"Greg and Jim"

The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

In Holiday Mood

Then a tire somewhere amongst us went bang and whined. “Oh, ho,” I said, “some poor beggar has got a blowout.” “It’s us,” said Jim, hollowly.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, August 13, 1938.

“What time,” demanded Jimmie Frise, do you want to leave for home?”

“Let’s leave good and early,” I submitted, “before we get caught in that awful Sunday night jam.”

“How about five o’clock?” suggested Jim.

“Too late,” I protested. “We’ll just get within about 50 miles of the city by the time the jam in at its height. We’ll be two hours going that last 50 miles. In one awful stew.”

“Listen,” said Jim, “why don’t you accept the 20th century for what it’s worth. Accept it. Adapt yourself to it. Traffic jams on Sunday night are part of the normal age we live in. Get in tune with it. Don’t fight it. Nothing you can do will alter the fact that every Sunday night in summer you have to boil your way home.”

“Unless I leave in time to get home ahead of the jam,” I pointed out.

“Look,” said Jim. “We arrive here at the cottage at 6 p.m. Saturday. And you want to clear out at noon Sunday. It doesn’t make sense.”

“I’d rather,” I explained, “curtail my weekend than wreck my nerves fighting my way home through a midnight traffic war. If anybody would keep in line and let us all get home at 35 miles an hour, it wouldn’t be too bad, But there are always those cutter-inners. Those anti-social bounders that leap ahead every time they get a chance, only have to duck back into traffic again and throw the whole line out of gear for miles back. Those are the bounders. Those are the people that fray my nerves.”

“Be one of them, for a change,” laughed Jim. “It’s fun. It’s a sort of game. Be a traffic inner and outer on our way home tonight. Give it a try.”

“Not, me,” I assured him. “You don’t gain one mile in 50, and you risk your life and you strain your car and you infuriate all the other people in the line. It isn’t so much the stopping and starting that gets me down, in that traffic jam as we near the city. It’s those traffic bounders that keep whizzing madly by you, on the wrong side of the road, and every time they have to nose back into traffic when they meet an up-comer, everybody else has to tramp on brakes, slack off and make way for them. One of these days, I’m just not going to make way for one of those babies, and we’ll see what happens.”

“You’re old-fashioned,” stated Jim. “All these views you hold about traffic only prove that you don’t belong to these times. The true son of the nineteen-thirties has no nerves at all with regard to traffic. If you are in tune with your time, you just don’t notice things like traffic bounders. You just sit easy and hop along with the jam as best you can. That’s the spirit of the times.”

“We’ll clear out of here,” I informed him, “at 2 p.m., right after lunch.”

“I decline,” said Jim. “I say we leave right after supper. It is only 115 miles. Even allow three hours for that little distance, we’ll be home shortly after dark.”

“Two p.m.,” I reiterated.

Coming Back Is Different

“Look,” said Jim, “let’s compromise. We’ll leave right after an early supper. We can have a swim at four and supper at five and be out of here before six. And then, instead of going home the main highway, we’ll take that back road that comes out through the west end.”

“It’s a gravel road,” I demurred. “Dusty.”

“It’s a swell big highway,” retorted Jim. “I know dozens of people around here who never go home any other road. A big wide gravel highway.”

“In an open car,” I pointed out, “we’d have grit in our teeth all the way.”

“They tell me,” said Jim, “that hardly anybody ever uses the road. It’s the best way to get home. Let’s do that. Let’s take the fullest advantage of our week-end by staying till evening and then take the back road home. Let the bounders have the smooth highway, we’ll take the happy road home.”

“I don’t care for experimenting,” I muttered, “but we’ll try it this once.”

So we had a pleasant snooze after lunch and then a swim at three, and the children couldn’t be found at 5.30 for supper, so we ate a few minutes past six. But it was still the fine shank of the evening when we loaded up our gear in the car and, waving fond farewells, wheeled out the Muskoka road and headed for the highway.

“What did I tell you?” I demanded, as we came in sight of the highway. Cars, like hurrying beetles, were zipping in unsteady streams southward. The evening was full of the weary roar of traffic.

“We only have about 20 miles of this,” said Jim, “and then we turn off on to the back road. Relax and take it easy.”

So I got to the right of the road and let the bounders bound. I held a comfortable 40 and let the fifties and sixties, with horns blasting and tires ripping and slithering on the far shoulder, race headlong past us.

“I bet those birds,” said Jim, “won’t be home half an hour ahead of us. They’re heading straight into the maelstrom. We’re going the lazy back way, and we’ll jog into town pleasantly aired, while they have completely lost all the good their week-end in Muskoka has done them. Nerve-wrecked, exhausted, jittery.”

It is funny the difference in tone and tune between going up to Muskoka and coming home from Muskoka. Going up, all is jolly and lively. When a man races past you, you smile to think how eagerly he goes to see his family. But coming home, there is no sense of the merry. It is just a lot of bad-tempered people selfishly struggling home.

“What a spirit,” I mused, “in which to end the Sabbath Day. It isn’t Sunday baseball games or Sunday tennis that the churches ought to be worrying about. It is this Sunday night traffic. Here are hundreds of thousands of people, all ugly, at war, angry and in no Christian spirit whatsoever, profaning the Sabbath more by their state of mind than all the baseball games imaginable.”

“The churches,” said Jim, “are practical. They can’t stop people motoring. But they can stop baseball games.”

And as we coasted along, a man stuck his head out of a passing car and shouted at me: “Put a nickel in it.”

And a little while later, another youth shouted as he passed:

“Which end does the concrete come out?”

“There you are, Jimmie,” I said bitterly. “There’s a Christian spirit for you.”

“Never mind,” consoled Jim, “in a few minutes we’ll be turning off on to the gravel.”

The Easy Road Home

A few miles south, we came to the town where the gravel highway goes one way and the concrete the other. Already the inpouring side-roads had filled the highway so that, even in this modest country town, there was a solid stream of cars necessitating frequent halts, slow grinds forward in low gear and more halts.

“Take the next turn to the right,” said Jim. “Then we’re away.”

But as we approached the fork, we saw that about half the cars were taking the gravel and half sticking to the pavement. Down the gravel road for miles hung a great dust cloud.

“Look,” I protested. “It’s jammed too.”

“Take it, take it,” commanded Jimmie before I could come to any decision. So I took it. With a slither and a bump, we were on the gravel and headed the back way home to Toronto. Ahead, cars fled away in yellow clouds, fencing around each other anxiously for front position. Hardly had we gone 50 yards before two cars with horns roaring slithered past us, sweeping up vast clouds of dust and flinging pebbles against our windshield.

“So,” I said, “we take the easy road home.”

“We just happened to get into a bunch,” explained Jim. “Wait a few minutes until this crowd get ahead.”

So I slackened speed and let the dust-flingers move farther out. But, one by one, fresh cars came rushing from behind, as if each driver hoped to get ahead of all the others and so escape the dust.

“This is going to be a dandy drive home,” I assured Jim. “We should have left at two p.m., as I advised.”

“It’s just a coincidence,” said Jimmie. “We have run into a bunch. People don’t like a dusty road like this. In a few minutes, there won’t be a car in sight, ahead or behind. You wait.”

So I slacked still more, and jogged along. But, whizzing and rattling, car after car came rushing from behind and, as far as I could see in the reverse mirror, cars were following.

“There aren’t any back roads any more in this world, Jim,” I informed him, “All roads are main roads.”

“Do you want to turn back and get on the pavement again, then?” demanded Jim.

“One’s as bad as the other at this time of night,” I informed him sadly. There was grit in our teeth already and the windshield had begun to go gray.

“Everybody told me this was a swell way to go home,” said Jim. “Maybe they meant earlier in the season before everybody got fed up with the jam on the main highway.”

I said nothing. I just took to the side of the road and held it at a nice 40, while with regular monotony cars from behind overtook us, blew their horns indignantly at my dust cloud and speeded furiously through, leaving a specially dirty dust cloud for me to hang in for two or three minutes.

“Nice, friendly people,” I remarked.

But now even Jim was silent, huddled down with lips set grimly against the dust and his eyes squinted.

