"Greg and Jim"

The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Horse Sense

As I backed away from the dog, I felt my hat being lifted from my head….

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, May 18, 1940

“When the races start…” started Jimmie Frise.

“Horse racing,” I informed him, “ought to be abolished. In time of war, I can imagine nothing more sheerly wicked and wasteful than horse races.”

Jimmie slowly turned purple.

“Horse racing,” he gritted, “is the foundation of the breeding of horses for war…”

“Heh, heh,” I laughed pleasantly. “You’re a bit out of date, my boy. The Duke of Wellington might have used that antique argument. But times have changed. The mechanization of the army has pricked that bubble, my friend. Horse racing is doomed. Since the army no longer needs horses, your horse racing stands forth as what it really is. A sheer gambling device. As bare-faced as a roulette wheel.”

Jimmie slowly changed to a deeper shade of purple.

“It is the sport of kings,” he said huskily.

“And of absconding bank clerks,” I sneered.

“It is the last manly sport left,” grated Jim. “The last he-man game, where a man can feel his freedom and his power. Life is being social-serviced out of all reality. One by one, all sports, all games, are being scienced, organized, made safe and prim. The only game left where a man can go and feel he is a hell-dinger is racing.”

“That’s a fine recommendation,” I scoffed

“Is it?” queried Jim sadly. “Here we are with a war on our hands, and we want fighting men. Yet, for the past 20 years, we have been breeding all kinds of men except fighting men. We have been breeding gentlemen and scholars. We have been teaching our young men to play the game, lawfully and piously. We have been stressing the social rights of men, so that tolerance is our ideal. And all of a sudden, we want a million men with intolerance in their hearts, a high and mighty intolerance.”

“And what has all this got to do with horse racing?” I interjected.

“Well, you say horse racing should be abolished,” said Jim, “which declaration is part and parcel of the namby-pamby spirit of the age. The same point of view would abolish not only horse racing but all the other tough, rough and nasty characteristics of our society that we need so desperately right now.”

“Do you mean to say that if our young manhood was a horse racing lot, they would be better soldiers?” I demanded.

“I certainly do,” stated Jim. “I would say offhand that the more horse racing, corner lounging, pool room loafing, crap shooting, low down element we had in the country, the tougher and more deadly our army would be. There is no use blinding ourselves to the facts. Maybe it would be a fine thing to have a country so advanced that we had nothing but the type best described as splendid young fellows. But in the last war, it seems to me the splendid young fellows were the company clerks. And when you wanted a raiding party, you went snooping around after the corner boys and the crap shooters and the racetrack bums.”

“You’re romanticizing the bum,” I protested.

“Think it over,” suggested Jimmie. “Recollect your toughest job in the old war. Who were the guys with you?”

And I had to recollect Jimmie Post and Sergeant Sturgess and Charlie Windsor and people like that, whom I could hardly describe as public-spirited citizens. In fact, they did know a lot of horses’ names, now that I came to think of it.

More Than a Sport

“What is it about horses.” I inquired, that gets men the way it does?”

“They’re so game,” said Jim, emotionally. “There are only three animals out of all Christendom that have won the hearts of men. The horse, the game cock and the dog. These three have a heart, a spirit, that is high and noble in the sense that men can conceive. Bulls aren’t noble. Rams, cats, hogs aren’t noble. Out of all the animal kingdom the only creatures man has chosen for his love are the horse, the dog and the game cock. Why? Because they fight on though the blood blinds them.”

“It seems a low standard,” I asserted.

“Stick to your high ideals,” cried Jimmie, “and see where you land in this war! This is a war in which the noblest attributes of the horse, the game cock and the dog are the things that count in men.”

“You would drag us down to the level of our enemies,” I stated.

“You bet,” said Jim.

“Still,” I said, “it is some satisfaction to know that the old hypocrisy about racing being important to the breed of horses is exploded at last.”

“Why is the French army buying horses all over Canada and America?” demanded Jimmie. “Why are there ships laden with horses streaming across the Atlantic every day?”

“The French eat horses,” I explained.

“Yes,” said Jim, “but before they eat them, they have them to drag ration wagons across shell riven roads impassable to machines, and to haul guns forward where the last tank has sunk in the mire. Up over the night black tracks and paths, the horses will struggle, laden with ammunition and food and water, while the engines lie dead for want of gas, blown to hell in some vast holocaust. No, sir, in the end will be a man, and behind him, laden till he sags, a horse. That is the old tradition.”

“I still don’t see what racing has got to do with it,” I insisted. “It wasn’t race horses that brought me up my rations and my bombs at Vimy. It was plugs.”

“Racing,” stated Jim, “makes men respect and admire horses. If horses merely hauled bread wagons and plows, men would not respect them. It is that little extra something a horse has that earns men’s respect.”

“It’s a funny world,” I muttered, “when you come to think about it.”

“And when you think of a crowd of 10,000 people, jammed at a race meeting,” said Jim, “don’t forget the tens of thousands who wish they were there, at that minute.”

“I suppose,” I agreed.

“And don’t forget,” went on Jim, “the ones that live by race horses, the thousands of men whose livelihood is breeding and rearing and training horses.”

“Just so,” I admitted.

“Why, when you come to think of it,” cried Jim, “it’s not only a sport, it is not only an industry, it’s a cult. How else can you explain those who get up at 4 a.m. for no other reason but to go down and watch horses train?”

“Lunatics,” I submitted.

“Okay, I’m a lunatic,” said Jim bitterly. “Because this morning I was up at 4 a.m. and down at the Woodbine, and tomorrow morning I’ll be up again at 4 a.m. to drive down…”

“For goodness sakes, what for?” I protested.

“What do you get up at daybreak to go fishing for?” demanded Jim. “You know as well as I do that you don’t get any more fish. It’s just a legend. You get up in order to enjoy the mystery of the sport. To be up with the dawn, while all mankind sleeps on. To look into the mists of the morning, with the birds and the beasts. It’s purely religious.”

Rising With the Dawn

What can you see about race horses at 4 a.m.?” I scoffed.

“Horses,” said Jim raptly, “rise with the dawn. You arrive at the race track, when morning mists still wreath it. In all the little stables and huts you hear the stamp and whinny of the horses and the muffled calls of men. Roosters crow, dogs bark. All is astir. You hear the champ and grind of feeding. The high, spirited yell of blooded horses. Out in the mist, you see the boys leading the blanketed beasts, and the jockeys saddling them up, and the trainers standing by with thoughtful chins. Out on the deserted track you see the gamesters led, and, fresh and full of heat, the splendid beasts run… like wild things, like heroes, like creatures of fire and courage. Between the furlong and quarter-mile posts they rush, in the mist, while the trainers clock them…”

“And,” went on Jim, “along the fences, stand such as I, with our clocks, timing them, too. Yes, at all race tracks, you will find the devotees, the devout, only a handful, straggled apart along all the fences in twos and threes, getting to know the horses by sight, imagining they can tell, from what they see through the mists of dawn, what cannot show in the printed form chart…”

Well, Jimmie went on in such a vein that, somehow or other, I must have become mesmerized by his fervor and I asked him to include me in his plans for the morrow. Because I set my clock for 4 a.m. and got up in the pink gray of dawn, tiptoed about a resentful house for a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal and stood in the silent morning out in front until Jim bowled round the corner and picked me up and drove pell-mell for the race-track.

