"Greg and Jim"

The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

The Home Beach

July 21, 1945

Appearances are Deceiving

“Yah,” I roared out past Jim, “yah, you big windbag, what are you holding up traffic for?”
“Nix,” hissed Jim, “It’s a cop!”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, July 17, 1937.

“Policemen,” said Jimmie Frise, “always ought to be in motor cars; not on motor cycles.”

“The law,” I disagreed, “is a game. If you can see a cop on a motorcycle, it’s fair. It is conceded in all civilized countries that cops should not be allowed to hide.”

“Modern traffic,” said Jim, who was watching me steer my car amidst the hot and anxious outward bound traffic of Saturday noon, “modern traffic has got past the amusement stage. It’s a game no longer. Now that the Ontario speed limit has been increased from 35 miles an hour on highways to 50 miles, and in cities and towns from 20 up to 30 miles an hour, a strange and grim psychological factor has emerged.”

“What’s that?” I inquired.

“When the law was 35 miles an hour,” said Jim, “hardly anybody obeyed it. But the knowledge that we were exceeding the limit gave us all a margin of caution. We were alert. Being already guilty of one breach of the law, to wit, going faster than 35, we were a little cautious about breaking it any other way. We were wide awake in the first place for speed cops. We had a guilty conscience, even if only a subconscious or semi-conscious guilty conscience. It made us careful, alert.”

“I follow you,” I confessed.

“Now that the law is 50,1” went on Jim, “that guilty conscience has evaporated. The only sense of guilt we have is when we are driving less than 50, and we wonder if other drivers are put out with us for not keeping up with the Joneses”.

“I believe you’re right,” I admitted, stepping slightly on the gas to increase my speed from 34 to 37.

“Now, a sense of guilt,” explained Jim, “is one of the greatest and most humane of civilized forces. It is our general sense of guilt that makes us kindly, tolerant and good natured towards our fellow men.”

A large blue car swerved angrily past us and the lady in the near seat turned and said something bitter to me. I couldn’t hear her words but if I put the right meaning to the shape of her mouth, that lady certainly is no lady.

“See?” cried Jim. “Before the law was changed, her sense of guilt would have prevented her from cursing you. Now she is free to call you names if you aren’t doing at least 50.”

“Psychology is a funny thing,” I mused.

“No, it’s human nature is funny,” agonized Jim. “With no need for caution under 50 miles an hour as far as cops are concerned, old rattletrap cars that should not ever exceed 30 miles an hour are going to be going as near 50 as they can. And every instant they are on the road they are a menace to human life.”

“There goes one now,” I said, as a shabby old top-heavy sedan with narrow tires of the vintage of 1925, slithered past us and did a sort of Charlie Chaplin skid to get straight on the pavement again.

To Miss the Old Fear

“Then,” said Jim, “plenty of drivers of perfect cars, as far as mechanism is concerned, but who intellectually are incapable of driving more than 40 miles an hour – you know, the kind of people who are clumsy and always spilling things and bumping into things are going to miss that old restraining fear of cops sorely. Such people really need that fear. Without it, they are helpless.”

“Listen to that,” I murmured, as a car behind me continued to snort its horn savagely until I got away over to the side of the pavement. And when it passed, four furious faces leaned and glared out the windows at me.

“You take the young fellow driving one of those rattletrap old cars,” said Jim. “He has, for instance, three other young people in the car with him. He is going 35, which is all the machine is capable of without swerving right off the road. When his companions egg him on to greater speed, he had, heretofore, the excuse that there is a speed cop usually on the top of the hill ahead. But now, what excuse can he offer? Will he say his car is too poor and rickety to risk any more speed? No young man could admit any such thing. So what does he do? He tries for 50 and the admiration of his companions. And just as he lurches and slithers over the top of that next hill, who does he collide with or send head over heels into the ditch but a perfectly nice lady with a carload of children, going 40 miles an hour?”

“It’s bad,” I admitted, as a car driven by a white-haired old lady zipped past me, going about 60.

“Motorcycle cops, therefore,” said Jim, “should be abolished and police should be equipped with ordinary cars of various makes and colors. So that the motorists never know but what the car behind them or the car coming towards them is police.”

“Ah,” I agreed. “A new hazard. A new fear.”

“Correct,” said Jim. “And the police should be most active on the highways, touring day and night at a brisk pace, watching for cutter-ins, hill passers, curve passers; they should pursue and give an official warning to all drivers of old ashcans that were driving at any speed that made them wobble and lurch. Fines for recklessness should never be less than $252, so that for all fools there would be a real terror of coming too fast around curves or attempting to pass without reasonable distance being given.”

“We must put some sort of fear into them,” I declared, for now we were outside the city and on to a wider strip of pavement so that the traffic behind, which had been fairly patient, now began to get excited like lions at feeding time at the zoo and start to zip and cut and swerve and duck in their anxiety to get ahead.

“What’s the good of their doing that?” demanded Jim. “Don’t they realize that there is a line-up for miles ahead of them? What good is it going to do them to scare the wits out of you by cutting in ahead of you with two seconds to spare, when they are going to have to keep that up all the way to Muskoka?”

“It’s a nervous sort of thrill. I suppose,” I said. “It’s like gambling. Like roulette. They would go to sleep if they had to drive steadily. Only by hop-scotching around like that do they keep awake.”

