“What do you mean by dragging us all over the country?” I said, slithering out of the trailer.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, July 21, 1934.

“How,” asked Jimmie Frise, “do you sleep these hot nights?”

“Just the same,” I answered. “On top of the bed.”

“I mean, do you sleep well?”

“Say, Jimmie, I sleep like a log. All I have to do is get into a horizontal position and inside of about a hundred seconds I’m sound asleep.”

“Sleep is a great blessing,” said Jim. “I sleep like a top, too.”

“Why,” I said, “I have to fight like the dickens against sleep when I am in the dentist’s chair; and whenever I get shaved by a barber I always go to sleep. Horizontal. That’s all I need to be.”

“Boy,” said Jim, “I’ve slept in some of the funniest places. I’ve slept on the back of a mule. And the mule was moving. I’ve slept in a wheelbarrow. I’ve slept in a canoe.”

“I,” I said, “have slept in an aeroplane, in the mud, a foot deep, and me sound asleep in it. I’ve slept on the floor for two years. And I liked it. Board floors.”

“Ah,” said Jimmie, “those old war days! They showed us a few things about human nature, didn’t they? Some of us went to war with the funniest ideas of how essential comfort was to human happiness. And we learned we could be perfectly happy forever without beds, baths, chairs, roofs, walls.”

“Sometimes, Jimmie,” I said, “I often feel like getting out of bed and sleeping on the hard floor just for old times’ sake.”

“I wonder,” said Jim, “if we could stand it now or have we grown soft? Remember, we were a lot younger in those days. The young can stand a great deal.”

“Pshaw!” I cried. “Jimmie, I am tougher than I was in those days. I was just a young cub, a softie. I had never been away from my mother’s apron-strings. I bet, if we had to, we could stand twice the hardship now and feel it less.”

“Our wives are away,” said Jim, musingly. “I tell you what we might do some night. We might just drive out into the country a little way and lie down on the ground and sleep. For old times’ sake.”

“I’m on,” I said. “Any time.”

So that hot night last week Jim called for me and said if I had nothing better to do we would go out and sleep on the roadside. “The sun will wake us at reveille, as usual,” said Jim, “and we can drive back to town and have a bath and shave and change our suits before time to go to work.”

“Better go in our old clothes,” I said. So we changed into old fishing clothes and went for a drive.

Out west of the city we turned up a pleasant summer road in the night, and the summer stars glowed down and the young couples were parked along the road and as we took such turns into country byways as fancy directed us we saw cows with insomnia behind the rail fences and the toads trilled and the crickets chirped.

“Gosh,” said Jim, “I don’t feel like sleep yet. Let’s just dangle along until we get sleepy.”

“Not too far from town,” I said.

Glorious Freedom

“Lets take roads we never saw before,” said Jim. So we went hunting for roads we had never been on and it was a good game.

We passed Malton and Brampton and Georgetown. We passed Acton and Ospringe and Eramosa. We got down roads that ended in corduroy, and over high hills that seemed to touch the liquid stars, and through cool, dank cedar swamps, where we heard mysterious sounds in the depths when we stopped the car.

“It’s pretty near bedtime,” I said.

“Yeah,” yawned Jimmie. “We can turn. In any time now. Just pick a nice-looking bank of the road and we’ll go to bed.”

It was a glorious feeling. Without a care in the world. With no property like houses to surround and smother us. Just the wide and starry sky for our coverlet and the good old earth for our bed.

We came out into a level country in which dark farmhouses stood under the starlight faintly and under an elm tree we stopped the car and got out.

“O-wah,” yawned Jim, stretching. “This’ll do me.”

I found another good spot and sat down. “Well, Jimmie, sweet dreams.”

In the army I slept on the flat of my back and preferred plain boards to straw or any other so called bedding. I turned on my back under the elm tree, put my arm under my head and relaxed.

