The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Category: Other Story Page 1 of 7

House Husbandry Course at the “Tech” to Train Young Men to be Useful Bridegrooms

“House-husbands qualified in all the domestic arts from, washing celery to basting a roast of beef”

Ornamental Hubbies Have Gone Out of Fashion – The Lad Who Has the Call To-day Is He Who Knows How to Prepare a Dainty Breakfast to Be Served to Milady in Bed.

By Gregory Clark, February 12, 1921.

The technical school, it is said, is about to institute a course in domestic science for young house-husbands.

In the last couple of years a very considerable demand has arisen for some sort of instruction for young men in light housekeeping, such as preparing dainty breakfasts, knocking out omelettes, tastefully arranging tea trays, and the like.

For in the most advanced feminine circles of younger Toronto the first requisite in a good husband is not his good looks, nor, indeed, how much money he makes; but whether he is handy at preparing a dainty meal on a tray to be consumed in bed.

And it is with regret that I must bring credence to this astonishing rumor.

When Jack married Ysobel six months ago, no one was more confounded than I. Jack is an amiable fellow, of course. But he is a shabby, moth-eaten little fellow, with a pet dog sort of an expression – perky, you know, but tame. And as for his other qualifications for marrying the magnificent Ysobel, the debonnaire, the almost boyish Ysobel, well, he is one of those bond salesmen who spend a busy day between the five soda fountains of Yonge street.

His income, as far as any of us ever knew, is equal to four sodas and one chocolate-egg1 per diem,

But he married Ysobel. And there they live, in their sporty apartment, amid a bliss that is the envy of all their friends, an ill-mated but preposterously happy couple.

What was the attraction Jack possessed? He tried to intimate to me that it was his war record that turned the trick. But I knew that Ysobel had been pursued by D. S. O.2‘s in her day, and Jack had not even the M. C.3

Only last week I made the amazing discovery.

I was passing Jack’s apartment house about ten in the morning, and decided to call and see if he would walk down town with me.

I rang his apartment bell, and Jack himself answered the door.

Jack, not yet shaven and partly dressed, with a print apron tied under his arms.

“Jack, partly dressed, with a print apron tied under his arms”

“Come in, old bean!” he cried, with a false joviality. He was blushing through his stubble.

He led me into the sitting room and sat down with me in an awkward silence.

“Thought I’d call to see if you are walking down,” I said.

“I’m hardly ready,” replied Jack.

“I’ll wait,” said I, cheerfully, with the cunning of a wolf on the scent.

And just at that moment, the sleepy, muffled voice of Ysobel rose from behind the bedroom door:

“Jack, Jack! What are you doing? When do I get my breakfast?”

It was out. The secret was mine. Before I left with Jack, Ysobel, magnificent and drowsy in her kimono, had spilled all the beans to me.

“Why, Jack is the dandiest house-husband imaginable,” she said. “His breakfasts are delicious and endless in their variety. And on Sundays he can cook a dinner and serve a tea that would knock your eye out!”

There lay his charm.

Since last week I have made great progress in this discovery. By dropping unexpectedly on all my young married friends, at odd hours of the day. I have found that almost without exception the husbands of the past couple of years are house-husbands, qualified in all the lighter domestic arts from washing celery to basting a roast of beef.

Is this the beginning of the revolt of women? Thus quietly and secretly are they inserting the thin end of the wedge of domestic equality?

Possibly the war had something to do with it. All these young fellows overseas, saying “Yes, sir,” and “No, sir,” for four years, clicking to everybody. And when they got home habit got the better of them, and they weren’t happy unless they were clicking to somebody. So they click to their wives.

It is a widespread and dangerous thing. Where will it end? I know one young fellow whose mother-in- law, who lives with him and his wife, informed him that the reason she supported his suit for her daughter’s hand was that all her life she had yearned to have a son-in-law who would get her her breakfast in bed. And he had looked promising to her!

It is a conspiracy, that’s what it is. We men should get together. Anyway, I purpose this article to serve as notice to certain parties who shall be nameless that in future they need not expect me to get their breakfasts for them except on Sundays and statutory holidays.


Editor’s Notes: Yes, this story is pretty sexist, but still highlights the confusion over changing roles after World War One and the “flapper” women.

  1. A chocolate egg cream was a popular soda fountain drink. ↩︎
  2. Distinguished Service Order ↩︎
  3. Military Cross ↩︎

Wine and Water

She rose quietly and came over to Hubert, who had removed his hat and was looking at her dumbly.

By Gregory Clark, February 4, 1922.

Three generations in the city, and the wine of life becomes water.

The third generation born and bred in the city has lost its spring, its sparkle, its flavor. It does one of two things. It seeks artificial and erotic stimulation, and so becomes that type of sophisticated and effete waster common enough in cities. Or it succumbs to the enfeeblement it feels within its veins, and joins the lower ranks of those drab, mechanical tollers who are the chief inhabitants of cities, the fourth or tenth or fiftieth generation of dwellers in cities.

For there appears to be an energy in the soil that man must absorb. The city man goes away in summer for a two-week holiday close to the soil, and sucks enough of this mysterious energy out of the earth to revive him for a year. But presently there comes to town a young man born and raised close to the earth and abounding in this primitive energy. And he drives the city man to the wall; outlasts him, out-moves him, skins him, picks his bones.

But this new man’s grandson is in turn the victim of a newcomer, fresh from the soil. All about us are examples of the third urbane generation putting up its unconscious struggle against a soily Fate. In some of the wealthier families, so filled were the first generations with energy, as the wealth they accumulated bears witness, that the fourth generation is sometimes left still in the ring.

But we have made the pursuits of the soil so hard, unpleasant and unprofitable that the enfeebled generation finds it easier to slip back into the permanent category of the city’s damned than to return boldly to the soil to recuperate in a few generations the supply of vital energy.

There is a way out, nevertheless.

And J. Hubert Waterberry found it.

Hubert was the third generation in Toronto. His grandfather, son of an immigrant who fought with Mackenzie’s rebels in 1837, came to town and built up a great contracting and building business. Scores of houses still standing south of Carlton street were built by Hubert’s grandfather.

Hubert’s father, however, was sent to school and became a lawyer. A good lawyer, too. He had offices in Victoria street and developed a big practice. But he found professional life to be merely the service of business life, and he determined that his son Hubert should be a business man.

Hubert was twenty-one in the year 1900. He was a sophisticated, elegant young man, fresh from college. His father got him into a prosperous firm of insurance brokers.

When Hubert was thirty, he was a bachelor. He had been hectically in love with several girls, but all had rejected him, in an indifferent way, as if they had sensed a want of energy in him. At thirty, he was feeling that want of stamina. On his father’s death, he used up every atom of his energy in breaking away from the big insurance firm with another young member of it, and starting a business of their own with the old man’s money.

But after five years, Hubert’s partner became restless for some reason and left the partnership.

At forty, Hubert was not so much a bachelor as an old maid. His office was a dim, dusty mausoleum in that remote district behind the King Edward Hotel. His business was reduced to those old accounts which had not yet been won away from him by live competitors. Hubert lived in the same select boarding house on Sherbourne street which he had taken on his father’s death.

Hubert’s only employe was elderly Miss Murdagh, who had been middle-aged when Hubert brought her with him from the old company.

In the dim office, with its maps, calendars and directories, these two sat from nine a.m. to five p.m., writing letters, issuing renewals of policies, but rarely going out for new business.

He had no clubs, no recreations. He read his newspaper at night, sometimes he went to a theatre or a lecture. His only hobby was his health, which, finding its self an object of interest, became steadily more complex.

His hair grew thin and grey. At forty he looked fifty.

Then one day old Miss Murdagh failed to turn up at the office. Hubert phoned her boarding house and learned that she had died during the night, quite unexpectedly.

Hubert was badly upset. He could handle the work all right, but it meant hustling. And Hubert had not hustled in fifteen years. three weeks after Miss Murdagh’s funeral at which Hubert was the chief mourner, he struggled alone in his dusty office, but found a wave of untidiness, disorder and tangled business engulfing him. Several faithful old accounts phoned him impatiently. Each night he went home later and more distressed.

He decided he would have to get help. After writing and re-writing half a hundred ads., he went down at noon one day to the newspaper offices with this:

“Wanted a mature woman acquainted with insurance business and office work. Telephone Mr. Waterberry, Main –”

At three o’clock that afternoon, girls began phoning him and calling at his office. They had looked up his address in the phone book. Hubert got into a panic. Suppose he picked the wrong girl? He couldn’t tell what they, were like over the phone. All who called at the office were young, flippant girls with powdered faces–

At three forty-five, with the telephone ringing. Hubert breathlessly seized hat and coat, locked up his office and fled home.

As he sat in his room waiting till dinner time, Hubert was filled with alarm. What would he do? Doubtless, when he went down to his office in the morning, there would be a queue of girls a mile long. He’d have to pick one. And Hubert didn’t want to have to pick one. He had lost his nerve. He would perhaps pick some horrible, hustling, cocksure creature.

Hubert decided he would be ill, in bed tomorrow, and maybe the ad. would blow over.

Just before supper-time, there was a knock on his door, and the housemaid said:

“You’re wanted on the phone, sir!”

Hubert went down.

“Mr. Waterberry?” asked a pleasant feminine voice.

“Yes,” His heart sank.

“I am answering your ad. in the paper today,” said the voice. “I hunted you up in the directory, finding your office, closed. Am I too late?”

Hubert was reassured by the softness of the voice. He could picture another Miss Murdagh.

“No,” he said.

“Then, I’ve had experience in insurance office work, not in Toronto, but in a small town in western Ontario,” said the woman. “I am very anxious to get any work, so whatever you regard as a fair salary I am willing to take.”

“Yes. All right,” said Hubert.

“Shall I call at nine or earlier?”

Hubert had an inspiration.

“Yes. And – and would you mind – I’m not very well – perhaps if you would take charge of the office for the morning and deal with the other applicants?”

“Why, yes!” said the woman. “The key?”

“Could you call here at my boarding house to-night? I’ll leave it with the housekeeper,” said Hubert.

“Very well.”

And Hubert, leaving the office key in an envelope, fled out and had dinner at a restaurant and spent a most enjoyable evening at Shea’s1.

The following morning Hubert went down town before lunch. He couldn’t help walking past his office, just to see–. There was no line-up of painted girls. He entered the building and paused outside his office door to listen.

There was a strenuous sound as of someone house-cleaning.

Hubert could scarcely eat his lunch, he was so excited. What if this woman he had engaged turned out to be one of those energetic, aggressive, chirpy women? What if she were young and bouncy? And Hubert spent a few minutes in prayerful remembrance of quiet, stodgy old Miss Murdagh.

Bracing himself, at two o’clock Hubert shoved himself down the back streets to his office. With leaden feet he climbed the old wooden stairs. He rapped nervously on his own office door and entered.

At the typewriter sat a big, splendid, brown-haired girl in a blue skirt and white waist.

She rose quietly and came over to Hubert, who had removed his hat and was looking at her dumbly. She smiled at him.

“Yes?” she said.

“I-I-ah!” said Hubert.

He looked expectantly at her. “Are – are you-?” he began.

“I’m in charge of the office. Mr. Waterberry is not in yet? Is there anything I can do?” said the pleasant young lady.

“Well,” said Hubert, immensely confused, and laying his hat down on a desk with an attempt at the proprietorial air. “I’m – ah – that is to say you see, I am –!”