“I wish there were double the cops,” said Jim, “and all incognito in plain cars. That would stop those St. Vitus dance3 drivers. We ought to adopt the system of having a big red enamel patch painted on the back of every car that is convicted of reckless driving. With three patches on your car, 30 miles an hour is your absolute limit. You’d feel like a marked man then, and behave.”

“Look Who’s Ahead of Us”

“Boy, did you see that?” I breathed as two cars, chasing each other at 50 miles an hour, both dove back into the line ahead of us to make way for a big passenger bus coming tearing along in the opposite direction at 50, too.

I had to change gears on account of the sudden stoppage the cutting in of the two cars ahead had created. Minute by minute as we got out into the country it grew worse. Those who knew the law was 50 miles an hour wanted to go 50, and were indignant at all those who didn’t. They kept cutting out and in and charging ahead until in a little while the congestion ahead of us was so bad we were not only slowed to 30 miles but gradually formed a solid line, and frequent dead stops were necessary.

“Oh,” I snarled, “where are the cops?”

“The only way to travel nowadays,” said Jim, “is by aeroplane. No self-respecting citizen will stay on the roads much longer.”

It was hot. It was gassey. It was nerve-racking and on-edgey. The farther people were behind us the more anxious they were to get ahead. And every time the down traffic left space, 40 cars behind us leaped out of line and formed a double line, racing past us until down-coming trucks or cars forced them back into our line; and with fury we had to make room for them. It meant a stop almost every time.

“Get out into the swim,” said Jim, at last. “You jump, too. Everybody else is doing it.”

“Not me,” said I.

“It’ll thin out a few miles north,” coaxed Jim. “The sooner we get there, the sooner this strain will be over.”

“I’m safer where I am,” I said. “In line.”

But in a few moments, the car that had been ahead of me for several miles decided it was getting too thick and it made the jump and got into the scramble.

“Not me,” I cried triumphantly. “Look at whose ahead of us now!”

“It’s cops,” said Jim.

And sure enough, in the car now immediately ahead of us, were the round heads and flat caps of two large cops sitting the stiff way cops sit at the wheel of a car.

“They’re only doing 32,” said Jim looking at my speedometer.

“It’ll do me too,” I said, settling comfortably in back of the cops.

“Now,” chuckled Jim, “watch these cutter-inners when they see the cops.”

But it made no apparent difference. The minute down traffic left a hole, out leaped about ten times more cars than the hole would accommodate and the minute the down traffic came level, all these birds had to scrunch back into line and everybody had to grab and brake and swear and change gears.

“I guess they don’t see they’re cops,” said Jim.

“Why don’t the cops do something, instead of just jogging along?” I demanded hotly.

“Pass them,” advised Jim.

“Not me,” I said. “I respect law and order. Those cops are at least setting an example of orderly driving.”

“And nobody even looks at them,” scoffed Jim.

“What good could they do?” he went on. “In a jam like this?”

“One of them could stand on the running board,” I suggested, “and hold out his hand to warn those behind not to try to pass. In ten minutes the congestion ahead would sort itself out and we could all do 40. It’s that crowding ahead that makes us all go slow.”

“Don’t let’s talk about it,” said Jim.

“Very well,” I said.

With a Baleful Look

So we continued, in regular series of mixups, of grinding and braking and starting and slowing and horns blowing and swearing and cussing as the impatient miles went by. Every time there was a jam-up and cars head would try to cut in ahead of me I would blow my horn furiously in the hope of rousing those two cops ahead from their lethargy.

“What’s the matter with them?” I shouted. “Sitting there. Like dummies. With all this murder going on.”

“Hire a hall,” said Jim.

He sank down in his seat and closed his eyes.

We came to a town. Jim woke and sat up. In the business block, traffic stopped dead for a minute, and one of the cops in the car ahead prepared to get out.

Heavily he backed out the car door. He was in a khaki uniform and with him, hugged to his breast, he backed out a large brass horn.

“Pah-ha-ha,” roared Jim. “A bandsman. A tuba player.”

“Well, I’ll be….” I admitted a little ruefully.

“There you go,” laughed Jim, “always taken in by appearances. Abusing the cops and it was just a couple of lads from the town band.”

Traffic began to move again and we tooled through the town and the minute we got outside, the panic began again, cars leaping, swerving, ducking.

“Well,” asked Jim, “are you going to stick behind the piccolo player?”

“Heh, heh, heh,” I said, taking a quick look behind and then swerving out.

I stepped on the gas and leaped past the bandsman’s car.

“Yah,” I roared out past Jim, “yah, you big windbag, what are holding up traffic for?”

“Nix,” hissed Jim. “It is a cop!”

And it was.

“Ow,” I said, ducking back into line. “It was a cop, giving a guy a lift from the band.”

“Ow,” said Jim, craning his neck to look in the mirror. “He’s after you.”

In a minute, I saw a car creep alongside. It’s horn tooted sharply. I looked. The cop, with a baleful north of Ireland look in his green eyes, was signalling me languidly to pull off to the side.

I took to the shoulder carefully, so as to allow the line behind to pass. The cop pulled in ahead of me, got out and walked back, hitching his belt.

“What was that,” said the cop, resting his elbow on my door, “you said to me as you passed?”

“Huh?” I asked. “Said to you? I wasn’t speaking to you.”

“Oh, yes you was,” said the cop. “What was it about me blocking traffic? Big wind-bag or something?”

