.”

In Mr. Adrian Bateman’s fine home, where geraniums gleam at the windows, there are grown-up children and an old man, to whom that radio with its thousand voices, Its Amos ‘n’ Andy, its hockey games, is the difference between happiness and unrest.

“I have no doubt,” said Mr. Bateman, “that throughout the country, the younger people are much happier, much more satisfied to remain on the farm than they have been for many years. The radio in some degree restores what farm life lost when the towns and cities took such an enormous lead in the entertaining aspect of life.”

Mr. Tom Huxtable dwells somewhere in between that village of Terra Nova and the more widely known village of Horning’s Mills; although there is no harm if you never heard of it either.

“What programs do the country people like?” we asked.

“Well,” said he. “I like the news morning and night. And I like speeches on politics and current affairs.”

“And the family?”

Mr. Huxtable’s family numbers eight.

“Each member of the family has his or her own likes,” said he. “Eddie Cantor, certain orchestras. certain singers. I don’t quite follow it all, but it seems to me the average country family is an authority on all that is liveliest, newest and best on the air. You can hear a debate on music, drama or any of the arts at any fence corner, at any cross roads from one end of the country to the other.”

“You like news?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Huxtable, “and I find I know more about what is going on in Toronto and New York than the city people I talk to. They apparently haven’t time to keep up with what’s going on.”

Has Transformed Farm Life

But near Stroud, which is in Simcoe county, the family of Mr. Bert Marquis is half boys and half girls.

“We want breakfast before the news broadcast,” said one son. “But we usually have to wait for lunch until the noon broadcast is over.”

“And how about the 11 p.m. new broadcast?”

“The head man always sits up for that,” answered the daughter. “You will see lights burning all over the country now, where darkness reigned before 10 p.m. five years ago. In the winter, especially on Saturday nights when there are hockey games and Wade’s square dance orchestra, the lights burn a lot later than they ever have in the entire history of farming. One night last winter, they burned until after 2 o’clock. That was the famous five-hour game. Those who have radios invite their less fortunate neighbors over. The radio has transformed social life on the farm. Radio has brought more neighborliness into the country than perhaps all the organizations there have been for creating a social spirit on the farm.”

We encountered one farmer who said that he had a large room in his house in which, on the average winter Saturday night, ten families from the surrounding township were represented.

“Such visiting was never heard of five years ago,” and he. “The room filled with visitors, the radio going. the women-folk preparing sandwiches and coffee. Radio has created a new atmosphere on the farm.”

The storekeeper at Bond Head thought that perhaps 30 per cent of all the farmers had radios in operation.

Nat Bredin, who runs the hotel at Bond Head, says he owes radio a good deal of business, because all winter long, especially on Saturday nights, it attracted twenty to thirty farmers from all around who wanted to hear the game. And the food programs during the week draw customers for the soft drinks, the pool tables and the pleasant company of the hotel common room. The bar was abolished and hotels went lean. Now radio in making the hotel a gathering place once more.

Out Stayner way there was one farmer who resolutely refused to buy a radio.

“It is an instrument of the devil,” he declared to the various radio salesmen who called at his farm. The radio salesmen make the rounds of the country the way they cannot in towns and cities. “Instrument of the devil,” asserted this well-to-do farmer. “It is nothing but jazz and nonsense. Bringing more of that city stuff into the country. Turning all the young people’s heads. Taking everybody’s mind off the serious business of farming. No, sir, no radio for me!”

This farmer was a religious man of the type still found in large numbers on the land. One clever radio salesman took a radio out one Sunday morning. Owing to the difference between city and country time it was possible for him to get one of the big Toronto churches at 10 o’clock country time, before the farmer was ready to go to church. The farmer did not want the thing in his house but the salesman explained that he merely wanted to show that for all its faults, the radio was great instrument for good.

The farmer heard choirs lifting their mighty voices, organs resounding, deep voices intoning prayer that filled the farm house. He was deeply impressed. He was sorry he had to leave for church just as the radio minister got nicely launched into the sermon.

Front Rooms Opening Up

“Besides church,” said the salesman, “you can get the prime minister of Canada, the president of the United States, and yes, the King of England himself, discussing public questions.”