“Ah, you’d care to wait?” said the girl, pulling out a chair.

And nodding pleasantly to him, she returned to the typewriter.

Hubert sat down weakly. He gazed around the office, noting its tidiness and order. “I – ah” he began.

The girl swung on her chair.

“You see,” said Hubert, “I’m Mr. Waterberry!”

What happened afterwards was a golden memory all his life to Hubert. The girl leaped up and helped him out of his coat. She escorted him over to his swivel chair. She was blushing furiously.

“Why – when you knocked,” she was saying, “you see, I was expecting Mr. Waterberry – but when you knocked, I thought you were a client. And then, when you stood there, with your hat in your hand –“

Her eyes were glimmering with laughter. Hubert looked sheepishly up at her and smiled. Then out came the laughter, boiling and bubbling. And Hubert suddenly joined in. He leaned back and laughed till he wept. They looked at each other and laughed again. It was years since Hubert had laughed with anybody. Years and years. It was a wonderful sensation. He hated to stop laughing. So he confessed about his fear, and how he ran away from the office yesterday -and – and –

So they chuckled and laughed. They exchanged confidences. Hubert how he detested these modern office girls. The girl, how she had come to move to Toronto. The minutes passed. Then an hour. Still they were talking. Hubert was zestfully explaining to her her work, the various accounts.

It was a long time since Hubert had been intimate with anyone.

When dusk caught them in the dim office. Hubert regretfully closed the discussion. He bade her a most cheery good night and went home feeling better than he ever remembered feeling in his life.

It was a new world for Hubert. It was a pleasure to go to the office. He felt infinitely younger, boundlessly young. The girl talked before a week was out, quite boldly about the need of new business. She discovered openings for it in old accounts. Hubert went and got it.

At the end of a year, the business and Hubert were so changed that Miss Pigeon – that was her name -found it necessary to hire another girl, and a little later, a young man.

She won Hubert over to joining a golf club. On business grounds.

Hubert and she still kept sacred their regular daily laugh and exchange of confidences. It was found necessary, after a while, to go to lunch together in order to complete these conversations. And finally, it came to theatres and movies.

Naturally, the whole thing had but one end. Hubert felt himself drawing the very breath of life through this vigorous, splendid girl. He depended on her more and more, in countless little ways, and in big ways.

Finally, she helped him select a new overcoat and hat.

He looked in the mirror of the hat store and beheld a mere lad of forty – a swagger, upstanding fellow–

And when they closed up the office that evening, the juniors having gone, Hubert helped Miss Pigeon with her ulster2. As he did so, something that had been smoldering in him all afternoon, broke loose. He felt as if an electric current were flowing from her to him, a magnetic, swirling current. And he released his hold on the collar of her ulster only to seize her shoulders, turn her around to face him and stare breathlessly and foolishly at her, and then enfold her in a vast, stupid hug.

Romance: thou art as sly of foot in Wellington street as in the castled fastnesses of Rosedale.

They were married in no time. They live in a bungalow out beyond High Park, in an atmosphere of the most absurd happiness, forty-four and twenty-five.

“You’ve made a new man of me,” says Hubert, at least once every twenty-four hours.

But while Hubert is aware of it, he doesn’t give proper value to the fact that his pigeon was born and raised on the farm.


Editor’s Notes:

  1. Shea’s Hippodrome opened in 1914, and was the largest movie palace in Canada, and one of the largest vaudeville theatres in the world. It was demolished in 1957 to make way for Toronto’s new City Hall. ↩︎
  2. An Ulster coat is a Victorian style working daytime overcoat, with a cape and sleeves. ↩︎

One Keg of Rum

He hoisted one keg on his shoulder and fled by a roundabout overland route back to the horse lines where the pipers were waiting.
“It must be gas,” cried the major excitedly. “Don’t stand there, sergeant. Get four men at once and rush him back to the dressing station.”

By Gregory Clark, January 31, 1931.

In every regiment there are wheels within wheels. The colonel, the adjutant and the regimental sergeant-major are supposed to be the three paramount powers in whose hands separately and collectively the fate of thousand men lies.

But it is not so. Underneath the polished exterior of a regiment of infantry, shunting and wheeling and sloping arms so magnificently to the barked commands of one lone voice, there revolve wheels within wheels. Cliques, intrigues, parties grow and flourish. Some are founded on social distinctions, whereby men who were clerks and schoolmasters separate themselves from those of rougher hand. Others divided themselves on the substantial basis of county, so that men of Grey and Bruce held themselves in league against the men of Frontenac or the Maritimes.

But the greatest wheel of all, the mainspring of the works, was a sort of shabby Masonic brotherhood that scorned all pride of place or social position, and leaped the bounds of company or even the greater bounds of period of service, and consisted of those in the regiment who were ultra hard-boiled1. This secret society existed in every battalion of a thousand men. It was officered by a few old-timers, some of whom ranked as corporals or even as sergeants. Its membership was recruited from all companies, and even the signallers and scouts and the transport section contributed their little quota. If you were tough, you needed not to be a year or even six months with the battalion to be made welcome within the sanctuary of this old-soldiers’ lodge.

Most of the mysteries in any regiment’s history can be attributed to this ancient brotherhood. They held no meeting, they possessed no lodge room. Any estaminet2, any dugout, where two or three of them gathered together, was the holies of holies. These knights errant, who pitted their wits against highly technical fortifications of modern military organization were the heirs to the soldiers of fortune who, until a hundred years ago, roved the world in search of payment for their swords. It stands to reason that soldiers of fortune, like singers and dancers and horsemen born to a saddle, should still survive in this age.

I knew that my Corporal Jimmie Post was one of the high-ups within this secret sodality. Post was dusky, with mocking eyes and a scornful mouth, who sang courage back into his platoon with unspeakable songs, and who was to be found in time of disaster not with the little cliques of the brave, but lending his arrogant voice to comfort the weakest sister in the sector. He was aware of his gift of courage. He could throw it, a sort of blanket, around those of us who needed warmth in the cold gulf of fear. And he employed that mantle, and gloried in it.

Brotherhood’s Senior Warden

Court martials went astray, punishments were deflected, plans went amiss in that clean cold region where colonels, adjutants and regimental sergeant-majors live. And Corporal Jimmie Post knew all about it in advance. If any of my men got into serious trouble, Post would tell me, it would be all right. And it would be. Hard-looking strangers from other companies used to come into my trench and talk with Post. And he would be absent occasionally visiting abroad in the regiment in the line. Whenever I would be orderly officer, I would sometimes come on an estaminet being emptied at last post, where the gathering would adjourn with all the earmarks of a lodge meeting coming to an end; and Post was always in these companies. Post was senior warden, if not better, in some indefinable brotherhood of warriors.

Contrasted with Post, Sergeant Buster Parker had a saintly look. He was only a boy, but he had and still has, though one of his legs is gone, a mouthful of the most wholesome flashing teeth I ever saw in a human head. And, like many other men who had that flashing smile, he was gifted with power over his fellows. Despite the fact that he was a boy, Buster Parker was a sergeant and a crackerjack. And it was hard for me to believe now that if Corporal Jimmie Post was senior warden of that secret society in our regiment, Sergeant Buster Parker was worshipful master.

Captain Hal Franks, quartermaster, Lieutenant Seth Norton, transport officer and I as assistant or rear adjutant, were the officers of the horse lines who at that time were dwelling in comfort and security amidst the mud of Neuville St. Vaast while our regiment was up in the reaches beyond Vimy Ridge. Around us were uncamped the rear details, the drivers, the wagons, the orderly room and record clerks, the brass band and the pipe band, the provost sergeant and the artificers3 who are the tailors, horseshoers, carpenters and so forth; all of us the commissariat details of a regiment in the line, who take up their feed each night, and to whom the regiment comes back for rest when relieved.

We were a bomb-proof lot. Mostly old soldiers, retired to his ignominious region by reason of long service or weak backs. And we understood one another perfectly and got along like a lot of creatures in a barnyard.

There was an outbreak of impetigo4 in the regiment. Nasty skin disease that broke out all over, on the legs, body, hands and face. A few of the more valuable non-commissioned officers were sent out of the line to get themselves doctored up. But for most of the troops, it just meant salve and bandages.

Amongst those sent down to the horse-lines, I was delighted to find my old platoon corporal, Post, from whom I had been separated when I was promoted to the eminence and absurdity of assistant adjutant at the rear.

And a day or two later came down Sergeant Buster Parker, with sores like pennies all over his legs.

We spent some pleasant afternoons together in the thin March sunlight of Neuville St. Vaast and Aux Rietz Corners, talking of old-timers and how soft the war had been in my time as compared with now.

There would be, in all, counting these sick, lame and lazy and all the drivers and bandsmen, about a hundred and fifteen dwelling in the huts and tents of our rear camp.

A Memorable Saturday Night

It was a Saturday night that trouble came.

Out in the March night the wind howled and a chill rain lashed our hut. Captain Franks, Norton and I sat about our table, reading and writing and chatting in the desultory fashion known to rear headquarters. The batmen5 had retired. Our bedrooms were laid out. Captain Franks undressed and was preparing to insert himself into his blankets when, on the wild night air, there sounded a snatch of song.

Captain Franks, the senior, nodded to the door and I went and opened and listened. Through the storm and rain and across the mud I could see the lights burned in the scattered huts, and from them came the murmur of many voices.

And in a rift of the wind there came to us the loud skirl of bagpipes.

“Take a look around,” said Captain Franks. “It’s going on for eleven o’clock.”

I pulled on my rubber boots and raincoat and sloshed out into the night. The nearest hut was the guard-room where the provost sergeant lived in charge of whatever prisoners might be awaiting judgment. There were two men in confinement at that time.

A lone candle guttered in the guard hut, and it was empty. I called the sergeant. I called the guard. And no answer came, save the increasing murmur of song and bagpipes from the huts across the muddy field.

I circled round past the horse lines, where the horses drooped beneath their canvas shelters. I called for the piquet and got no answer. I walked around past the artificers’ shanties past the stores, rapping and calling, and got no reply.

And then I headed for the big huts, all glowing in the storm.

From a discreet distance I stood and looked in an open door. There was a sound of revelry. Some were playing cards. Some were lying and singing. Bagpipes skirled, and someone of the band was mournfully blowing a constantly interrupted solo on a trombone. Presently a drum came into action, and the laughter and tumult grew.

Without disturbing the scene, I returned and informed my senior officer that it was apparently somebody’s birthday. Beyond our hut lay the senior n.c.o.’s hut, where dwelt the quartermaster sergeant and transport sergeant and other nabobs in an isolation almost as grand as our own. I went to their door, and they dressed in hasty garments and went to investigate.

They returned in a few minutes, greatly disturbed.

“The whole outfit is tight6,” said they, standing across the table in the candle light. “Tight as owls. They must have got an awful lot of liquor.”

“Tight!” we cried.

“Everybody, the batmen, the clerks, the bandsmen, everybody,” said the quartermaster sergeant. “The provost sergeant is sitting in there singing with his two prisoners. The pipe band is putting on a concert. They are all jammed in there, and by the look of them it would be crazy to interfere. That Corporal Post and Sergeant Buster Parker and a bunch of others from up the line are raising hell.”

“Go and order the lights out,” said Captain Franks. “Get those men back in the guard room. Have everybody go to their quarters.”

The senior n.c.o.’s retired into the storm.