“Oh, that?” I laughed heartily. “Oh, that? Oh. I was speaking to my friend here, my friends, he’s deaf, see? I have to shout at him. Oh, ha, ha, did you think… Oh, ha ha, Jimmie,” I shouted in Jim’s ear, “the policeman thinks I was shouting at him.”

“Did he?” said Jim.

“Yes,” I roared in Jim’s ear. “Isn’t that funny?”

“Heh, heh, heh,” laughed Jim, fairly heartily.

“Well, anyway,” said the cop. taking a long slow look at me. “I don’t like the way you cut in and out in traffic. You’ll be the death of somebody if you keep that up.”

“Why, officer,” I cried, “everybody is cutting in and out. Just look at them.”

“Yes.” said the constable, “but not right under the nose of a policeman. I’d better see your driver’s license, mister.”

And he took down all my particulars, tested my lights, brakes, horn and wanted to see my spare light bulbs which I promised him I’d buy at the next town. And all the time the traffic fought and snarled past us.

And then he got in his car and drove ahead of us 24 miles at 28 miles an hour.

Editor’s Notes:

  1. Ontario’s first province-wide speed limit on rural highways was introduced in 1903 at 15 mph (24 km/h). The speed limit was increased to 25 mph (40 km/h) by the early 1920s and increased further to 35 mph (56 km/h) by the late 1920s. The speed limit on most rural highways was increased to 50 mph (80 km/h) in May 1937. During World War II, the speed limits were temporarily lowered to 40 mph (65 km/h) to conserve Canada’s fuel supplies. The next speed limit increase took place in 1959, when the speed limit for passenger cars using the new superhighways such as Highway 400 and Highway 401 was changed to 60 mph (100 km/h). ↩︎
  2. $25 in 1937 would be $528 in 2014. ↩︎
  3. St. Vitus’ Dance was diagnosed, in the 17th century as Sydenham chorea. The old term hung around for a while. ↩︎

The Herring Are In!

July 18, 1931

This illustration went with a story by Robert Reade on the opening of herring season. The picture shows the possibility of a school of herring swamping a boat .

The Office Picnic

July 17, 1920

Apparently, a “fat man’s race” was a common activity at organized picnics at the time.

In the Public Interest

So now we rowed a little harder. And the cargo seemed suddenly to grow heavier.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, July 11, 1942.

“If that darn supply boat doesn’t come in today,” declared Jimmie Frise, “we’re in a fix.”

“This is three days they’ve given us the go-by,” I stated.

They’ve got us at their mercy this year,” said Jim. “They know we haven’t got the gas for our boats to run up to the Landing and shop.”

“We’re out of bread at my cottage,” I announced: “We have no bacon, three eggs, one pound of butter. And no milk.”

“Everybody in the community is running short,” said Jim. “We went around last night to three or four of the neighbors to try and borrow a few things.”

“Well, it’s only six miles up to the Landing,” I reassured. “After all, we’re not in danger of starvation.”

“Twelve miles there and back,” estimated Jimmie, “is one gallon of gas. And I’ve only got 14 gallons for the whole summer.”

“It’s a wonder some of the people with big launches,” I submitted, “don’t undertake to run up to the Landing and shop for the whole community. I’ve been watching for one of them to start out, and I’m all ready to signal them.”

“If you see anybody start out,” requested Jim, “be sure and get me in on it. I want three loaves of bread, four ham steaks, about half an inch thick. Butter, eggs, bacon. Four quarts of milk. Some canned soup, some oranges…”

“You’ve got a good order there,” I admitted.

“I hinted pretty broadly to the Millers last night,” said Jim. “They’ve got that fast boat and I bet Miller has plenty of gas in his ration book for his boat.”

“He didn’t take the hint?” I inquired.

“No, he hinted back that somebody in the community with a small outboard ought to volunteer to make the trip for the gang of us,” said Jim, “because an outboard uses so little gas compared with a launch.”

“I suppose he’s right,” I muttered. “After all, the idea is to conserve gas.”

“If the supply boat doesn’t come in by 3 o’clock this afternoon,” said Jim, “I think I’ll go around and suggest to the different cottages that we draw lots to see who will run up to the Landing on a shopping expedition for the whole Point.”

“The simplest thing,” I suggested, “would be for one of us to take our boat to shore and get one of the farmers to drive us to the Landing by road.”

“It’s 18 miles by road,” countered Jim. “Thirty-six miles there and back.”

“Well, let’s wait and see,” I subsided. “Somebody is sure to break under the strain. Here’s the whole Point, all sitting watching one another, waiting to see who’ll start for the Landing first. I bet every family in the community has somebody posted to watch all the rest of the cottages.”

Two Kinds of Rowing

“I bet Mr. Cottrelle1, the oil controller, would know the answer to this,” said Jimmie. “He’d say, ‘Row, you lazy slobs.””

“Row 12 miles?” I protested. “We’d have a heart attack.”

“We rowed 12 miles yesterday,” declared Jim. “All of it. After those three measly bass.”

“Ah, but that’s a different kind of rowing,” I pointed out. “Rowing while fishing is pleasure. Rowing for supplies is labor. I’m going to give that Loony Lake supply boat a piece of my mind when they do turn up.”