“We’re overtaking somebody,” I informed him suddenly.

Ahead, through the dust, I could see a car, then several cars.

“Don’t tell me,” I protested, “that there is a jam on this road too.”

We came up in rear of a line of a dozen cars, all crowding and jostling close to each other.

“It’s a detour,” said Jim, who had stood up to look.

And it was a detour. Across the gravel highway barricades were set, fending us off to right and left, down traffic taking a narrow dirt road around a concession to the right, and up traffic apparently using a concession to the left.

“Well, sir,” I said happily, “if there is anything else to recommend this road, I wish you’d mention it right now.”

“How did I know it would be like this?” retorted Jim angrily.

“You didn’t know anything about it – that’s the trouble,” I informed him.

And slowly taking our turn, while behind us fresh cars came furiously and dustily to a surprised stop, we turned off on to the side road which was baked hard and full of ruts and bumps and hummocks of dead grass.

“What are they doing?” I shouted to the man minding the barricade.

“They’re improving it,” he called back politely.

“Oh, goodie,” I told him.

And as we lolloped and swayed and bumped along the narrow road with a slow and laboring string of cars ahead of us, I developed the theme.

“They’re improving this road,” I explained, “to relieve the main highway. They will pave it. So that instead of only one big traffic jam every Sunday night, you can choose between two big traffic jams.”

“In that case,” said Jim, “you’ll have to adapt yourself to the 20th century. You’ll have to modernize yourself.”

“I think I’ll give up motoring,” I announced. “Motoring is getting too vulgar. The high-class thing to do presently will be never to motor.”

“If you weren’t so silly about traffic,” said Jim, “we would have been spared all this bouncing around in the dust. We’d be somewhere outside the city limits right now, a couple of traffic bounders taking a little fun out of zig-zagging through the jam.”

“I much prefer this,” I said, even though we at the moment nearly crashed a spring in a hole in the dirt road, “to being in that main highway tangle. This may be a little rough and dusty, but it’s safe.”

And then a tire somewhere amongst us went bang and whined.

“Oh, ho,” I said, brightly, “some poor beggar has got a blow out.”

“It’s us,” advised Jim, hollowly.

And it was so.

“Pull as far off the road as you can,” said Jim. “We have to let traffic past somehow.”

So we came a few yards farther on, to a farm lane where we pulled out of the traffic and set the jack up on a wobbly turf and got all dusty taking off the spare and all greasy taking off the old one and all grass-stained putting on the new one and all wet with perspiration trying to release the jack so that it would come down.

And when we tried to get back out of the farmer’s lane into the road, it was getting dusk and everybody was grim and angry and tired so that we had to wait until about 30 cars passed before there was a slight gap in the traffic. And when we did pop out into the road, the man we popped ahead of was so indignant that he blasted his horn for 10 seconds at us and came up right against our back bumper and we could hear him yelling things at us, but we could not hear the words.

And the whole thing was in a lovely holiday mood and very unlike the Sabbath altogether.

Editor’s Notes: This was a time when people’s weekend did not start until afternoon on Saturday. Families with cottages would have the wife and children spend all summer at them, and the men would only come up for the very short weekends, and would be “summer bachelors” in the city during the week.

This story appeared in Greg Clark & Jimmie Frise Outdoors (1979).

Some of the Horses a Farmer’s Wife Has Met in 17 Years

August 9, 1924

This illustration went with a story by Nina Moore Jamieson.

The First Tourist Camp Opens at the North Pole

August 7, 1926

Do Your Christmas Shopping Now!

“Pardon me,” said Jim. “We are doing our Christmas shopping. We were wondering if there were any new things we should see.”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, August 5, 1933.

“Let’s,” said Jimmie Frise, “do something.”

“We are always doing something,” I snarled, “and getting nowhere.”

“By doing something,” said Jimmie, “I mean something unusual. Something we ought to do. Something that has to be done anyway.”

“Such as paying our bills, you mean?”

“Never!” cried Jimmie. “I mean just the opposite. Let’s buy something. Let us, for instance, do our Christmas shopping.”

“In August?” I cried. “With our collars wilted and our shirts creeping up our backs?”

“Let’s do our Christmas shopping early,” said Jim. “Let’s shop early and avoid the rush.”

“The heat has affected you,” I said.

“Why wait until the last mad rush?” cried Jimmie. “Now is the time to do your Christmas shopping, when the stores are not crowded and the salespeople are at liberty to attend to your wants.”

“You sound like an advertisement.”

“Buy now and put your gifts away until Christmas,” went on Jimmie, who really did look as if the heat had touched him.

“The salespeople would think we were nuts,” I said.

“Not at all,” cried Jim. “It would be a treat for them. Think of all those salespeople, fifteen thousand of them in the big stores alone, all toiling away from morning to night with nothing much to amuse them. Then, along we come, doing our Christmas shopping.”

“You can’t amuse salespeople in the summer,” I submitted.

“Listen,” said Jim, tensely, “I’m tired of doing the same old thing. I’m going out and do my Christmas shopping. Are you coming or aren’t you?”

So we went and did our Christmas shopping.

“Where do we start?” I asked Jim.

“We will walk around the stores,” said Jim, “and get some ideas. Take a general survey first.”

We strolled through the big stores. It was a hot day and everything was moving at a pleasant gait. The customers had faraway expressions on their faces, as if they were thinking of canoes and verandas. We walked through the basements and saw screen doors and frying pans, trunks and overalls. We walked through the main floors and saw carving knives and underthings, as Jimmie calls them, and silver trays.

Upstairs we walked through miles and miles of colored cloth, dresses, coats, scarves, bathing suits, furniture, floor coverings, live pets, plumbing fixtures.

“I haven’t seen anything for Christmas yet,” I said.

“Take your time,” said Jim. “Let’s ask one of the managers for some ideas.”

We came upon a gentleman standing in the middle of the main aisle, hands behind his back.

“Pardon me,” said Jimmie. “We are doing our Christmas shopping early. We were wondering if there were any new things we should see. Any novel Christmas gifts on display.”

The gentleman looked sharply at the nearest window. Took out his watch and looked at the time. Then stared shrewdly at us.

“Christmas goods?” he asked. “Did you say you are doing your Christmas shopping?”

“Yes,” said Jim, eagerly. “We are avoiding the rush.”

“I see,” said the manager, “now there is a nice cool place over here where you can sit down and rest while I get somebody to attend to you.”

He led us, walking slightly sideways so as to watch us, over to a bench and left us.

“He’s gone to get the doctor or the store detectives,” I said to Jimmie. “Let’s get out of this.”

“Nonsense,” said Jim. “He’s gone to get one of those shopper’s advisers they have in all the big stores. A pretty girl to guide us.”

But in the distance we saw the manager talking to a man in a derby hat, so we quietly got up and took the stairs down one floor.

“Well,” I said sarcastically, “how about it? Where do we go from here?”

“Let’s sit down somewhere and write out a Christmas list,” said Jim. “Here’s a bench. Now, first the wife.”

And the two of us wrote down the usual list, wife, children, mother-in-law, Bill, Margaret, Art, the Old Man, and so on.

“We’ll do it together,” said Jim. “I buy my wife’s present and you buy yours, and we will be a big help to each other. We will do it methodically. Now I’ll start. I think I’ll get my wife one of those sets of scissors. You know, a leather thingummy, with about four or five assorted sizes of scissors in it. We never can find the scissors in our house.”

“That’s hardly a personal gift,” I commented. “How about mauve silk underthings?”

“You think up your own gifts,” said Jim. “I know my wife’s tastes.”

We found the scissors department and there was a magnificent display of all kinds of scissors, razors, knives, forks.

“We are doing our Christmas shopping,” smiled Jim at the Old Country gentleman in charge of scissors. “I want a nice set of scissors in a leather case.”

The gentleman looked us over and before getting the scissors he stopped to lift four or five carving knives off the showcase and set them out of reach on the back of the counter.

There were sets of three, made in the fashion of storks flying. There were cold, clever-looking sets of four in various sizes. Jimmie looked them over, but said as they were to be a Christmas gift he would like a little fancier leather case. As we walked along the counter we came to the hunting knives.