“There will hell to pay over this,” said the senior officer.

And we sat in silence waiting for the n.c.o.’s to return.

After a long wait they returned.

“The only thing you can do,” said they, “is send a riot call up to the battalion in the line and have them come back. Nothing else will stop them now. They’ve got rum. And I think they must have about ten gallons of it.”

“Are we to sit here and let it go on?” demanded the captain.

“I will crime the whole lot,” said the quarter-master sergeant, “but I think it would only aggravate matters it we tried to interfere now, with no men to back us up.”

We agreed with the n.c.o.’s, and we sat far into the night, listening to the rising and falling hubbub from the huts, in which no man came near us. And sometime in the stilly watches we retired, with maudlin snatches of music and yells faintly in our ears.

“Just a Little Party”

The first batman to rouse us was Bertrand, who supervised me. He wore a grin on his face and he looked much the worse of wear.

“I wouldn’t be in a hurry getting up if I was you,” he said to me, as he started laying out my razor kit.

“Why not?”

“The boys,” said Bertrand, “are in kind of bad shape this morning.”

“We thought we heard some noises last night,” said l. “What was up?”

“A little party,” said Bertrand. “Just a little party.”

“Were Post and Parker in it?”

Bertrand laughed, and withdrew apologetically.

We dressed and went forth to look at the wreckage. It was terrible. Many of the men were still sleeping, though buglers sounded the call to rouse and breakfast right into the hut doors. It was Sunday morning, and no parades until eleven o’clock to the church hut down on the Arras-Bethune road a few hundred yards away7.

Everyone ducked as we appeared. A few who still had a little in them brazenly appeared and it became a sort of duel whether we would approach them or they would approach us. Finally, the provost sergeant, looking extremely seedy, could stand the strain no longer, and he marched across the mud, quite unsteadily, and saluting with extreme care, said to us:

“Everything present and correct, shir.”

Saluted again and snapping about unsteadily, marched back to his guard hut.

We retired into our hut for breakfast.

“We can’t crime the whole camp,” said the captain. “We can only seek out the ringleaders. In any event, it is a scandal, and we are going to look very badly, however we handle it.”

The church parade was terrible. It was a travesty. But with a hundred sullen men still bleary from too much rum, it more than useless, it was unfair to attempt to goad them into resistance which would get them and us into deeper trouble.

After the church parade we held an investigation. My share was to sound out Sergeant Parker and Corporal Post, while the others dealt with the transport and quarters personnel.

“We got a little rum,” admitted Sergeant Parker. Post corroborated this statement.

“Where did get it?”

“Nobody knows where it came from,” they said, with deep interest in the subject. “It just appeared, and then everybody was singing.”

And then suddenly I realized I was up against that secret society within the regiment, as far these two were concerned, and I passed it up. At the hut, I found the captain and Norton. They had got nowhere. They had demanded, wheedled, threatened. But it appeared that the rum just came from nowhere, and nobody could remember who had had it first.

But Captain Franks that afternoon ordered Sergeant Parker and Corporal Post to return to the line for duty with their companies.

And he was right.

The Rum Story Spills Over

The story came in the door with Buster Parker the other day, as he tried to sell me a new car. He is a one-legged, two fisted salesman of Fords now, with his flashing smile undimmed.

Something recalled to mind that far-off March night, and in a minute the story was spilling over us with laughter.

“That episode,” said Buster Parker, sitting here fourteen years after in The Star Weekly office, “is remembered by you as one time you really felt the loss of authority. Some day I must write a book about all the times the officers thought they were in command and weren’t. But now I’ll tell you how we got the rum.”

Parker, with his infected legs, arrived out at the horse lines Saturday afternoon and immediately looked up Corporal Jimmie Post re the matter of the most comfortable flop. Post was living with the pipe band, a little group of ten Scotties, some of could not speak English at all; a distinct and isolated little band of superior beings, a sort of Scottish rite within that brotherhood I speak of, who were very particular who so much as sat down in their midst.

So Parker joined Post as a partner in the pipers’ hospitality.

“Now how about a little drink?” asked Parker, after his kit was settled away.

“None to be had,” said Post.

“How about Clarkie?” asked Buster.

“He’s gone mean since he joined the orderly room,” said Post. “I haven’t had a bottle from him for months.”

Then up spoke Brother Fluellen, who was a bugler by rights, but who had achieved by some devious route a position on the staff of the rear headquarters cook kitchen.

“You know this big ration dump down here below Aux Rietz Corners?” asked Fluellen.

“Yes,” said Sergeant Parker, sharply.

“It’s guarded,” said Cook Fluellen, “by a regular guard of crocks. They march sentry on it, one to each side of the dump. It’s about three hundred yards to a side. Well, the last time I was strolling along I had a look into the dump. It has sort of lanes running all through it. In one the lanes I seen some little six-gallon kegs.”

“Yes,” whispered Sergeant Parker, Corporal Post and all the ten pipers.

“So I says to the sentry, I says, what is in them little kegs back there, brother? And he says you would be surprised. I says, is it vinegar? And he says you would be surprised. And by the way he kept halting on his beat and looking back at me, boys, I know there is rum in them six gallon kegs.”

A great silence fell on the pipers’ hut.

Everybody knew the one-gallon rum jars in which the rum came up to the infantry. But a six-gallon keg!

Sergeant Parker rose to his feet. He looked out the door of the hut. Evening was falling and the March wind and rain made all the world a desolation.

“Corporal Post,” said the sergeant, “and Fluellen, you will parade in proper guard mounting order at eight o’clock to-night. You, corporal, will borrow from somebody a great coat with no stripes on it. Have your buttons shined to the nines, your pouches clean, and wear your tin hats.”

A New Guard for the Dump

Thus, at eight o’clock, after all the world of the horse lines had settled down for the night, there formed up discreetly out of the way of officers, a small parade consisting of a sergeant, corporal and a cook. Post and Fluellen, the pictures of soldiery smartness, stood side by side with rifles at the slope and bayonets fixed. Behind them stood Sergeant Buster Parker, dressed for guard mounting.

Down the deserted La Targette road they marched, in the wind and rain, the sergeant’s voice picking them up, hup, hup, until, half way down the road along the dump they overtook the sentry on duty on that side, who and turned outwards.

“Party, halt,” commanded Sergeant Parker, level with the sentry.

“Right turn,” said the sergeant in the business-like tone of the guard.

“What’s this?” asked the surprised sentry on the dump.

“Relief,” said Parker, surily. “All right, Smith,” to Post, “take post. Fall in, sentry.”

And with alacrity, the honest sentry stepped smartly out and fell in beside Fluellen. What a swell night to get relieved!

And without the slightest hesitation, Parker commanded the party to turn, quick march, and down the road in the rain and the darkness they proceeded.

After marching about hundred yards, and nearing the end of the dump, where another sentry might be standing, Parker halted his party.

He reached over and firmly took the rifle from the sentry.

“Boy,” he said, though the man could have been his father, “you are in bad trouble. You can take your choice, but I think you ought to submit to a beating up, because you will never be to tell your officer that you were relieved.”

“What’s this?” stammered the C3 sentry, suddenly filled with an awful fear that all was not well.

Parker chucked the rifle away in the dark and swung on the sentry. There was a moment’s scuffle while the sergeant and Fluellen mussed and muddied up a figure that struggled frantically on the road.

“There,” said the sergeant, “you look as if you had been assaulted. Now run and call your guard.”

And like rabbits, Parker and Fluellen dashed into the hedges, doubled back and forward, and in a moment were lost in the stormy March night. Meanwhile a bedraggled sentry was on the dead tear to his guard room, desperately trying to make up his mind what to tell the sergeant of the guard as to being relieved or assaulted. And whichever way, it would need a lot of explaining.

Post was like a cat in the dark, anyway. When the sentry party left him standing smartly in the rain, he waited until they got out of earshot and then he quietly walked into the dump, found the kegs exactly where Fluellen had described them, hoisted one to his shoulder, retrieved his rifle and fled by a roundabout overland route back to the horse lines, where the pipers were waiting.

Some New, Terrible Epidemic

The question was: Did the keg really contain rum. It did. They first of all poured the rum into two of Fluellen’s big cooking dixies8, then burned the barrel and inside of a few minutes, the free invitation party to all ranks at the regimental horse lines was under way.

“I,” said Parker, “as chief steward of the party, decanted off two full waterbottles of rum before the party started, and these I buried in the earth in a secret place. So that when Captain Franks ordered me to return to my company up the line, as I thought might happen, I was quite content. I went up that night with the ration wagon. I dug up my two bottles, and then clinging to the back of D company limber I fortified myself from time to time during the journey up, so that by the time I met the D company ration party, I needed help, which was gladly given, for a consideration.

“Among those to whom I confided a share of my rum were my fellow sergeants of D company. And only one of them took too much. Because he is probably by now an elder in the kirk9, I will not mention his true name. We will call him Tram. Anyway, Tram by morning was in bad shape. Rum cannot be trifled with like whiskey or brandy. And he trifled with it. So we lay Tram out on the firestep in the sunlight to boil out.

“He was still there, breathing heavily and noisily, when word came that Major Victor Sifton was on his way round the trenches, making his morning inspection. He would be in D company lines any minute.

“And there was Tram lying, unconscious on the fire step. We tried to lift him to hide him in a dugout, but he fought us fiercely and started to shout.

“‘Get a stretcher,’ said I to Tram’s boys. We laid Tram softly on a stretcher. Then I opened my first aid bandage, broke the iodine ampoule and poured the iodine all over the bandage.

“With this swab, I delicately painted Tram all over his face, neck, hands and wrists, so that he was the most terrible pale yellow-brown color you ever saw. It was the most awful case of jaundice imaginable.

“And I just had the job neatly finished and the swab pitched over the parapet, when around the traverse walked Major Sifton.

“”What’s this!’ cried Major Sifton. ‘It’s poor Tram.’ He was rather fond of Tram.

“I told him Tram had just been suddenly took this way.

“‘It must be gas,’ cried the major, excitedly. ‘Don’t stand there, sergeant. Get four men at once and rush him back to the dressing station.’

“So very smartly,” says Buster Parker, “I rustled out four men, and away went Sergeant Tram, breathing noisily and turned a terrible color.

“At the dressing station they just took one look at him and rushed him for the ambulance. I suppose there they just took one look and rushed him back to the clearing station. And there, if he had not recovered consciousness, they probably put a red ticket on him and made a special flying trip to the base with him.

“Anyway, it was three months before Tram came back to D company. Nobody ever found out about the run and iodine. Tram woke up and wondered where the dickens he was. He felt awful bad, and he was able to wash off some of the iodine. His pulse was bad, his heart and lungs were bad. The doctors were sorry he had lost his bad color, but they put him under special observation for a few days, for fear of some new and terrible epidemic.

“Then he was returned, but Tram was so good a soldier, all the divisional schools and reinforcement depots held him for a few weeks as instructor. So that it was nearly three months before Tram got back to us and heard the full story of his holiday.

“So that,” says Buster Parker, “is the story of one keg of rum, and I tell it to you just to show there was a lot of going on all around us in the war that we knew nothing about.”