“We’ve done little else for 15 years,” sighed Jim. “They’ve got us where they want us this year. In the past, any time we felt like a little spin on the lake we’d run up to the Landing and do most of our shopping at Billy Smith’s. He’s the opposition to the Loony Lake supply boat. We never think of going into their store when we go down to the Landing. We always shop at Billy’s.”

“Well, it’s kind of nice to see some other display of merchandise, besides the same old line they’ve got in the supply boat,” I explained. “It’s a wonder Billy Smith doesn’t operate a supply boat this year, with everybody rationed like this.”

“Billy’s got too much sense,” said Jim. “There’s nothing but grief in the supply boat business. Goods spoiling, bread going mouldy, things getting bent and bust in the cramped quarters, so that they are shopworn and people won’t take them…”

“Well, they can’t neglect us like this,” I declared. “Three days and not a sign of them.”

“Maybe their engine broke,” suggested Jim. “It’s getting to be an old boat. Or maybe the boys have joined up…”

“Hey, look,” I interrupted sharply. “There’s the Millers all running down to their wharf!”

We watched the Millers. The whole family came running down the path from their cottage towards the wharf where their smart 30- footer was moored.

“Quick!” cried Jim, leaping up. And we rushed down to our own wharf, leaped into Jim’s square-stern skiff, and Jim had the pull rope on in a jiffy2, and at first jerk his engine spun to life.

As we veered away from Jim’s dock, we saw people running from all the cottages, helter skelter, leaping into their skiffs, rowboats, canoes and launches, and heading for the Millers’.

And as we neared the Miller wharf, there were all the Millers sitting as easy as you please on their dock, in summery attitudes of relaxation. None of them was in their launch. None of them appeared even to be getting into the launch. There were seven boats of various kinds on the water all at the one time. Some of them pretended they just happened to be on the water and steered around the bay aimlessly. But two others besides Jimmie and me went straight to the Millers’ wharf.

“We thought you were starting out for the Landing,” Jim hailed, as we drew alongside.

“Oh, no,” said Miller, lying back on the planks. “We just thought we’d get a little sun.”

“Look,” said Jim, “if that supply boat doesn’t come by 3 o’clock, how about drawing lots among the lot of us on the Point to see who will go up to the Landing for the whole lot?”

“What’s the fuss?” demanded Miller. “The supply boat will be in all right. Don’t fret. They know we haven’t any milk, for one thing. And bread. They’re probably far more worried than we are. It’s probably engine trouble. If they can’t get here by tonight, I bet they hire some other boat and come down.”

The Other Fellow’s Boat

“Well, we’re right down to last year’s canned stuff at my cottage,” asserted Jim. “If it doesn’t come by tonight…”

“You should always keep a little emergency shelf of provisions,” said Miller easily, from his recumbent position.

“You haven’t anything to spare?” I inquired.

“I’m afraid not,” said Miller. “I can hold out until tomorrow, by which time I am sure…”

The two other boats that had drawn near the Millers’ wharf now sheered off and went slowly home. The other boats around the bay returned to their various docks.

“Well,” said Jim, with sudden resolution, “I’m not going to starve on my holidays, for one. I’m going to the Landing.”

Miller sat up.

“It would consume three times the gas in my boat,” he said. “I don’t see why some of you people with outboards don’t make the trip.”

Jim shoved off and spun the rope on the outboard. He had forgotten to shut off the gas and air and it took half a dozen yanks at the rope before it started; during which time Miller was reciting off what supplies he needed.

“Four loaves of bread, three pounds of butter, some sugar, and here’s our ration cards….”

He had them in his pocket all ready. I caught them.

“And six cans of vegetable soup, six quarts of milk, two dozen oranges, two bunches of beets, two heads of lettuce…”

Jim’s engine whammed into life.

“Okay, okay,” we yelled above the din, while Miller excitedly bellowed some further orders which we failed to hear.

A Handsome Order

Our voices had penetrated the full extent of the bay and now, once again, from all directions boats started for us. We returned to our dock, for Jim to make a list of what he required. And while he made out his list and I made out mine, nine boats arrived at Jim’s dock, all with lists already written out.

“I have the feeling,” muttered Jim, when I followed him into his boathouse to get the gas can with his two rationed gallons in it, “that the whole community was waiting for us. And they knew it would be us.”

Some of them had the money with them. Others said to shop at the Loon Lake supply boat store and charge it to their account.

And in 10 minutes we were off up the lake.

Jim’s square stern goes nine miles an hour, but it takes us the full hour to go the six miles to the Landing. This may be on account of the fact that the Landing is up the lake from our place. Probably coming down the lake the boat makes the nine miles an hour. I never checked.

It was a fine sail up the lake, with freshening breeze. We enjoyed the scenery along the shoreline, which was new to us this year, since we had not made the almost daily trips on the lake as in former years. We arrived at the Landing in five minutes less than the hour, and were welcomed very heartily by Billy Smith. In fact, after discussing the question, we decided to do all our shopping at Billy’s not merely to save time and trouble, but just to indicate, in a quiet way the whole village would understand, that the cottagers up at the Point were not to be trifled with in the matter of supply boats.

Besides, it was a very handsome order when you wrote it all down, and Billy was delighted with it. The biggest order of the season so far, he said. And it would be bound to be talked about around the Landing.

So Billy got busy with his boys and filled the cartons and wrapped the stuff up and carted it down to our skiff.

“Anyway,” said Jim, “it’s a 200-yard walk with all this stuff from the other store.”