And it was all as he foretold. Maybe a dozen cars were parked in the open court of the track besides ours. And besides the trainers and stable crews resident at the track, maybe twenty devotees were scattered along the rails in the brightening morning in groups of two and three, intently watching the antics of a dozen horses idly curvetting and now and then racing, in short bursts, about the track near and far.

Jimmie led me along the white fences, greeting this group and that a little standoffishly, as though they were all special worshippers at an early service. We picked a vacant spot along the fence, with nobody within 20 yards either side of us, and there leaned. Jim pointed out this horse and that, by name. The trainers led them out, the jockeys rode them slowly around the track, as though merely exercising them. Every little while one of the would suddenly burst into stride and race madly a short distance. It was then we were all supposed to be electrified, because it was these sudden explosions that were imagined to be the tests by which the trainers knew what shape the horses were in. And it was our privilege to try and time them, clock them, and make shrewd guesses as to what unknown possibilities the various, horses possessed.

“So what?” I inquired after about fifteen minutes of this business of leaning on fences. “It’s a nice scene. It’s fresh air, and the morning is pleasant. But is this all there is to it?”

Jim had his watch cupped secretly in his hand, and was intently peering at a horse far off on the other side of the track, galloping furiously.

“Look,” I said, “nobody is watching you. Nobody cares if you time them or not. This is all pretence.”

“So is all sport,” said Jim. “It’s the hocus pocus with which we invest things, whether they be sport or professions or any belief whatsoever that makes them interesting. If you can’t feel the spell of all this, okay.”

“I sure can’t,” I said, stamping my feet and slapping my hands to warm them.

Animals Are Mind Readers

We walked around the track to the stables.

At the first three stables, there were “no admittance” signs, and when we spoke to the stable boys, they regretted to inform us that the owners did not allow strangers to hang around. But at the fourth stable, Jimmie seemed to be well known for the black man sitting in the doorway of one of the shacklike stables, hailed him cheerily and called, and two or three men popped their heads out the doors and cried “Jimmie” as if they really meant it.

The stables were in pairs, each two being a little household unto themselves. The aisle between was a sort of barnyard, and from the stables opposite, the horses looked out of their stalls amiably. The crews went busily about, feeding, grooming, bandaging, combing tails and manes. And the smell of fried eggs and bacon mingled with the odor of hay and saddle soap.

As we entered, the trainer and the stable boys came forward and shook hands warmly with Jim, which made me feel that there must be some fellowship about this horse business, after all. Jim introduced me right and left.

There was a sort of gipsy charm about the whole affair. Horses whinnyed and stamped, men ducked eagerly about their little chores, voices cried gaily. And a white bull terrier, with slant eyes, the only kind of dog that really can never mean anything to me, came lazily around a corner of the stables, saw me, and broke into a bow-legged and very muscular canter.

Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw it, and there was no doubt about it. It was not the mere fact that Jimmie and I were strangers that intrigued that bull terrier. It was me he was interested in.

He made straight for my calves, and, whirling as he came by, rounded with a high, nasal growl.

“Hey,” said the black man, who was standing by, and he gave a kick at the dog.

“Here, Sam,” warned the trainer, sternly.

But Sam’s slanty eyes were mere slits as he split his long jaw back and bared his bone crushers in another nasty grow at my legs. The fat part.

I backed away.

“Heh, heh,” I said, “nice doggie.”

A small banty game cock came out of one of the stalls all in a fluster of cackles, and, as if attracted by the increasing row, strutted down his wings and advanced upon me. And, as I backed away from the dog, I felt my hat lifted from my head

One of the horses in the stalls behind me had stretched out and lipped my hat, tossed it in the air. Before anybody could so much as speak, a hairy looking goat bounced out of the same stall and snatched my hat off the ground and ran, shaking the hat from side to side. And nibbling at it.

“It’s just a trick,” shouted Jimmie above the laughter and yelling. The black man was chasing the goat and one of the stable boys was driving Sam back, though the dog twisted muscularly from side to side, as though determined to take one bite, about the size of a pound of butter, out of my leg. The banty rooster crowed excitedly and pranced back and forth, taking little runs in my direction.

“Look,” said the trainer, “if you don’t mind I think they’ve got something against you…”

“I’ll be glad to go,” I stated clearly. “If can get my hat.”

“The boy is getting it,” said the trainer. “But if you don’t mind, before they all get upset…”

He was escorting me out.

“Animals are funny,” he said, as we reached the main lane of the stable. “They take scunners.”

The black man came laughing back with my hat. It was shapeless and muddy, and the goat’s chewing was like pleats all along one side of the brim.

“I’ll see you later,” called Jimmie to his friends, the trainer, and boys.

And we walked down the main lane towards the clubhouse and the white fences again.

“You can have your cult,” I submitted.

“Don’t tell me animals aren’t mind readers,” retorted Jim.


Editor’s Notes: Horses were used extensively in World War Two, primarily by the Germans and the Soviets for transport. However Greg was basically correct, in that the war relied more on trucks and engine power.

As we are back at the race track, there is a stereotypical depiction of a black man. See my article About Stereotypes for more information.

A scunner, means taking a strong dislike to something. I don’t know what a hell-dinger is.

Letter to the Old Typewriter

May 14, 1932

These illustrations by Jim appeared alongside a story by Gordon Sinclair, who was well known for his globe-trotting reporting. The story was a tongue-in-cheek obituary for his old portable typewriter “Tip” that he carried on his adventures that had bit the dust.

May 14, 1932

Has Archie Told You This One?

May 9, 1931

Mrs. I. Walton

As I stopped reverently to touch the fish in the basket, Mrs. Bushy gave another wild heave and derricked another trout out of the water.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, May 6, 1939

“Oh boy,” cried Jimmie Frise, gripping the steering wheel, “it looks like fish to me.”

“Slow down, slow down,” I pleaded. “Let’s look over the lay of the land as we go by.”

“Look at that open stretch,” breathed Jim. “Look at the log jams in the bends.”

As we bumped slowly along the countryside road, to our left spread out semi-wild meadows in which meandered a trout stream amidst cedar thickets, willow clumps and alder.

“To think,” exclaimed Jim. “that this stream has been here, less than 80 miles from Toronto, all these years and we never even heard of it.”