“And,” said our informant, “one month later, you could go by that farmhouse at any hour of the night, and you could hear all the jazz bands in the world lifting the roof of it!”

You know that front room in farm houses? The one immediately behind that front door that never opens? That room in used for funerals, weddings and nothing else.

But not always, since radio.

Because those who bought radios in the pre-shiver days, bought those large console or cabinet style, and naturally you could not clutter up a farm kitchen with a great big elegant piece of furniture like that. So was put either just beyond the kitchen door, or right in that parlor.

And now many farm parlors of Ontario are back in circulation again.

We saw radios on shelves, on top of sewing machines, on ice boxes, radios in chairs, on cream separators in comers, on the floor.

But the kitchen wins out by a big majority as the favorite position.

“I hope the radio commission will give us country people a set program of farm market reports,” said one.

“I wish they would give us a news broadcast at 10 o’clock at night,” said another. “Eleven is too late for farmers to stay up.”

But the great majority had no suggestions to make.

They like the same things the New York broker in his love nest likes, the same joker who jokes for Broadway gets across with the little house hidden down the narrow ways

Their speech is coming easier, since they hear so much of it in their once quiet houses all day long.

What the greatest cities have of laughter, of wisdom, of art and science they are spilling out into the sky, to fall like the rain on the bourgeoning earth.

And, like rain, like sunlight, it is making things grow in the country.


Editor’s Notes: The song, “Stormy Weather“, came out the year this was published, first played in the famous Cotton Club nightclub in New York.

“Snake Hips”, was a type of dance.

Tony Wons Scrapbook“, was a popular program as Anthony “Tony” Wons was also known as “scrapbookman” as he collected works of writing from Shelley, Whitman, and other great writers. The show was conversational in nature, like an old friend who stops by for a chat.  He often asked the listening audience “Are you listening?”

Eddie Cantor was a popular singer and comedian.

Commando Raid

July 17, 1943

There was a huge shortage of farm workers during the Second World War. Help came from various groups. These groups included the Farm Girls Brigade (composed of women under 26), the Farm Cadets and Farmerette Brigade (summer students and teachers), the Women’s Land Brigade (volunteer housewives), the Farm Commandos (part-time adult helpers), and the Children’s Brigade (youngsters under 15).

Cave Men

Softly and terribly the low moan came from the darkness ahead

In the shadows on these ghostly walls, I thought suddenly he was wearing a skirt

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, July, 8, 1933

“I was out for a drive Sunday,” said Jim, “and near Bronte I hear there is a great cave where William Lyon Mackenzie hid in his flight to the United States when the rebellion of 1837 blew up.”

“It would be nice to go exploring caves,” I said.

“That must have been a great adventure,” said Jim. “Only the pioneers would know about the cave. Maybe the Indians had told the pioneers, and along came Mackenzie in the night, with the Redcoats hunting him high and low, with £1,000 on his head, and some pioneer in his little log cabin hearing a rap on the door…”

“William Lyon Mackenzie,” I put in, “was dressed as a woman at that time. You know that gas station at Trafalgar, on the Dundas Highway? Well, sir, back of that gas station is an old roughcast tavern, a hundred and thirty-seven years old. It was a stage coach headquarters, and there Mackenzie came in the night, exhausted, and they dressed him in women’s clothes and hid him in an upstairs room while the soldiers who were hunting for him sat eating and drinking down in the tavern.”

“Well, then,” said Jim, “some pioneer down the Twelve Mile Crick heard a rap on his door and there stood Mackenzie in his women’s clothes, exhausted, beaten, bitter, alone. So they took him out across the little clearing and through the bush to this great cave on the hillside of the Twelve Mile. And he hid there until the posse of Redcoats on horseback came down the wild road.”

“You make it real,” I said.

“And the troop would stay out in the road while one Redcoat rode in,” went on Jimmie, “to shout out to the settler if they had seen a man, a little, fiery man with glittering eyes, come by. And the pioneer, with all his children locked in the roothouse for fear they might speak, would shake his head patriotically and say no, he had not seen any such a man come by this way.”