“Ah,” cried Jim, “here’s the very thing! A beautiful hunting knife! The very thing. I never go anywhere with my wife in the out-of-doors that she doesn’t borrow my old hunting knife. She ruins the edge. She breaks the point. I’ll get her her very own hunting knife.”

Using the Sign Language

The Old Country gentleman lifted two or three carving forks off the counter and stood well back.

“Jimmie,” I cut in, “a hunting knife is hardly a present for a lady.”

“Well, I could give it to John,” said Jimmie.

John is not yet two.

“Jimmie,” I reproached him.

“That is when he gets older,” said Jimmie.

So we took a fine $3.50 hunting knife in a bright leather scabbard, and Jim struck his wife’s name off the Christmas list.

“Now,” said Jim, “your wife next.”

“Underthings,” I said. “Mauve.”

We proceeded to the underthings department, at the back of which is a special sort of half-secret place where the very finest of underthings are kept by the most discreet and understanding of young ladies. They understand what you want by signs. You hardly have to speak. I have been dealing there for fifteen years and they know me and understand my sign language, so that in twelve of those fifteen years I have never said more than good-day and thank you to them.

“You aren’t going in back there?” exclaimed Jimmie.

“Come on,” I commanded.

We marched right into this soft and quiet sanctum and one of the girls remembered me and came forward making signs.

“Christmas,” I said.

She raised her eyebrows.

“Usual,” I said. “Two sets.”

“Color?” asked the girl.

“Mauve,” I said.

She went away and Jim said:

“Gosh, if it’s easy as this I’m going to do it, too.”

The girl came back with mauve things over her arm.

“Christmas,” I repeated.

The girl raised her eyebrows again.

“November,” she said. “New stock. This pretty light. Summer stock. Get later.”

“Right,” I said.

She went away with the mauve things and came running back.

“But,” cried the girl, “have you seen the silk for men? Just new. It’s quite all right to talk about men’s things, isn’t it? We don’t have to make signs now, do we?”

“I think reticence applies only to the ladies’ things,” I said.

“Then come on down here,” cried the girl. “I’ve got some stuff just in from England. Men’s silk. It will be going downstairs to the men’s shop to-night. But it was in our shipment and I want you to see it.”

Scarlet, green, blue shorts of slithery, slippery silk. Orange, polka dot and purple shirts to disagree with the shorts.

It did not take me two minutes to pick three suits, because like most men doomed to wear drab on the outside I like a little color on the sly.

“Will I send it?” she asked.

“Nobody home,” I said. “Our wives are away, so we will have to carry our parcels.”

So I struck my wife’s name off my list.

The next thing we did was the toy department for the children. Jim got his four girls some of the finest fishing tackle any girl ever received, and he got Baby John a dandy little fly rod. I got my boys a silk tent between them, a thing we have always needed. My daughter I got one of those bright umbrellas for the garden, and while she is only two the salesman said the color was a fast dye and would keep.

My mother-in-law I bought a huge set of copper ash trays, each one about as big as a dinner plate, because she is always complaining that I overflow the ash trays at home. Jim tried to get his Aunt Agnes an umbrella, but he couldn’t choose one from so many, so he got her instead one of those sit-down canes for the races.

“I can borrow it from her,” said Jim, “when I go to Thorncliffe.”

By this time our load of parcels was growing and the heat was not diminishing.

“Hadn’t we better leave some of the things till later?” I asked.

“Let’s get it over,” said Jim. “You can never tell when the rush will start.”

So Jimmie bought his cousin Harry a pair of cheap field glasses in case Harry ever got interested in racing, and I got my fishing partner, Bill, a beautiful red cedar canoe paddle.

“Has Bill a canoe?” asked Jim.

“No, but I’ll keep this in my canoe for the times Bill visits us,” I explained.

“There’s one thing about summer shopping for Christmas,” said Jim. “You can think of far more sensible presents for everybody. Near Christmas, you sort of get carried away by the Christmas spirit and you buy the silliest things.”

I got my brother Joe a book on wild birds and their music just to inspire his interest in this beautiful subject, and anyway I would have all summer, autumn and early winter to read it thoroughly before having to give it up. My brother Art I got a new novel I had read some thrilling reviews of in the paper. Jim doesn’t care for reading much. It tires the back of his neck. So he got two sets of “Famous Race Horses of the Past,” twelve handsome colored lithographs of world-famed thoroughbreds.

“I can give half of one set to Jake,” explained Jim, “and the other half of the other set to George. Six is a nice present. Both will be different. Then I’ll have the complete set for myself. You would never pause to figure things out like that in December.”

We were by this time pretty well loaded and our lists were practically exhausted. Jim still had his Cousin Pansy and an old uncle on his list, but try as we would we could think of no suitable gift for either of them. I had one or two on mine, but they were the sort of people you could leave to the last minute and then give them a box of cigars when they called on you Christmas afternoon.

Everybody was very helpful. It was extremely hot and we dropped things quite a bit as the afternoon wore on, but, as Jim said, how much nicer to get this over with now, even with the heat, than suffer all that struggling and bumping and hey-ing of sales girls in December.

With our families away, there was none of that hiding and concealing. For example, we set up the colored umbrella in my garden and then we tried out the silk tent. As the children wouldn’t be home till September we decided to leave them up, as with the tent you could get quite a kick by pretending you were camping.

Especially as Jimmie brought over his wife’s hunting knife and his daughter’s fishing tackle to try out, with Baby John’s rod.

“I’ll just keep them in my own tackle box,” said Jim, “so I’ll know where they are.”

With the paddle and the field glasses and the sit-down cane and so forth draped around the tent and us sitting under the striped umbrella, I reading and Jim gazing lingeringly at the lithographs of the horses, you could easily see how much better a thing it is to do your Christmas shopping in August.

Editor’s Notes: A store detective, was much more common in the past. They would walk around the store (usually big department stores) on the lookout for shoplifters.

Thorncliffe Park Raceway existed from 1917-1953. It used to exist in the location of the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood in Toronto today.

How Tanks Fight

By Gregory Clark, August 3, 1940.

To understand the procedure of the German tank-dive bomber attack which brought disaster to the Allied armies in Flanders, we have to quit thinking of tanks as iron cavalry. We must think of them as land navy.

It is very much in our interests that we understand what happened in Flanders. The following details of that tank-dive bomber attack I got not only in the retreat itself from Brussels to the Channel, but on a return visit to France, via Brest, in which I talked, in all, to hundreds of officers and men, both British and French, who had survived these attacks and whose account of them tallied in general, so that I can outline the main type of attack. When you have read how simple and methodical the whole job was, the question in your mind will be – was there nobody in either the French or British armies who could have thought up a counter measure to deal with this type of attack?

The answer to that is that you cannot reorganize an army in a few days. The higher the efficiency of an army, the harder it is to change the system with which it is ingrained. The terrific speed with which the Germans pushed their attack was, you may be sure, to prevent that very thing – the discovery and organization of an adequate counter measure to the tank-dive bomber attack.

Just what we expected of German tanks I can’t say. This is, in the main, what they did.

A tank unit consisted of one big tank and two small tanks. A land battleship and two destroyers. The big tank was in wireless telephone communication with, as a rule, three Junker Stuka dive bombers. These planes waited, during an attack, either on the ground or possibly in the air.

The tank unit was given a piece of ground advance over. Its job was to seek out the resistance on that piece of ground. Not to try and get through by evading resistance, but to hunt the ground until it found the resistance, and then attack it.

Let us picture typical Flanders position, at the height of the battle. The Germans had broken through and were fanning out. Most positions therefore were not old-established trench or other defences, but new positions taken up to guard flanks, or new positions taken up in rear.

A battalion commander has a certain width of country to hold. Either a highway or one or more of the dirt roads that lace Flanders

A battalion commander has a certain width of country to hold. Either a highway or one or more of the dirt roads that lace Flanders everywhere, runs through his territory. He puts a company across the road, to build a barricade of elm trunks, farm wagons, rails, rocks, anything. They dig trenches for their machine-guns and anti-tank rifles. They fortify all the commanding ground. On their flanks, other companies, other battalions do likewise. Behind them, their support companies dig in and prepare positions of resistance. The air force reports that tanks are advancing.