“Until Bill tipped us off,” I pointed out. “We must give Bill credit. He knows where the trout streams are.”

“I don’t see anybody else fishing it,” remarked Jim.

“Bill said that was the beauty of it.” I reminded him. “Hardly anybody knows about it.”

“The farm house,” said Jim, “ought to be just past this next bit of bush.”

So in expectant silence we joggled and thudded over the narrow rutted road until we came in sight of the farm house which Bill had foretold us, and where we would find the elderly couple who owned this farm and this stream and from whom, for the payment of one dollar each, we could obtain the privilege of fishing all day in as fine a stretch of trout stream as there is in Ontario.

The house had that white tidy look that farm houses have which are inhabited by elderly people whose children have all grown up and moved away, leaving the old folks to do all the pleasant things they have wanted to do all their lives. The fences repaired, the door yard tidy and trim, flower boxes on the window sills, ready for the petunias of June and an old stiff dog waddling off the side porch to bark huskily and rather foolishly at our approach. No wreckage about the place, such as young people leave; no chores left undone by young men wanting to go to town; none of the barrenness that comes to farm houses because of all the cares and all the jobs that call, indoors, outdoors, from the lowing barn and from the far acres.

“Jim,” I said, “I like the look of this place.”

And Jim steered in the short lane and drew up alongside the pump.

On the side porch were two old rocking chairs. From the glass in the door a woman’s face looked out in that curious fashion in which country people await your knock.

Jim and I got out in all our fishing togs, and advanced under the shrewd gaze of what appeared to be a motherly old lady with spectacles set half-way down her nose. And she was hurriedly tidying her hair.

She even let us rap on the door, and waited a decent interval before she opened; though she must have been standing three feet from it.

“Good-day, gentlemen,” said she. And we both fell in love with her, because of the way she looked over the top of her spectacles at us.

“Ma’am,” said Jimmie. “a friend of ours sent us here to ask if we might have the privilege of the day’s fishing on your trout stream.”

“Aw,” said the lady, whose name presently appeared to be Mrs. Bushy. but which we changed for her before the night had fallen, “Aw, now, boys. I hate to see you waste your time on our bit of water. In the olden days, we used to get great fishing here. But you know. Time and tide. Time and tide.”

“Oh, don’t you worry,” cried Jim. “from what we’ve heard, we’ll be satisfied. The charge, I understand, is a dollar?”

“My husband,” said Mrs. Bushy, “makes a rule to charge visitors a dollar each. It’s just to keep people off really. You’ll never get a dollar’s worth of trout out of that stream.”

“We’re only too glad to pay it,” I cut in, wanting the dear old lady to look at me over her spectacles, too.

“Boys,” said Mrs. Bushy, “my husband insists on a dollar, because if we let everybody on the stream, there are always some who leave gates open and break down fences and build bonfires and leave trash around. But I take it you come from Toronto?”

We admitted it, warily.

Two Nice Boys

“Then,” said Mrs. Bushy. “Why not go another 20 or 30 miles farther up, where there is some trout fishing? I just hate to take a dollar from two such nice boys. All the way from Toronto, why its nearly 80 miles. And for another 20 miles or so, you could really get some fishing.”

“Ma’am,” said Jim, “we’d have to go a lot farther than 20 miles to get good trout fishing. It just so happens, a friend told us about the sport he had here on your farm last year. Your farm is out of the way. It is off the beaten path. Sportsmen pass it by, in the lure of more distant pastures.”

“Boys,” interrupted Mrs. Bushy, “take my advice. Don’t waste your dollars.”

“The greatest fishing in the world,” I insisted, “is in the stream that is generally supposed to be fished out. The minute a trout stream gets the reputation of being fished out, the trout get a chance to grow in it.”

“Listen, boys,” said Mrs. Bushy. “I’ve lived here all my life. My father before me. We’ve fished that there stream for over 70 years. For the first few years, while we were clearing this land, that trout stream helped feed us.”

“It looks lovely,” I said.

“It is lovely,” said Mrs. Bushy. “Sit down, boys.”

And she indicated the two rockers, but Jim and I made her sit down in one and I took the other and Jim sat on the step.

“It does look lovely,” said Mrs. Bushy, “but of course there are no fish in it. Not many, anyway. Not worth a dollar.”

“We’d like to spend the day on it, nevertheless,” insisted Jimmie.

“When I was a little girl,” said Mrs. Bushy, “my father used to go out and catch a wash-boiler full of trout between here and that hill with the five elms on it. A wash boiler – full.”

“What would you do with them?” I asked cautiously

“We would have great feasts of them, breakfast, dinner and supper,” said Mrs. Bushy, with a faraway look over her spectacles. “We would send them to old people of the neighborhood, and sick people. And the minister. My father was given to fits and starts. He would fish all day from sunrise to sunset, and then never fish another worm for a year.”

“You like fishing?” asked Jim.

“In fits and starts,” said Mrs. Bushy. “I haven’t fished for years.”

“Have you ever made any great catches in your creek?” I inquired. “Any big fish?”

“I never could catch a wash-boiler full,” admitted Mrs. Bushy. “I’ve tried, but a couple of pails full is all I can remember. And never any big ones. My brother, when he was a boy, caught a fish of five pounds in that stream. At the log jam about half way to that hill, there, with the five elms.”

“Ma’am,” said Jim, and we both rose to our feet, “despite what you say, we’d like to fish your creek.”

“Aw, boys,” said Mrs. Bushy.

“You see,” explained Jim. “it isn’t trout a real fisherman is after. It’s the fishing. The day in the open. On the stream. The expectation. The quiet. The peace and mystery. The hope.”

“Hope is all you’ll get,” laughed Mrs. Bushy. Over the top of her spectacles very twinkley. “I do wish you boys would go where there is trout.”

“If you don’t want us on the …” I submitted.

“No, no,” cried the dear old lady leaping up. “My husband is away, but will be home before the day’s out, so I’ll simply have to abide by his rule. But I hate to take the dollar…”

But Jim and I had the dollar out of our pockets and handed them into her grudging soft hand, and she hid them behind her without looking at them as if they were shameful.

“Come back,” she said, “at noon, for lunch.”

“Please,” said Jim, “it is only two hours to noon, we’ll just be getting started. And besides we have sandwiches….”

“Aw, you fishermen,” said Mrs. Bushy.

“Well see you on our way out,” said Jim genially, “with a wash-boiler full of trout.”

“Stay for supper,” said Mrs. Bushy, taking her hand from behind her, and revealing the crumpled and shameful dollars.

“No, no,” we both cried. “We’ll be late coming off the stream….”

“You’ll be glad to quit before sundown,” assured Mrs. Bushy, firmly. “I’ll have something on the table for you here, whenever you come back.”