A bug jumped on to my face and off again. Something creepy jittered through the grass near my down ear. A stone began to press into my hip joint. I shifted.

“Oo-wah,” yawned Jimmie and shifted. He was about eight feet from me.

Something soft and small, like a green worm, dropped from the elm tree and hit my vest. I sat up and brushed it off.

Jim shifted.

“Isn’t this swell?” said Jim, sleepily.

I lay down and breathed deeply. Another stone was gouging my shoulder. I shifted and squirmed and burrowed with my back to find a good place on which to arrange my various touching-spots. Some extremely small thing, an ant probably, ran quickly across from my chin, past the corner of my mouth to my eyelid before I brushed it off.

“Kind of buggy around here,” I said.

“Remember the earwigs in France?” asked Jim, eagerly, propping up on one elbow.

“Say,” I said, sitting up and reaching for a cigarette, “weren’t they the limit! Worse than cockroaches.”

So Jim and I both sat up and talked about earwigs for one cigarette. Then we lay down again. I got a little better place this time and got half drowsy when a stone again wakened me and I was just in time to see Jimmie creeping on hands and knees toward the car. I watched him reach up and very softly turn the door-handle and start to get into the car, when I called him.


“Yes! I was just going to see if the key was turned off.”

I got up. The stars were still where they were. The night was still filled with the trill of toads and the chirp of crickets.

“Let’s go and find a barn or something,” I said. “I was never much good at sleeping on the ground. It was more on hard boards, as I said. Hard boards, that’s what I was good at.”

A Ghostly Awakening

So we started the car. It must have been midnight. And we coasted along to somewhere near Fergus, when, rounding a bend, we came in sight of a regular little village of tourist cabins.

“The very thing!” cried Jimmie and I together.

“Why didn’t we think of it before?” exclaimed Jimmie. “A tourist cabin. With no bedding. Just right on the floor. It’s perfect.”

We drove into the yard of the tourist camp. All was still and dark. We parked the car and walked around looking for the head-office. At the gas pump was a small shack, but nobody was in it.

We rapped delicately at one of the cabins.

“Hello,” said a sleepy voice.

“Can we get a cabin for the night,” asked Jim.

“Sure. Help yourself. The man has gone home, but help yourself. Down the far end,” said the voice.

We walked down the row of cabins. Some were single and some were double. There were new ones and last year’s ones. At the far end we tried two or three doors, but they were locked and sleepy sounds indicated they were occupied.

And at the very end we came to the dearest little cabin of all. It was low and not too wide. It stood a little apart and we feared it must be occupied, too. But when we tried the door it opened, to reveal a perfectly empty little cabin, without beds even, without any furniture at all. Just a little bare cabin without windows, but ventilated by slits along the eaves.

“Swell,” said Jimmie, lighting a match.

So we just slid in, closed the doors and, lying down in perfect comfort on the painted board floor, it was no time until we were asleep. I heard a snore from Jim. Then I heard a snore from myself. And I knew all was well. I just let go.

The next thing I knew Jimmie was shaking me excitedly.

“Hey, hey!” he cried hoarsely.

I woke up in terrible confusion. It was unreal and ghostly and frightening. It was pitch-dark.

And our cabin was travelling, humming, racing through space!

“Jimmie!” I yelled.

“We’re moving,” shouted Jimmie, attempting to stand up in the lurching cabin. We could hardly hear ourselves speak.

“Hey, hey, HEY, HALLLOOOOO!” we roared, hammering on the walls, the front, the back of the swaying, lurching cabin.

“Jimmie,” I cried, “what has happened?”

“I just half heard a sort of grating sound,” shouted Jim, “in my sleep. I tried to wake up, but I couldn’t. And the next thing I knew I felt the cabin starting to move.”

“Jimmie,” I wailed, “it isn’t a cabin. It’s a trailer. Hey, hey, stop, STOP!”

“Hey, hallooo, stop, stop!” yelled Jimmie, banging at the walls.

