He waved the red bandana to and fro.

By Gregory Clark, September 13, 1930.

“Stick to Yonge St.,” said Merrill.

“It’s all right,” I said. “I know a road over here east of Yonge and we’ll avoid this traffic.”

“Every time we leave the main track,” said Merrill gloomily, “we get into trouble.”

And as a matter of fact, we did.

We were heading for an appointment at the Summit Golf Club – not a golf appointment, I may say. It was for 2.30 p.m. And when two o’clock showed on Merrill’s wrist watch out somewhere northeast of Toronto, driving on a second class road, but it wasn’t taking us near the Summit.

“Stop and ask this farmer,” advised Merrill.

We told the farmer which turn we took for the Summit Golf Club.

“Never heard of it,” said the farmer.

“Well, then, which way to Yonge St.?” I asked.

“The road to your left. But there’s a fairly good road about eight miles on.”

“There you are,” said Merrill as we drove ahead. Always leaving the beaten track and where does it get you? One good rule of life is always stick to the beaten path.”

And at that moment we passed a rise in the road and there before us lay a small town, on the hither side of which was a fall fair in full bloom.

The road was filled with cars and buggies. In the fields to the right were erected a dozen or more large marquees. The fields were filled with crowds. It was a pretty sight.

“Jove,” said Merrill, “a fall fair!”

“Isn’t it pretty? What place is this?”

“What does it matter?” said Merrill. “Let’s go to this fall fair. We’re too late now for Summit.

“I’ve always wanted to visit a fall fair,” I said.

As we drove smartly down the road, wiggled our way amongst the easy-going traffic that was tangled about the entrance gate to the field, and honked importantly at the gatekeepers.

They looked at us and immediately shouted something back into the crowd.

There was a stir of excitement.

And suddenly there emerged on the run three elderly gentlemen wearing large blue badges with the word in gold on the badges, “Official”.

They headed dead for us, wearing beaming smiles and their hands were already out-stretched.

The foremost of them leaped on the running board.

“How do you do, colonel,” he cried to Merrill, and seized Merrill’s hand.

“How do you do!” said Merrill, obviously flustered.

“We thought you would never get here,” said the official. The other two were now on the running board and were waving the gatekeepers aside as I drove slowly into the fair grounds.

“Ah, we got here,” said Merrill, who loves the feeling of being mistaken for a colonel, if only for a few minutes.

“Is this the major?” asked the chief official, smiling genially at me.

“This is the major,” said Merrill.

“Well, sir,” said the official, “it was good of you to bring a judge of hogs with you, colonel. We need some new blood in this judging business, especially in the hog line.”

“Ah,” said Merrill. “And what about me?”

Deciding to Carry On

“Oh, well,” said the official, “your reputation as a judge of cattle don’t need any discussion in these parts. I may say, colonel, this is the best turnout for our fair we’ve had in ten years, and it is largely to see you judge cattle that they’ve come out so good.”

I nudged Merrill.

He nudged me sharply, which from long experience I know to mean – “Leave this to me!”

Standing on our running-board the three forced our way through the crowd to a central spot in the midst of the fair grounds. The crowd fell back, turning respectful faces to us. Merrill sat back like a duke.

“Here we are, gents,” said the head official. We got out of the car, and the head man with great ceremony pinned large blue ribbons on Merrill and me, inscribed with the word “Judge”.

They pinned blue badges on us bearing the word “Judge”.

“Now, colonel,” said the head man, “the first one is waiting for you, if you are ready.”

“Quite,” said Merrill. “But could the major and I just wash up somewhere first? We are dusty from our travels.”

“Sure, this way,” said the head man, leading us into the marquee marked “Office,” and into a little partitioned washroom.

And there Merrill and I held a whispered and fierce discussion.

“Let’s,” said I, “crawl under the edge of this and beat it.”

“Listen,” said Merrill, “you got us into this. You took the turn off Yonge St. Now see it through.”

“But what do you know of cattle? And what the dickens do I know of hogs?”

“The ruling of a judge is final,” said Merrill in a low voice. “I know a good cow when I see one. Fat, smooth, shiny and with kind eyes. That’s how I’ll award the prizes, and I bet you Premier Ferguson could do no better.”

“And what about hogs?” said I grimly as we washed.

“Use your head,” said Merrill. “What are hogs for? They’re for bacon. So the fattest hogs get the prizes. It’s simple, after all.”

Outside the canvas wall we could hear the loud murmur and rustle of the crowd. To me it was a terrifying sound.

“Merrill, once more: will you crawl under the flap here and make a run for it with me? I’ll get behind you and help you run.”