“Let’s go out there,” I said to Jimmie. “Let’s visit that cave. You don’t know what we might see in there. Or meet, for that matter. It is nearly a hundred years since Mackenzie hid there. Maybe the spirit of Mackenzie would appear to us.”

“They say it is a hard cave to get into,” said Jim. “It is on an estate called Woodlands; it used to be the homestead where Sir Thomas White was born and raised.”

“I’d like to spend a night in it,” I said.

So Jim and I got overalls and flashlights and pickaxes in case of trouble, and we drove out to the lovely Woodlands farm. On the way we stopped at the tavern at Trafalgar. All the gas station men knew about it was that it was very old and that Governor Simcoe used to stop there on his journeys by stage coach between York, Niagara and London.

The gas station men took us inside. The floors are of pine boards twenty-six inches wide, and the timbers are hand hewn. Upstairs the rooms are tiny, not much larger than pantries, with little low roofs. There is a front stairs and a back stairs and a most mysterious trap door stairs. It is mostly empty now. But if you stop and hold your breath you can hear very small sounds, such as spirits would make as they came to look at you, intruding in their private place.

Where Mackenzie Hid

“What a lovely bit of yesterday!” said Jimmie, eyeing the broad boards, the little sloping ceilings, the doorframes made by hand a century and a quarter ago by Canadians.

“Is there no record of which room William Lyon Mackenzie hid in?” we asked.

But the boys at the gas station did not know about that. They only knew about Governor Simcoe, which shows they are Tories.

We went from room to room and Jimmie finally decided it was the little room on the west side, looking out over the fields-toward the Sixteen Mile Crick, which Mackenzie would have to cross at dawn on a fallen tree before he could get to the Bronte creek, the Twelve Mile, to hide in his great cave.

The Mackenzie cave is hard to find. Even to-day it would be a good place to hide from the soldiers.

As Jimmie and I went through the deep woods, filled with flowers, we began to feel the spell of the past, and several times we saw Indians and Redcoats slipping from tree to tree, watching us as we advanced to the hundred foot high banks of the Twelve Mile.

A path leads steeply down to the Mackenzie cave. A path worn mostly by a century of boyhood.

On a shelf of the steep and sheer bank of the Twelve Mile Crick, which you pass on the long bridge over the Dundas Highway, we found the Mackenzie cave.

Its entrance is just a split in the great limestone rocks. Just a huge mouth, slightly open, as if the cliff were holding its breath.

“Or as if it were smiling,” said Jimmie, as we rested at the cave mouth and peered into the dim and forbidding entrance.

At first sight, the entrance to the Mackenzie cave appears too small for a person to enter. In fact, a big man would have trouble even crawling on end like a worm. It is about two feet high and fifteen feet wide, a wide grin of an entrance.

“Somehow,” said Jimmie, “I don’t like the way the edges of this cave mouth turn up. It looks a little leery to me.”

“Somehow,” said Jimmie, “I don’t like the way the edges of this cave-mouth turn up. It looks a little leery to me”

I shot my flashlight into the gloom and saw twenty feet in large limestone rock blocking the passage, but over it appeared the deeper shadows of an inner room.

“Look overhead,” said Jim. “Millions of tons of damp earth and rock. What if our talking and moving around in there were to dislodge some little pebble and the whole thing collapse on us?”

“William Lyon Mackenzie wasn’t afraid of it,” I said.

“He had soldiers after him, dead or alive.”

It was bright summer sunshine outside. But a cold breath came softly out of the great mouth.

“Hello, in there,” I shouted. “Anybody in?”

My voice echoed queerly.

“Let’s come out some other day with a gang of us,” said Jim. “Just in case. Suppose anything happened, who would know we were here?

“Hello, anybody in there?” I shouted. Around us lay the bright summer stillness. Inside lay shadow, gloom and chill.

“I’ll go in here as far as that rock.” I said to Jim. “I’ll see what lies beyond.”

You lie down flat and work your knees and elbows until you reach the rock. By the time you get that far the roof over your head rises, and you can stand in a stooping position.