Inquiries about the supply boat indicated that there had, indeed, been engine trouble. They had had to send all the way to Toronto for spare parts and that had been the cause of the holdup. Billy thought, from what he’d heard, that it might be another two or three days before the boat was got going.

“Why the Sam Hill,” cried Jim, “don’t they rent or borrow another boat? I’ve a good mind…”

“Aw, this will give them a lesson,” assured Billy, his arms filled with cartons, as he headed for our skiff.

“Sure, sure,” I said, “what’s the use of making a row with people you’ve got to deal with all summer…? Anyway, that wind’s getting up.”

So we shoved off, our little skiff laden with enough supplies to feed a lumber camp. Jim yanked and the engine purred and away we went.

“We won’t make nine miles an hour with all this load,” shouted Jim as we steered down the lake for home. “We’re too deep in the water.”

The engine hummed and snarled and gurgled as outboards do. It shoved us manfully, but obviously at less speed than with just the two of us in her.

About two miles down the lake, just as we got comfortable amongst all the freight, the engine began to make funny sounds. It would go slow, then fast. Jimmie began fiddling anxiously with the gadgets, the timing handle and the little gas jigger.

“Leave it alone,” I warned shoutingly.

But in true outboard driver fashion, Jim continued to fiddle, while the engine got steadily worse. It nearly died. Then it started up with a roar. Then it died completely.

“Just a minute,” said Jim, kneeling up over it.

But it was not a minute. It was 10 minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour. I had to take the oars and row, to keep us from drifting out right across the lake.

“I wish we’d brought some canvas or something to cover this stuff,” said Jim during one of his rests from yanking the rope. “It’s going to get splashed.”

The wind was really frisky.

Jim yanked, yanked, yanked. He cussed, got red, got white, got weary. I took a few yanks, but they lacked even Jim’s limited authority over the silly engine. Nothing looks sillier than an outboard that won’t respond. Jim took out the spark-plugs and cleaned them. He drained the carbureter and took the screen out…

The little screen slipped from his, fingers and fell into the lake.

“That cooks it,” he said. “Now we HAVE to row.”

We had drifted about half a mile, which made it four and a half miles down the lake we had to row. Jim took the bow oar and I the stern, in separate seats, so as to balance the skiff a little head-down into the wind.

We rowed cheerfully at first. Then not so cheerfully. Rowing is not one of the better sports, when you have to do it. As pleasure, it is exhilarating. It stretches your muscles, expands your back, makes you feel wide and deep inside. But as work it has nothing to redeem it.

Besides, after the first half hour, in which we seemed to be still opposite the same boathouses we had started in front of, we began to lose our timing…

“It’s your job,” I informed Jim hotly, after we had got into still another series of chopping strokes with Jim half a stroke behind me; “it’s your job, as bow oar, to match your stroke to mine.”

“How can I take little, stubby jabs like you’re taking?” retorted Jimmie angrily.

It Wasn’t Much Fun

So it wasn’t much fun, and the hour and a half we took to reach the Point was as long a one as I recall. The wind, especially after we rounded the Point for the stretch, was lively and the waves splashed spray all over our supplies. We stopped frequently to shift things around so that the bread, sugar, fancy biscuits, and so forth were protected from the spray. But it seeped down anyway.

“I hope our kind neighbors,” I said over my shoulder, “will appreciate this little service we’re doing them.”

“Let’s not hurry along here,” replied Jim. “Let’s take our time so they can see us.”

“They’ll all be watching for us, anxiously,” I agreed. “So let’s make them appreciate the fact that this has been no picnic.”

We labored, therefore, a little harder at the oars. We sagged in our seats, humped our backs, dug the oars deep and leaned far back on the pull. We got into several mix-ups as to timing, because nothing gives the impression of desperate struggle so much as two men floundering around with their oars.

“I bet Miller is feeling his neck3,” I said. “Sitting there on his veranda, with that fast little power boat tied to the wharf. He could have made this trip in fifteen minutes.”

“Well, we have one satisfaction,” declared Jimmie. “Our reputation as public-spirited citizens can’t be challenged after this.”

And then we heard a familiar toot from a boat klaxon and there, steaming out from the bay, was the Loony Lake supply boat, as large as life.

“They’ve been in to the Point,” I cried.

So now we rowed a little harder. And the cargo seemed suddenly to grow heavier. Especially all those items for which we had paid our cash instead of charging at the other store at the Landing.

The end of the story is briefly told. Everybody, including our families, had stocked up. Not even our families had made any allowance for what we had been asked to bring.

Why,” said Miller, “I took it for granted you’d see the boat passing on your way up.”

“It must have been in at some cottage,” was all we could reply.

Miller was willing to take the oranges, the canned goods and even the beets and lettuce, but he said the bread, sugar and other things were of no use to him in their wet condition.

“They’re ruined,” he said. “Why didn’t you take a canvas to cover them?”

All the others were the same way.

“After all,” they said, “you could hardly expect us to take bread saturated with water and soggy boxes of fancy biscuits…”

So in Jim’s boathouse we figured out the loss. And we were about $44 out, counting our own stuff that our wives wouldn’t take.

“Some men are so impatient,” our wives explained. “They ought to know the supply boat will be in sooner or later.”

So the gulls got it. And Jim and I went back to High Rock, back of my place, where we have two cedar chairs; and we watched the stars come out and talked about how essentially heartless humanity is.