Out of the dawn, instead of a long line of iron cavalry, come these tank units of three. Let us watch just one tank unit, as it comes cautiously up this road on which a point of resistance has been established. It is not Interested in its flanks. Not interested in any of its own infantry or motorcycle machine-gunners following an hour behind. It is interested only in locating the resistance in this piece of territory it has been assigned.

The System of Attack

Ahead of the tanks walk or cycle a few tank scouts. They are perhaps 300 yards ahead of the tanks. As they appear, the Allied garrison in the point of resistance open fire on them.

Instantly the scouts signal and the tanks halt. If necessary, they back up. They may even keep in constant slow motion, weaving this way or that or going to hide in a clump of bushes or behind a house. For it is when the tanks stop that the trouble begins.

The two small tanks immediately set out, one to the right, the other to the left, to feel along for the flanks or edges of the point of resistance. Out of the big tank emerges two mortar crews, each equipped with a five-inch mortar of the Stokes type. It fires a shell which blows a hole to bigger than a wash tub, but with a detonation that is terrific. It one of those noisy, demoralization bombs which the Germans put such faith in.

Now in the garrison of the point of resistance, all is tense. They know the tanks have arrived. Almost at once the mortar shells are falling at random all over their position. And from the flanks comes the sound of machine-gun and anti-tank rifle fire at the two smaller tanks furtively creeping along to feel and find the flanks of the position.

In the big tank, an officer is talking on the wireless telephone to his Junker dive bombers. He details his position to them. According to many of the soldiers I talked to, and especially case of a brigadier of a famous Scottish division, it was within five to 30 minutes that bombers arrived.

Bombing from the air is, of course, a new and incalculable item of modern war. The average soldier thinks of bombers as being impersonal. It comes with a very nasty shock to discover that three Junkers suddenly circling overhead are not casual wanderers of the sky, looking for what they may devour, but actually three bombers seeking for their target this particular position.

There overhead, the Junkers circle, amidst the hail of machine-gun fire which the position puts up, while they study the location of the three tanks, the big one and the two small ones defining the flanks of the position. Usually the tanks set out colored ground flares to show the bombers their location.

Then the bombers dive. They carried the same type of high intensity bomb as the mortars were throwing. Bombs of terrific blast but of no great destructive power. Follow my leader, the three Junkers dive, releasing only a couple of bombs at a time, but indiscriminately blasting the position as defined by the three tanks. This air attack lasted only a few minutes in most instances, but it put into effect exactly what all infantry are trained to do – take cover from air attack, all except, perhaps, the machine-gunners firing at the planes, and the minimum crews required on anti-tank rifles, mortars and so forth.

In the ideal attack, the effect of the dive bombing was to drive the majority of the garrison under cover. As the dive bombers finished their job, though still circling and diving furiously, there suddenly appeared in front the big tank in full charge, and at the same time, the two flank tanks came rolling in from the sides or even from the rear. The big tank destroyed the barricades, drove over the trench and strong points, dealt as rapidly as it could with all the resistance that was still organized after the bombing.

Not all these attacks were ideal. Sometimes the garrison put one or more of the tanks out of action, sometimes valiant machine-gunners got the Junkers as they dived. But so methodical and so completely unnerving and unique were these attacks that, as events show, the great majority of them succeeded to this extent – that resistance in this point was either driven to ground, forced to withdraw or scattered. Without a moment’s delay, in these cases, the tank unit went through, went on to seek further points of resistance.

The psychological power of this attack was profound. Troops from time immemorial have held the opinion that when the enemy has gone through, that is defeat. When the garrison of the point of resistance did emerge and assemble itself, they did so in the knowledge that the enemy had broken through and gone on. And that enemy infantry was soon following.

It was a very terrible position. If they stood fast and remanned the position, to meet the following infantry, the tanks could easily be recalled to take them in rear. If they moved to new positions they were caught in the act, as a rule, by the advanced units of motorcycle machine-gunners working from every hill and copse.

The natural instinct of junior commanders and in some cases higher commanders was to retreat, before the oncoming infantry could arrive, and try to get ahead of the tanks, to interpose themselves again, in fresh lines of resistance, between the tanks and the rear positions. This is, of course, precisely what the tank-dive bomber strategy hoped for. To remove these garrisons and make easy the advance of their following infantry. And nothing suited the plan better than the endless taking up of new and hasty points of resistance. In other words, set them up for the tank-Junker units to knock down.

Come From Behind, Too

After the evacuation from Dunkirk, one of the highest officers in the British army said to a specially assembled group of war correspondents who wanted to know what happened:

“You cannot fight armor without armor.”

In other words, if we had had as many armored divisions and big tanks as the Germans we could have gone tank hunting and a land naval battle would have ensued in which land battleships would seek each other all over the country, leaving the infantry and artillery to battle it out in their own terms.

As it was, the tanks broke through in this methodical, terrific, noisy. cautious and cooperative fashion, and once the tank units had done their job of seeking and shifting resistance, where the holes were made, the fast tanks went through and penetrated deep and got in behind and wrecked organization in plain guerrilla style, in rear areas where no organization had been set up to deal with them. And whenever it was set up, the same old tank-Junker set-up was promptly employed.

Here are a few of the comments of those who experienced the direct tank-dive bomber attacks.

A colonel of infantry: “In my case, I witnessed one of these attacks from a distance. And when my turn came, I had my battalion so arranged and so forewarned that we successfully beat off two separate attacks by two units, one after the other, complete with Junkers. The next thing I knew they were coming from behind. A unit that had broken through to the east of us simply turned and came along and caught us in the rear. My losses were extremely light, in view of three attacks, but since we were surrounded and apparently to be subjected to consecutive attacks until we were all wiped out, orders came for me to withdraw.”

A sergeant: “We were prepared to fight tanks. But the tanks stayed just out of sight and whistled up the dive bombers, who came and blasted us. There were six planes, not three, in our case. They roared around us for nearly an hour. Besides the mortar shells, they had field guns firing at us, too. Then from three sides came tanks, all firing rockets that stopped the artillery and sent the Junkers away, and shooting with cannons and machine-guns and weaving this way and that. What we ought to do is arm infantry with naval guns. Fifteen inchers.”

A chaplain: “I went through three of these assaults and saw several others from a distance They did not attack on a solid front. They merely punched holes. And where they punched a hole, other tank units came through and went right and left along the rear, attacking from behind.”

An artillery lieutenant: “I had two field guns. At first we were given conventional targets, firing on tanks advancing on roads. But once they broke through, they came from all angles. We did a great deal of open-sight shooting at tanks. One of my guns got three, a big one and two small ones. The other got two of the medium ones. We were constantly attacked by dive bombers. Sometimes we supported infantry in their positions. But later we just travelled the country, hunting tanks. Finally, we were going up a road when we came smack into six tanks in the fields on either side. We tried to run the gauntlet with our two dragons and their bouncing guns, but we were both in the ditch in less than 100 yards, under the concentrated machine-gun and light cannon fire of the tanks. Only six of us got away from that shemozzle. We learned later that we had blundered into a tank rendezvous where they were awaiting supplies of fuel. That is the way they were, in little flotillas all over the place, methodically going about their business.”

Editor’s Notes: The Stokes mortar was the British army’s standard mortar during World War 1. Greg was likely using it as a generic name for a type of mortar. The British replacement was the ML 3-inch mortar.

The term “Blitzkrieg” was not used in this early war article, but it was what he was describing. It was never a described German military tactic, but Greg got the general idea right, where there was constant communication between forces to move quickly. The overall tactics are much more complex, as can be read in the Wikipedia article.


August 3, 1929

This is another comic where Jim shows fishermen keeping a jug of buttermilk tied to the boat and thrown to the bottom like an anchor to keep it cold. I assume it was really buttermilk, but I imagine it could be something else in those days of Prohibition.

The Quiet Country

“I got back into bed with the fly swatter and listened to Jim’s beautiful snores and all the ancient din of the farm.”