“I was invited to be a judge,” retorted Merrill, “Far be it from me to turn down a friendly request from nice people like these.”

He put aside the flap of the washroom and I followed.

“Ready?” called the head official eagerly.

And through the respectful throng we were led to a roped off circle, where about fifteen cows were standing solemnly, with a nervous attendant standing at the head of each. To me the cows were not terrifying. But the thick-packed crowd around the roped space was.

Merrill stepped forward into the midst of the cows with confidence. I stayed at his heels.

“Class No. 27,” announced the head official in a loud voice. “Dairy cows.”

“Ah,” said Merrill, and silence fell on the crowd to hear the eminent colonel’s words.

“Dairy cows. What a splendid showing you have here!”

He surveyed the circle or solemn blinking cows and nervous handlers. He started at one cow and walked around it, examining its large bones, its horns, poking with his finger in the ribs, stroking the gleaming coat.

“Dairy cows, eh?” he said easily. “H’m. Have you chaps got your milk pails with you? Let’s see what they can do.”

The nearest cow attendants giggled and snickered.

Judging Hogs is Different

Merrill immediately smiled in the manner of one of those strong silent men who make their little jokes.

“Mmmm! Dairy cows.”

He went from cow to cow. Even I could notice a rustle in the surrounding crowd when he came to a particularly fat cow that was so low-slung she nearly touched the ground.

“Well, well!” said Merrill as he paused in front of this beast. “Step her out there, please.”

“Ahhhhh,” said the crowd. They were a big help to us. I hoped there would be as helpful a crowd around the pigs.

Merrill went completely around the circle again, listening intently for the rustle of the crowd and the “ahhhhh.” And he picked two more.

“There you are,” said he to the attending officials.

“A beautiful selection, colonel,” said the head man. “A beautiful selection. Now will you wait for the next class, or shall we walk over to the hogs and do a class there while the bulls are being brought in?”

“Why, yes,” said Merrill, turning to me. “Major, let’s judge a hog or two.”

And a lane parted amidst the admiring throng as we strolled a short distance to where another roped-off space contained about thirty hogs.

“Class 17,” shouted the head man. “Bacon hogs.”

Really, I never had a good look at a pig before. I always thought they were dirty, muddy, smelly creatures with a kind of menacing upwards glare in their pale blue eyes.

But here, with scarcely a squeal or a grunt, stood and sat thirty pigs as clean as babies. They reminded me of large babies. They were a beautiful pink color and they had hair! I never saw a pig in a butcher shop that had hair on it. I thought pigs were smooth. But here they were glowing pinkly underneath a lot of coarse blonde hair, which was parted down the middle of their backs.

“Do your stuff.” whispered Merrill, standing close behind me.

The attendants kicked those pigs that were sitting down so that they stood up in the presence of the judge.

There was a squealing and grunting. I never saw such huge pigs in my life. There was not one of the thirty that didn’t weigh more than I.

“Rather hairy, aren’t they?” I asked the head official.

He laughed heartily.

“It’s this north country air,” said he. He repeated my witticism to the other officials. Even the crowd laughed merrily, though they couldn’t hear my joke for the squealing and grunting.

“Bacon hogs, eh?” said I. I walked up to the nearest and took a handful of his bacon. The pig squealed angrily and tried to jerk away from his holder.

“A bit soft,” said I. “I like a bacon hog that has got lots of good firm bacon.”

“A bit soft,” said I. “I like good firm bacon.”

I tried a good handful of another pig, and it squealed indignantly. The crowd was not helping me the way it did Merrill. In fact, the crowd seemed to be squealing a little the way the pig did.

“Let’s see,” said l, stepping back into the middle of the judging ring, “put them through their paces.”

The officials seemed a little dazed. All the hog-handlers stood undecided.

“Put them through their paces,” I said loudly. “I can judge hogs better when I see them moving.”

Testing the Spirit of the Bulls

Merrill says the trouble started right then. I think it was later. But at any rate there was rather a scene. The handlers all started hauling on their pigs, and the pigs backed up and screamed, some lay down, others bolted, and two got away from their handlers and dashed through the legs of the surrounding crowd.

It wasn’t a panic, really. But I was glad when the officials said they would judge the hogs a little later, after they had got them sorted out and quieted down.

As we walked back to the cattle ring I said to the head official:

“I always do that when judging hogs. I like to stir them up. I like to know something about a hog besides its looks. You can’t tell good bacon just by looking at it.”

“I believe you’re right,” said the head man, a little bewildered. But he was getting nervous.