Editor’s Notes:

  1. George Cottrelle was a banker by profession and was appointed Oil Controller for Canada on June 29, 1940 by the wartime government. Note there was gasoline rationing at the time, hence the concern over being careful with their allotment. ↩︎
  2. On old outboard motors, the pull rope was separate and had to be wound on for each pull. ↩︎
  3. “Feeling your neck” would mean “being anxious”. ↩︎
  4. $4 in 1942 would be $73 in 2024. ↩︎

Paris to the Moon

July 11, 1936

This illustration went with a story by Henri Danjou about rockets and their potential uses. The illustration by Jimmie shows the fanciful idea from the 11th century that suggested one could fly to the moon with a flock of geese.

Archie Has At Last Discovered a Use for Radio

July 7, 1928

Three’s a Crowd

The muskie landed smack into the canoe, exactly between Jim and me.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, July 7, 1945.

“How’s about a little side bet?” inquired Jimmie Frise.

“On?” I inquired.

“Who gets the first muskie,” said Jim. “After all, this is an auspicious occasion. It’s the first time we’ve been muskie fishing for five years. For you and me, it is the fifth freedom.”

“Then,” I submitted, “it is too sacred an occasion for betting. This fishing trip ought to be, actually, a sort of religious rite.”

“Aw,” scoffed Jimmie, as we shoved off from the summer hotel wharf and started paddling, “you always mix up your sport and your politics. Or your philosophy. Let’s just go fishing.”

“Okay,” I said, scanning the reedy shores eagerly. “But I don’t want to do any betting on who gets the first muskie. I just want to soak in this feeling of being fishing again in my native lakes. I could be dead five years, killed by a bomb on the road to Dunkirk, instead of sitting here in this canoe looking for good spot to cast. I could have been blown to bits by shells in Italy, by machine-guns in Normandy; I could have been torpedoed 50 times at sea, or crashed into the Atlantic or the Mediterranean in thousands of miles of flying…”

“And I,” cut in Jimmie, “could have died of pneumonia in the raw winter of ’41 or got an infected toe during the hot spell we had here in 1942….”

“Jim!” I said indignantly.

“But it’s true,” assured Jim, from the stern of the canoe. “We waste too much time thinking about life instead of in living. Every man can have his choice. He can either do what he likes or what somebody else likes. He can live the way he wants to live or the way his wife and family want him to live. He can do with these few hours, days, weeks, months and years that are allotted to him what he wants to do, or he can be bullied, wheedled, coerced, chivvied and jockeyed by society around him into wasting it all.”

“Wasting?” I snorted.

“Look,” said Jim. “The general impression is that society is organized by the majority of mankind for the general benefit of mankind. If that were so, why are so many people poor and distressed and harassed? If that were so, why are so many people living silly lives, like squirrels in a revolving cage, spending their one, only and very brief life doing what somebody else wants them to do, instead of doing what they themselves would like to do?”

“Life,” I explained, “is a co-operative enterprise. The perfect society would have all mankind living for all the rest of mankind.”

“Poppycock!” cried Jim, swinging the paddle. “That is the sort of bunk the smart rulers and owners of the world have been pushing, through schools and teachers and preachers, for hundreds of years. A few thousand years ago, when the big boys discovered that all the little people, if ganged up, could destroy them, they founded schools and colleges and churches and institutions for a stable society and began controlling the little people of the world not with clubs and swords but with ideas and ideals. You can bludgeon a million people far more easily with an idea than with a club.”

“Jim,” I expostulated. “This is treason. This is worse than communism.”

“Sure,” agreed Jim. “It is the next thing after communism. Communism is old stuff. It is just the latest scheme to keep the masses of the people happy and under control of the big fellows.”

“Who,” I demanded indignantly, “are the big fellows?”

“Whoever,” explained Jim, “wants to run the rest of us for their profit or amusement.”

“Amusement?” I protested.

Plan For the World

“Certainly,” said Jimmie, “When it becomes dangerous to try to run the mass of us for profit, the ambitious guys among us abandon that motive and adopt instead the motive of their own amusement. It’s the sense of their power they wish to enjoy. The old-fashioned and easy way of feeling power was by means of money. But the masses have got ugly. It is no longer safe, it isn’t even possible to convert your sense of power into money. The masses have got it all taxed and super-taxed. So, the ambitious guys among us adopt ideas and ideals instead of money. So long as they can be boss, so long as they can enjoy the sensation of their power, they are happy.”

“You make it look very horrible,” I muttered.

“It is horrible,” agreed Jim.

“Okay, then,” I countered hotly, “what does your new, super-communism suggest we do?”

“Kill off anybody who exhibits the symptoms of having the feeling for power,” said Jim. “Don’t just imprison them. Don’t just make laws to try to circumvent them. Kill them. The way you would kill rattlesnakes, tigers or malignant germs that might threaten the life and well-being of mankind as a whole. Destroy all the would-be leaders. Wipe out the people with initiative, ambition, and greed. It is all the same thing.”

“Why, Jim, you would bring the whole world to a standstill!” I cried.