The soft trickle of a little stream of ice-cold water makes an eerie sound as you gaze into the dim shadows ahead, still faintly lighted by the day,

An Unearthly Sound

“Come and see, it’s a big room,” I called.

Jim, being larger, had a lot of trouble but presently got beside me at the barrier of rock. We shot our flashlights ahead and their beams were lost against an extraordinary darkness.

Beyond us, twenty feet further, lost in inky dark, was a huge cavern, its ceiling and walls marbled with stalactite traceries, like dull ice, from which dripped thousand trickles of water.

The vaulted ceiling was twelve feet high, and the chamber was perhaps fifteen feet in diameter.

Along the low, rock-roofed passage, with icy drops falling on our necks, we crept, and stared at the ghostly room.

“Unless they smoked him out,” whispered Jimmie, “they never would have got him.”

My flashlight began to flicker.

“That looks like a pool there,” said Jim. “That whole chamber is floored with a pool of water.”

We were not near enough to see the bottom of the cavern, and just as we started forward to get a view of it, our hearts froze with an unearthly sound.

“Oooooooohhhhhhh!”

Jim’s flashlight clattered from his hand and went out. Mine, grasped tightly in my hands, flickered and faded.

We gripped each other. “OoooooOOOOOhhhhh!”

Softly and terribly, the low moan came from the darkness ahead.

An icy drop fell on my neck. Jim and I clutched convulsively. My flashlight, calmly, quietly, went out.

“Get your flashlight!” I whispered soundlessly to Jim. Lingering, he let go of me and I heard him pawing around on the rocks.

Something went splash ahead of us.

We clinched again.

“Get your flashlight!” I whispered tensely.

Dimly, a little daylight filtered behind us and Jim started toward it, on all fours.

“Wooooo!” came the low howl.

They say in a theatre panic, it is terrible to see everybody trying to get through the one small exit. It is terrible to see two gentlemen trying to get out the same exit of a Mackenzie cave. I don’t know whether it was my elbow or Jim’s knee that caused the jam, but before we knew it, we were jammed headfirst in that tunnel, panting for breath.

“Back up!” I shouted.

“You go forward a bit!” roared Jimmie.

But backwards or forwards we were stuck.

“Don’t struggle too hard!” warned Jim. You might dislodge something and down all this would co-ome!”

Patiently we wriggled and backed and shoved and wormed, without avail.

“Jimmie, we’re stuck!” I announced hopelessly.

“We’ll have to stay here until we shrink with hunger,” said Jim. “When we lose weight, about the third or fourth day, one of us can work out.”

“And maybe we’ll have enough strength to climb that hill out there for help!”

We lay still.

“What would that be in there?” asked Jim.

“What else could it be?” I retorted.

Ahead of us we could see the glimmer of day. Our feet lay stretched behind us in that cavern filled with ghostly hooting.

Icy water dripped on our heads, our hands.

“Gentlemen,” said a voice behind us, “can I be of assistance?”

We lay stiff.

“You seem to be struck,” went on the voice. It was old and dry and soft.

“Perhaps,” it went on, “if I were to take hold of one of you by the heels and pull?”

“Yaw!” we yelled, kicking our heels frantically behind us.

A strong hand seized me by the foot. Then it caught my other foot and I felt myself being dragged backwards.

“Jimmie!” I shouted. “Hold me! Hold me!”

“Is it pulling?” demanded Jim.

“Yes.”

“All right, a ghost can’t pull,” said Jim. “Let him pull.”

The Force behind pulled and yanked, this way and that, and I felt myself giving. Suddenly the jam was broken. As I backed up, hands took hold of my shoulders.

“Don’t be alarmed, gents,” said the ghost. But Jimmie was vanishing like a groundhog out the tunnel.

“Who are you?” I gasped.

“Just a homeless man,” said the ghost. “I knew of this cave when I was a boy, so I just came up here for a day or two. It makes a good home for a hobo, doesn’t it?”

“Why did you go woo at us?” I demanded.

“I didn’t want any other residents in here,” said the ghost. “You seemed scared, so I did the natural thing.”