Two philosophers are now certain of their theory “the greater civilization becomes, the noisier it gets”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, July 29, 1939.

“I’m getting jumpy,” announced Jimmie Frise, “with all the racket that’s going on.”

“Summer is a noisy time,” I submitted.

“Just listen to it,” sighed Jim. “That dull roar of traffic. Street cars, motor cars, horses, wheels, horns tooting, bells ringing, engines grinding in gear, trucks rumbling, exhausts coughing.”

“And that hissing sound?” I mentioned.

“That’s a steam shovel a couple of blocks away,” said Jim. “I traced it down at noon. You should see the great noisy thing, grabbing a ton of rocks and junk at a grab and slamming it into a truck.”

“Those are rivetting hammers,” I interrupted, as a far insistent rat-rat shrilled above the dull thunder of universal sound.

“Doors slamming,” intoned Jim, “windows banging, boxes falling, things being chucked about, men with shovels scraping them on the pavement, boys whistling, men shouting, people gabbling, feet tapping, machines making 700 different kinds of screeches, hums, clicks, toots, bangs, thuds.”

He buried his head in his hands.

“Maybe you should take a couple of brown pills,” I suggested gently. “When you’re well, you don’t notice the noise of modern life.”

“You’re wrong,” said Jim. “I never was better in my life than I am right now. It is when you are perfectly well and healthy that you resent the unnatural racket of modern society. When you are ill, full of bad food, not getting your regular sleep, your nerves on edge from driving too much in your car, listening too much on the radio and going to too many movies, you are in tune with modern civilization and you never notice its evils. Like noise.”

“Puh,” I retorted.

“Mark my words,” said Jim strongly, “we’re heading for disaster. And it isn’t political either. We’re doing everything nature does not want us to do. We’re organizing. Nature hates organization.”

“Look at bees,” I countered. “Is there anything in human affairs as well organized as a hive of bees?”

“Okay, then,” said Jim bitterly, “we’re headed back to the bee-hive. Nature made us strange and strong, with brains and adventure in us, and gave us the chance to be as free as lions. But we decided to organize instead. And in about 100 years, we will be bees instead of lions.”

“Lions are nearly extinct,” I pointed out. “What is left of them are either in zoos or slinking in the desert, avoiding big game hunters.”

“And where are bees?” inquired Jim sweetly. “In hives, being robbed and smoked and dinned with tin pans. I would rather be a lion, slinking in the desert, than the head bee in the hives of the best honey producer in the buckwheat belt.”

Noise Will Drive Us Nuts

“Man is a swell creature,” I agreed. “He has conquered everything. What he can’t enslave or use, he kills. If he can’t eat it or harness it, he shoots it for sport.”

“Yes,” said Jim, “and in the case of song birds, wild song birds, no matter how beautiful they were, nor how sweet to hear, they were slowly being obliterated until somebody discovered that they were valuable to the farmer for eating injurious insects and weed seeds. All their beauty availed them nothing. But the minute they had a commercial value to man, they were saved.”

“We’re a pretty swell species,” I admitted.

“I have a feeling,” said Jim, “that we’ve been so cruel and ruthless in the five or ten thousand years we have got organized and conquered the whole world, that some special fate is being planned for us.”

“We’ve certainly wiped everything else off the earth,” I confessed. “Animal, vegetable. We just took the whole show and made it ours, as if we were the only thing that counted.”

“And the point is,” said Jim, “nature doesn’t care any more for a man than she does for a bug. Some day, somehow, nature will correct the balance.”

“Some big plague will take us,” I suggested.

“Science has pretty well mastered plagues,” said Jim. “I think it will be a more humorous finish than that. I think the just and reason able end of us will be the result of our own actions. For instance, we’re getting noisier and noisier. The greater civilization becomes, the noisier it gets. We’ll finally drive ourselves nuts with noise.”

“Won’t we grow immune to noise?” I cautioned.

“In 100 years,” said Jim, “we will have organized everything. The human race will be like a hive of bees. All our individuality will be gone. We will be helpless items in a giant whole. Each of us will know only the one thing, the turning of a nut, the tending of a machine, the turning on and off of a switch. We will all be living robots. Safe and secure, all our political troubles ended, all our social problems solved, no more crime, no more poverty, like bees we will hum at our work, each of us trained to do our little job expertly, each of us trained to use our leisure for our own best interests and the good of the whole. Meanwhile, we will have got noisier and noisier. You can’t organize anything without noise. The greater the organization, the more stupendous the sound. All of a sudden, a giant jitters will smite the human race. All of a sudden, a sort of overwhelming lunacy will sweep like a storm across the world. Screaming and running and hiding and burying our heads, we will leave all our precious tasks, to escape from the awful jitters of noise. And before we can get organized again, in the silence that will fall, we will all have starved to death, died of thirst, of exposure. Because being units of a vast organization, we will be helpless to survive without the organization.”

“I hope you’re right,” I said devoutly.

“I can see my great-grandchild,” mused Jim, “gnawing at a steel gear.”

“I don’t suppose,” I supposed, “that we could start some anti-noise campaign?”

“There have been several,” said Jim, “and they didn’t get anywhere. All they did was add a little more racket to the rumpus. No. It isn’t industry we have to change. It is the human heart. We must try to persuade humanity that it isn’t science they want, but nature. The human heart must desire differently.”

“But maybe,” I suggested, “this desire in the human heart for bigger and greater splendors of science and industry is only a sort of lunacy that nature has planted in us to avenge the buffalo and the tigers and the forests and the bees and the hens and cattle and all the things we have enslaved or destroyed?”

“Ah,” said Jim darkly. “Aaaahaaaa.”

“Up till this minute,” I professed, “the noise didn’t seem to worry me. But since you have been talking. I’ve suddenly become conscious of the racket. Isn’t it terrible?”

We sat in Jim’s high studio on the top of The Star building and listened. The summer afternoon heaved and groaned with a vast sound. Sounds near, sounds far. Traffic ebbing, flowing, cars, wheels, horns and blasts. A hundred factories around gave out their varied roars, buzzes, clacks. From distant works of majesty and power came the sound of steam shovels, rivetters, giant hammers, great drills.

“I’ve got to get away,” shouted Jim loudly, as if to make me hear above the tumult. “If only for a day or two, I tell you I’ve got to get away.”

He leaped up excitedly and began throwing the papers on his desk about violently, stuffing them in drawers. He grabbed his coat and vest and hat.

“Where are you going?” I demanded.

“My Uncle Abe,” said Jim, “has a farm. I spent my boyhood holidays there. It was so quiet. I used to think I’d scream when I was a kid. Silent as death. The trees never rustle. No wind stirs the pond beyond the barnyard. Only the faint lowing of cows, the soft patter of rain …”

“Jim,” I butted in, “let’s go. We owe ourselves a couple of days’ rest. Will your Uncle Abe have room for me too? Just for a couple of days?”

And like fugitives, we fled from the city of dreadful sound, driving like refugees to our homes to pick up pyjamas and fishing rods – there being bass, Jim said, in the pond beyond the farm yard – and out into the peaceful country.

“Of course,” said Jim, as we drove madly along the crowded highway, “you can’t get any impression of peace from the country, just driving through it, because the noise of the car and the rush and hoot of cars passing us, and the necessary strain and tension of driving in traffic …”

Down a darkening side road we drove, and the lights were lit in Uncle Abe’s farm house when we turned in the gate.

In fact, electric lights. And they were burning brightly not only in the house, upstairs and down, but out in the barnyard and at the side door and a specially livid light was burning part way up the lane to light the scene for at least 20 motor cars.

“What’s going on here?” demanded Jim sternly.

But when we found a little place to park and turned off our engine, we could hear music loudly braying.

“A dance,” gasped Jim. “Good grief.”

Uncle Abe was at the door, welcoming the guests. He welcomed us joyously.

“My gosh, Jimmie,” he bellowed. “I’m glad you come. This’ll make up for those awful quiet days you used to bellyache about when you was a kid.”

“What is it?” asked Jim.

“The youngsters are putting on a dance,” said Uncle Abe. “They give a dance each week at the different homes. Hear that band?”

We heard it all right.

“All local boys,” cried Uncle Abe. “The best dance band in seven counties.”

Uncle Abe showed us up to our room and we met Aunt Emily and the kids, and were introduced to the company so far assembled, about 30 in number, more to follow. Jim and I got chairs and sat in the parlor to watch.

Countrymen have better wind than city musicians. They can go seven days without coming up for breath.

After an hour, Jim whispered: “Let’s go out and walk around a bit.”

And we sought the peace of night. But half way between the house and the pond beyond the barnyard, the roar of the bullfrogs collided with the fading boompah on the band. The crickets shrilled, the mosquitoes nagged around our heads, and a whip-poorwill came and yelled from a tree beside the road.

“What time is it?” gritted Jim.

“It’s just 11,” I said.

So we walked up the road a way, but after having to leap the ditch several times in the blinding glare of headlights of cars careering madly along the narrow gravel, we decided to go back and make the best of it.

We went back with clamped teeth and watched and listened, and the young people, full of abiding fire, danced to the rumpus of the seven-man band, and sandwiches were passed and it was a quarter to two before Jim and I went up to bed and the last of the cars roared and backed and twisted out of the barnyard.

“I doubt if I can ever get to sleep,” said Jim gauntly.

But in five minutes, Jim’s snores were harmonizing with the ever increasing band concert of the bullfrogs. One measly mosquito with a baby voice, far worse than six, came and fidgetted around my head, teasing me awake every time I nearly dropped off. I jabbed Jim to stop his snores, only to have him start again just as I thought I had disposed of the mosquito.

Dawn Comes Like Thunder

Then, all of a sudden, a rooster crowed.

“Jim,” I hissed. “Jim.”

“Whaaa,” said Jim.

“Listen to that.”

The rooster crowed and Jim snuggled back to sleep as though he had heard a command.

Seven times the rooster crowed, and then, like a bugle, a cow bellowed.

I sat up. It was still pitch dark. I tiptoed to the window. A sickly pallor lay in the east.

“Jim,” I said, shaking him. “Wake up.”

He sat up.

“Listen,” I hissed.

The rooster crowed. The cow bellowed. A door slammed. Feet crunched on the gravel. A herd of pigs suddenly began to scream.

A horse kicked the barn well enough to knock it down and a pump handle began to thud and squeak.

With a blissful sigh, Jimmie rolled back and in an instant was asleep.

Daylight came like a fire horse. With every degree of daylight, the thunderous racket of the barnyard increased. Fifteen cows began bawling and five horses joined the choir with whinnies. The pigs seemed to go mad and begin murdering each other. Three roosters, a hoarse one, a short one and a long drawn one, went into competition, and a sort of din arose of hens, ducks and the silly yodelling of geese. Right under our window, the awful roar of an engine began, backfiring, spluttering, banging, slackening and accelerating by turn. I leaped out of bed.

Under the window, the hired man was working on the tractor. He twiddled and tinkered at the engine, the sounds rending the morning, the tractor shivering in fury. Suddenly it died.

“Hello,” I called down.

“Hello, there,” said the hired man looking up.

“Doing a bit of mending?” I inquired pleasantly.

“She’s been acting up lately,” said the hired man. “I thought I’d tune her up.”

“You weren’t at the dance last night?” I queried.

“Not me,” said the hired man. “I like my sleep.”

“Uhuh?” I said.

And he cranked her and started the terrible roar again.

So I got back into bed with the fly swatter and listened to Jim’s boastful snores, and to the cows and the pigs and the roosters and all the ancient din of the farm until a quarter to seven, at which time I kicked Jimmie awake, packed my pyjamas, and after a hasty breakfast got Jim to drive me down to the highway to catch the 8.30 bus back to the decay of civilization.

Editor’s Notes: I’m not sure what he meant by “brown pills”. There is reference that it could be heroin, but from what I can tell, though it could still be obtained legally in Canada until 1955, it was still tightly controlled. The drug scares of the first decades of the 20th century restricted many drugs, but perhaps people of Greg and Jim’s age still used the term for other medicine?

To older readers, a steam shovel, might be recognized as a generic term for an excavator, but at this time it was really powered by a steam engine. Actual steam powered machines were being replaced by diesel ones by the time this story was written.

Greg seems a little surprised by the electric lights at the farm? Maybe just because it was late, but maybe because rural electrification was slow in Canada? Household electrification came late to rural Canada. In the census year of 1951, when almost all urban homes in Canada had electricity, a third of rural households were still without electric lighting, and three out of four were cooking over a wood-and-coal range. In the 1950s and 1960s, most of the country’s ten provincial governments subsidised and otherwise supported rural electrification for the first time, and by the 1970s almost all rural households had electricity and running water.

The Vamp and Postmaster Save the Summer Resort

She never goes canoeing, swimming, or anything for fear she will get sunburned.

In a Rainy Season What Would the Poor Folk Do But Discuss the Vamp?
And as for Amateur Summer Postmasters, They Act the Heavy Villain in the Piece.

By Gregory Clark, July 31, 1920.

Two subjects provide practically all the serious conversation at summer hotels and cottage resorts, to wit: the vamp and the amateur postmaster.

Every summer resort has a postmaster, either one of the hotel clerks or one of the farmers of the district who has been invested with this great dignity for the months of June to September, exclusive. And if every summer resort hasn’t a vamp, they nominate one anyway.

This present summer to date has been so wet, and so much time has had to be spent on cottage verandahs and in summer hotel sitting rooms that it is hard to say what our summer resorters would have done with out the postmaster and the vamp. We have allowed indoor sports, such as crokinole, flinch, ping-pong, etc., to decline in favor of dancing, golf, canoeing, etc., with the result that on a rainy day there is nothing to do but gossip.

The amateur postmaster of a summer resort is regarded with suspicion from the start.

“He reads all my picture postcards,” declares a spirited and sun burned young lady. “He pretends to be reading the address, but I can tell he is reading the other part by the look on his face.”

Does he deliver all letters when received? Does he send out immediately all letters given to him for postal? “Well, ask any young lady at a summer resort. She’d give any thing just to have a look behind the letter rack made of old boxes – to see how many of her letters were being held.

Why would he keep them? There’s the mystery. Why, indeed? He’s just a meany, and does it to spite young people whose letters are so important.

And as to parcels, especially boxes of candy!

“My dear,” said a bride on her first summer holiday as a bride, when she had neither the company of a crowd of young admirers nor the company of her young husband working in the city, “My dear, Freddie told me in a letter last Friday, over a week ago, that he was sending me a box of Mary Brown chocolates. Where are they, do you suppose?”

And here she sinks her voice to a whisper –

“My dear, I saw the lid of box of Mary Browns lying in the post-office!”

Some older woman ventures the thought that perhaps Freddie forgot to send the chocolates. But the young bride takes grave offence at such a view.

“I wish I’d had the nerve,” she says, “to ask that postmaster who had sent him a box of Mary Browns.”

However, in a day or two, the Mary Browns do arrive from Freddie, nice and fresh. Query: Why had the postmaster concealed them all that time?

And as for newspapers! Well, anybody can tell you what happens to newspapers. If a hotel clerk is the postmaster, he hands your paper out to the favored guest of the hotel. And if he is one of the local farmers he hands it over to one of his farm neighbors. Some summer cottagers have it all figured out: the papers are given away in turn, so that if there are six subscribers to paper in one resort, each subscriber misses his paper only once a week.

“And if you don’t believe it,” say the cottagers “just take a walk through the hotel (or neighboring farm house, as the case may be), and see the papers with the name labels torn off!”

Few summer postmasters escape this sort of accusation. The cottagers will give him the keys of their cottages all winter for caretaking purposes. But as postmaster, he is not above suspicion.

As to vamps, some of the bigger resorts are blessed with more than one. Then the cottagers and hotel boarders divide up into political parties and fight each other over which has the worst vamp.

On a boat in the Lake of Bays two ladies from different hotels met. The scenery was beautiful, but –

“My dear,” said the one with the sunburned nose, “you should see the vamp we have at our hotel. I’ll point her out on the wharf on the return trip. My dear, she’s a big fat blonde with two children, and I’m sure her immediate ancestors were moujiks. And she’s simply scandalous. She dances beautifully, you know, but she’s such a big, fat, damp creature. And the men simply chase after her. Aren’t men the limit? Why, there’s one man from the States with his wife and children and this big blonde has vamped him right in front of everybody. Danced five dances together last night!”

The other lady, the one with the zinc ointment on her nose and lips, has been obviously impatient to butt in.

“Over at the Hoo-Hoo,” said she, “we have one that has anything beaten I’ve ever seen. She’s a little mousey thing with orange hair. She never goes canoeing, swimming or anything for fear she will get sunburned. She just haunts the hotel and vamps a different man every day. Yes, my dear, a different man every day. She selects her new victim before lunch, vamps all afternoon, dances all evening and by night, he is a feeble-minded ninny. And what they can see in her! A little, skinny, squeaky sort of kitty-kitty! She’s vamped all the grown men one after another and now she’s down to the baby boys in red blazers, of eighteen and twenty.”

And if the resort hasn’t one of these reliable types, they manufacture one out of the best material at hand. For there has to be a vamp. A summer resort without a vamp would be as incomplete as if water, pines and moon were missing. And she is nothing new. In 1890, if I remember correctly, she was a coquette. In 1900, she was a flirt. In 1920, she is a vamp.

Editor’s Notes: Crokinole is a popular disc shooting board game, still associated with Canada and summer cottages. Flinch is a card game.

I can find no reference to Mary Brown chocolates as all searches default to the fast food chain, Mary Brown’s Chicken.

Moujiks are Russian peasants.

A vamp is a woman who uses her charm or wiles to seduce and exploit men. It became a popular slang term in the early 1920s because of a movie called “The Vamp” released in 1918.

Juniper Junction – 07/28/48

July 28, 1948

This was the last Juniper Junction by Jim to be published in the Family Herald, though it was not the last one. There was one more after this published in the Montreal Standard, and I do not know why is was skipped in the Herald.


Rusty thrust his head in the tent, a black and white object in his jaws…

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, July 20, 1935.

“The editor,” said Jimmie Frise, “is off for a few days buying paintings for the picture section.”

“Then,” I said, “let’s go fishing.”

“Not fishing,” said Jimmie. “I am tired of fishing. Let’s go camping. There is a sort of anxiety and hurry about going fishing. Camping, you can just dope along.”

“Morally,” I hesitated, “we are justified in sneaking off like this when the editor goes away. Because it is far, far better that we should take care of our health than that we should just stick to the mere letter of the law. We aren’t Pharisees, I hope.”

“Both for the sake of our employers,” said Jim, “as well as for the sake of our families and dependents we should use our initiative in the matter of keeping well and efficient. How long do you suppose the editor will be away?”

“Let’s take a chance on four days,” I estimated.

“I feel poorly,” admitted Jim. “I really do. I feel the need of a few days drowsing in the shade beside some cool lake. The editor doesn’t go away now as much as he used to, does he?”

“We don’t get quite as much opportunity for using our initiative in the matter of our health and well-being,” I confessed. “Let’s take a chance on three days. Nobody will notice it.”

“You remember the time he came back in two days?” warned Jimmie.

“We must remember,” I said, “not to get sunburned. When a boss comes back and finds his whole staff all sunburned it gives rise to suspicions. We working-class people are pretty dumb. You notice the assistant bosses always go golfing on dull afternoons?”

“By jove,” admitted Jim.

“With our families all away,” I proposed, “we can just go on a nice little camping trip, the kind all men want to take but never can. Most men are prisoners. They can’t do what they like at the office. And they can’t do what they like at home. And when the so-called holidays come the poor fellow has to go where the family tell him. Now’s our chance for a three-day escape from prison. Where will we go? Peterborough? Parry Sound?”

“Suppose,” said Jim, “suppose we just get in the car, with a tent and some pots and pans and some grub, and turn either left or right at every fourth gallon of gas?”

“A perfect idea,” I cried. “You drive and I’ll watch the gas. And at every fourth gallon we’ll take the next turn.”

“Real gipsies,” exulted Jimmie. “Wotting not whither we goeth.”

“We won’t fish. We won’t even hunt birds’ nests. We’ll just dangle along all day and when five o’clock comes we’ll look for a place to pitch our tent and there we’ll pitch it.”

“And,” sang Jimmie, “if we don’t feel like getting up in the morning we won’t. And if we find a nice shady spot, by a cool lake, we’ll just stay there. We don’t have to keep on going, do we?”

“Not at all,” I agreed. “The only rule will be, however, that at every fourth gallon we take the first turn, either to the right or the left, it doesn’t matter.”

“Swell,” said Jim.

To The Wide Open Spaces

So, after making a few discreet inquiries around the editor’s secretary and trying to find out from the art department how many paintings it needed for the next while, Jimmie and I quietly slipped away and went to our homes and packed.

“Don’t take much,” ruled Jim. “Your little tent, and my outboard motor…”

“We’re not going fishing,” I cut in.

“It will be handy to have along, in case we want to go for a spin somewhere.”

“And my gasoline stove,” I added.

“And Rusty,” submitted Jim.

Rusty, his Irish water spaniel, had been left home by the family because it takes him so long to get acquainted with the other dogs up at the cottage. In fact, it takes the whole two months, July and August, for Rusty to get on speaking terms with the dogs of the beach.

“Very well, bring Rusty,” I conceded. “You can’t very well leave him for three days.”

And soon Jimmie and I were, with a carefully filled and measured gas tank, on our way up Yonge St. for the wide open spaces.

It was a beautiful day. We who rarely see the highways except when they are frantic with week-end traffic can have no real appreciation of this beautiful land of ours as it appears when leisure fills the main roads and the lush fields wave and blow in the summer wind.

“Ah, Jimmie,” I said, “to think of all those poor chaps and poor girls back in town, sweltering over desks, dancing attendance on machines, tools, boxes, bales. Couldn’t life be wonderful if only we knew how to arrange it?”

“Canada,” said Jim, waving one arm off the steering wheel, “Canada, my own!”

The lazy miles whipped by.

“Curious,” said Jim, “that we put on speed every time we hit a good pavement and so the sooner get off it on to a bad one. Why don’t we go slow over a good highway and fast over a bad one?”

“It would be more sensible,” I confessed.

So we cut down to twenty-five miles an hour and felt Yonge St., beyond Aurora, peel off under us yard by yard at a lovely sight-seeing pace.

It was between Barrie and Orillia that the four-gallon mark arrived, at which we had to turn either right or left. So we turned right, across country road that led us down to Lake Simcoe.

“This means.” said Jim, “that we should follow around the lake and cross into the Kawartha district.”

“So be it,” I agreed.

And through Atherley we drove, following the highway southward and looking, since evening was drawing on, for a handsome place to pitch our gipsy tent.

“Clouding up,” commented Jim.

And out of the west, large majestic white clouds were rearing themselves vastly, with bright, gleaming edges and dark shadows in their midst.

“Did you get the tent repaired that place?” Jim asked.

“I can put a towel over it,” I said, “It isn’t much of a hole.”

“Let’s turn left over towards Bobcaygeon,” said Jim.

“Not till four gallons are gone,” I pointed out.

“But we’ll be back in Whitby before another four gallons,” protested Jim.

“We’ll find a good spot along here soon,” I said, looking out at the clouds.

“What I like about Ontario is the infinite variety. All kinds of earth, rock and soil. All different trees, hardwood here, spruce there. And all kinds of weather. There is no sameness about this country. If it had stayed bright and blue all day, like it was this afternoon, we’d soon weary of it.”

“I like a storm,” agreed Jim, also looking over his shoulder. “There is something bracing about it.”

And Rusty, sleeping on the dunnage bags in back, got up and yawned and looked out, too. He whined.

“There’s a spot,” exclaimed Jim.

We were north of Brechin somewhere, and off to the left, sweet rolling meadows, sloped with spruce and cedar and topped with clusters of birch and pine, beckoned us.