“No,” corrected Jim. “Nothing mankind can do can bring the world to a standstill. That is the one little thing we have always overlooked. We have produced an endless and bloody series of Caesars, emperors, kings, protectors, dictators. Each has tried to impose his idea of the perfect life on the world with sword and fire. Each has gone down to dust and even his marble statues are mere disfigured remnants in museums. Museums in some land other than his own, as a rule. But the world goes round and round. Every day, the sun comes up the same as it did for Augustus Caesar or Hitler or for you and me this morning.”

“Yet each of these great and ambitious men,” I pointed out, “for all the blood and ruin of his passing, pushed the world ahead another step in its slow advance from barbarism.”

“You mean?” inquired Jim, steering for the shore, where a very inviting bed of rushes extended out by a rocky point – an ideal spot for a feeding muskie.

“These ambitious men, these Caesars, kings, protectors,” I offered, “each do something to forward their own selfish ends. They organize their own people. They develop science. They build roads, improve agriculture, build factories. They first exert their sense of power to improve their own nation in order to be strong enough to impose their power on surrounding nations. Thus science and industry are advanced.”

“At what a price!” exclaimed Jim.

“Then, to beat them, to destroy, them,” I pursued, “all the surrounding nations, and eventually the whole world, has to come abreast of the conqueror’s nation.”

“Then you approve,” demanded Jimmie, “of conquerors and of war?”

“I approve,” I said cautiously, “of that instinct in human nature which causes most men to compete with one another and which naturally brings forth a few men, as the result of the competition, who are extra-competitive, who are over-ambitious, who get out of control and sometimes, in their avid sense of power, bring trouble and often ruin on their fellow men.”

“You approve of them?” cried Jim.

“I said I approve of the instinct,” I corrected hastily.

“It’s the same thing,” said Jim.

“No. I think we can some day master the instinct of competition,” I submitted, “without destroying it, just the way we mastered the horse without destroying it. Back in the dawn of time, when men found that they had to kill and destroy most other animals, either to eat them or else to protect themselves, they found the horse. It was not particularly good to eat. It was not particularly dangerous, as were tigers or wolves. So they tamed the horse. I think we can tame the competitive. instinct in mankind. Some want to leave it wild, like a tiger, preying on us all. Some want to destroy it, like a tiger. I prefer to think of it as a wild horse, which we can tame and breed for our very great help and use.”

“You’ll never tame it,” said Jim. “It is the basic wild instinct of human nature.”

“We’ve nearly got it tamed now,” I declared.

“And you can say that,” protested Jim, “at this moment of the world’s history when the bloodiest war of all time is barely over!”

“With Europe a mass of ashes, ruin and nameless graves,” I proposed. “I think some profound ideas are bound to emerge. It was out of ruin and agony in the past that all our greatest ideas emerged.”

“Behead everybody,” cried Jim, “who shows the symptoms of ambition!”

“Behead us, then,” I triumphed, “for being so ambitious as to try to catch a muskie!”

“That’s different,” said Jim. “That’s just having fun.”

“Not for a muskie, it isn’t!” I pointed out, laying down my paddle and picking up my bait casting rod.

“How do we know a muskie doesn’t enjoy fighting us on the end of a line?” countered Jimmie, slowing the canoe and setting it sideways on, for me to cast towards the inviting rocks and weeds.

A Feeling of Power

“We’re here, Jim, right in this canoe, in this spot,” I reminded him, “because of that initiative deep in human natures, because of the competitive spirit in human nature. You and I are really here because we wish to compete with one another. We are here because we are tired of the dull routine, of our everyday lives. We want a little excitement. We want to exert our little sense of power, such as it is. I have power over this rod, this reel, this line. I have power to cast this lure. I have power and cunning to know just where to cast it, in the best hope of getting the biggest reward. I wish to exercise that power. I wish to feel that power. Baffled and beaten by my normal life, frustrated by editors, haunted by creditors, my life under control of hundreds of people around me over whom I have no power whatever, I come fishing here in order to exhibit what power I have.”

“Cast right in past that boulder there,” suggested Jimmie.

“Listen,” I said. “Leave this to me. This is my power I want to feel. You wait till your turn, and then feel your own power.”

“Okay, it’s exactly five minutes to ten,” said Jim. “I paddle you until five minutes to eleven. Then turn about, hour for hour. Let her go.”

I cast.

Those of you who don’t know the delights of a bait casting rod will have difficulty following me here. There is no sport like the bait casting rod. Unlike golf, in which you hit a ball and have to walk after it, with a bait casting rod you cast a lure and then reel it back to you. Like golf, bait casting is an exercise of skill in both distance and accuracy. You like to be able to cast the lure a long distance, when necessary, as in golf you like to make a good long drive. And as in golf, you like to make your approach shots and putts with skill and precision. More than three-quarters of golf is approach and field shots. More than four- fifths of bait casting is the making of accuracy casts at a certain rock, a certain log, a certain open space among the lily pads or rushes.

And you don’t have to walk after them.

You reel them slowly, enticingly back. Aw, bait casting has it all over any other sport you can think of. To be a practical bait caster is to experience that sense of power to its full. And you don’t have to hand in a score card, either. And you don’t even have to have somebody with you, some partner. You can get in your own boat and cast in solitary joy. If you catch fish, it is luck. The fish happened to be where you knew they should be. If you don’t catch fish, it isn’t your fault. The fish simply weren’t where they should have been. Your sense of power, of self-respect, is not damaged as it is in golf by a bad score.

“Take off that spoon,” said Jim, in the stern, “and put on a yellow and white plug.”