Boxes of Knick-knacks

So she stood and watched us unpack our gear, the rod cases, the fishing bags full of fly boxes and knick-knacks and shook her head when we pulled on our waders and set our rods up, and over the top of her spectacles looked taken aback at so much preparation for so little in store.

“My dear boys,” she said, when we were ready to haste down to the stream, “this is all so silly. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“Wait until we come back,” we predicted confidently.

And down the lane and out over a lumpy meadow we strode as hard as we could and came to the stream. A hurrying, gurgling, brim full and crystal clear stream it was, rising out of some miracle of springs back in the stony hills. A stream where trout should be, time nor tide. A stream it would be a pleasure to fish, if only in memory of the trout that once must have inhabited it.

“You fish up,” said Jim, “and I’ll fish down, and then we’ll return and pass each other. Here’s your sandwiches. I’ll take mine. We won’t waste time in meeting for lunch.”

“Okay,” I agreed, already whisking my line out, and bowing low, laid the first fly on a particularly coiling bit of current, where a trout of 11 inches should be lurking.

With that fresh eagerness which, like the first plunge into water for a swimmer, is the best part of all, I fished up the stream, slowly, patiently; casting a hundred times over each likely pool and letting my flies dance down every ripple and swim past all logs and embedded stumps along the margins. But not a rise did I get not a single flash or wink under water of a bright slashing form of a trout. If there were trout in this stream, they were sulky indeed.

Slow Disillusionment

Almost half a mile of wandering stream did I follow, in all devotion and unfailing expectation, until I came to the fence that marked the end of the farm. In trout fishermen, disillusion is slow in coming. In no other sport does hope die so hard. But when it dies, it is apoplectic. It dies with a dunt. And when I reached the boundary fence, disillusion fell on me like a weight, and I climbed out and sat on the stream’s bank to smoke. And a brown thrasher, sensing my trouble, came and sang on a dead tree his song, repenting each warble and each sardonic chuckle once, as if to gloat on it; and I fell asleep a little, and woke and began fishing down stream. But in all the smooth pools and up against all the tangled and mysterious log jams, and in all the coiling currents. I raised nary a fish. In time I passed the farmhouse and entered on the stretch Jim had fished, and found cress beds and sat down and had my sandwiches with fresh cress for a salad to them. And fished on far down to where, with afternoon now well gone, I found Jim sitting at the foot of a tree looking very dejected.

“Well.” I said, climbing out to join him.

“How many?” said he dully.

“I haven’t even seen a fish,” I said. “Mrs. Bushy was an honest woman. When will ever learn to recognize truth when in stands shining before us?”

“I got two,” said Jim, turning out his basket where, in a mat of mushy grass, two measly little seven-inch trout lay stiff and stark.

“Well, thank goodness,” I said, “At least there are a few ghosts of trout left.”

And we sat so for an hour, smoking and comparing the flies we had used, Jim getting his two on a small black hackle; and I confessing to have tied on nine different patterns of fly in my effort to interest the fish.

“We may as well push off,” said Jim. “A day like this is not badly spent, though. I had a swell day’s practice.”

“In fact,” I agreed, “when you have to cast so hard for fish that won’t rise, you get a lot better practice than when the fish are rising.”

We hoisted our bags and rods and walked slowly along the banks, through the thickets and followed the stream, stopping to admire the finest lays and marvelling that such water held no trout.

As we came near the clearing that led out of the meadows to the farm, we heard a sound, and stopped to peer through the brush. Ahead of us someone was fishing.

We tiptoed. And in an open space, at the foot of a bank, stood Mrs. Bushy, armed with a pole cut from a birch sapling, dunking a great gob of worms which she threw with a splash into the open pool. She was standing out in full view on a log, and her white apron made a sign and a signal to all the trout in Christendom not to come near.

“The dear old soul,” I murmured to Jim as we stood watching with amusement the spectacle. “Imagine her trying to catch trout in that white apron flapping in the wind, and her standing out in full view on that log.”

“Never mind, she’s having fun,” said Jim.

And at that instant Mrs. Bushy leaned forward, allowed her line to sink deeper, with a look of great intensity on her, and then, with a wild heave, she hoisted the pole and flung high over her head and onto the sod far behind her a speckled trout of over one pound in weight.

“My gosh!” gasped Jim.

So we broke into a trot and burst out of the bushes, to startle Mrs. Bushy, who was bent over trying to pick up the flapping trout thus unceremoniously bashed on to dry land.

“Great! great!” we cried to her, dancing around.

And then we saw the basket. An ordinary fruit basket, in which lay, bright in death, nine beautiful trout, from a foot to 16 inches in length. The basket being almost full.

“Boys,” said Mrs. Bushy. “I just thought in case you didn’t have a catch, I would pick up a few for you.”

And she returned to the log, stepped out in full view, white apron and all, waved the pole terribly around, heaved the fat gob of worms with a terrific splash into the open pool, allowed it to drift down under the log jam and then, as I stooped reverently to touch the fish in the basket, gave another wild heave and derricked another pound and a half trout over her head, almost braining Jim with it as it hurtled through the air.

“There you are, boys,” sighed Mrs. Bushy happily. “Ten. That will be five each. Enough for a snack when you get home.”

And Jim and I went furiously to work, thinking the rise had begun; and we fished and we fished, with Mrs. Bushy following us and begging us to use her pole and worms until dusk came and not a fish did we get, and then we walked all three up to the house.

Mr. Bushy was home and had the dinner on. And we had one trout each, fried in butter; followed by cold roast beef and pickles and cabbage and old boiled potatoes, and plum pie and cheese and strong tea.

And we stayed until 10.30 o’clock, telling Mr. and Mrs. Bushy all about Izaak Walton and how he advocated all forms of fishing scorning none; and we gave Mrs. Bushy the new name of Mrs. Walton, Mrs. I. Walton and then we drove out the side road and home, with three fine speckled trout each in our baskets, not counting Jim’s two measlies.


Editor’s Notes: Izaak Walton wrote the The Compleat Angler in 1653, and is considered a classic amongst fishing enthusiasts.

A wash-boiler is a large galvanized metal (or copper) tub with a lid that would be used for laundry.

This story appeared in The Best of Greg Clark & Jimmie Frise (1977) and the illustration was featured on the cover.

Grape Nuts Ad – 5/2/36

May 2, 1936

This is another in the series of Grape Nuts ads by Jim featuring “Ernie Energy”.

The Baseball Season Officially Opens

May 2, 1925

This is one of the first times “Life’s Little Comedies” was referred to as “Birdseye Center”.

Paul Whiteman was one of the most popular dance band leaders in the 1920s and 1930s.

You Said a Mouthful!