When we got back to the cattle ring there stood six bulls. I don’t know what sort they were, but they were huge and brown, with thick ugly horns; the fat, thick sort of bulls who look at you with a bloated sort of expression, yet they were upholstered with muscle like car cushions. Each had a nose ring in his nose, and each rolled his eyes terribly.

“Class 11,” called the head official. “Mrrrshhllrr bulls!”

I didn’t catch the name of the bulls. Merrill said afterwards that they were Spanish bulls.

Merrill stepped boldly into the ring, but I hung near the edge.

He walked up to the left hand one and looked it in the eye. The man holding it had a large club attached to the ring in its nose.

The bull snorted at Merrill and its eyes fairly burned. If I were a bull, Merrill is just the sort of person I would like to toss.

Merrill examined bull, prodded one or two gingerly, slapped couple courageously.

Then he stepped back into the ring, obviously puzzled.

“Well, gentlemen,” said he, “there’s a very interesting collection of bulls. You may not see, at first glance, the merits of one or two of them, but to the trained eye, there are qualities in all these bulls that are of paramount importance from the point of view of the experienced judge.”

Everybody was impressed. But Merrill’s voice has something in it that seemed to irritate the bulls. They were all tossing their heads, rolling their eyes, blowing their breath outward and pawing the ground. The handlers were all dancing anxiously about on the end of the nose ring ropes.

“One factor,” continued Merrill, “I always introduce in a case like this is the question of the spirit of bulls. Given six bulls of equal though essentially dissimilar values, I ask myself, what is their spirit? For without spirit, what is a bull after all?”

“That’s a fact,” said the officials.

“Major,” called Merrill, “lend your handkerchief.”

Now Merrill knew that being a fisherman, my handkerchief is a bandanna.

“No, no!” I cried, in low voice. Being a fisherman I also know my bulls.

“Your handkerchief, major,” called Merrill in the best colonel manner. The officials turned and looked at me expectantly.

I walked up to Merrill and very cautiously handed him my red bandanna all squeezed into a tight ball.

“Now then,” said Merrill, “gentlemen, let’s see the spirit of these bulls.”

And he shook out the large red bandanna and waved it to and fro.

“Don’t Talk – Watch Behind”

All I recollect is great whirl and blur consisting mostly of dust, human legs and loud roars that seemed more like motor horns than bulls. But my devotion to Merrill has already outlived many a storm, so I managed to grasp him by some of the slack of his clothing and I clung grimly to him and dug my heels into the earth and backed. Out of that whirling mass of mankind and bullkind, we managed to struggle.

When we got out behind the official tent only two of the officials were to be found. The head man was gone. The crowd was scattered into small groups either hiding behind tents or running for the fences. And there were bulls with attendants clinging to their noses all over the place.

“The test didn’t work,” said Merrill heart-brokenly. “All six of those bulls have spirit. I don’t know what basis I can judge them on. Really, I can’t.”

The two officials said nothing, but there was a curious old-fashioned market day glint in their eyes.

At that moment another man we had not seen before, who alto was wearing an “official” badge, came running up to us.

“There’s a man out here,” said he, “who says he is Colonel Deacon, and that he’s to judge the cattle.”

“Eh!” snorted the two officials with us. They, too, sounded like bulls.

“He’s got another big fellow with him who says he’s to judge hogs.” said the newcomer. “They won’t listen to me. I tell them the judges is here.”

I may take wrong turnings. But I also know how to take a right turning. I took one right now.

“Let us see this Colonel Deacon,” said I in the commanding voice bull-fighters must use. And, giving Merrill’s arm a sharp tweak, I strode towards the gate. The crowd still made way for us. Even a bull got out of our way.

Merrill followed me close, with a belligerent air about him.

As we passed my car, I paused.

“Colonel,” I said to Merrill, “get in here.”

Merrill got in.

The officials stood irresolute, as if they had something on their mind.

I started the car. I put my elbow on the horn and kept it there. I drove for the gate.

As we passed a limousine in the gateway, Merrill lifted his hat. Inside were two large gentlemen looking the way we had looked only a little while before when we had been welcomed at the gate.

But we only caught a fleeting glimpse of them. We were already hitting thirty.

“Judge not,” said Merrill, as we flew up the gravel road and put the hill between us and the fair, “that ye be not judged.”

“Don’t talk,” said I. “Watch behind. We may be pursued.”

“They won’t pursue us,” said Merrill. “They’re tired of us by now.”

“I’m going to turn off the first side road to put them off the scent,” said l.

“Listen.” said Merrill, “get back to Yonge St. just soon as you can.”

Editor’s Notes: This is another proto-Greg-Jim story, this time with our old friend Merrill Denison.

Howard Ferguson was Premier of Ontario from 1923 to 1930.