He located Jimmie’s flashlight and turned it on. I beheld a small, grizzled-haired man of about fifty, in ill-fitting old garments. His eyes were steel gray and brilliant. His hair was long and he had side-burns growing in front of his ears. He had a quaint look, if you understand me.

“Come into the big room and have a look around,” he said. There was a Scotch accent.

“Yoo-hoo, Jimmie.” I called. “Come on in, it’s all right.”

“I’ll stay here now I’m out,” called Jim faintly.

The little man smiled and led me into the big cavern.

Under the marbled and icy dome, with its wavering lines of stalactite drawn down the curving walls, lay a pure pool of water, six feet square. It seemed bottomless. In it you could make out sticks and logs that had been thrown in by people trying to see how deep it was.

“Did you ever see so pure a pool?” asked the little man.

“There might be some relics of William Lyon Mackenzie in there,” I said. “He was here, you know, in his flight to the States.”

“Was he, indeed?” said the little man.

“And if we dug around in that pool, might find something, preserved all this hundred years, some old papers, a pistol perhaps, some secret thing.”

“He threw nothing in there,” said the little man.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“Because I have scraped around it and found nothing,” said the little man with a whimsical smile.

I began to feel uneasy.

“Well,” I said, “it’s beautiful. It is strange and eerie and beautiful. I guess I’ll be going now.”

“Oh, stay a while. Smoke a pipe. Don’t rush away.”

The little man had such large lapels on his old coat.

“I don’t mind certain kinds of visitors,” said he.

He had a wide, grim mouth that was sweet when he smiled.

“It all depends,” he said. “It all depends.”

In the shadows cast off those ghostly walls, I thought suddenly that I saw he was wearing a skirt!

“Well, sir, I must be going,” I said huskily. “I really must!”

“Good-day to you, then,” said he. “And don’t believe all you hear. And don’t take any plugged shillings.”

He handed me Jimmie’s flashlight. I bowed down and worked out the passage, lay down and wormed through the tunnel, and all of a heap, came out to the dazzling sunlight where Jim was crouched down watching me emerge.

“What’s the matter?” asked Jim. “Who was it?”

“I don’t know.” I said.

And the fact is, I don’t.


Editor’s Notes: William Lyon Mackenzie is well known to students of Canadian history.

Lion Brand Hay Fork Rope Ad

July 9, 1947

This advertisement was unusual, as Jim rarely did any work outside of his comic and the Greg-Jim story after 1937, and is the latest example I know of.

Confederation Day 1867

July 2, 1927

Canada’s birthday is July 1, 1867, so this comic would have been published on Canada’s 60th birthday, looking back to 1867.

Anvil firing was an activity to “test” the strength of anvils, but it seem likely it was more for fun.

Weekend Party

Jim worked the cord of the motor while I bailed water out of the boat…

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, July 4, 1936.

“You’re coming up,” said Jimmie Frise, “to my cottage this week-end.”

“Maskinonge,” I asked, “or bass?”

“Both,” said Jim. “I have a letter here from the family saying that a great big monster has been rolling every morning out in front of the cottage not fifty yards off shore. They say it will go twenty pounds.”

“They’ll have it before we get there,” I suggested.

“They are saving it for you,” said Jim, kindly. “We can have a grand time. We’ll get there about five p.m. Saturday and go straight out fishing. All we have to do is push the skiff out from the dock and start casting right off our beach. It is grand musky water. Then, we can take the outboard and scoot down about a mile and a half to gravel point where the bass are as thick as swallows around a barn.”

“Boy, this sounds grand,” I cried. “When do we have to leave there for home?”

“We don’t have to leave until after supper Sunday evening,” said Jim. “That’ll get us in town by midnight.”

“It sounds like a real week-end,” I enthused.

“I’ve been wanting to take you up for the past three summers,” said Jim, “but somehow we never could match up our week-ends. But this time you’re coming.”

“Sure I’m coming,” I declared. “That musky rolling out in front of the cottage has got me. What bait do you generally use?”

“Oh, spoons,” said Jim. “Cast in spoons, little brass ones, with black feathers on the hook. But bring your whole outfit. We’ll go after them in a big way.”