They were magnificent. The various colored bands met in a kind of herring bone design.
There will be the greatest boom you ever saw. False teeth factories will spring up all over the earth
The dentist’s girl fainted as Jim favored us with a terrific grin

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, May 6, 1933

“What the world needs,” said Jim Frise,”is a new plaything.”

“Mmmm,” said I.

“Prosperity,” went on Jim, “is based on fresh inventions. First, we had the sewing machine. Everybody bought a sewing machine. Just about the time the world was full up with sewing machines, along came the motor car.”

“Haven’t I heard this before?” I asked.

“Not this way,” said Jim. “Well, everybody was so busy making motor ears, and all the things that go with motor cars, such as highways and garages, that everybody had money to buy a motor car, and there we had the good old virtuous circle—“

“I thought circles were vicious,” said I.

“Circles are virtuous,” said Jim, “when they create work and so enable people to buy the thing they are making.”

“Go ahead,” said I.

“Then along came radio,” orated Jim. “So everybody started making radios to make the money to buy a radio. See?”

“And now what?”

“And now,” concluded Jim, “we haven’t a new idea to work on. That’s all that is the matter with the world. It isn’t economics or tariffs or breakdown of finance. It is just that we haven’t got something new to work on so that we can afford to buy it.”

“What do you suggest?”

“Well,” said Jim, “I’ll tell you one thing. I was up at my dentist’s the other day, and he said that in ten years’ time it will be the rule for everybody, at the age of about thirty, to come and have all their teeth out.”

“Ouch!” I said, being forty.

“After a certain age,” said Jim, “our teeth not only are no more use to us, they are an actual menace to us. Teeth were all very well a thousand years ago, when we used to gnaw bones. And then we got rid of our teeth naturally. We either broke them out gnawing bones, or we had them knocked out in battle. To-day we eat soft food, so that we never lose a tooth. And we have long-range warfare, in which nobody loses his teeth unless they go with his head as well. Why, with the old bar room gone, and law and order prevailing the way it does, we keep our teeth until they poison us.”

“Do they really?” I asked.

“Say,” said Jim, “the dentist took an X-ray of one of my teeth and he found an abscess as big as a marble. You know those pains I had in my back? Well, sir, one week after I had that tooth out, the pains in my back vanished. That darn tooth was simply poisoning me to death. That’s teeth for you. They are sneaky.”

“How does this affect the world situation?” I inquired.

The Next Big Prosperity

“Why,” cried Jim, “can’t you see that the next big prosperity in the world will be the false-teeth prosperity. If we can only persuade everybody that they are feeling that way because of their teeth, and that all they need is to have the treacherous teeth taken out and false teeth substituted, there will be the greatest boom you ever saw. False teeth factories will spring up all over the earth. Dentists’ offices will occupy all the empty skyscrapers. Long queues of people lined up in the streets outside the dentist’s offices, and fleets of trucks bearing tons of false teeth to the cities. Boy, what a spectacle!”

“How long will it last?” I asked.

“The world,” cried Jim, “is not yet false tooth conscious. When false tooth production gets going in a big way the world will become false tooth conscious, and the advertising world will be called into action. There will be breakfast teeth, luncheon teeth and dinner teeth. There will be informal teeth and teeth for formal wear. There will be teeth to wear golfing, and teeth to wear at the office, small, hard, business teeth.”

“Aw, Jim,” I complained.

“You don’t realize how big business is built,” said Jim. “Just as sure as fate, once we can convince people that their natural teeth are slowly killing them, and start them wearing false teeth as naturally as we have persuaded ourselves to have our hair cut, boy, there is no limit to the way it will build up into a colossal industry.”

“I have always thought that if I had false teeth,” I said, “I would use some imagination in the matter. I think I would fancy black and white teeth, alternately set, so that your smile looked like an old-fashioned tile fireplace.”

“The girls,” said Jim, “are coloring their finger nails to match their gowns. Think of being able to have red, pink, blue teeth, to match your finger nails and gowns! Or your car, a maroon car and a lovely ravishing mauve smile!”

“Maybe you think,” went on Jim, “that it would be a short-lived prosperity. But look at all the other things the motor industry started, the tire factories, the garages, big and small, all over the land, employing tens of thousands, the highways, the hot dog stands, the gas pumps, every one of them an industry in itself. Think of the boost the packing houses got when the motor car created the hot dog stand. Think of all the gadgets you can get for your car, the road maps, the trick carburetors, the paint, every littlest thing employing somebody and making money for somebody. It would be the same with the false teeth industry.”

“I think,” I said, “I’ll invest a little money in a patent rubber bag for carrying your spare teeth with you. For example, you start out from the house in your breakfast teeth. At the office, you change into your sharp-pointed, steel-gray teeth for business. At noon you get into your luncheon teeth, bright golden yellow, to match the noon sunlight. Then in the afternoon, your conference teeth, big, buck teeth, with hard, dominating look to them. A nice sanitary rubber pocket bag will be a universal necessity.”

“I’m going to patent a tasteless enamel, in handy packages,” said Jim, “so that you can paint your teeth any color on short notice. You can start out gloomy in the morning with black teeth, but by mid-day you can be cheered all up and have bright pink teeth, or the uppers pink and the lowers paddy green.”

“By George,” I said, “you’re not so nutty as I thought you were!”

“What’s more,” said Jim. “I have the courage of my convictions. I am prepared to have my teeth all out, and start the fashion of wearing fancy teeth.”

“It’s the kind of thing that appeals to me,” I admitted.

“Would you care to go into this with me?” asked Jim, earnestly. “We could start the ball rolling. We could start the world back on the road to prosperity. Twenty years from now, we would have our pictures in the rotogravure section. Mr. Frise and Mr. Clark, the two founders of the universal false teeth era, acting as judges at a dental beauty show at Palm Beach.”

“Ahhhh,” said I.

“How about it?” asked Jim. “Let’s have our teeth out for our health’s sake, and then get some fancy teeth to start the new fashion and start biting our way as pioneers of prosperity.”

“I owe my dentist about $17 at the moment.” I said.

“Listen,” cried Jim, “when we explain this idea to some wide-awake dentist, he’s going to see his chance to benefit the whole profession, and he will pull our teeth for nothing. He’ll make us up a half a dozen sets of fancy teeth. Don’t let the expense worry you.”

“Teeth pulling hurts,” I ventured.

“Aw, you wouldn’t mind suffering a little bit for the benefit of mankind,” exclaimed Jim. “Don’t be a piker. All great leaders have suffered.”

“I’ve been feeling little low lately,” I admitted. “Maybe it would benefit me to have some of them out.”

“All of them out!” said Jim. “All or nothing!”

So Jim made the arrangements. We went and saw a dentist that Jim used to go to school with up at Birdseye Center, and, like all dentists who have come up from the country, he has a sense of humor. He took off his white coat when we called and spread himself and us around on his big chair and a couch, and we quit for the day so as to devote ourselves to the scheme.

“I’m willing,” said the doctor, “to take as my share the extraction, treatment and manufacture of fancy teeth, on condition that you chaps will wear the teeth I make you. If you do not wear the teeth I make, then I shall make you ordinary plates and charge you the usual rates, plus the cost of extraction and treatment.”

“Oh, we’ll wear them,” said Jim. “We’re used to looking queer.”

Introducing a New Era

We tossed up to see who went first into the extraction chair, and Jim won. I have a coin I got in the war with two heads on it.

The doctor called in a pretty girl in a white smock and between the two of them they did Jim up in large bib and wheeled in a gas tank and then they asked me to sit outside. I heard various groans and grunts from inside the door, and low talking. I heard things clattering on the floor, which I supposed were the teeth flying in all directions. In few minutes, the girl beckoned me in and there was old Jimmie with a grin from ear to ear and thumb marks on his eyeballs and check bones, and looking just the least little bit battered.

“These will be healed in a few days,” said the doctor, “and in the meantime, I will get busy on the plates.”

“What thoo I eath for the firth few dayth?” asked Jimmie,

“Soft foods like soup, milk, orange juice,” said the doctor. “Now, Mr. Clark?”

“Aren’t you tired?” I asked. “Surely you don’t want to tackle me right away.”

“Sure, it’s nothing,” said the doctor. “I can pull ’em all day.”

“I think I am a little unnerved by the sight of Jim,” I said. “I wonder if it would do to-morrow, when I feel a little better. Anyway, I’ve got very brittle teeth. They always break off at the roots.”

“Lithen,” cried Jim, juicily, “get intho that kthchair!”

“One of us had got to be able to speak plainly,” I protested. “To-morrow will do, won’t it doctor?”

“Make it to-morrow if you feel a little squeamish. You are a little pale.”

So I escorted Jim back to the office, where he sat speechless and sunken jawed. Then I went in and arranged with the editor to be sent out of town to London and Strathroy on urgent business.

I was away four days, and when I got home, Jim was waiting for me to come up and try on his first set of new-era teeth.

“He said he made them very simple in design,” said Jim. “Just a modest patten, but it will do for a start and give some idea of what can be done by the emancipated dental profession.”

The doctor was eagerly awaiting us, and from pad of cotton wool he produced an upper and lower set of false teeth.

They were magnificent.

The uppers were red, white and blue, slanting obliquely from right to left. The lowers were green, black and yellow, slanting obliquely from left to right, so that when the teeth were set, the various colored bands met, in a kind of herring bone design, the black meeting a red, the yellow meeting a blue, and so on, with a most arresting, glittering, prismatic effect.

First Things Always Sensational

Jim inserted them tenderly into his still sore mouth.

Then he turned and favored us with terrific grin.

The dentist’s girl fainted and we put her on the couch.

“Magnificent!” I gasped.

“Wear those,” said the dentist, “and the job hasn’t cost you a cent.”

“They taste funny,” said Jim, speaking thickly.

“Take them along,” said the dentist, “and try them in from time to time until your mouth gets used to them.”

Jim studied himself in the mirror, grinning fiendishly, and I thought his hair turned a little whiter.

“All right, me boy,” he said to me: “how about getting into the chair now while we are here?”

“Jim,” I said, “I have been thinking about this. It seems to me a pretty scurvy trick to horn in on your idea. When this thing transforms the world, when it brings back prosperity, when the factories of the world are belching forth false teeth by the train load, what a shabby little man I will appear in the eyes of posterity when it is known that I stole your idea and tried to pose as co-emancipator of mankind.”

“I thought so,” said Jim.

“How do you mean?” I asked. “I feel that you should be allowed to take the full credit for this marvellous plan of yours. Let me come along in a few weeks, when the fashion gets going. I’ll be one of your first converts. But not until you have established full claim to the revolutionary idea.”

“I thought so,” repeated Jim, looking at me with his teeth bared. I bowed my head.

We got in the elevator.

The elevator girl caught a glimpse of Jim in the mirror and she dropped the steering wheel and the car stopped in mid-flight. The girl screamed and whirled the wheel.

“Here,” said Jim, taking the wheel and bringing the elevator to the ground floor.

We went out the lobby and Jim cast smiles in all directions at the people resting on the big sofas. Several of them passed out and others covered their eyes. Out on the street we stopped to wait for traffic to let us across and a man driving a truck looked at him. Jim opened his mouth and grinned. The man, never taking his eyes off Jim, stepped savagely on the gas and ran into another car. There was a traffic mix-up and Jim, stepping forward to assist the tangled drivers, smiled upon them, and two drivers got out of their seats by the far door and ran.

“Keep your mouth shut,” I rasped at Jim.

A policeman walked over to the melee and Jim grinned at him across the hoods of cars. The cop lifted his arm and shielded his eyes, staggering back out of the confusion.

“Let’s get away.” I said, seizing Jim’s arm.

We got into my car and headed for the office.

“The first motor car,” said Jim, “created a sensation. They had to have a man with red flag walking in front of all motor cars. The first radio, I can remember the excitement, the crowds of people gathered to listen to the squawks and squeaks. Everything new causes a sensation.”

“He made those teeth too loud,” I said. “If they only weren’t set on the bias. It is that herring bone pattern that causes the fright.”

“They will get used to it,” said Jim.

But I notice this morning that Jimmie is wearing an ordinary set of ivory colored teeth.

“Where are the fancy teeth?” I asked.

“I’m saving those for formal occasions,” replied Jim.


Editor’s Notes: The rotogravure section references the special sections of newspapers where photographs were printed. Rotogravure was the printing technique for photographs, and some newspapers (including the Star Weekly), produced them. They were primarily used to highlight photos of interest that did not have to be accompanied by a story, instead just a line or two would be used.

The elevator girl running the “steering wheel”, was the manual control, looking more like a crank to move the elevator up or down. Most elevators were run this way before World War Two, as the operator had to manually line up the floors and operate the doors.

When Abie’s “Irish” Rose

April 29, 1933

This illustration by Jim accompanied a story by Happy Meyers Bonnell, whom I have no information on. The story is of how she, her sister, and a friend tried to train the polo horse “Abie” to pull a cart. It plays on the stereotype that Irish people are “hot-blooded”. It is also a play on words of a popular play and movie, Abie’s Irish Rose.

Wheeling in that Load of Garden Loam

April 29, 1922

Loam is the ideal type of gardening soil.

Egged On

“It’s one way of making a living,” said the chicken farmer. “I clear $15 a week…”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, April 25, 1936

“Every man,” said Jimmie Frise, “should have a profitable side line.”

“For instance,” I suggested.

“Rich men,” said Jim, “have their successful business. But on the side, they invest their profits in stocks and bonds. Pretty soon, they are making as much money with their investments as they are in their business. In fact, after a while, they become so interested in the market, they regard their regular business as a side line.”

“But what kind of a side line,” I asked, “could plain people like you and me have?”

“Well, for example,” said Jim, “you’re a writer. You could raise pedigreed dogs as a side line.”

“I raise hounds now, for my own pleasure,” I retorted, “and they cost me a small fortune.”

“Hounds, yes,” said Jim. “But I mean profitable dogs, like Pekingese or dachshunds.”

“How about you?” I submitted. “You’re an artist. What could you do for a side line? Why don’t you start up a little factory for making some artistic article of common use like lamp shades?”

“It takes capital to start a factory,” said Jim. “My idea of a side line is something that takes no effort and no expense.”

“All you need,” I countered, “is a little one-room shop and two smart girls, to start with. You are full of artistic ideas. Your true self can’t express itself in cartoons only. Here you are a master of line and color, a man endowed with artistic talent of the highest order. But just because you made your first hit with a cartoon, you’ve spent your life cartooning.”

“I’ve often thought of taking up serious painting,” admitted Jim. “Landscapes, and so forth.”

“No money in it,” I assured him. “But you take this lamp shade idea. A little one-room factory. Start with only two girls. You design the shades. One girl to cut them out. The other to color them. I bet you Jim Frise lamp shades would be in a class with Baxter prints in no time. No fashionable home, no collector, could afford not to have a few Frise lamp shades.”

“What kind of lamp shades have you in mind?” asked Jim, interested.

“That’s for you to decide,” I pointed out. “You’re the artist. Do you realize the ordinary home in this city has an average of thirty lamp shades in it? Bridge lamps and wall brackets, ceiling fixtures and table lamps. And how dreadfully the same are they all? Silk or glass or parchment. I tell you, Jim, there is a very real need for something new and beautiful in lamp shades.”

“Have you any ideas?” Jim asked.

“If I had,” I snorted, “would I be a newspaper writer? My dear boy, it is ideas that count. Anybody with reasonable skill or training can carry out other people’s ideas. It is ideas that make the fortunes.”

“It keeps me busy thinking up ideas for cartoons,” said Jim.

Thinking Up a Side Line

“Listen,” I cried, “a man who can think up a new idea for a cartoon week after week, year after year, for twenty years, ought to be smart enough to think up about six ideas for lamp shades. Think, Jimmie. A lamp shade. Artistically, it has every advantage on its side. It has light behind it. Being lighted, it instinctively attracts the eye. We spend big money on rugs, pictures, furniture, to make an artistic room. And then we break our necks trying to discover a lamp shade that will attract no attention at all. It’s wrong. Jim. The lamp shade ought to be as much an artistic feature of the room as the painting over the mantel, or the curtains and drapes.”

“You’re right,” agreed Jim. “But what kind of a lamp shade do you suggest?”

“I don’t suggest any,” I snorted indignantly. “If anybody could suggest lamp shades, they would have made the money long ago. The only opportunity there is in this idea of mine lies with your power, as a creative artist, to think up some new ideas in lamp shades.”

“It’s funny,” said Jim. “I can’t think of any.”

“Very well,” I said, “let’s drop it. I was only trying to help you find a side line. But obviously we are barking up the wrong tree.”

“My idea of a side line,” said Jim, “is one that would practically run itself. Like chicken farming.”

“Chicken farming!” I exclaimed.

“It’s a great life,” said Jim. “Buy a bunch of chickens. Feed them a couple of times a day. You don’t even have to go to feed them, the way you have to go and feed cows. You just open the back door, call ‘chiiiich-chik-chik-chik’ and they come running. All that remains to be done is walk out once a day, along about sundown, and gather the eggs.”

“Now there,” I admitted, “is a side line.”

“Can you imagine,” said Jim, raptly, “a life more delightful than owning a nice little chicken ranch somewhere about fifteen or twenty miles outside the city? Say, four or five acres of pleasant land, with pine trees on a hill.”

“And a brook,” I offered, “running through it, full of little trout about eight inches.”

“Far enough outside the city,” said Jim, “to be free of the curse of city life. Yet near enough to the city that you can run in whenever you like to see a movie or to shop.”

“Not really a chicken rancher,” I added, “but a country gentleman.”

“That’s it,” agreed Jim. “Country gentlemen. We could have a nice little house, and fill it up with our sporting equipment, the walls covered with guns and creels and snowshoes. I can see it.”

“But where could we get such a place?” I demanded suddenly. “If chicken ranching is so lovely, we wouldn’t be able to buy a ranch for love or money.”

“As a matter of fact,” said Jim, there are any number of little chicken ranches for sale. It’s strange, but true. Hundreds of people get the same idea we have here. But they don’t make a go of it.”

A Marvellous Idea

“Ah,” said I, “why?”

“Because it is so lazy a life,” said Jim. “It gets them. A young couple, for instance, will suddenly get the idea of going back to the land. They are tired of the city. Tired of making a living like slaves. So they throw up their job, borrow a few hundred from their parents, and go chicken ranching.”

“They’re too young,” I explained. “We’re old enough to know our own mind.”

“It isn’t that, it’s the laziness,” said Jim. “I know about this. I have had dozens of friends try it. It’s the dreadful laziness. You see, there is nothing to do all day long but lie around listening to the low, comfortable clucking of the hens. They don’t have roosters on the modern ranches. So there is no triumphant yell of roosters to give the scene a more lively air. Just the day-long, slow, quaaaa, qua, qua, qua, of hens, scratching in the dust.”

“How peaceful it would be,” I sighed.

“For a while, yes,” agreed Jim. “And with nothing to do all day long but come and throw feed from the back step, and once a day to walk around the hen houses and collect the eggs. It begins to wear on the ranchers. The wife begins to neglect her hair. She starts, after a few weeks, to wear nothing but a print wrapper all day. The husband decides to shave only twice a week, and for such jobs as he has to do, he pulls his rubber boots on over his pajamas. Then he comes back and goes to sleep. It is that awful, day-long sleepy squaw-squawking of the hens.”

“It’s not a bad life,” I offered,

“It gets them,” said Jim. “It gets them. They start quarrelling. The dreadful monotony works on them. They both long for a little action, a little excitement. After a couple of quarrels, the wife comes into town to stay with her parents a few days. She comes back to find her husband with a six-day stubble on his face and he forgot to wash. The dishes aren’t done, and there is a general air of the Deep South about the ranch. That finishes it. Another chicken ranch is for sale.”

“How could we run such a place, as a side line?” I inquired

“Don’t you see?” asked Jim. “Day about. Neither of us needs to be at the office all day every day. We take turn about spending one day at work and the next day at the ranch. Only a half hour outside the city. Our families would not object. Not at our age. We could explain that we need the change in order to rest our spirits after the strain of creative work.”