But we just went rolling along.

“Jimmie,” I said, “heaven knows where we are heading.”

“Take it easy,” said Jim, sitting down again on the floor. “This guy will have to stop sooner or later. At a crossing. Or for gas. And when he stops we can get out. There is no use making any fuss now. He can’t hear us.”

“Couldn’t you see it was a trailer?” I demanded indignantly.

“I was so sleepy,” said Jim.

“Could we try to jump out the door if he slows down?”

“I tried the latch,” said Jimmie. “It doesn’t open from the inside.”

“We may end up in Montreal,” I declared bitterly, “or North Bay.”

“He’ll stop sooner or later,” said Jim. “Just save your wind.”

So we sat there, wide awake, on the floor of that rushing, gravel-flinging, lurching trailer, while the driver, with never a slackening, with never a slow-down for crossroads or towns, bore through the night. We felt pavement under us several times, then gravel again, then pavement for a long time. It was quieter, and we shouted and banged, but it was no use, as the trailer had a clatter all its own that made conversation difficult. And the absence of windows gave us no chance to do any practical yelling.

“It’s getting daylight,” said Jim. And through cracks along the pent roof I could see faint streaks of gray.

Mile after mile we ticked along, but neither Jim nor I could close an eye.

“Hist!” cried Jim.

We heard a train whistling.

“Wooo, woo-woo!”

“A train!”

Again it whistled, faint but nearer. “Jimmie, I hope he sees it!”

The train whistled again, nearer. A moment later, as we sat clutched in our own muscles, it whistled, nearer, nearer, and we felt the speed of the trailer increase.

“Jimmie,” I hissed, “the fool is racing!” This time the engine whistle sounded very, very near and the speed of the car never slackened.

“Good-by, Jimmie,” I said.

Then the brakes went on, the trailer wobbled and lurched and we heard the train roar and whistle fiercely past us only a few feet away.

“Get ready,” said Jim. “Keep time with me when I yell and hammer.”

We heard the train’s end whizz by. The trailer jerked.

“Hoy!” we roared, banging in unison on the walls of our prison. “Hoy, hoy, hoy!”

The trailer, which had started to move, slowed, bumped over the railway tracks and came to a dead stop.

“Hello, there! Hoy, thump, thump!”

“What the heck!” said a voice muffled from without.

“Let us out!” we shouted.

The door of the trailer opened.

“What are you doing in there?” demanded a figure in the dawn, stepping back in alarm.

“What do you mean by dragging us all over the country?” I shouted, slithering out of the trailer.

So we explained it to one another. We told about calling at the tourist camp and being told to take the end cabin.

“But couldn’t you see this was a trailer?” asked the motorist.

“It was standing there, just like a cabin,” we insisted. “Where are we?”

“We’re about ten miles north of Huntsville,” said our host.

“What are you going to do about getting us back?” I asked.

“Sorry,” said he. “I am delayed now. I am taking this trailer up to Lake Nipissing and promised to be there by morning. I had parked it where you found it while I ran into Fergus for provisions.”

“But I have no money,” I exclaimed.

Jim had eighty-five cents.

“I tell you what I’ll do,” said the stranger, shutting the trailer door, “I’ll compromise with you. I’ll leave you here instead of taking you on to Nipissing.”

And before you could say Jim Frise he had walked up to his car, got in and drove off.

“Jimmie,” I said, “he can’t do that!”

“He’s done it,” said Jim, walking over to the side of the highway to sit down and wait daylight, which was just breaking.

So we sat there until a poor, lonesome commercial traveller came south from Sudbury and picked us up and talked us both to sleep.

Which we did until he waked us at St. Clair avenue.

“What are you doing in there?” demanded the man in alarm. “What do you mean dragging us all over the country?” I shouted, slithering out of the trailer.

Editor’s Note: This story was repeated on July 27, 1940 as “Sleep Riders”.