Editor’s Notes:

  1. Some one who is hard-boiled is tough and does not show much emotion ↩︎
  2. An estaminet is French for a small café, bar, or bistro, especially a shabby one. ↩︎
  3. An artificer is an appointment held by a member of an armed forces service who is skilled at working on electronic, electrical, electro-mechanical and/or mechanical devices. ↩︎
  4. Impetigo is a common and highly contagious skin infection. ↩︎
  5. A batman in the military is a servant to an officer. This was phased out between the wars. ↩︎
  6. Slang for drunk. ↩︎
  7. A church parade in the military is a parade by service personnel for the purposes of attending religious services. This was mandatory at the time. ↩︎
  8. A dixie comes from the Hindi word ‘degchi’ meaning a small pot. It consists of two parts, a large lower pan and a top lid that could be used as a frying pan or a serving platter. ↩︎
  9. This would be an elder in the Scottish (Presbyterian) Church. ↩︎

‘Twas Put to Good Use’

A greenish flare lighted up the whole scene.

“What can you do alone?”

 “I’ve got a secret,” said Fannah.

“This is crazy,” cried the sergeant-major. “You’ll be plunked the minute you move.”

“No, I won’t. They won’t see me.”

“They won’t see a balloon!”

By Gregory Clark, December 21, 1929.

“Snow!”

The sergeant-major made it sound like a curse.

To the Canadian corps as a whole, burrowed in for the winter along the Lens front, the snow, fine and crisp, and comforting the ghastly ground swiftly, had a merry touch of home. The sentries, staring out over No Man’s Land, felt the strain relaxing as the white blanket grew. But the sergeant-major of C company of the Central Ontario regiment sensed a panic rising in his bosom.

“Now what the hell’re we going to do!” he groaned, as he thrust his way along the trench to the company officer’s dugout.

At the entrance, fat Captain Fannah was standing in the dark listening to the crisp pellets tinkling on his steel hat.

“Merry Christmas, sawm-major!” he squeaked.

“Sir, this jiggers the works,” said the sergeant-major, jabbing his heels into the bathmat1 by way of salute. “This snow is going to last. No Man’s Land is already white with it. The raid will be impossible.”

“What’s time?” demanded, the pudgy captain. Offhand, Captain Fannah was a type of man you would not like. It took a week to like him. And then you gave him your shirt.

“Nine-fifteen, sir.”

“Raid’s at one ack emma2,” said Captain Fannah. “Plenty of time to dope it out. Reduce the party from the full platoon to ten men. And inform Lieutenant Beaurien that I will take the raid instead of him.”

“Very good, sir. Will I report back to you or stay in the trench?”

“Tell Lieutenant Beaurien to take over trench duty. You come back. I want you tonight, sawm-major.”

The little fat captain spoke querulously3, like a head-waiter busy with a banquet. He struggled, grunting, into the dugout entrance.

The sergeant-major hurried to the left where Eleven Platoon stood, and picking up its sergeant, went on to where the platoon officer, Beaurien, was sitting on the firestep4 discussing the impending raid with a few of his toughest men.

“Sir,” said the sergeant-major, stamping his salute on the frosty bathmats, “here’s good news for most of your platoon. Captain Fannah has ordered plans changed in view of the snow. He will lead the raid himself, and will take only ten men instead of the whole platoon. With his compliments, will you please take command of the trench and act for him until further orders.”

Beaurien was visibly relieved. The good word spread along the trench and down into dugouts where Eleven Platoon lay worrying about the raid and the snow. But the handful of choice spirits who had been gathered round Beaurien gave no sign of joy. A raid is a jumpy business. A battle is one thing, with its tumult and vasty compass. In a battle you feel as if all the world is with you in disaster. But a little raid has a lonesomeness that eats into the core of a man. From the length of a brigade front away, a raid, with its two battery barrage, sounds like a drunken celebration with giant fire crackers. And you wonder about the little handful of lads that are scurrying about in the night beneath that angry vortex of shellfire in the heart of the great tropic stillness of the long No Man’s Land.

In every platoon were a half-dozen hard-boiled characters who invariably found themselves selected for raids, battle patrols, wire-cutting and the more desperate adventures of trench warfare. Five of these, standing about their relieved lieutenant, knew that no matter how the raiding party might be reduced, from thirty-five men to ten, they would be amongst the ten. And they were right.

“Well, troops,” said Beaurien, rising. “I don’t mind telling you I have been glad to sit down ever since this snow started falling. My legs is bad.”

“I’ve Got a Secret”, Said Fannah

Beaurien, with a white and purple ribbon on his tunic and enough bloody exploits to his credit to permit him the luxury of confessing fear, produced his little platoon roster from his pocket.

“You five will go,” he said. “Each of you pick one other man. How’s that? Then there can be no belly-aching about the wrong man being sent.”

The five departed along the trench to select their voluntary partners in desperation.

Raids were the peculiar pride of the Canadians. They had, in a sense, originated them. At any rate, back in Fifteen, they had become aware of a higher rate of individual initiative which existed amongst Canadians and had developed various forms of raids, some with the famous “box” barrage, three walls of shell-fire, the fourth or near wall being left open for the entry of the raiders. Then they went on to the stealth raid in its many forms, where no gunfire disturbed the silence of night, but only the sudden whang of bombs bursting and the muffled crack of pistols held close to the stomachs of surprised sentries in the violated trench. It was a stealth raid that Eleven Platoon was about to pull.

“And how,” Captain Fannah was saying into the little field telephone deep in his candle-lit, coke-gassey dugout, “can we make a stealth raid across a blanket of virgin snow?”

“Fannah,” came back the colonel’s Royal Military College voice, “brigade says we have got to – got to – get a prisoner for identification. I have put it up to you. This snow may last a week. I realize the mess this makes, but, my dear Fannah, you’ve got to figure it out. You can shift the time if you like.”

“One ack emma,” said Captain Fannah, in his pained voice. “They will go at one ack emma, colonel, but I am reducing the party to ten.”

“And Beaurien taking them?”

“Mmmm,” said Fannah, knowing that the crackling telephone, with its lines laid across the waste of mud between his and the colonel’s dugout, six hundred yards back, would convert this sound into an affirmative.

The sergeant-major, sitting on a cartridge-box beside the captain, filched a cigarette out of the captain’s leather case. These two, off parade and when no other ranks were looking, were more than comrades.

“What’s the dope?” asked the sergeant-major, as the phone was laid down.

“The Stokes guns5,” said Fannah, “are going to start right away and make a lot of dark holes out in that white No Man’s Land. They will fire at random around the open and over towards the German trench. Tell Beaurien to get as many of our men as he can risk out of the front line, so that some of the Stokes can fall short, close to our trench. It will look like a warming-up from a new bunch of Stokes just come in.”

“Won’t Fritz be on the lookout?”

“The Stokes will stop at twelve midnight. Starting at one o’clock, I want you to get the boys, one by one, out into the best Stokes holes that occur. Scatter them out from Tivvy Sap.”

“Then what?”

“Then,” said Fannah, sighing deeply and looking guiltily away from his sergeant-major, “when they are in position I go over and go in.”

“What!”

“You know there is a gap in their wire?”

“I found it. But they may have closed it since last night. But what the devil can you do alone?”

“I’ve got a secret,” said Fannah.

“This is crazy,” cried the sergeant-major. “You will be plunked the minute you move.”

“No I won’t. They won’t see me.”

“They won’t see a balloon!”

“It will have to be done as slyly as possible. All I want them for is to cover me coming back. Just plain rifle fire. Some of us are going to get hurt, but I can’t see that can be helped.”

The first faint thump of the Stokes shells vibrated in the dugout and made the candles flicker.

“Get out and watch that Stokes stuff and pick a nice bunch of dark spots for the boys to lie on.”

“I don’t like your scheme,” said the sergeant-major, standing up and looking at his officer grimly. “I think you have gone nuts.”

“They won’t be able to see me,” said Captain Fannah. “I will be all white.”

Disappearing in the Snow

A random fire from Stokes mortars disturbed the night. These softly belching little cannon hurled their whiskey-bottle shells high in the air, to fall and lie a horrid moment on the ground before they went off with a terrific crash. They blew shallow, five-foot-broad patches of darkness on the snow-covered ground. A steady, thickening whirl of snow continued to fall. Machine guns woke up on the German side and chattered about nervously. Flares went up more frequently, to dazzle the new fallen snow. Fritz was on the alert. But the Stokes fire neither increased nor seemed to concentrate. It gave a lazy, casual and poorly-aimed battering to a strip of No Man’s Land for a three-hundred-yard stretch. About eleven o’clock, puzzled by this desultory crashing, the Germans ordered their field guns to fire some retaliation, which cheerfully increased the number of dark spots out in the snow.

As if quelled by this come-back, the Stokes died away at midnight. And peace, oddly spiritualized by the snow, settled over the line. The one point of discord in miles of silence was stilled.

About twelve-thirty the first of the covering party, crouched and swift, skipped out an opening in the Canadian wire and flung himself into one of the shell holes. There was a breathless moment of waiting, but no hint that the figure had been noticed came from the German trench. The bank of barbed wire, which was a filigree of rust and silver, acted as a dark screen for the raiders’ movements. Another figure made the dash, then another. Obviously the German sentries were lulled by the same feeling of security the new fallen snow gave the Canadians. One by one the ten men of Eleven Platoon got into the dark splashes on No Man’s Land where the Stokes and the German field guns had left their scars.

Then appeared queer and ghostly little figure in Eleven Platoon’s trench. His head was swathed in white field bandages. His legs and feet were likewise wrapped tightly in white. Over his arm he carried a large white garment. And from amongst the bandages emerged Captain Fannah’s plaintive voice:

“If any man fires from this trench until I return I will personally lame him!”

Beaurien and the other two lieutenants of C Company were with the captain to see him off. The sergeant-major was the last to go out before Fannah, and he was to go furthest and be closest to the lone white raider when the entry into the German trench was attempted. Shaking hands with the captain, the sergeant-major himself wrapped in bandages in different spots so that he appeared raggedly camouflaged, climbed over the parados6 and disappeared into the silence.

Not a Shot was Fired

Then Captain Fannah shook out the garment he was carrying and drew it over his head. He stood forth absolutely white, save for pencil-wide strip across his eyes.

“No shooting from the trench,” he said again. “The boys in front will do any shooting required.”

And helped by his lieutenants from behind the pudgy captain grunted his way over the parapet. The thick snow fell like feathers.

“I can’t see him already,” said one of the sentries.

Beaurien stood up on the fire-step. Through the haze of falling snow could faintly be seen the scattered dark splotches where the shells had cleared a space. But no movement disclosed the fact that in eleven of them, staggered across towards the German lines, lay eleven men with their rifles cocked and pointed to answer any flash from the enemy trench. And not a trace could be seen of Fannah, though Beaurien knew his stout little officer could not have got far on his dangerous mission.

A long time passed. Suspense during a stealth raid is a sensation never otherwise experienced. The burst of a bomb, the crack of a shot comes like a note of joy to break the tension. But no sound came from white-shrouded No Man’s Land. The usual night silence lay like a desert stillness, and you would never have guessed that within a square mile ten thousand men were standing with their wits wide awake. Only occasionally the German flares mounted and lobbed vividly through the glistening night. But there was no flare-thrower on duty closer than three hundred yards from Eleven Platoon’s front. Beaurien watched for a telltale moving shadow when the flares were falling, but on the shining shadows of No Man’s Land nothing stirred.

After twenty minutes that had seemed hours there was a quiet movement at the German trench, a hundred yards away. Shadows in the misty snowfall, dark figures moving fitfully against the white.