“A marvellous idea, Jim,” I confessed.

“Taking it day about,” said Jim, “it would never pall on us. Neither of us could get slovenly. On our alternate day of peace, we could think of scores of ideas for our regular work. It would be a hundred per cent.”

Looking Things Over

“How much do you suppose we could make?” I asked.

“I know one chicken farmer,” said Jim, “who has survived the ordeal, and he says he makes clear about fifty dollars a week.”

“Twenty-five bucks apiece,” I cried, “Jim, think of the fishing tackle and guns we could buy with that! Think of the trips we could take! Nipigon, and down to Pelee Island for pheasants, and a real moose hunt.”

“Who’d run the ranch on all these holidays?” pointed out Jim.

“Don’t let that discourage us,” I hastened. “Jim, you’re a man of brains. Let’s make inquiries without delay.”

So Jim telephoned out to his friend in the country who is making a success of his chickens, and he arranged to show us over the ranch next day, to give us an idea.

His place was on a highway, and I timed it. It was just 23 minutes from the city limits until we turned down a lane and saw before us a nice little painted frame house and about six long, low chicken houses.

The entire area was as bare as a schoolyard, and all fenced in with high chicken wire. And inside this barren and lifeless compound were about a million white chickens.

The air was a din of low sound. As we drove up, nary a chicken so much as looked at us. They were not the fat, comfortable hens I had in mind. They were slim and pigeon-like pullets, snowy white, with bright scarlet combs. And all busier than wheels in a wrist watch. Busy scratching running, hurrying. Busy clucking and skwarping and muttering in low chicken voices. Busy as the deuce at one spot on the bleak and barren soil, and then darting quickly a few feet, busier than ever at another equally barren patch of hard dry earth.

Out of the low red houses they fluttered. Into the low red houses they fluttered. There was a sense of ceaseless anxiety, hurry and excitement. An excitement surrounded with a low muttering sound, as if all the hens were swearing desperately, at the fruitless and hopeless round of their lives.

I sat in the car while Jim walked up to the house to get his friend. Ceaselessly the hens moved in a dense throng like a sea of white feathers. Ceaselessly they squawed and muttered and yelped suddenly with sharp sideways jumps. Their din was confusing at first. And then it became distressing. I stood up and waved my arms wildly to change the tempo. But except for an automatic flutter on the part of a few of the nearer chickens, it never made so much as a pause in their dreadful murmuring.

Chickens, I said to myself, attempting to reason myself into a better mental attitude towards them, chickens are man’s best friend. Not dogs, not horses, but chickens. Long ages before man dared to try and captivate a well and train it into a dog, he doubtless had wheedled these silly birds out of the jungle and into the front porch of the cave. Countless centuries before man ever had the courage to try to lasso a horse and convert it patiently into a harmless slave, man had so weaned chickens away from nature that a chicken would not dare return to the jungle.

And what a friend the chicken has proved? If the two billion people in the world all eat an egg a day. . . let’s see? . . . in a year, that will be what?

And the faster the hens laid eggs, the healthier men got, and the more people there were to eat eggs, and the more hens were needed to lay eggs. Maybe, I mused, the chicken, that willing provider of man’s most tasty and nourishing food, was the real source of man’s evolution from a furred animal to a relative of the gods. Chickens, I decided, and not lions or eagles, should be the emblem of all intelligent nations.

Back came Jim with his friend, a short leathery man in canvas overalls. He liked like a rooster. His bright, beady eyes and sharp nose gave me the idea that he was about to rise on his toes and crow at any minute.

“Well, boys,” he cackled sharply. “what is it you’d like to see?”

“I Feel a Little Dizzy”

“We were thinking of taking up chicken ranching as a side line,” Jim explained. “And we just wanted an idea of the layout.”

“Well, that’s all there is to it,” he cackled. Some chicken houses, nesting boxes, an enclosure, and there you are.”

“What’s the routine?” asked Jim.

“I get up about half an hour before daybreak,” said our friend. “Patrol the property to see no owls have been in. Then I carry water to them, about fourteen pails, and next I mix the feed and feed them. That takes me to about 8 a.m., and then I eat breakfast.”

“Breakfast,” said I.

“Then,” said the rancher, “I spend the morning cleaning the houses. That’s a good morning’s job. You have to keep these houses spotless, or you’re up to your neck in vermin and disease. Some afternoons I spend driving to town for feed and other days I deliver the eggs to market. The rest of the time, I am grading eggs, packing them or doing special trapping in the nests. Other days I have to do killing. Usually I’m through by 10 p.m., and then I’m glad to go to bed.

“I should say,” I agreed.

“But,” he said, “it’s one way of making a living. I clear $15 a week…”

“Fifty?” I interrupted.

“Fifteen,” said the rancher. “If I was clearing 50, I wouldn’t call the king my nephew.”

“I thought you said 50,” said Jim.

“Fifty, mercy,” said the rancher. “What do you think I am, an artist or a writer? Now let’s go and see the houses.”

We entered the wire enclosure and waded through a vast white pool of chickens which fluttered and made way and closed again around us. As we approached the first low red house, 40 chickens launched themselves madly from within, fluttering wildly and uttering lamentable cries, and my hat was knocked off by them. As we entered the warm shanty, other chickens that had not escaped charged insanely about, banging themselves against wire partitions and scrambling frantically in all directions.

“Pay no attention,” said our host.

But a white hen in one of the little lidded boxes all along the wall fixed me with a glittering eye, suddenly leaped from the nest, and, frantically fluttering, passed over me and dropped a hot egg square on the top of my head. Naturally, it broke.

“Nervous,” said the rancher, scooping palmful of the egg off my hair. “These high bred chickens are all nerves.”

The startled sounds of our entry had silenced as suddenly as they had begun, but the world was full of that low, querulous din again, the scraping, droning, muttering sound of a vast throng of passionless creatures devoid of hope or rest.

“Jim,” I said, “I feel a little dizzy. It must be the warmth in here. Go ahead. I’ll wait for you outside.”

So I escaped from the enclosure, hurried out the lane and sat afar on a snake fence and watched a groundhog on a knoll until Jim, in due time for Jim, came along with the car and we drove home.

“How about it?” asked Jim, slipping into high.

“It’s out,” I said, shifting my hat so it would not get stuck to my hair.


Editor’s Notes: More Chickens! Following last week’s posting of a later 1941 story, this week’s was earlier when they thought bigger. Maybe they learned that they should think smaller in 1941, which resulted in more success (if it were not for the neighbours)?

“I wouldn’t call the king my nephew” and “I wouldn’t call the queen my aunt” were phrases that meant “I am happy with my situation.” The idea is that even becoming royalty could not improve your position.

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