And when we set sail Saturday noon, Jim’s car was so laden with boxes of vegetables and baskets of peas and all my fishing tackle that we could not see out of the rear view mirror.

“I love this week-end business,” I told Jim as we lurched through city traffic heading for the broad highway. “This business of loading up supplies. It’s a sort of Christmassy feeling every week. We poor husbands lonely at home, watering gardens, going to movies, sighing around the house in the heat. And then comes Saturday, and we get almost the same old feeling we used to get years ago when we were going to call on our best girl. We buy gifts. Instead of roses, we buy meat and vegetables and marshmallows and canned fruit. And with high hearts and a flush on our faces, we head for the wilderness, where our dear ones, amid the cool and pleasant wilderness, have hardly thought of us all week.”

“I wonder,” said Jim, “if other parts of the world are as happy as Canada, in regard to summer resorts? The minute a Canadian gets enough money to buy a car, he has got to have a summer cottage.”

“Imagine,” I cried, “having a place to park our families in summer where there are great big muskies and tough fighting bass right off the front porch! How many muskies did you get last year, by the way?”

“Oh, you know me,” said Jim. “I talk a lot about fishing and I buy a lot of tackle, and I plan to go fishing a lot. But I don’t really fish much. By the time I get to the cottage, I want to lie in the hammock.”

Eager and Gay

“Not this week-end, my boy,” I assured him. “You’re with a real fisherman this time.”

“That’s what I need,” agreed Jim. “Somebody to egg me on.”

“Listen, we’ll pull up in front of your cottage,” I planned, “and unload the tackle out of the car straight into the skiff and push right off? Is it a bet?”

“You’re on,” agreed Jim delightedly.

So we arrived at the broad highway and began the four-hour battle. All bright and gay, the country smiled encouragingly as thousands of us debilitated city dwellers fought our way north, east and west. Good cars and old cars, cars laden with provender and cars loaded with mattresses, camp cots and tents; trucks grinding their obstructive way while long lines of us sweatily horned and tooted and glared sideways back at them while we passed; sport models full of superior and carefree youth that zipped by us more sedate citizens; tie-ups, old junk cars coughing up hills; ah, the parody of Saturday afternoon. If it were not that we were as bridegrooms, if we were not eager and gay, we would never so much as take our cars out of the garage of a Saturday afternoon.

But Jim drove and cussed and sneered; and I leaned out the window and shouted uncomplimentary remarks to drivers of less agile craft than ours; or retorted to the jeers of others whose cars were more agile than ours. And in due time we came to the end of pavement, and launched forth into a highway of gravel, where we ate dust, and skittered and bumped over washboards, and finally left even the gravel to take to a narrow little backwoods road where, if you meet a car coming against you, either you or it has to back up to a wide place to pass.

And about the time we struck this country road, the sky had darkened, rumbles of thunder warned of weather, and down into the leaves that brushed the sides of the car spattered the first big drops of summer rain.

“All the better for fishing,” I assured Jim. “You aren’t afraid of a wetting?”

“The best muskie I ever got,” replied Jim, “I got in a heavy rain that made the water leap up in a million little jets.”

And at six p.m. daylight saving time, in a world gray and sweeping with rain, we arrived at Jim’s cottage. And from indoors, as we turned in, came a bevy of gay young people, and we unloaded the chariot and the boxes were happily hustled indoors. But I could sense a certain embarrassment. I could see them catching Jim’s eye and giving him signals. And in a few minutes Jim came out heartily and said:

“They’ve got some kids staying with them, so I guess it’s the tent for us two old campaigners.”

“Grand, Jim,” I cried. “I love the sound of rain on a tent.”

“We had better put it up now, rather than when we come in from fishing,” suggested Jim.

“Right-o,” said I.

But then we were called for supper, and by the time supper was over and I looked out across the dimpling water, where the rain still slanted and peppered, it seemed to be getting a little dark.

“Jim,” I said, “let’s slam the tent up or we won’t get out to-night.”

Caulking the Old Boat

Jim went hunting and came back with a roughly-bundled tent of an oldish grayish color, and then we both hunted for the poles which never turned up.

“We can cut poles in a jiffy,” said Jim. Which we did, and they weren’t very good poles. We unrolled the tent and figured it all out, and struggled with the poles and the billowy canvas, and the rain still spattered and slanted. We had to go and cut pegs for the guy-ropes of the tent, and it got darker all the time.

“Just cut pegs for the corners,” said Jimmie. “We’ll do with a rough job tonight.”

“We’ll never get fishing,” I said. “But we can be up bright and early.”

The tent was pretty damp by the time we had it more or less erected, and the ground was soaked. But Jim got camp cots out of the cottage, and presently we got to bed.

“Early to bed, early to rise,” said Jim.

“The mosquitoes are fairly bad,” I answered.

The sun waked us. I could tell by the angle of the sun that it was not really early. In fact, it was the voices of children in the distance, apparently in swimming, that really wakened me.

“Jim,” I cried, looking at my watch, “it’s after nine, daylight saving.”

We leaped out of bed to find a lovely sunny morning, the water still as a mill pond, and nobody up yet.

“We’ll just go in and snatch a bite of breakfast,” decreed Jim. “And away.”

Quietly, so as not to wake everyone, we had a bowl of dry cereal and bread and jam. And then we gathered up our tackle and headed for the little dock in front of Jim’s.

“The boat,” said Jim, “was kind of leaky last week but I told them to leave it in the water to soak up.”

The boat, however, was on the beach, turned over. And I could see right through the cracks in the keel.

“Can we get a boat handy?” I inquired, businesslike.

“It won’t take ten minutes to caulk this up,” said Jim. “I brought a can of new caulking stuff for it.”

Which he produced from his fishing tackle box.

“Jim,” I said, “don’t fool with this skiff. Let’s rent one or borrow one, handy.”

“The nearest place to rent one is six miles up the lake,” said Jim, “and I wouldn’t dream of borrowing anybody else’s boat around here. Anyway, they are likely all out fishing.”

“Well,” said I. So I laid down all my tackle, rod cases, steel boxes, leather bags, nets, gaffs and what not, and helped Jim pry the lid off the caulking cement.

“This stuff is elastic,” explained Jim happily, cutting himself a sort of spreader from a stick. “It dries quick, the man said. But it is elastic and sticks in the cracks.”

The stuff was very liquid. We stirred it and spread it carefully in the wider cracks. Then we found smaller cracks and nail holes and carefully stuffed the cement into them.

“This is a great old boat,” said Jim. “I wouldn’t get rid of it for any boat they make nowadays. It’s a pleasure to handle this boat.”

We just went on stuffing and spreading. We found some quite large holes at the ends.

“Now,” said Jim, “let her dry, a few minutes, and away we go.”

“Let’s Prove We’re Anglers”

I sat down and batted mosquitoes away.

Jim walked out on the little dock. It was high and dry and the piles of stones that supported it were at least ten feet from water’s edge.

“The water in these lakes,” said Jim, “is dropping every year.”

“Maybe if we waited a few years,” I said, “we could come up and catch the muskies on dry land.”

Jim started moving stones from under the ricketty dock out towards the water. There is something attractive about moving a stone.

Jim moved about four stones. I got up and picked one up that I saw him deliberately avoid. I hoisted it. Waddled down to the water with it. Plunked it down.

“Boy,” said Jim, “you’ve got a back.”

“Short men are good at lifting,” I explained.

“We might as well do this,” said Jim, “while waiting for the boat to dry.”

One by one, we hoisted the stones. Jim tried several he couldn’t even get knee high, I hoisted them easily.

“I never realized,” said Jim graciously, “how strong you really were.”

“I was always a good lifter,” I assured him.

We got them all shifted. We made two good strong piles of them, and Jim said we might as well shift the planks, now that we had got the stones moved. It was only a matter of ten minutes before we had a nice little dock rebuilt, right where it should be.

We were just testing the caulking on the skiff when there came a strong call from the cottage.

“Dinner!”

“Dinner,” I said. And my watch showed noon.