Without conversation. Jim took a rutty little side road. In five minutes we were stopped at the foot of as perfect a camping spot as ever gipsies found. A small, bright brook went by the sloping meadow. Birches on a flat-topped hillock stood ready to shelter our little tent. Grass and herbage made a ready couch for our blankets.

“My own Canadian home,” lilted Jim.

And a faint mutter of thunder applauded him.

“Here,” I said, “let’s get the tent up right away.”

So while Rusty went exploring. Jim and I cheerfully unloaded the car and carried the little silk tent up the slope. Picked a level spot for it to pitch. Strung the rope between two graceful birches. And in five minutes, our home was ready.

“Let ‘er rain,” laughed Jimmie.

And we looked at the mighty towering clouds, which now were much higher and higher, and from them hung down ragged smoke-colored remnants, sweeping towards us.

“Let’s get the stuff in the tent,” I cried.

Blankets and corrugated box of grub, gasoline stove and pots and pans.

“I’ll just bring this outboard motor in,” said Jimmie.

“Leave it,” I hurried, two big drops starting to swing down at us. “There isn’t room in the tent.”

“Car doesn’t lock,” shouted Jimmie, for a gale suddenly bent everything over. “Sure to be stolen if I leave it in the car.”

So he staggered the engine up and we just shoved into the tent as the first deluge plunged down out of the clouds.

“Here, Rusty. Rusty, whit, whit,” whistled Jimmie, Rusty having disappeared.

“Shut the flaps,” I shouted.

The little tent was all cluttered and abulge with bundles, boxes, stove, engine, pots and what not. I sat on the stove and Jim on the tank of his engine.

And the little tent bellied and clapped loudly with the gale, while a regular thunder of rain beat, like bursting ocean waves, against the frail silk.

“These summer showers,” I cried, “are soon over.”

Troubles Multiply

“Thank goodness,” called back Jimmie, “we have your little gasoline stove. Dry wood won’t be found after this.”

“We forgot to get gas for it,” I remembered. “We can siphon some out of your tank.”

“If we have a siphon,” shouted Jim.

And then thunder roared and lightning hissed and cracked, and Jim found a small stream starting to run under the tent and across the ground.

“Get off the stove,” said Jim, “and I’ll set the grub box on it to keep it dry.”

“So I stand up?” I inquired.

I half stood up and half sat down, while the walls of the tent sagged looser and looser, and the thunder growled and the ground grew all wet, and we kept shifting things around in the cramped tent.

“I wish I knew where Rusty is,” said Jim.

“Fighting some local dog,” I suggested.

“Rusty hates rain,” said Jim.

“Sure, he’s a water spaniel,” I explained. Jim peeped out the tent flaps.

“Very black over by the east,” he said.

“Sometimes, these summer storms that come up in the late afternoon,” I said, “mean an all-night rain. And a westerly blow.”

“Rusty, Rusty, whit, whit,” went Jim out the tent flaps.

“Aw, let him alone,” I exclaimed, “He’s probably found somebody his own size.”

The rain seemed to slacken.

“Jim,” I said, “while I’m seeing if there is any gas in this stove tank, take a run down to the brook and get a pail of water so we can make tea. It looks like an indoor supper to-night.”

When Jim was gone with the pail, I looked, and as I fully expected, there was no gas in the stove tank.

Jim scratched hastily in through the flaps.

“The creek,” he said, wiping rain off his face, “is running yellow mud. Pure mud.”

So we sat and listened to the thunder and blinked to the lightning and shoved articles of furniture up against the corners of the tent to keep the steadily sagging walls from coming entirely in upon us.

Ants, spiders, striped worms and small beetles began climbing up everything that was dry, such as us.

“Pshaw,” said Jim, “think of our poor ancestors who came to this country in the early days. They didn’t even have tents. They had to rush up some kind of a roof over their heads, made of split logs. Think of bring huddled in here with all your family, including little babies, in a storm like this. And they had storms like this in 1800.”

“Our ancestors,” I taught Jim, “were simpler folk than we. They came from mud huts in Ireland and shacks made of granite rocks in the Highlands. My ancestors used to have the chickens roost on the foot of the bed when they first came to Ontario.”

“What I mean,” said Jim, pulling his feet up under him, “is that we ought to have, just underneath our skins, the makings of good men. Tough men. Men who can suffer hardship like this. It can’t have gone out of us completely in only two or three generations.”

“I wish I had my plus-fours on,” I said. “Did you ever have an ant up your pant leg? I don’t think our ancestors wore pants.”

“Think,” said Jimmie, brushing off couple of spiders and a small green hump worm, “of our Scottish ancestors, coming to this country in kilts.”

But a loud flash and bang of lightning made us stop thinking of our ancestors.

The ground was now squishy under our feet. The rent in the tent that we had got last fall was dripping water into the left rear corner, and I was in the right.

“Skunk,” said Jim suddenly.

“Phew,” said I.

And Rusty thrust his dripping wet face in the flaps.

“Get out,” I yelled.

Rusty backed out. But in a moment, he thrust his head in again, this time gripping in his wide jaws, and his eyes glancing proudly above, a black and white object limp in his jaws. And of overpowering fragrance.

“Get out. Scat.”

Even Jimmie threw a pail at him.

Hating To Admit Defeat

And so we had whines from Rusty outside, to add to the things we had to listen to, as the darkness continued to deepen, and the thunder went away and then came suddenly and surprisingly back again. And the wind changed direction and began shoving at the front flaps.

“Jim,” I said, “we can’t stay here.”

“Let’s wait and see,” said Jim.

“Put that engine out and give us some room,” I insisted.

“Nothing doing,” replied Jim.

“We have no water, no wood, no gas for the stove,” I complained.

“Maybe it will clear,” said Jim.

“That dog,” I said, “has put the kibosh on everything. I can hardly breathe.”

“We have to take him home in the car,” pointed out Jim.

“I say we beat it,” I concluded.

“Where to?” asked Jim.

One hates to admit defeat. I gazed hopelessly about the little tent, its dripping walls sagging close to our heads.

“Jimmie,” I cried, looking about at the grass and herbage on which our beds were to be laid. “What’s that plant right beside you there!”

“Gee,” said Jim, drawing up his hand.

It was three-leaved, glossy green, reddish tinges at the base of the leaves. It was cool, cold, cruel looking.

“Poison ivy, Jim.” I gasped.

“I guess we had better go,” agreed Jim half rising, which was all he could do.

And as we stepped out the door, a long glorious blade of evening sunlight burst across the glade. The dripping world shone and sparkled. Rusty barked hoarsely and started to show us his latest victim.

“How about it?” asked Jim. “We’ll go. But where?”

“Home,” I said, for both of us.

And into the back of the car we stuffed the soaking tent, just bundled in anyhow, and the engine and the stove and the grub box. Jim scrubbed Rusty with bunches of grass, to no purpose.

“Zing,” said something.

“Now the mosquitoes,” said I.

And before we had the car loaded, the soft, muggy summer evening was alive with great big after-the-storm mosquitoes, focusing on our ankles and wrists.

“Make it snappy,” said Jim.

“I’m ready,” I snorted. “What about Rusty?”

“Whit, whit,” said Jim to Rusty, and Rusty, all damp clambered in.

And under a radiant, starry sky, we drove down to Whitby.

“Four gallons, exactly,” said I, as we rounded the turn to Toronto.

And so to bed.

Editor’s Notes: The Pharisees were a Jewish social movement that were legal experts in traditions, so when Greg said “we aren’t Pharisees”, he meant that they were not strict rule-followers.

Jim was quoting the Bible, John 12:35, specifically the Tyndale Bible of the 16th century, “He that walketh in the darke wotteth not whither he goeth.” This would be more recently translated as “Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. “

Brechin Ontario is on the northeast edge of Lake Simcoe.

A Dunnage bag was the type of large bag that sailors would use to carry their belongings. It would more commonly be referred to as a duffle bag today.

My Own Canadian Home” was a patriotic song written in 1887. It was considered “Canada’s National Song”, but it’s popularity faded by the mid-20th century.

Plus fours are trousers that extend four inches below the knee, and were popular for sporting activities.

This story appeared in Greg Clark & Jimmie Frise Outdoors (1979).

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