“Psst!” hissed the sentry beside Beaurien. A sergeant came running.

“Figures moving over against the German wire!” he cried in a low voice to Beaurien.

“I see them. Get back to your duty.”

Yet not a shot was fired, no flick of orange pecked in the darkness.

Then quite distinctly, moving slowly towards the Canadian lines, came two figures looming black against the snow. On they came, stumbling, hesitating. After a moment’s intent staring it appeared that they walked with their arms in the air over their heads.

“My God!” said the sentry, removing his safety-catch.

“Keep still, you…”

“They Thought I was a Fairy”

A greenish flare popped into the air opposite, burst and lighted the whole scene in dazzling splendor. The two figures stopped dead still in their tracks, their arms on high, lividly silhouetted against the snow. Beaurien, watching the shadows, not the objects themselves, as an old-timer should, saw what he was looking for, a small, round shadow in rear of the long shadows of the two standing Germans.

A shout came from the German trench. The flare lobbed to the ground and went out with a loud hiss. A shot was fired from the enemy. Instantly two shots from the dark shell holes spat back. The two dark figures against the snow began to run, hands held appealingly high. A machine gun opened from the German side. The shell holes began to spit, spit, redly. The way a typhoon could spring in an instant out of the solitude of No Man’s Land was a miracle not comparable to anything in the temperate zone. A very gale of machine gun fire rose out of the German front and support lines. White flares and red signal flares zipped and lobbed into the sky. The German artillery opened up with its usual smartness. But not a sign or sound came from the Canadian trench. The two tall Germans, guided by some unseen force in rear of them, wriggled and scrambled unhurt into the Canadian trench. A white-robed figure slid pantingly in on their heels. One by one the men in the shell holes leaped and crouched back through their wire gap. Two were wounded in the rush. The sergeant-major was last, a wounded man clinging to him.

In Captain Fannah’s dugout, ten minutes later, while his batman unwound the bandage from his head and legs, the purple-faced company commander stared up sulkily into the face of his colonel.

“I understood,” said the colonel, breathless after his dash up from his headquarters, “that Beaurien was doing this show?”

“No, sir,” said Captain Fannah. “I distinctly told you that I was going.”

“I didn’t hear you. Damn it, Fannah, you have no right to be fooling about on operations of this sort. We need you. You keep out of these things. Let the young fellows do it.”.

“Now tell me,” said the colonel, “how did this thing come off?”

“Very simply. I dressed all in white. I had a covering party in the Stokes holes. When I got close to their wire I heard voices singing softly. I had found the gap they had in their wire for working parties and patrols, and the voices were coming from the trench directly in front of the gap.

“So I crawled in the gap, got my pinnie7 caught in the wire a couple of times and finally going barely an inch at a time, got to where could see these two men here.

“They were singing what seemed to be Christmas carols. I guess the snow affects Germans the way it does us. Anyway, instead of watching the gap as was their duty they were facing each other, revelling in close harmony. They would brake off, argue quietly and then try the passage again, to get it just right. So while they were working out their harmonies I got within a few feet of them. Then I held up my pistol and said distinctly – ‘Bleib still8!'”

“They blibed. All they could see was the pistol about two feet from their heads, suspended in space. I told them, in my good high school German, to put their hands high and with me to come. They thought I was a fairy or a ghost of something. German folklore has other winter characters besides Santa Claus.

“So I digged them in the ribs to show them the visible gun was real. And here they are.”

“But where,” said the colonel, picking up the garment which Fannah had over his head, “did you get this? Why Fannah, it is a flannel nightshirt!”

“That,” said Fannah, “is my dear old mother’s Christmas present to her boy in the trenches, received in the mail.”


Editor’s Notes:

  1. In World War 1, a bathmat is another name for a duckboard. Wooden planking were placed at the bottom of trenches and across other areas of muddy or waterlogged ground to avoid sinking into them. ↩︎
  2. Ack Emma is a British signalmen’s telephone pronunciation of A.M., before noon. So one ack emma is 1 a.m. ↩︎
  3. Querulously means in a complaining way, especially using a weak high voice. ↩︎
  4. A firestep is narrow ledge, located inside a trench, that allows soldiers to see over the parapet. ↩︎
  5. In World War 1, Stokes mortars were 3 inch mortars. ↩︎
  6. Parados were an elevation of earth behind a fortified place as a protection against attack from the rear, especially a mound along the back of a trench. ↩︎
  7. A pinnie is short for the British word “pinafore,” a term that originally meant “an apron or sleeveless garment”. ↩︎
  8. German for “Stay still”. ↩︎

Radio Heckling

By Gregory Clark, November 14, 1925.

Did you go in for radio heckling during the campaign?1

It’s the latest sport.

Amongst those invited in to hear the speech of the Right. Hon. Mackenzie King was our Aunt Jess.

She is getting on in years, but still bears a stout and doughty attitude towards life. And she is a Tory.

During the preliminary speeches Aunt Jess sat in stony silence, a slight smile on her face, which curled with mild scorn whenever there came the buzz of thunderous applause out the horn.

When the prime minister was announced she sat forward in her chair and bent a challenging gaze into the amplifier.

“Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen,” began the prime minister.

“Bah for you!” shouted Aunt Jess.

“Sssh!” we all hissed, in astonishment.

“It is a source of very special pride and pleasure,” continued the prime minister, unabashed by Aunt Jess’ rude interruption, “for me to-night…”

“Daddy, what did you do in the great war!” yelled Aunt Jess, who is a reader of the Telegram as well as the Mail.

“Sssh!, Whisssht!” we expostulated.

“… to have with me on this platform to night,” continued the prime minister, “my chief lieutenant in the government of this country.”

“For five days more!” yelled Aunt Jess, in a loud voice, and very red in the face.

We turned off the switch.

“Look here, Aunt Jess,” we cried, “you can’t do that! He can’t hear you, you know.”

“I know that, my lad,” replied Aunt Jess. “But you don’t know what pleasure it gives me to be quite rowdy. I have never heckled in my life before and here’s my chance. Turn that thing on again.”

“Please, Aunt Jess, we want to hear Mr. King’s message.”

“Would you deny an old woman her dying wish? Turn that thing on!”

“But –“

“But nothing. I have been going to political meetings all my life and have had to sit like a fool, afraid to open my mouth for fear everyone would turn and stare at me. Now’s my chance. Let ‘er go!”

Sat Closer Than Before

And Aunt Jess sat up closer to the horn than before, in a most rowdy attitude, her eyes sparkling. “Let ‘er go!”

“I understand, ladies and gentlemen,” came Mr. King’s voice, “that the right honorable the leader of the opposition…”

“Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Tiger!!!” roared Aunt Jess into the amplifier, while Mr. King’s voice continued unperturbed but somewhat drowned by the lone cheers.

“I would like to ask Mr. Meighen to do what I have attempted to do here,” went on the prime minister.

“Oh, is that so!” shouted Aunt Jess.

“I would like him to state on this platform, who he will have in his cabinet from Quebec, and who he will have in his cabinet from the west?”

“Better men than you’ve got!” cried Aunt Jess, her face up to the horn.

The old lady’s spirit was infectious. We all began to see this as a battle between Aunt Jess and the prime minister. As the speech went on Aunt Jess unloosed some expressions, some modern and some quite old and well-worn, that we had no idea she possessed in her ladylike vocabulary. When the prime minister got going in his stride, with long, oratorical sentences that could not very well be broken in on, Aunt Jess would merely retort with long, raucous laughter, utterly confusing and spoiling the effect of the prime minister’s best arguments. She produced a small flag from her sateen bag and began waving it in front of the horn with derisive shouts.

“These are the policies,” said the prime minister, “for which the Liberal party not only stands…”

“But falls!” shrilled Aunt Jess. And she rose to her feet.

Continued Right to the End

The prime minister was marching to a close.

Aunt Jess removed her little bonnet which she wears in the house. Eyes alight, voice husky from use, she continued her heckling right to the end.

“.. and with that greater understanding,” concluded the prime minister eloquently, “a larger fellowship for the good of the individuals concerned and the greater good of all.”

Aunt Jess hurled her bonnet into the horn, thus muffling the Liberal cheers which sprang from it.

“Hurray for Meighen!” she screamed. “Hurray! Hurray!” And she did a sort of dervish dance in front of the amplifier.

“The best time I ever had in my life,” declared Aunt Jess, breathlessly. “How much do these radio things cost?”

Aunt Jess has a lot of old scores to pay.

“There are singers I want to inform that they have rotten voices. There are certain ministers in this city I would like to interrupt.”

(Aunt Jess is an Anti2, you understand.)

“All my life, for over sixty years, I have had to go to concerts, meetings, and to church, and listen to people that irritated me beyond measure. Here is my chance to tell them what is on my mind. You see, I give them no offense, yet I get a burden off my mind that has weighed too heavily… Turn on some singer until I see what it feels like.”

We got a station in which a lady with a slow soprano was singing “Marquita.”

We sat in silence. Aunt Jess lifted her chin and tapped with her knitting needles.

“Too slow,” she called into the horn. “Don’t chew your words, girl. Enunciate. Enunciate. Oh, horrible. Stop her!”

We switched off.

Aunt Jess tossed her head delightedly.

“What a treat!” said Aunt Jess. “Are there any Unionist ministers preaching to-night?”

“No, not until Sunday.”

“Very well, I’ll be here Sunday,” said Aunt Jess.


Editor’s Notes:

  1. The 1925 federal election was close, with no party winning a majority. ↩︎
  2. In this case, she would be against the union of multiple churches to form the United Church of Canada in 1925. ↩︎

Smoke Cured

You’re going to catch it may lad, -you were seen smoking again!

These drawings went with a story by Frank Mann Harris from November 2, 1929, about the old method of making a kid smoke a cigar or other real tobacco to make him sick, and supposedly prevent him from smoking in the future. The joke here is Harris recalls all of the awful stuff kids smoked on the farm, so having real tobacco was actually a refreshing change.

He set his teeth more firmly in the cigar and resolved to go down fighting.
The savour of cedar bark was much esteemed by all of the connoisseurs.
When one has smoked dried hornets’ nest he can call himself, even if he doesn’t realize it, a graduate or even a post-graduate.

Where’s Birdseye Center?

“Pig Skin” has never left Birdseye Centre from that day to this. Except–

By Gregory Clark, October 15, 1927.

“Where,” we asked Jim Frise, the cartoonist, “is Birdseye Centre?”

Jim snatched his pipe from his mouth, politely.

“You go down to the seventh line,” says he: “turn right and go four concessions and you’ll come to the old mill. Turn left at the mill, up over a hill, and there, right ahead of you, you’ll see the church spire. That’s Birdseye Centre.”

Jim acts as if he is eager to come with you. If you can’t find the way to Birdseye Centre, he’ll come along on the running board and show you the way. Ah, that mysterious seventh line! Ah, those mythical four concessions, that old mill, that hill, that spire, down amid the elms and maples! It is like Peter Pan’s prescription for finding the Never-Never Land. “Second to the right,” said Peter, “and then straight on till morning.”

For Birdseye Centre is known to all men, and all men may find it, even without the help of Jimmie and his careful directions, unless they happen to be city born and bred, which few are. Yet even they, if they have some affection for their fathers and mothers, can seek their way back to the place their fathers and mothers came from.

“Were you born and raised in Birdseye Centre?” we asked Jim.

“No, sir,” said Jim. “I was born and raised three-quarters of a mile from Birdseye Centre, on the second line.”

“How do you come to know it so intimately?”

“Well,” said Jimmie, leaning back from his big drawing board, “I came up to it every day for the mail. After I was seven, I did the messages to the store, carrying eggs up and bringing soap or oatmeal back. It was a short three-quarter mile up with the heavy basket of eggs, and a long three-quarter back with the little package of soap, for Birdseye Centre was a metropolis in those days and its civilization filled me with wonder.”

“Has the town failed, then?”

“No. Birdseye Centre has not changed. It is time that changes. And boys. But Birdseye Centre was a metropolis once upon a time, and still is, always will be, I guess, so long as there are boys living three-quarters of a mile away on the second line.”

“What’s the population of Birdseye Centre?”

Jim hesitated. He seemed reluctant to answer this question.

“The railroad station….” he began.

“About what is the population?” we insisted. “Three hundred or so?”

“Well, sir,” said Jim, “things are changing so much, coming and going. It would hardly be possible to give a fair estimate of the population. The railroad station is located about half a mile east of the town.”

How Pig-Skin Blew In

Jim gave this piece of information as if it contained a good deal of significance.

“Tell us about Pig-Skin Peters?” we asked. “The public would like to know more about him, since he brought a good deal of publicity to Birdseye Centre in connection with his fine effort in the big Exhibition marathon swim.”

“What would you like to know about him?”

“Is he a native of Birdseye Centre, born and raised?”

“No. Pig-skin blew into town about fourteen years ago. You can tell by his dress, by his hat, that he is a stranger. Anyway, it seems, so far as we can find out, that Pig-Skin was out west on a harvesters’ excursion and went broke, and was riding a freight on his way back home – nobody knows where his home was – when they cut out the car he was riding on and sided it at Birdseye Centre.

“Pig-Skin came up into the village and the very first house he called at was Mrs. Stradivarious Stubbs! How’s that for coincidence?”

“The Mrs. Stubbs who was his chef during his training for the big swim?”

“The very same! And it so happened that Mrs. Stubbs had just baked some mince pies when Pig-Skin, looking very seedy and hungry from his journey, called at the door.”

“The back door?”

“Certainly. The regular door. The door that’s used. Mrs. Stubbs is so accustomed to having her pie praised, she always gives some to anybody that calls. So she hands out a whole pie to Pig-Skin.

“Pig-Skin has never left Birdseye Centre from that day to this. Except for overseas.”

“Ah, he was to the war?”

“Yes. Pig-Skin was one of the four boys Birdseye Centre contributed to the Canadian Corps, and the only one that came back. As a matter of fact, he got the M.M.1

“And you don’t know where he came from? Doesn’t he write back home or anything?”

Jim seemed embarrassed for Pig-Skin.

“Well,” he said slowly, “maybe Pig-Skin may have some kind of a past. We used to wonder about him, but we don’t do it any more, since the war. Pig-Skin’s past is forgiven, whatever it was.”

“He conducts the ice business, locally, doesn’t he?”

“Yes, that’s his chief business, but when he first landed into town, he tried his hand, at everything and now we can always get Pig-Skin to give a lift, from shoveling nip and tuck out of the snow drifts to washing dishes at the annual Harvest Home.”

“He seemed to get a pretty cool reception on his return from the big marathon swim2.”

“No,” said Jimmie, “that was only from the new-fangled element in town. The regular folks gave Pig-Skin a real welcome. In fact, Pig-Skin’s home-coming made a pretty clear division in Birdseye Centre between the solid element and the new-fangled crowd. The chicken dinner at Mrs. Stubbs’ to welcome Pig-skin home was a social event that will mean a lot of social excitement all this winter. Because she never invited a single one of the disturbers.”

Wes Clipper Wants Progress

“How do you mean, disturbers?”

“Well, the people, for instance, that want the strip of cement down the middle of the village.”

“Road?”

“Yes. There’s the same crowd that wanted electric light in the school and that wanted a chemical fire apparatus and now they are trying to get the council to put six hundred yards of cement down the middle of the town. Wes Clipper, the barber, is the leader of this element. Wes is all for putting Birdseye Centre on the map. He’s the one that started that tourist camp that only three tents have been in in two years. Wes wasn’t invited to the reception for Pig-skin. But just the same, it was Wes Clipper that said Pig-Skin had got more publicity for Birdseye Centre than all the rest put together. Him and Pig-skin are good friends.”

“Who opposes the road?”

“All the older folks. Taxes are high enough, as it is, without providing a piece of road that speeders would scoot past at fifty miles an hour on. The most active opponent of the scheme is ‘Gas’ Waters, who owns the garage. ‘Gas’ has made more money out of that bit of bad road north of the village in the past five years than he has out of all the gas, oil and service put together. John J. McGlone, the general store keeper, is also opposed. He asks what would be the effect of that piece of cement pavement? It would simply cause everybody to hurry through the town. He’s sick and tired, Mr. McGlone says, of seeing people whizzing through Birdseye Centre at thirty-five miles an hour.”

“I guess the older people have their way?”

“Yes. Chief Pinchall is against it too. A speedway down the main street! The next thing he’d be having to operate one of those durn stop-and-go thingamajigs at the Four Corners Saturday afternoons, and Sundays, in all kinds of weather. As if he hadn’t enough to worry about, as it is! What with ringing the town hall bell three times a day, winter and summer, inspecting liquor permits, impounding cows grazing within the town limits and meeting all the trains down to the Junction.”

“All the trains, Jimmie?”

“Well, Nip and Tuck as we call her, goes through twice a day. That is, up and down. Nine-fifty-three and four-eleven, weather permitting.”

“What’s Chief Pinchall meet the trains for?”

“Watching out for suspicious characters. And besides, Old Cap, who is in charge of the gates across the railway tracks, is Chief Pinchall’s cousin, and the Chief is always waiting to catch Cap with the gates down longer than the law allows.”

There’s always one boy wanting to carry home the rabbits.
A Majorgraph of Frise. Note the far-off Birdseye Centre expression

“How is this Wes Clipper so modern?”

“Wes is a barber, and it seems all barbers are out to modernize things. Wes introduced the first female bob into Birdseye Centre by bribing Ned Balsam’s daughter to let him give her the first boy haircut in the county.”

“I bet that made trouble.”

“No. Old Ned Balsam has the rural mail route, and when he got home that night, he naturally was kind of peeved. But Ned never lets anything worry him long, not even these threats from disgruntled folks along his route who are continually complaining about their mail being left in somebody else’s box. There are those who claim that Old Ned has political pull, or he’d never get away with it. Yes, Carrie Balsam was the first to be bobbed, but now everybody in the district is bobbed except Eli Doolittle’s wife.”

Trailing With Old Archie

“Eli Doolittle, eh? What’s he?”

“Eli is the orneriest man in the whole county. He does absolutely nothing. His wife takes washing and all Eli does is sit on the porch of the Grand Central Hotel, with his chair tilted back and his hat tilted forward, watching the world go by. Nobody ever heard of him doing anything. He is a good fisherman, but nobody ever saw him row a boat.”

“Doesn’t his wife kick?”

“No, that’s funny. She never was known to protest. Some of the ladies in the town have ventured to criticize Eli to Mrs. Doolittle, when she calls to do the washing, but Mrs. Doolittle, is one of those timid little women, and she fills all up and they can’t go on with the conversation. She thinks Eli is wonderful, and at every opportunity she quotes his opinions on politics, local improvements, life in general. But Eli has got all beat. He plays the cornet, and accompanies some of the greatest vocal artists of America on the radio. We tried to form a band two winters ago, but Wes would not come to rehearsals at the town hall; it was too far, and his house is too small for rehearsals, so the scheme fell through. Pig-Skin, learned to play the bugle overseas, but that wouldn’t do. We had to have a cornet, so the band fell through. Then Pig-Skin took up the saxophone, but there were so many complaints, the town council passed a by-law prohibiting the playing of musical instruments before sunrise and after sundown.

“Who is your favorite character in Birdseye Centre, Jimmie?”

“My best friend? Well, they’re all friends of mine. But perhaps Archie is the oldest and best friend I have.”

“Archie who?”

“Just Archie. Old Archie. He was an old man when I first remember him, as a boy. He is the crack shot of the whole country. He catches fish where there aren’t any. My friendship with Archie began when I was about six years old and he let me carry home the rabbits he shot down in Duncan Campbell’s bush. And I’ve been trailing around with him ever since, fishing, rabbit shooting, and many a time we have gone fishing with our guns, or shooting with our fishing rods, it doesn’t matter. It’s just to get out, somewhere, down by Dunc Campbell’s bush.”

“Must be a popular old boy?”

“Well, there’s always one boy wanting to carry home the rabbits, you know.”

We asked Jimmie how often he re-visited Birdseye Centre, now that he is an artist on a big metropolitan newspaper.

“Oh, pretty often,” said Jimmie, diffidently.

“Couple of times a year?”

“Oftener than that.”

“Once a month?”

“Better than that.”

Shifting a Whole City

“How do you manage? Isn’t work like yours pretty insistent in its demands on your time?”

“Well,” said Jimmie, “let’s skip that point. It’s not important to your story, is it?”

“Oh, you bet! The people like to know about this sort of thing. You know, most of our cartoonists and comic artists come from the States. We get their stuff over by mail. Here you are right in Ontario, working right in Toronto, and telling about regular folks, our cousins and uncles and parents. We want to know how it’s done and all that.”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“Well, it’s so, Jimmie. How often do you go back to Birdseye Centre?”

“Well, I’m there pretty often. I’m there a good deal.”

“Yes?”

Jimmie, like all artists, has an elfin way of suddenly going away from where he is, just as if the man sitting there before you had suddenly disappeared. It might be called temperament. But it’s queerer than that. Jimmie, when we had him cornered about this matter of how much time he spent in Birdseye Centre, did that strange disappearance act. He was sitting there. Yet he had gone.

“Jimmie!”

“Yes?”

“Come back to earth. Where were you, then?”

“Birdseye Centre,” said Jimmie, quietly.

And you know – by the shy and hidden look that is in a man’s eye, when he is telling you the truth – for only liars have that beautiful frank eye – that Jimmie was revealing a secret. He lives all the time in Birdseye Centre. In the phone book you will see he has a house in Baby Point. He has four daughters who have the unutterable misfortune to have been born in Toronto. But doubtless Jimmie can easily transport the whole lot of them and their mamma to Birdseye Centre any time they want fun. For if Jimmie can shift a whole city, holus bolus, away off into the country once a week, he could easily handle a few womenfolks, two and up. But that’s not his real home. His real home is within a three-minute walk of Old Archie’s frame house. And that house is twenty minutes easy walk of Dunc Campbell’s bush. And how red and gold that bush is to-day!

“It’s a year or more since you gave us any news about Miss Beatrice Chickadee3, the new schoolma’am at Birdseye Centre.”

“Yes.”

Jimmie apparently didn’t want to talk about Miss Chickadee.

“How’s she doing? Who’s her beau?”

“She’s a fine young lady,” said Jimmie, rather doggedly. “We’ve got a new school.”

“Yes, but about Miss Chickadee. Is she popular?”

“You bet she is. She can take care of herself. Our new school….”

“But what about her? Come on!”

“It’s All the Four Corners”

“Well. I’d rather not discuss Miss Chickadee. You see, I got in Dutch with her last winter. I made a mistake somehow and got her dress too short and didn’t do her justice in drawing her face, and she asked me to please not draw her any more.”

“Ah, a peppery young lady!”

“No, but she explained to me a country schoolma’am has to look out for herself and see nothing is put over her. The way she handled old Eph Grousebeak….”

Jimmie chuckled and lowered his voice.

“Eph is the chairman of the school board. He’s been chairman ever since there was a school board. He’s a wonder. I tell you the inspectors are scared stiff of him when they come to visit the school. He puts them through an inspection. Well, Eph, you know, was against Miss Chickadee getting the job – she was too young and pretty and too much of a flapper. He I called her Miss Flapper for weeks after she came. Eph defeated, single-handed, the scheme to put electric lights in the school. Electric lights, he said, in a school, for a few hours a year? Twenty or thirty dollars on the taxes for a bit of sheer nonsense. Lamps, were good enough for him as a boy and he still has his sight. Anyway, Miss Chickadee had Eph eating out of her hand inside two months, and this year, she is moving from Mrs. Henry’s and is going to board at Eph Grousebeak’s. Can you beat that?”

“Quite a victory.”

“The electric lights were installed in the school this summer.”

“Do you ever get in wrong, Jimmie, with any of the other folks in Birdseye Centre, for writing them up?”

“No, because they don’t know about me. Miss Chickadee found out about me being the artist but I promised not to refer to her any more in my cartoons if she wouldn’t give me away.”

“They don’t know about you, Jimmie?”

“No. You see Birdseye Centre isn’t its real name, and their names aren’t really Doolittle, and Grousebeak and Clipper and so forth. And their characters are not exactly like the characters I give them, and they don’t do the things I say they do. So they don’t know it is them. All they know about me is that I am some kind of an artist, which is the next thing to acting in the theatre.”

“But the Four Corners, Jimmie! The Grand Central and John J. McGlone’s general store! That Four Corners you can draw with your eyes shut. Isn’t it real?”

“It’s real, but it’s not just one Four Corners. It is all the Four Corners I have ever seen.”

“Then all these folks, these houses, these wagons and pumps and fair-grounds are only a dream?”

“Even Dunc Campbell’s bush is only a dream,” said Jimmie. “But you can’t have a dream without having seen the reality.”

“That’s a bit metaphysical.”

“So is life.”

“In Birdseye Centre?”

“Yes, and in Toronto.”


Editor’s Notes:

  1. This is the Military Medal in World War One. ↩︎
  2. See the comic “Pig-Skin” Peters Leaves for his New Training Camp. ↩︎
  3. See the comic The New School Ma’m Arrives. ↩︎

A Majorgraph is a term for a caricature created by the cartoonist Henry Mayer.

Father and Son

In a bay by themselves huddled down on the firestep in excited conversation were Dad and Babe Kinzie.

By Gregory Clark, October 4, 1930.

Two brothers in the same unit was bad enough. But father and son! Let me tell that story.

Whenever a lieutenant was wanted to go back to the wagon lines to fetch up a new draft, I was always willing. It meant I lost the day’s sleep. It meant giving up the comfortable surety of the front line or support for a long walk down communications and over roads that might be strange to me and might have a little shelling, especially on the trip in with new men. But the officer who went out to get the draft of recruits had the pick of the men. And I had enough love of D company to desire the pick of the recruits for her.

And I picked them a funny way. I never heard of anybody picking men by their Adam’s apples. But that’s the way I did it. A man with a prominent Adam’s apple may not always be the bravest man, or the smartest. But he nearly always has one striking characteristic. And that is, when you say to bunch of fellows, “Let’s go and push that outhouse over,” or “Who’s game to come down to the divisional dump and snitch a case of rum to-night?” the first man to jump to you is the man with the biggest Adam’s apple in the bunch. I put this theory up to Lou Marsh1 one time, and he recalled that nearly every outstanding loose puck artist, practically all the most reckless plungers and tacklers in rugby, were men with Adam’s apples, as Lou put it, that were bigger than their chins.

So when I arrived at the wagon lines, and after I had paid the proper respects to the quartermaster, paymaster and transport officer, all round, both ways, I would order the new drafts paraded in full marching order. They usually had a conducting sergeant with them who was most likely one of our old n.c.o’s returning from hospital.

“Sergeant,” I would say, “have these men stand easy and undo their tunic collars, please.”

There they would stand, clutching their rifles between their knees, undoing their tunic collars and wondering what sort of a war they had arrived at, with pint-sized lieutenants with shaved heads asking them to undo their collars.

“Open them up!”

And down the parade I would go, falling out to the left all the boys with Adam’s apples that croaked up and down nervously as I walked past staring intently at them.

That would put all the Adam’s apples at the D Company end. For after the inspection, I would number them. Say they numbered to thirty-five. That made seventy men, front and your rank.

One to eight, A company,” I would say, “nine to seventeen, B company, eighteen to twenty-six, C company, and God bless you, twenty-seven to thirty-five, D company.”

And there, front and rear, from twenty-seven to thirty-five, I had the greatest collection of knee joints in the neck you ever could see.

That was how I got the Kinzies, father and son.

The elder Kinzie must have been over forty-five if he was a day. There he stood in the rank, such a heap of kit, khaki, bulging packsack and pendulous limbs as would send a drill sergeant crazy. He had a large untrimmed moustache hiding a small, weathered face. Gentle, timid eyes peeped at me questioningly as I came abreast of him. He was not much taller than I. His shoulders were thick and oversize. His hands were knuckly and awkward. He toed in a little, even when standing with feet turned out at an angle of forty-five degrees. Even if I hadn’t seen that great corded knot of an Adam’s apple projecting out of his open collar, I think I would have picked Kinzie for D company. For if ever I saw a backwoodsman, a guide, a real old settler from up north of Kingston or Belleville, it was Kinzie. I could almost smell the bacon frying over the campfire as I stood before him with his equipment on him like so many bundles. I must have paused a long moment in front of Kinzie, for I was lost to the war as my mind looked hungrily back to memories of little lakes and reed beds and big splashing bass.

Dad Kinzie and Babe Kinzie

“Fall out to the left,” said I huskily, and old Kinzie, with an anxious look in his eyes, which I did not understand at the moment, assembled with all his junk on him, down to the left.

For young Kinzie, his son, age about twenty, was standing as rear file to his old man. And not until I had inspected all the front rank and came down to the middle of the rear rank did I come to the boy. But they need not have worried about being separated. I did another long look in front of Babe Kinzie. Dad Kinzie and Babe Kinzie is what they came to be called in the company.

Young Kinzie was taller than his old man, and had that boyish, almost childish look that twenty year olds born and raised on a remote, backwoods clearing may wear. But he had the heavy shoulders, the long arms, the innocent blue eyes and leathery face of his old man. And he also wore his equipment and pack in that way which made me think he was portaging. And Adam’s apple! I hope my memory is bad and deceiving me over the years when I say it was, despite his youth, as big as a billiard ball.

“Fall out to the left,” said I to Babe Kinzie.

I think the leap of joy that came into his face when I ordered him to the left was only equaled behind my back, by the look in his old man’s face. For I heard a gruff exclamation behind me. And I turned around to see the boy trying to push in as rear file to his father, though it was not his place.

“Here,” said I. “Fall in to the left, I said.”

But the two faces, forty-five and twenty, turned appealingly to me.

“They’re father and son,” said the sergeant.

“Heaven help us,” said I. And right there I lost all interest in the inspection. For if you are superstitious about brothers, what could you help feeling about a father and son in the same company?

Before we went up the line, towards evening, I had a chat with the transport officer and tried to wrangle the elder Kinzie into some jobs around the lines. We sent for the old man, and asked him there in the tent:

“What do you know about horses?”

He thought a full five seconds, his questioning eyes looking from transport back to me.

“I’m afraid I don’t know nothing about horses, sir.”

“No good to me,” said Transport.

“What’s your trade?” I asked desperately. Do you know anything about blacksmithing? Tailoring?

“I been lumbering,” said old Kinzie, helpfully. But farming is my line. I got a small farm up in Frontenac county.”

“Kinzie,” said I, “I would like to get you a job here at the horse lines. How old are you?”

“Forty-one,” said the old liar, looking around at nobody.

“I hate this idea of you and your boy going up the line to the same company. How would you like me to assign your boy to some other company? Or maybe I could get the colonel to put him on as a battalion runner?”

The old man’s face and figure were pathetic. He seemed to go to pieces all in a dump.

“Please, sir,” he begged, “we got to be together, because he don’t know much, and it was me brought him here. I got to keep him by me, please, sir.”

The please sir from this old bushwhacker was as incongruous as a song from a porcupine.

“All right,” said I.

But it wasn’t all right with me, and because the thing stuck out in my mind as little things did in those days with nothing much to think of, I made sure the two Kinzies came to my platoon when we got up to the company.

“Rifles Aren’t for Shooting With”

I told the n.c.o.’s about them and instructed that the Kinzies were not to be detailed to any jobs such as patrols or wiring without consulting me.

“You’ve got so many pets in this platoon now,” complained old Tommie Depper, the senior sergeant, “that I can’t get a ration party together without consulting teacher.”

“Sergeant!” said I, severely.

“Hell,” said Tommie, “excuse me, is this a parade?”

I am afraid D company was almost as bad, as far as discipline was concerned, as the colonel said it was.

So the Kinzies, along with six or seven other new men, were scattered through the platoon and did their first eerie night in the trenches, amid the stealth, the silence and the moonlight.

There was a company conference next morning in D company dugout, after breakfast, and the officers and sergeants sat chewing the fat until nearly eight o’clock. And at that late hour, with the sun up in the sky, when all good soldiers save a couple of gas sentries per platoon, should have been down underground asleep, I came up for a listen at the skylarks and maybe the sight of a rabbit or a partridge.

And to my right, nearby, I heard a shot crash out.

Now who in blazes would be firing his rifle on a peaceful morning like this? It was an outrage. Nothing could upset a company officer more than to hear a vagrant rifle shot bang out on a nice quiet sector, day or night. It was unheard of!

Around the traverses I charged, my indignation rising.

And in a bay all by themselves, huddled down on the firestep2 in excited conversation, were Dad and Babe Kinzie. And in the old man’s hands, a guilty-looking rifle.

A very guilty looking rifle. I may say I never saw, even in Buckingham Palace yard, a Lee Enfield that looked as smart, as oilily gleaming, as babied and cared for as the rifle that was clutched in Dad Kinzie’s hand.

“Who the devil fired that shot?” I demanded.

“I did,” said Kinzie, standing up very surprised.

“Well, hang it all, Kinzie, you ought to know better than go shooting off around here like a boy scout! Rifles aren’t for shooting with,” I said, “they’re a drill weapon. Any shooting around here will be done by the snipers, and they’re pets of the colonel. No common company bum is allowed to play with his rifle except at the ranges back in rest. What were you shooting at? Rabbit or partridge?”

“A German,” said old Kinzie.

“And got him,” said Babe Kinzie proudly. “Right on the nose.”

“Do you mean to say you two rookies had your heads sticking up over that parapet!” I yelled.

And anxiously, the two showed me the parapet, all decorated up with rubbish, through which was gouged a narrow tunnel or ditch which gave a view of the further German support trenches but screened from the German front line.

“It won’t do,” said I firmly. “You will get a Mauser bullet right through your bean if you start monkeying with things like this. A nice, bronze Spitzer bullet from some Heinie sniper’s rifle with telescope sights on it.”

They were abashed.

“I rigged up this hole before dawn,” said the old man, ruefully, “just so’s I could see that spot about a hundred and sixty yards back. The boys told me they was some kind of a shovel dump or something there and they often seen Germans’ heads at that place.”

A Little Sniping on Our Own

“How do you know you got him?” I asked the younger Kinzie.

“You got to prove you ain’t got him when Dad shoots,” said the boy.

“Is that so?” said I. “Well, until you men are appointed to the select company of snipers on battalion headquarters, you’ve got to curb your shooting. Now get off to the dugout and get your sleep.”

And very meekly the Kinzies trailed their long arms around the traverse and off to bed underground.

Before the tour was over, I got used to the Kinzies. They even did a wiring party out in front one night. This test of fate I watched with nervous breath. And nothing happened. They did as smart a job as any of the older men on the party. They seemed to be able to see in the dark.

“Good men, those Kinzies,” said Tommie Depper. “I bet they come from somewhere near Windsor.”

Depper came from Windsor.

Out of the line, resting, we did some musketry practice, and I said to Dad Kinzie:

“Now let’s see what you can do with your pretty rifle?”

He made a string of ten bulls at the rickety hundred-yard target.

“That’s shooting,” said I, really impressed (I suppose you know what army shooting was like?)

“Pah,” said the old man.

We had no longer ranges. But with my permission, old Kinzie was allowed to fire one shot at the white-washed mud wall of a broken cow stable against a hill all of six hundred yards away. Old Kinzie said it was a little over four hundred yards. I thought it would have been good shooting to hit the wall. Dad Kinzie asked me if I could see a narrow plank bordering one edge of the wall. I couldn’t.

He knelt. He aimed snugly. He fired. With Depper and the Kinzie boy, we walked across the fields to the ruined stable. There in a six inch plank bordering the white wall was a neat round hole.

“How often can you do that?” I asked.

In reply, he fired four more shots from back in the same place, and the five holes in the plank, when we walked forward, were easily covered by my cap.

I told the colonel about it. But the sniping section was full. We went back up the line, in by Merincourt. One afternoon, I saw some sort of small hawk soaring low above the field where most of the larks sprang from. I sent for Dad Kinzie. Dad allowed it was a tough shot. We edged along on to C company’s front. The hawk poised an instant as it made a turn. It was perhaps eighty yards off. Dad Kinzie’s pointed bullet flipped the hawk, a wrecked bunch of feathers four feet in the air.

“A little low on the side,” said he.

That was about the time Dad Kinzie and I began to chum around.

“Why can’t the boy shoot?” I asked the old man one day.

“He can shoot good as I could at his age. But,” said Dad Kinzie, “it takes about twenty years to get real good. Your rifle kind of grows out of you in that time like your finger or your eyesight. It’s like part of you.”

I could well believe it.

We did a little sniping on our own. Especially when the company was in close support trenches. We would lie out in the turnips or hide in old ruins. The boy was always along with us, because he could see movement where certainly I couldn’t, and often the old man couldn’t.

We got meat too. From the support trench north of the electric power station at Avion, we could look down into Lens. We saw a party of what were likely officers moving discreetly in amongst the ruins all of six hundred yards away. Really six hundred, estimated by old Kinzie. When he fired, one of the four Germans lay on the ground. Old Kinzie waited. One of the others ran out from behind a wall and knelt by the down one. Kinzie hit him, though he staggered out of sight.

In one afternoon, in one place, just east of Avion, where the railway embankment passed through our lines, we got three, about half an hour apart. It must have been one of those places men like to stand and gaze on, like mountain sheep.

Another day, Babe Kinzie spotted a German chopping. You could see the axe head rise and fall. Now and again you could catch a glimpse of the German.

“I wish I had my binoculars,” I said. Old Kinzie would not let me bring glasses. He said the flash of field glasses would scare deer and they would scare Germans, too.

So Kinzie got the chopper too.

Late one afternoon, with the sun behind us streaming down on the German lines, Babe Kinzie saw something that he took to be a pump handle sticking up in the German support trench. He finally made his Dad see it, and the old man laid his rifle on the mark, very delicately aiming it and then securing it in position with sticks, stones and string.

A Gorgeous Outburst of Pyrotechnics

About eleven o’clock that night, we went out in the turnips and without the aid of any light, Dad Kinzie fired. It was not a pump handle but some kind of a rack or store of German skyrockets and signal flares. Whether Dad’s bullet hit a friction lighter or exploded something else in the store, there was the most gorgeous outburst of pyrotechnics back there in the German supports that I ever saw that side of the Toronto exhibition. It lasted all of ten minutes and the riot caused the German artillery to open up. Ours replied. And as we lay in the turnips, we snorted with guilty laughter until our diaphragms hurt us.

But all wars come to an end. And all those days spent in fun around sun-bathed trenches with not a thing in the world to worry about come to an end too. For about every six months, the higher command thinks up a battle. It is like being at Varsity and then exams come along.

So came Amiens. After the winter of licking Passchendaele’s scars, and a happy spring and summer spent around Vimy listening to the ominous thunder to the south and the north, or out in distant rear areas training for open warfare, the lucky Canadian corps prepared in stealth and rather breathlessly for the great Hundred Days.

The Kinzies withdrew from my immediate life and became two chessmen in the backdrop of the company against which we officers, as in the days of our earliest training, began to strut once again in the guise of officers and gentlemen rather than as section foremen in the trenches. I felt easy about the Kinzies. Fate was kind to them. My superstitions were lulled. Father and son could team together, even in that unearthly sphere where Fate seemed more a humorist at heart than a vengeful fury.

They had no chums. They chummed together. Always together on the line of march. Always eating out of the same mess-tin, sharing their blankets, their heads peering side by side whenever you paid a night visit to the billets. I was sorry our days and nights together were ended. It had been like a touch of the Rideaus again.

At Amiens we did not go over the first day. Close on the heels of our division, we advanced three incredible miles up the Roy road, the sounds of triumph just over every rise. What a gay, reckless day that August 8 was!

We slept under our tarpaulins that night, like Napoleon’s soldiers or Caesar’s. I thought of Waterloo, as I walked about the misty field, amongst the bivvies3, at dusk, asking them how they liked open warfare. The Kinzies were as usual under the same bivvy, all dry and comfortable, as woodsmen and trappers should be. I planned, the next rest, to have the Kinzies demonstrate to the company just how to make a comfortable shelter out of a bit of canvas.

“There’ll be moving targets to-morrow, Kinzie,” I said to them. “Like deer across the open.”

“I’m all oiled up and ready,” said the old man. “But this is my first battle.”

“It’s my first, this kind,” said I. “I hope I get stage fright out here in these open fields.”

“I suppose I can keep the boy by me?”

“Nothing to prevent it,” said I.

“If anything happens to me,” said Dad Kinzie “I don’t suppose the boy could come with me?”

“Oh, no. But nothing will happen, Kinzie.”

“Yes, but something might, and I was wondering if I got wounded maybe the boy could be a stretcher bearer and come down with me.”

“Nobody is allowed to fall out to help a wounded comrade, and that’s so of even father and son,  I’m afraid.”

“Well,” said Kinzie, “I’d hate to go out wounded and leave this boy here alone. I’d rather him get wounded and me stay, though that would be bad enough.”

“Greatest Shot I Ever Knew”

“I guess the boy knows enough to look after himself, Dad,” said I. “But you don’t plan things so far ahead.”

“I plan everything ahead,” said Kinzie, with a worried air.

Well, turn in boys, and ready for dawn.”

And dawn saw us on the march, like olden wars, up roads in column of fours, and the sun came up and found us marching steadily eastward, while ahead of us the sounds of victory grew louder, and we passed field guns in the open meadows firing like in the picture books. An incredible sight. Few of us had ever seen a cannon. All we knew, in three years, was the sound of their shells.

And thus, before noon, on that brilliant August day, across fields of waving grain, we suddenly found ourselves in front and the attack to carry on, like a tide.

As we emerged out of Quesnel, where, the Six Bits4 had made their glorious dash, a storm of shellfire met us. But across the green fields, we saw the little gray buglike figures retreating before us.

More shells howled amongst us and kicked up their fountains.

“Old Kinzie’s got it!” suddenly shouted my batman5.

And there, limp on the ground, a few yards lay old Kinzie, while the shell dust settled on him.

“Where’s the boy?” I cried.

“Ahead there! He hasn’t noticed the old man,” said the batman.

And Babe Kinzie, along with the rest of the section, was doubling forward waist deep in the grain, all eyes to the front, wild with the excitement of his first show: and what a show!

I let them go. I walked across to Old Kinzie. He flopped over on his back as I approached, and I hurried to kneel by him.

“My leg, my leg,” he murmured, as I got his head up.

The shell had flung a heavy splinter into the thick of his calf and torn it badly.

He blinked at me. The stunning concussion of the shell was leaving him.

“The boy!” he gasped, as he realized he was missing. “Where’s the kid?”

“He’s gone on,” said I. “He’ll be all right now. I’ll take good care of him.”

“Where is he?” cried Dad Kinzie, struggling to kneel up on that bloody leg.

“There here he goes, just to the left of that shed,” said I. “Now lie down and I’ll send one of the stretcher bearers.”

He was still sitting when I ran ahead.

A few yards out, I met Courtney, one of the stretcher men, working on a chap in the wheat.

“As soon as you can, look after old Kinzie back there by the brick wall.”

“Yes sir.”

I had not taken more than six steps when I heard a rifle shot behind me. Turning, I beheld old Kinzie just lowering his rifle from his shoulder. He was kneeling.

“What the devil!” I shouted. “Can’t you quit even with a leg-off?”

“Got him!” shouted old Kinzie, and dropped out of my sight.

Then I overtook the boys, weaving through the grain. And just beyond the little shed, I found two or three of the boys bending over young Kinzie who was sitting on the ground among wry faces.

“Where’s he hit?”

“In the leg, sir. He was just lifting his leg over this picket, here, when he got this. But,” said the lance corporal, “by gosh, he got it from behind. I swear he did. Look.”

“Nonsense,” said I, but the wound unquestionably entered from the side of his leg that would have been to the rear as he got over the picket.

“Get him back there to Courtney, near the brick wall,” said I. “One of you lend him your shoulder that far and then get right back here.”

And we got young Kinzie to his feet, arm around the other’s shoulder, I looked back and there knelt old Dad Kinzie, beckoning excitedly to his boy.

“Good-by, Babe,” said I. “And tell your Dad for me that he is the greatest shot I ever knew. He didn’t even touch the bone.”

That was the afternoon he had tea in the rear at Folies.


Editor’s Notes:

  1. Lou Marsh was an athlete, and later sports reporter and editor at the Toronto Star. ↩︎
  2. A firestep is a step dug into the front side of a trench allowing soldiers to stand on it in order to fire over the parapet. ↩︎
  3. Bivvies is short for Bivouac, which can describe any improvised shelter that is usually of a temporary nature. ↩︎
  4. “Six Bits” was the nickname of the 75th Battalion (Mississauga), CEF. ↩︎
  5. A batman was a soldier assigned to a commissioned officer as a personal servant. This practice diminished greatly by World War 2, and was later phased out. ↩︎

Public Mystery No. 1

September 28, 1935

This image went with a story by Merrill Denison about a rich executive keeping people waiting.

Judge Not -!

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.

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