We went up and squeezed in at a very crowded table, with several of the smaller children sitting at a side table, and had a great big summer dinner of cold meat and salad and about five cups of tea the way you can drink it at a summer resort. And it was two o’clock, daylight saving, when we walked out on the veranda, and Jim sagged into the hammock.

“Come, me lad,” I laughed at him. “None of that!”

“Just for five minutes,” said Jim. “Just to start digestion.”

I sat and rocked while the veranda filled with youth; and old Jim, with a grin on his face, closed his eyes and enjoyed a brief snooze.

“Up you get,” I commanded. “We’re anglers. Let’s prove it.”

“Oh, me,” groaned Jim, and rose heavily and went indoors to get the outboard motor, I helped him carry it down. The skiff was not yet dry. As a matter of fact, the cement only had a sort of crust on it, which broke when you stuck your finger on it, and the sticky stuff clung to your finger.

“Let her go,” said Jim. “The water will harden it.”

We launched the skiff, carefully.

“She leaks,” I noted.

“You bail,” decreed Jim. “It will close up in no time.”

He adjusted the outboard. I bailed. I batted mosquitoes. The lake was glassy smooth. There was a haze. I scanned the water for the boil of a monster musky rising. But only the dip of little water flies disturbed the glassy smoothness.

Jim wound up the engine cord and jerked. The water bubbled. The engine hissed and sucked. We moved, in slow bunts, forward with each jerk of the outboard cord.

“Hm, hm, hm,” said Jim, opening this and shifting that. He stuck his finger in the fuel tank and inspected the mixture. He gave little quick pulls of the cord. Long, slow hauls at it. He twiddled gimmicks and gadgets.

“Hm, hm, hm,” said I.

But bailing was necessary. There were several small clear little pencils of water spouting up out of the bottom of the boat from places we had not suspected.

“Paddle her in to the dock,” said Jim.

“What with?” I asked politely.

“Oh, I forgot the oars,” said Jim. “Paddle her in with your bailing can.”

I paddled as best I could the little distance we had drifted. Jim unscrewed the outboard and hoisted it on to the wharf.

“It won’t be a second,” said Jim. “I know the insides of these things like a book.”

I went for a little walk along the beach while Jim took the thing apart. I came back and sat down and watched him, as he unscrewed and unbolted, examined, refitted. He got covered with black grease. He seemed so concentrated, I hated to disturb him.

He tried three different bolts in the one nut he was holding, so I said:

“Jim, it occurs to me we ought to get an early start home so as to miss that dreadful traffic. A day like this, I bet it would take seven hours to get back to town.”

Jim pondered. He tried the three small bolts in two other nuts.

“Hm,” said he. “What time is it?”

“It’s three-fifteen.”

“Not much of a day for fishing,” he said, gazing at the glassy and brassy lake.

“I don’t think a fish would look at a bait on a day like this,” I agreed, rising. “What do you say if we get an early start and avoid the traffic jam?”

“I’m with you,” agreed Jim. “I’ll take this thing back to town and have it overhauled. By next week, the boat will be thoroughly tight. We’ll make a day of it next week.”

We got a box and Jim put all the loose parts of the outboard in it. We packed our stuff into the car.

“I should attend to a couple of leaks in the roof,” said Jim. “They were nearly flooded out last night. It wouldn’t take ten minutes to slip a few shingles in under the spots that leak.”

“How about doing that next week?” I asked. “Time is flying. We don’t want to get into that traffic jam.”

We made our farewells to the one or two who were not having the afternoon siesta.

“Next week,” said Jim, gazing tenderly at his cottage, the placid lake, the dock, the boat, once more upside down, its repaired bottom bright with spots of pale cement, “we’ll make a real day of it.”

“Yes,” I said, “yes, yes, yes, yes.”

Only I made each yes sound different from the others.


Editor’s Notes: For some reason, Greg says Maskinonge, which is French for Muskellunge, which is the pronunciation he normally uses.

As mentioned before, the weekend only started on Saturday afternoon back then, and it was common for men to stay in the city and work while their families would spend all summer at a cottage. The men would then go up on Saturday afternoon, and leave Sunday afternoon.

This story appeared in both So What? (1937), and Greg Clark & Jimmie Frise Outdoors (1979).

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