“Mind your own business,” I said, feeling my first cast slowly and letting the little spinner sink. My lure was a small brass and nickel spoon, on a seven-inch piano wire shank, with a weight of lead moulded right on to the piano wire to make it weighty enough to cast smoothly. Behind the spinner was a bucktail colored streamer concealing the good big bass hook. A hook that would hold the biggest muskie in the lake.

“On a day like this,” said Jim, “the muskies won’t be very active. They won’t be roaming around looking for food. They’ll be snoozing down amid the weeds, in the shadow of lily pads. You want a good bright, lively plug that will create a commotion and stir up the sense of power of the muskie. Irritate him. Challenge him. Employ your sense of power to awaken the sense of power of the muskie.”

“Now you are beginning to understand nature,” I applauded.

“Me, I’m going to use that jointed flap-doodle-bug, plug,” said Jim, “the red and yellow one with the silver spangle paint on it. I’m going to startle the muskie into feeling his authority is being flouted. A muskie rules, his bay or section of shore the way a dictator rules his nation. With endless vigilance, with tireless alertness. Let him see some creature ignoring his majesty, and the muskie takes a bang at it whether he is hungry or not.”

“I wish you understood human nature,” I said, “as well as you do muskie nature.”

“Take off that sissy little spinner,” said Jim.

“Mind your own business,” I replied.

“Hey, cast over past that little spur of rock sticking out,” hissed Jim. “There’s a deep shadow behind it. I bet it’s a pool 10 feet deep. The perfect spot for a royal snooze.”

“Look, Jim, you just paddle, see,” I said. “I do the casting. I do the picking of the spots. Your turn is next.”

However, I cast past the little spur of rock. It was, an ideal hole for a muskie. Behind the spur, the rock dropped sheer into a dark shadowy pool sheltered from the sun by rock and tree and the bush beyond. All around, for hundreds of yards, were stretches of lily pad bed, rushes and rocks where the dictator of these parts could find plenty of minnows, frogs, crawfish and the dainties of a muskie’s voracious appetite.

My lure sped in a smooth arc through the air. The little spinner spat lightly into the water a foot beyond the point of the rock spur. I commenced to reel almost at the instant the lure touched the water. As if it were some little frightened creature that had inadvertently fallen off the rock, I reeled it excitedly past the tip of rock and, stopping the reel for an instant, I let the lure pause and stagger on the very edge of the deep pool. A frightened, excited, bewildered little lure…

Action Stations

With a surge that washed waves three feet up the spur of rock, an enormous muskie rolled up out of the depth. His back, seeming a foot broad, arched out of the water, his back fin curved like a stallion’s neck. His vast reddish gleaming tail lifted and smote the water with a slap like a paddle. He dived. I struck.

With a sharp, slick snap-back of the rod tip, I set the hook in the muskie’s jaw.

“Glory!” roared Jim, starting to back the canoe away from shore.

We were about 30 feet out.

“Back, back!” I yelled.

When my hook jagged home in the huge fish’s jaw, he seemed to pause and hang suspended in the water the fraction of an instant. He shook his head. I was holding a tight line.

Realization dawned on that muskie in a lightning flash. He knew he was hooked.

“Baaa…” I screamed.

Through the water, straight for the canoe, came a great surging wave. I reeled madly. Jim backed madly.

But straight under the canoe raced the big fish, barely missing the bottom. We could feel the hump of his passage under us.

I had reeled. Not quite as fast as he had swum.

I felt the line tighten.

The muskie, feeling the sudden tension, rose for the surface and leaped.

My line was so short, his leap brought him round in an enormous, muscular curve of gnashing jaws, thrashing tail, every ounce of his many pounds of green and bronze energy flailing for its life.

Up and round he came.

Smack into the canoe, exactly between Jim and me.

His first gigantic convulsion threw my tackle box overboard. His second savage thrust pitched the lunch basket four feet in the air and overboard.

“Hey… hoy… who.. !” roared Jimmie.

“Ho, hi, wha…!” I joined.

But the thing was fated. The muskie lifted three feet in the air, and landed at my heels. He lifted four feet in the air and landed crossways within six inches of Jim’s knees.

His next crocodilian spasm upset the canoe.

Canoes always upset as if they had been built to upset. Smooth, slow, perfect.

I was still hanging on to my rod as we clung to the canoe and pushed it ashore. But when I reeled up, the muskie was gone.

We had lost our lunch, both tackle boxes, our clothes. Jim’s rod had stuck under the thwarts.

As we sat on the rock, looking at the soggy canoe and the quiet water glimmering in summer beauty before us, Jimmie raised his wrist watch. Shook it. Listened to it.

“Hmmm,” he said, “now we won’t know when my turn starts.”

Editor’s Note: Back when Jimmie was drawing for the newspaper, original art was not considered valuable. He would create these illustrations for the weekly series, or his Birdseye Center comic, and after the printers were done with them, it would be returned to him. More than likely, his early work (1910s-early 1930s) would just be thrown out after use. Later in his career, when the art was returned to him, he would often give away these originals to people who visited him at his office. A reader has sent me a picture of the original artwork for this story, where you can see the vivid colours.

Original Art, 1945

The Dangers of Thrift

July 4, 1931

This is another illustration to go with a story by Merrill Denison.

Page Mr. Ripley

July 2, 1932

Mr. Ripley would refer to Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

Page 1 of 88

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén