Tag: 1930 Page 1 of 2
By Merrill Denison, August 16, 1930.
“The thing you need after your operation,” said Greg’s letter, “is a short camping trip. Lots of fresh air, violet rays, and all that sort of thing. A touch of roughing it, in competent hands.”
I thought it mighty generous of Greg. His were to be the hands, and “in competent” was spelled as two words. The letter went on to sketch an idyllic few days during which I would loaf in the middle of a canoe propped up on cushions, while Greg did the paddling, portaging, camp making, cooking and other labors, which go to make camping a delight for those who delight in camping.
All I was asked to do was to provide the canoe. Greg had everything else needed for a short camping trip, including a silk tent which only weighed seven pounds and occupied a little less space than a pocket handkerchief.
Along in the afternoon of the day appointed, Greg drove up to the cottage. I could see at once that he had brought everything we were likely to need. If he had brought one more aluminum frying pan, either he or it would have had to come by train.
“You won’t know yourself when I’ve got you back from this trip,” were his first words, and I can’t recall offhand anyone ever making a truer prophecy in my hearing.
From the first, Greg wouldn’t let me do a thing. He wouldn’t even let me carry the silk tent. When I offered to help him unload his covered wagon, he said, “No. Your job on this trip is to rest. Have you got the canoe?”
By this time hall the veranda was covered with little bags and big bags, little pots and big pots, little fishing rods and big fishing rods, little axes and big axes. I tried to compare the canoe with the pile Greg had brought.
“I’ve got the canoe all right, Greg,” I said, “but I don’t think it’s going to be big enough. It’s only a seventeen footer.”
“Haha!” laughed Greg. “You’ve no idea how this stuff will compress into a small space. Camping equipment is very deceptive when it’s piled loosely like this.”
I took his word for it because he was an expert, and all the camping I’d ever done was of a most primitive sort. I didn’t even ask why there were so many rods, and axes, and bags. I supposed Greg used a big axe for a big tree and little axe for a little tree, and let it go at that.
Greg was for getting under way at once, but I thought it mightn’t be a bad idea to have a last night’s sleep, so he agreed to wait till morning.
“That’s fine,” said Greg. “It will give you a chance to look over my camping equipment. I’ve got some lovely stuff here. Not one unnecessary thing, and everything designed for maximum compactness and convenience.”
As a sample of how convenient his camping gadgets were, he allowed me, as a treat, to light my way to a match in his waterproof matchbox. With the help of a pair of pliers I emerged victorious. I suggested it might be a good idea to take a couple of pair along on the trip, but he pooh-poohed the idea.
“Who ever heard of taking pliers on a canoe trip?” he said, but since he was taking everything but the kitchen stove and family album, I thought I ought to be allowed to take along one pair of pliers. It was a good job I did. Next to the canoe, the pliers were the most useful tools we had.
Greg was so keen to start camping right away that we had difficulty in keeping him from pitching his silk tent out in front of the cottage, and we dissuaded him only by agreeing to spend the evening looking at the cooking equipment.
Everything was made of aluminum because of its superior lightness and the marvellous way it retains heat. The only trouble with aluminum is that the way it retains heat just about ruins the lightness unless you have a pair of pliers handy.
The Least Bit Bow Heavy
Before we went to bed we talked over the trip. Greg had it all planned on a government map. It was to be a short trip of about fifty miles, with a couple of easy portages. Greg knew exactly where we would stop for lunch, where we would camp, where we would pause and catch a few fish for supper. On the map his arrangements looked well nigh perfect.
“The beauty of a camping trip,” said Greg, “is that you can tell just where you’re going. It’s not like a motoring trip with detours, and torn-up roads, and hotels you can’t get into. On a canoe trip you can plan ahead. You can always find water enough to float a canoe. Then pick some delightful spot in a grove of birch trees, pitch your little silk tent, cut a few balsam bows for a bed, and there you are.”
We decided to get up with the sun and make an early start, but something must have happened, because neither of woke up till half past eight. By the time we had breakfast and Greg had carried half a ton of camping conveniences down to the beach it was about ten.
Then we had to load the canoe. The canoe looked all right and was made by a reputable manufacturer, but it was easy to tell something was wrong with it the moment that Greg started to pack the things in it.
Nothing seemed to fit quite the way Greg thought it should. There were four large sacks and the only place these would fit was between the centre thwarts. But this was the place in the canoe where I was supposed to do my resting and lean against the lazy-back. It looked as if the outfit or I would have to remain behind.
“Don’t bother about me, Greg,” I said. “I can squeeze in the bow. It will be just as comfortable, and there’s no other way to get all this dunnage aboard her.”
“It will certainly make things easier,” said Greg, and set about stowing away the various trifles that for some reason or other he had not been able to put in the bags. Finally he tucked away the fishing rods and I climbed aboard. Greg pushed off.
You didn’t have to be a naval architect to tell right away that there was something wrong with the way the canoe clove the water. Where I was sitting the cornice was about two inches from the lake, while down at Greg’s end the canoe looked like one of these racing sea fleas which only touch the water every second Tuesday. Greg had to lean away over the edge to wet his paddle.
I noticed that the canoe wasn’t steering very well, but didn’t like to say anything about it because I was a passenger. I thought Greg would probably find out for himself anyway. He was trying to steer the way the Indians do, with a sort of slosh and twiddle stroke, but wasn’t making much headway. Then he tried dipping bis paddle first on one side and then on the other. Each time the paddle changed sides I got a shower bath in the bow.
“Sorry,” said Greg, “she doesn’t seem to be balanced quite right.”
“What’s the trouble?” I asked.
“We seem the least bit bow heavy,” said Greg. “I think we’d better shift the load.”
So we went to shore and shifted the load. That got us into the same trouble we’d met before and Greg decided that we had better empty one of the duffle bags and pack its contents separately.
“We’ll empty the blanket bag,” said Greg, and then shook out on the sand a nest of little canvas bags all neatly labeled flour, cornstarch, tea, hard tack, corn meal, salt pork, and other staples of an invalid’s diet.
“Where are the blankets?” I asked when about twenty little bags had poured out on the sand.
“They must be in another bag,” said Greg, “but we know where the food is anyway.”
We got under way again and this time the canoe was balanced, but I wouldn’t like to say the same for myself. I was sitting in the middle of the canoe on top of the three largest rolls and felt as if I might have gone crazy and entered one of these tree-sitting competitions. I was about a foot above the lazy-back.
“Just sit still and you’ll be all right,” said Greg, paddling tenderly. “Now let’s see where north is.”
Keeping to Schedule
I knew where north was, but Greg didn’t I want me to tell him. “Half the fun of a camping trip is finding things out for yourself,” said Greg. “Now, where’s the compass?”
It turned out that I was sitting on it. Not on purpose, but just in the way people always sit on things on camping trip. I tried to get the compass but my resting perch was too precarious to permit much action, so we put ashore and got the compass.
Greg decided that the blue needle must point north because the white one was pointing at the sun, and the camping trip got under way in earnest. I never saw north make such a difference in a man.
According to Greg’s schedule, we were supposed to reach the portage about eight in the morning, daylight saving time, but because of one thing and another, including a slight leak that we tried to ignore but could not, we arrived at the portage at five-thirty in the afternoon, standard time.
“Now, you’re not to carry a thing,” said Greg. “You walk on ahead and wait at the other end of the portage. You’d better take a fishing rod along. You might find something below the rapids.”
I protested. “I may be recovering from an operation, but I’m not a feeble invalid,” I said. “Surely I can carry the silk tent or something.”
As portages go, this wasn’t bad one except for about a hundred yards where it led through a barnyard. This was about the only place you couldn’t take a rest if you wanted to, but on the other hand it was about half way across and so was the one place you had to take a rest whether you wanted to or not.
I reached the end of the portage quite awhile before Greg turned up carrying a bale of stuff tied to his forehead, but I didn’t bother doing much fishing because there wasn’t enough water. I didn’t say anything to Greg about the water because he was in a hurry and besides he liked to find things out for himself.
So I had a rest while Greg staggered back and forth with all the luggage, and finally the canoe itself wobbled into view with about eighteen inches of Greg showing beneath it.
The minute he put the canoe down I could tell that something had gone wrong. Greg doesn’t very often get angry, but this time he was in a towering rage. When I heard what had happened I couldn’t blame him a bit.
It would hardly do to repeat what had happened as Greg told it, but even a censored account will give some inkling of its harrowing nature.
After a superhuman effort, Greg had managed to get the canoe on his shoulders by crawling under it and pretending he was Atlas. Although he expected to be crushed to earth at every step, all went as well as could be expected until he reached the barnyard gate. Here he had trouble with the steering gear.
Although the opening was eight feet wide, Gregory said it was almost impossible to find it with the bow of the canoe. Three times he charged the opening with the canoe only to run foul of the fence on one side or the other. The fourth time the bow of the canoe slipped over a fence post and stuck there.
But this gave Greg a chance to escape from under the appalling weight, which had been growing greater each moment, and to see exactly where he was and get a straight run at the gate. But in his haste and anger he failed altogether to notice one very important fact.
Portaging Through a Barnyard
It being around milking time, the cows had I wandered back from pasture and were dotted idly about the barnyard waiting to be milked. Gregory said the first time he knew that he had cows for company was half through the barnyard, when one of them stuck her head under the canoe and “mooed” at him.
Fearful that the cow’s horns would get entangled in the canoe, and somewhat startled by the unexpected sight and noise, Gregory swung the canoe sharply up and to one side, an excellent manoeuvre, had not the first cow’s sister (an elderly bell cow) been standing directly in the path of the canoe’s stern. Stern met stern, it seems, with a mighty smack. Frightened and indignant, the old bell-cow set up an enormous clatter and in a moment the whole herd was in a panic.
Greg couldn’t tell how many cows had joined his aquatic rodeo, but he figured there must have been about six hundred. It was a desperate situation. He couldn’t see. He daren’t move for fear of offending another cow. He didn’t want to let the canoe down for fear of offending himself when he came to pick it up.
He waited there like a ship at sea with foghorns blowing all around it, until at last things got quieter and he heard a man’s voice.
“What’s the trouble, mister,” it said. “Canoe kinda heavy?”
“Canoe nothing,” said Greg. “This portage is full of cows.”
“‘Tain’t now,” laughed the farmer. “They’re back in the pasture just scared to death.”
Greg thought we’d better camp where we were for the night, so that we could get a good start in the morning.
It didn’t strike me as much of a camping place. There wasn’t any grove of birches, I couldn’t see a balsam, the cows had been making free with what little water there was left in the stream.
I pointed out this last drawback to Greg, and it looked as if one of us would have to go back to the lake and portage some water, but I realized that the farmer would probably have a well. So I left Greg to unpack and start a fire while I went for water.
The farmer was a nice man and gave me some water and some information. “Where do you lads figure you’re going?” he asked me. I told him we were going on a canoe trip. “Then you’d best hire a truck,” he said. “There ain’t no water below here for about six miles since the Hydro’s dammed the lake for storage.”
I asked the farmer to come with me and tell Greg about the Hydro. He did and Greg got out his maps. The farmer said the map wasn’t any good till September, when the Hydro let the water out. Greg said we couldn’t wait till September. The farmer said he didn’t know about that, but that he had a couple of tourist huts for rent and we could get a good meal at his house for sixty cents.
The idea appealed to me but made Greg very angry. So the farmer left and Greg went on getting supper. It was a good job we were in a field, because there never would have been room in the woods for all Greg’s labor-saving devices. Our camp covered about half an acre.
Greg sent me off with the little ax to get some firewood, so I went back to see the farmer and made a deal with him for a wheelbarrow load of stove wood for fifty cents, f.o.b. the camp-fire. Greg was so angry he could hardly speak when I returned with the farmer and the wheelbarrow. I also brought back pie, which Greg threw in the middle of what was going to be the river in September.
“We’re on a camping trip and that’s not cricket,” said Greg.
“Who ever heard of playing cricket on camping trip?” I said.
“‘You know what I mean,” said Greg. “There are rules for camping, just the same as every other game.”
When I understood it was a game we were playing, I said no more. Greg went on cooking. If hotels took the room Greg took to cook supper for two, it would require about two square miles of kitchen to provide a medium-sized banquet at the Royal York. The piece de resistance of the meal was flapjacks.
Back in the Farmer’s Truck
I never found out what a flapjack is like I when it’s young and tender, but Greg talked about them as some people do about pate de fois, or truffles aux pimpernells, or planked porterhouse steak and onion soup.
They caught fire twice and I had to rescue them with the pliers because the aluminum pan was too hot to touch without asbestos gloves. There was only one each, for flapjacking rules require that you flip them in the air over the fire. Greg lost six that way.
After we had stayed our hunger on flapjacks and brownish liquid which Greg said was coffee, we put the tent up. “Now for some balsam boughs,” said Greg. “A real night’s sleep and you won’t know yourself.”
“Wouldn’t some other tree do?” I asked. “Why,” said Greg. “Because I don’t think there’s any balsam around here.” “Nonsense,” said Greg. “There’s always balsam. You go that way and I’ll go this.”
So Greg went off one way and I went up and made a deal with the farmer to fill the tent with hay for a dollar and fifty cents, the hay to remain his property after we had gone. Then I had some supper.
Greg was gone almost an hour and couldn’t find any balsam, which made him sore, but he was much sorer when he found his silk tent packed so full of hay you could hardly burrow into it.
“It’s disgraceful,” he said. “It’s worse than cheating at cards. I’d sooner sleep out on the ground than on hay on a camping trip.”
“That’s all right for you,” I said, “but I’m recovering from an operation. I’ve got to take care of myself.”
What worried me was the waterless river we were supposed to go canoeing on in the morning. I tried to tell Greg that the farmer had a truck, but Greg said the farmer had done enough harm already.
“Wait,” said Greg. “I’ll think of something before morning.”
He did. Along about dawn he roused me with what seemed wonderful news. “I’ve got it,” he said. “There’s no water below, but there’s a lake full of water above. All we have to do is to remove the obstruction that is keeping the water back. Take out a couple of stop logs and we’ll have enough water to float a steamer.”
So I went up and bribed the farmer to take some stop logs out of the dam while Greg got to work and piled everything in the canoe. When I got back he had the canoe out in the dry bed of the stream and was sitting in it.
“Get in so’s we’ll be ready the minute the water hits us.”
We were ready and waiting. First a small trickle of water arrived and then a little bit more, and then I heard a roar and looked back. Greg says the wall of water wasn’t over three feet high, but it looked more like a three-storey house to me.
“Hold tight,” said Greg, “we’re going.”
We went all right. Everything went. Fortunately the stream bent right ahead of us so that most of the things, including Greg and myself, were washed on a rocky knoll. Then I realized what a true camper Greg is. No sooner had he been flung safely from the raging torrent than he said: “Quick! Let’s dump the canoe and get going while the water lasts.”
“I don’t think I’d better, Greg,” I said. “I don’t think I’m strong enough yet to stand any more camping.”
“You wouldn’t go back now in ignominy and disgrace?”
“No,” I said. “We’ll be going back in the farmer’s truck.”
Editor’s Notes: Though I normally only post stories by Greg, I included this one by our old friend Merrill Denison, since Greg is a character in it. It is an example of an older story before the Greg-Jim stories started. The image at the end shows how the overall illustration was placed on the page. The operation he mentions is having his appendix out, which he also wrote a story about on July 12, 1930, which Jim also illustrated.
F.O.B. means Free On Board, a transportation term that indicates that the price for goods includes delivery at the seller’s expense to a specified point and no further.
These posters were created by Jim for the 1930 Canadian federal election, held on July 28, 1930. William Lyon Mackenzie King lost power to the Conservatives led by R. B. Bennett. This was at the beginning of the Great Depression, so, ironically, it was better for the Liberals not to be in charge during the worst of it.
By Gregory Clark, June 14, 1930.
“My doctor,” said Merrill, “has ordered me to take up horse-back riding.”
“You’ll require a horse,” said I doing something else.
“Horse-back riding,” said Merrill, “is good for the liver, it jounces you around and makes up in one hour for all the jiggling your insides could get from a year’s work with pick and shovel.”
“Have you ever ridden?”
“No,” said Merrill. “I am told there is a kind of electric spark that passes from the horse to the rider as he bounces up and down which does a man a great vitality.”
“I think you’ll enjoy riding,” said I, “if you can persuade a horse that it will.”
“I am counting on you,” said Merrill. “You can teach me to ride. You were with the cavalry in the war, weren’t you?”
“Mounted Rifles,” said I, quickly.
“The same thing,” said Merrill. “When can you come with me?”
Of course, it wasn’t the same thing by any means. The Mounted Rifles may have intended to have horses but all of the time I knew them, they were just plain gravel crushers. Any riding I did in France was on a lorry. But men are silly. No sooner are they flattered with the notion that they were dashing cavalry men than they submit themselves to situations which are unbearable.
So I stand here writing this – I’ve had my typewriter set up on a high desk so I don’t have to sit down – I realize that the most cowardly part of a man is his tongue. Why didn’t I briskly tell Merrill that I knew nothing whatsoever about horses? But no:
“Any time you say,” said I. “Make arrangements for a couple of horses and I’ll go any day”
And the following noon, Merrill phoned to say that he had made arrangements with a riding academy up Yonge St. for that very afternoon. He would pick me up in his car.
Merrill called at the office in riding clothes, hard hat, shiny boots – as if he were a life long member of the Hunt Club.
“Where’s your bag?” asked Merrill.
“I’ve no bag,” said I.
“But your britches,” said Merrill. “How will you ride without britches?”
“The Mounted Rifles never rode in britches and always rode in trousers.”
“The academy fellow said to be sure to wear britches,” said Merrill.
Anyway, we arrived in a back lane that smelled strongly of horses and in a few minutes of being shown through a dark stable by a sun-tanned riding master who seemed to regard me with deep suspicion.
“Haven’t you better have britches, sir?” he said. Merrill had told him on the telephone that a cavalry officer was a friend of his and was going to teach him riding.
“No, no,” said Merrill, interrupting. “The Mounted Rifles always rode in trousers.”
“Merrill,” said I, “you should have a good tall horse, strong and well built.”
“I’ve the very thing,” said the groom. And backed out of its stall a huge brown horse that had to duck its head under the stable rafters. “Here’s a good strong horse, with lovely manners and it doesn’t care what it carries.”
Merrill looked unimpressed. So did the horse. It snorted loudly.
“Haven’t you got a lower horse?” asked Merrill. “A lower, wider horse, with shorter legs and broader across the back. I’d feel more sure.”
Spanked on a Large Scale
This is the very horse for you, sir,” said the groom. “Now for you, sir.”
And the groom stood inspecting me for a moment.
“You’d like something pretty,” said he. “No nags for you, sir.”
“Oh, just a nice little horse,” said I, trying to look cavalry. “I don’t want to be too busy riding to devote some attention to my friend here.”
He backed out a small, yellow horse with its ears pointing back.
“I don’t like its ears,” said I.
“That’s all right sir,” said the groom. “That’s the way he wears them all the time. He’s a dandy little horse.”
With the help of a couple more grooms, the two steeds were soon saddled. Twice I saw my little horse stretch out its neck towards Merrill’s big horse, and both times the big horse backed violently away.
“Are these horses good friends?” I demanded.
“The little chap is playful,” said the groom. “but don’t mind that, sir. You’ll have no trouble managing him.”
When Merrill came to mount, all three grooms had to help him up. It was a terrific heave. They had to push the horse up against the lane fence and then hoist Merrill on with the fence for a backing.
“Wait a minute,” said Merrill uneasily. “Suppose I fall off, are their any loading platforms in the neighborhood where I can get on again, or are you three going to follow me about?”
“You won’t fall off, sir,” said the head groom.
“I feel as if I will fall off at the slightest movement,” said Merrill. “This horse is like a barn roof.”
I have seen hundreds of horsemen mount their charges in the movies, at the horse show, and so forth. I stepped boldly up to my small horse, seized its reigns, raised one foot for the stirrup when the little brute swerved violently away from me.
“The other side, sir!” shouted the head groom. It appears you cannot climb on a horse from any side. There is a particular side. I forget which one now, but with one of the grooms holding his head, I managed to clamber up the side of the beast and get myself in the saddle. Merrill and his large horse were standing waiting in the lane.
I don’t know anything more deceiving than a horse. It looks, from the ground to be a nice round animal, with a broad, smooth back slightly curved downward as if for the comfortable seating of a man. But the minute you get on top, you find it entirely different. A horse is really a three-cornered animal. It is triangular in shape, and one of the edges is up. The saddle is a small seat on this thin and dangerous edge, and your legs hang down two slippery sides.
And even my small horse seemed to be ten feet high.
Its ears were pointing back all of the time. The minute the groom let go, it gave a couple of little skips and, with its neck outstretched, trotted towards Merrill’s horse.
Merrill’s horse wheeled suddenly, almost upsetting him right at the start, and made off down the lane.
When a horse runs, it bobs up and down. By some curious lack of sympathy between man and horse, a man is always coming down just as the horse is coming up. I know of no other sensation quite like it. It is like being spanked on a large scale. And also like being hit on the jaw by a man much bigger than yourself. Both Merrill and I went out the lane being spanked. And I am not sure, but I think I heard veiled laughter from the grooms behind us.
“Whoa!” shouted Merrill, as we came out of the lane to the street. “Hold your horse back away from mine. Mine’s nervous of yours.”
A Horse Can Jump Sideways
I hauled on the reins and mine stopped.
“Which way will we go?” asked Merrill. “Up north of Forest Hill Village is nice.”
“Let’s go there then.”
“Turn left,” said Merrill, pulling on the left rein. But his big horse turned right.
“We’ll go this way,” Merrill called back to me. So one behind the other, we proceeded east towards Yonge St.
Merrill’s horse paid no attention to traffic. But mine began to prance every time a motor car passed. It laid back its ears and pointed itself in different directions, and sometimes it even backed up a little, which was very disconcerting. My trouser legs were beginning to work up and show my garters.
“We’ll go north on Yonge,” said Merrill, as we approached.
But at Yonge, when he pulled the north rein, the big horse turned south.
“Hey,” said I, “north on Yonge.”
“I’ve changed my mind,” called Merrill. “We’ll ride in the Rosedale ravine, it’s more secluded.
My pant legs were working up so high that I wished I had got britches. I don’t believe the Mounted Rifles ever rode in trousers. They probably wore puttees.
Amid traffic, we proceeded at a walk down Yonge St., Merrill having to slow up every little while until my small horse stopped pointing itself at half the cars that passed.
When we came level with the entrance to the Rosedale Glen, Merrill stopped his horse, turned it facing the entrance and then clicked his tongue and started it. But, without the slightest concern, the horse turned and proceeded down Yonge St.
I let my horse loose just a little bit and came within speaking distance of Merrill.
“We don’t want to go down town,” I said.
“He knows where he’s going,” said Merrill. “Take the lead yourself if you like.”
I tried to move my horse past Merrill. In doing so, I must have conveyed the wrong impression to him. I clicked and said “Giddap,” and slightly urged him forward with my body. And the fool horse started to trot!
As soon as he started to trot, Merrill’s big horse gave a lurch and started not to trot but to gallop.
“Whoa!” roared Merrill. I yelled whoa too. But it appears in the best horseman circles, nobody ever says whoa to their horse. Around a corner off Yonge St. we charged.
Merrill’s horse was going at what is called a canter, and Merrill was bouncing easily up and down. But my small yellow horse, with its ears back, was trotting smartly, with the result that I was joggled horribly, and I could only see in a blur. I could see in his elbows that Merrill was trying to stop his horse. Just as he got it slowed, we caught up, and mine gave a small whinny and made a nudge at Merrill’s.
A horse can jump sideways. You would be surprised at how far a horse can jump sideways. I wonder they don’t include sideways jumping events at the horse shows. Anyway, it was all of ten feet from where Merrill hit the pavement to where the horse stood, all trembling and indignant. For fear my horse would step on him, Merrill scrambled up and my horse stood up on its hind legs. I executed a smart manoeuvre I had learned in the Mounted Rifles in getting off the back of moving lorries. I slid off the rear end of my horse while it was standing up.
The two horses trotted in a leisurely way along the street towards Queen’s Park, which glimmered greenly a block distant.
“Well,” said Merrill.
“I was afraid you were hurt,” said I, pulling down my pant legs.
“What about the horses?” asked Merrill.
“What do you say if we let them go?” said I. “They will find their way home. Horses are marvellous that way.”
“It’s all my fault,” said Merrill. “I’m sorry. But if you ‘ll try me just once more, let’s go and catch them and you take the lead. I’ll follow.”
We walked with an accompaniment of small children, over to the park, where our horses were nibbling the grass peacefully and a park attendant was creeping warily up on them.
“You catch yours first,” said Merrill, “and then you can ride mine down and catch him.”
“No, Merrill,” said I. “I’m the teacher. I want you to learn to catch your horse right at the start. It is one of the most important things.”
“But how will I get back on it?”
“Some of this crowd will help,” said I. For all of the people in the park, who had been lying on the grass and lounging on the benches, had suddenly come to life and were gathering to see us catch our horses.
We stalked the big horse carefully. Merrill called “Co-bossy, nice co-bossy,” to it. Just as we were about to grasp the reins, it raised its head suddenly and galloped a few yards away, where it began to nibble the grass again. This was repeated several times, and we had made almost the complete turn of the park when a policeman came walking briskly up and said to Merrill:
“Here, you’ll have to get that horse off here.”
“That’s what we’re trying to do,” said Merrill.
“Well go on – get it off,” said the policeman.
“All right, all right,” said Merrill, approaching the big horse.
“Come on, now, no fooling. Get it off of here right away,” said the policeman.
Merrill reached for the reins and again the big horse bolted a few yards off.
“Look here,” said the policeman, sternly, “are you going to get that horse off of here, or are you not?”
Merrill turned to me.
“I guess you’d better catch yours, after all,” said he.
So we turned our attention to the small yellow horse, which had been watching the whole proceedings out of the corner of its eye while nibbling grass.
The crowd now numbered hundreds. To the nearest of them, I explained how we used to catch our horses in the Mounted Rifles. I said we used to turn out the whole battalion and form a huge circle, just like ring-around-a-rosy, and then narrow it down until the horse was caught in the middle. I asked them if they would like to help us. And a large circle was formed around the little yellow horse, so that five men, the policeman, Merrill and I managed to corner the beast, and a short man with bow legs and a peaked cap walked bang up to the brute and took it coolly by the straps.
“‘Ere’s your ‘orse,” said the little man. “What’s your trouble?”
“I was teaching my friend here to ride,” said I, “and he fell off.”
“Did he fall off bofe ‘orses?” asked the bow-legged little man.
“I got off to help him catch his horse.”
“Ow, I see!” said the little man. “Now then, wot?”
“We’re going to get on again,” said Merrill, “if we can find a sort of platform around here anywhere. Maybe a couple of benches one on top of the other will do.”
“Perhaps,” said the little man in the cap, “you’d like the ‘ave the ‘orse kneel down for you to get on?”
“Will it do that?” asked Merrill, eagerly.
“Sure,” said the small fellow. “An’ roll over.”
“You catch my horse now,” said Merrill to me. “Let’s hurry. This crowd is getting noisy and the policeman is getting out his little book.”
“That Horse is a Killer”
“We’ll catch yours the same way as we caught mine,” I said. “I don’t like galloping all around this park. There are women and children to be considered.”
“Form another ring,” said Merrill.
“Wite a minute,” said the little man holding my horse. “Do you want me to get that other one for you?”
“Do you mind?” I asked quietly.
The little man was quivering with anxiety to get on my horse. You could see that.
Up went one leg, with an easy bound the little man was on top and had hooked his bow-legs over that prancy yellow beast of mine. Its prancing stopped. With an easy twist or two, he rode it up to the big horse, took the reins and brought the two of them to us more quickly than it takes to write about it.
“Now then,” said Merrill, looking haughtily at the policeman, “up we go.”
“Merrill,” said I, holding him by the lapel, “look at the eye of that horse of yours! Just look at it! I didn’t notice it before. But that’s a bad horse you’ve got. A bad horse!”
“Eh!” said Merrill.
“That horse is a killer,” said I. “I’m sorry I ever let you get on such a horse as that. I wouldn’t dream of being responsible for you on a bad horse like that. He’s got blood in his eye.”
“What shall we do?” asked Merrill.
“I’ll ask this little chap if he would like to take the two of them back to the stable,” said I.
“All right then,” said Merrill. “I’m mighty glad you saw in time.”
“Would you like,” I asked the small man, still sitting on my horse, “to take the two of them back to their stable?”
“Right-o,” said he.
“What’s the address of that stable, Merrill?”
“Oh, I knows it,” said the little man. “I come from there and I’m the groom what the boss sent down to follow you two gents in case you got in trouble.”
“The very idea!” cried Merrill indignantly, looking to me to burst out into cavalry temper.
“Right-o,” said the little chap, wheeling the horses and taking them tamely out of sight.
“Let’s walk over to Yonge and get a taxi,” said I. We walked away and left the crowd to sort itself out on the benches and grass again.
“Ouch,” said Merrill.
“What is it?”
“That electric spark from the horse is catching me,” said Merrill. “It feels like a knife inside my leg up there.”
I walked a short distance and noticed the same thing.
We were walking slightly bow-legged by the time we got to a taxi. The next day we both stayed home. To-day I am working at my task standing up.
“What shall I tell my doctor?” asked Merrill.
“Tell him you consulted a cavalry officer who said that you were not cut out for a horseman and ask him if riding in a tank would server the same purpose.”
And the doctor retorted that Merrill should go in for sea fleas.
Editor’s Note: This is a pre-Greg and Jim story, in the similar format, but with Greg and Merrill Denison, another Star Weekly columnist. A few of these stories would run in 1930. Denison would later move to New York and still contribute occasionally to the Star Weekly, and Jim would still illustrate his stories. The quality of the microfilm was also quite bad, so I had to make some guesses with the text.
By Greg Clark, July 7, 1930
“I’d like to see Mr. Denison, please,” I said to the lady at the desk in the hospital corridor.
Yes, hospital. Merrill, whether from the after affects of being jiggled on a horse’s back or from too much golf, was taken from the train at an eastern town and rushed to hospital where he was operated on for appendicitis.
And taking the first train after hearing the bad news, I dashed down to his assistance.
“Mr. Denison?” asked the lady in white. “You mean Dr. Denison.”
“Ha, ha,” said I to myself, “the big scamp is masquerading as a doctor is he! Doctor of what? Doctor of architecture, doctor of horse-back riding, doctor of expense accounts?”
“Very well,” said I to the lady, “Doctor Denison.”
Far be it from me to disrupt any of Merrill’s little schemes.
“You are expected,” said the lady in white. “If you will just come this way, I will hand you over to the nurses.”
It was a nice little hospital, surrounded by beautiful bushy gardens, and its corridors were spotless and shiny. I was glad Merrill had the good fortune, if he must be stricken away from home, to land into such a hospital as this.
The lady in white led me down the corridor into a small white room. On a table lay a quantity of linen. And at one side of the room stood one of those wheeled cots on which the sick are taken for a ride.
“Just undress here,” said the lady in white, and put on that white gown there. When you are ready, ring this bell and the nurse will come for you.”
I looked at her in astonishment.
“Undress?” said I.
“Of course,” said she.
“Why undress?” I demanded.
“You can’t go in your business clothes,” said she.
“Ah,” said I, “for sanitation’s sake?”
“Exactly,” said the lady in white, going out the door.
Well, the last thing in the world I would do would be to carry germs into Merrill, lying there exhausted from his operation. But how wonderful, I said to myself as I unbuttoned my collar, the way science is advancing! Here in a small city hospital you couldn’t even go in to visit a friend without undressing and putting on a sanitary nightgown.
“I suppose,” said I, as I removed my boots, “the next thing they will be doing will be making you take a bath before you can visit a friend in hospital.”
The hospital nightie did not exactly fit me. It was more like a tent than a nightshirt. But I liked its extreme modesty.
I rang the bell.
Two nurses entered the room.
“Will you come this way, sir, for your bath?” said the one with the blue eyes.
“Bath!” said I.
“Yes, sir, you must take a bath.”
“Well, I’ll be jiggered,” said I.
So they led me through an inner corridor and left at the bathroom where I had a real good shower. It was a dandy needle shower. I felt fine. Merrill, said I, will be glad to look at a chap as fresh and rosy as me. After the train journey, this bath is a good idea.
“This Gentleman Pulls a New One”
When I came out of the bathroom, the nurses were sitting waiting for me.
“Now we will go to the ante-room,” said the blue-eyed one, “where the male nurse will prepare you.”
“Prepare me?” said I. “Is anything wrong?”
“No,” said the blue-eyed nurse. “Prepare you means shave you and that sort of thing.”
“But I shaved this morning,” said I, somewhat indignantly, for even on a train I pride myself on giving my chin a good clean scrape.
The blue-eyed nurse laughed prettily.
“He’ll do a much better job,” said the nurse.
“Well,” said I, “your hospital is away ahead of anything in Toronto. I never heard of such precautions as you take. Why, you would think I was the world’s champion germ carrier. But if you don’t mind, nurse, I think we will pass up the shave. I feel perfectly presentable now.”
“Dr. Denison insists on everything,” said the nurse.
“He would be to glad to see me if I was covered with mud.” said I.
“Well,” said the nurse, “I’ll have to see the superintendent. Will you wait here?”
I waited. Presently the two young nurses came back with an elderly lady with a peculiarly cool and determined face.
“Good morning,” said she. “How do you feel?”
“Great,” said I.
“Have you any pain?” said the superintendant.
“Pain,” I snorted. I never felt better in my life.”
“That’s splendid,” said the superintendent. “Now, tell me, did it have a flexible handle?”
“I beg your pardon,” said I.
“Did it have a flexible handle? Or a stiff handle? In other words,” said the superintendent, “will it bend?”
“I certainly beg your pardon,” said I, entirely bewildered.
“The toothbrush,” said the superintendent.
“What toothbrush?” I asked.
The superintendent turned and winked at the two nurses who were smiling shyly.
“The toothbrush,” said the superintendent, “that you swallowed.”
It was like a dream. I have had looney dreams like this often.
“I didn’t swallow any toothbrush,” said I, laughing.
“No?” said the superintendent. “Now, like a good man, you just come with us to the ante-room where the male attendant will prepare you. It’ll all be over in no time.”
“Look here,” said I, “there’s a mistake somewhere. I didn’t swallow any toothbrush. All I came here for was to visit my friend Mr. Denison.”
“Now that is ingenious,” said the superintendent to the two young nurses, talking to them just as if I were not there at all, or as if I were a specimen in a case. “It is not at all uncommon for patients to lose their nerve at the door of the operating room. And they are very clever about it too. But this gentleman pulls a new one. He was coming to visit his friend Mr. Denison. I must tell Dr. Denison that.”
She led on. I stood fast.
“Look here,” said I. “Excuse me. Just be good enough to ask Mr. Denison if he is expecting me.”
“Dr. Denison is expecting you,” said she. “He is changing now. You must be ready in five minutes.”
“But I don’t know any Dr. Denison,” said I, shakily, for I could see no way out of this. “I just got off the train half an hour ago and dashed up here to see my friend Denison, who was operated on for appendicitis yesterday.”
Bound, Gagged and Bathed
“There is no Mr. Denison operated on for appendicitis here,” said the superintendent. “Come, come, sir, pull yourself together. You are in a very dangerous situation.”
“I know it,” said I.
“If that toothbrush gets past a certain point, you are likely to have peritonitis and die.”
“Look here,” I yelled, “I swallowed no toothbrush!”
The superintendent turned to the nurses.
“This is the gentleman?”
“He was handed over to us,” they said.
“Short, medium stout,” said the superintendent, sizing me up. “How was he dressed?”
“In a brown suit,” said the blue-eyed nurse.
“Well, yes,” said the blue-eyed nurse. Never put your faith in blue-eyed nurses. They look at you with such sweet eyes, but they think your suit is shabby.
“This the man all right,” said the superintendent. “Just call MacWhirtie.”
It was impossible to look dignified in that nightshirt. I knew that. Then the door opened, and in came great giant of a sandy-haired Scotchman in overalls, the kind they have one of in every hospital. His hair grew down almost to his eyebrows, and he had blue, simple eyes.
“Just help this gentleman into the ante-room,” said the superintendent.
“Hand’s off!” I roared as MacWhirtie advanced.
But, making soothing and clucking noises, MacWhirtie swept me up, smothered me in the colossal nightshirt and laid me down on a table. I struggled. He held me down.
“Careful,” said the superintendent. “He’s got a toothbrush in him. Don’t let him struggle like that.”
So MacWhirtie got one of those crag-climbing strangle holds on me, and pinned me down.
I could see, from under MacWhirtie’s arm, a pallid little man in soiled white overalls approaching me with a shaving mug and an old fashioned razor.
“Get away from me,” I yelled.
The door opened and in walked a tall thin blond man.
“Well, well,” said he.
“Dr. Denison, this the gentleman that swallowed the toothbrush,” said the superintendent, “and he has got a little fright just at the last minute.”
“We’ll soothe him,” said the doctor, “Get off, MacWhirtie.”
I sat up.
“Doctor,” said I, “there will be the devil to pay over this. I just came in on the train half an hour ago…”
“Where do you feel it now?” asked the doctor, sitting down on the edge of the table, and putting a kindly arm around my shoulder.
“I say,” I said stoutly, “I came up here to visit my friend Mr. Merrill Denison who yesterday was operated on for appendicitis. And they have seized me, bound me, gagged me, bathed me, put me into this nightshirt…”
“Well, well,” said Dr. Denison.
“Well, well, nothing!” I shouted. “I warn you I am not the man you think I am.”
“Then why did you accept the nightshirt and take the bath?” asked the doctor, good-humoredly and patiently. “Like a good chap, now, pull yourself together.”
“Listen,” said I, desperately, and probably by this time I did look like a man who had swallowed a toothbrush, “how do I get out of this?”
“Just as soon we get the toothbrush,” said the doctor. “All right, MacWhirtie, just assist the gentleman into the operating room and we’ll do without the shave. I’ll use plenty of alcohol first.”
Blue-Eyed Nurses Should be Forbidden
MacWhirtie assisted me.
He laid me down on a cold marble table with dazzling lights in my face. I lay there wondering what Merrill would have done in such a predicament as this. Merrill would have said something witty. But I couldn’t think of anything witty. MacWhirtie was standing over me, with a great compassionate look on his simple face.
I smelt druggy smells. I heard something making sizzing noises. The nurses were busily dashing about the dazzling room. They rolled a big thing like a tank on a baggage hand truck over beside me. I sat up. MacWhirtie laid me down.
A silence fell on us all. The doctor smiled down on me.
Then the door of the operating room opened.
The lady in white who met me at the door of the hospital, stood there.
“The gentleman who swallowed the toothbrush is waiting downstairs,” said she.
The silence continued.
The smile faded from the bending face of the doctor.
MacWhirtie put one hand under me and helped me sit up.
“Well,” said I.
The blue-eyed nurse started to giggle. I think blue-eyed nurses should be forbidden. They have no sense of other people’s dignity.
“Well, sir,” said I, “you nearly had me disembowelled!”
“We were just going to X-ray you for the toothbrush,” said the doctor. “It would have been quite a hunt.”
“Now, how about taking me upstairs to see Mr. Denison,” said I.
“There is no Mr. Denison here,” said the superintendent in a business like voice. She was the sort of lady who takes the offensive especially when she in the wrong.
“I have a telegram in my pants, if I can get them,” said I, “informing me that he is here.”
“Maybe he is at the other hospital,” said the doctor.
“What other hospital?” I asked.
“There are two hospitals here,” said the doctor, “Just go to the phone and ask if there is a Mr. Denison over there.”
The blue-eyed nurse hurried out.
By the time I got my clothes on, which I donned in the same room with scared little man who was hastily undressing, the nurse informed me that Mr. Denison was indeed at the other hospital.
I shook hands with everybody, the doctor, MacWhirtie, the little man who was now wearing the large nightshirt, and even the blue-eyed nurse.
Then I took a taxi over to the other hospital.
“Mr. Denison?” said the lady in white sitting in the corridor of this hospital. “Just come this way.”
She led me down a corridor.
“Just a minute,” said I. She halted.
“I shaved this morning,” said I. “I’ve had a bath, this suit was French-cleaned only the day before yesterday, and I’m in highly sanitary condition.”
“Yes, sir,” said the lady in white, stiffly.
She opened door.
And there, pale, weary, but with one eye shut in silent greeting, lay Merrill.
Editor’s Note: This is one of the early “pre-Greg-Jim” stories that Greg wrote co-starring fellow writer Merrill Denison, from the Star Weekly. He also worked as a playwright and would later move to New York and still contribute occasionally to the Star Weekly. Jim would often illustrate these stories.
This particular comic shows some of the issues of working with microfilm. One side was poorly opened resulting a very dark shadow that cannot be cleaned.
On observer mentions that television would be better. Though only experimental in 1930, the concept of television was well known as early as the 1920s, and many people knew it was only a matter of time before it became practical and widespread.
Playing marbles would be a kid’s game, so an older person playing (and being good at it), is the joke. Agate is a mineral that some marbles were made of. “Dibs” was slang for marbles, from the ancient game of dibstones. Calling out “Dibs” was an exclamation used to declare one’s right to marbles knocked outside the circle of play, and is used now to generally claim rights to something. “Playing for keeps”, meant that you got to keep the marbles you won, rather than returning them to the original owner after the end of game. Now the term commonly refers to “a serious situation”. It would be serious for a child if you potentially “lost your marbles,” which now can mean “going insane“. Now, the phrase can be shortened to “losing it”.
This illustration is from an article about “King” Clancy by Greg. He was a famous hockey player (and later coach). The article was published shortly after he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in October 1930 from the Ottawa Senators. Unfortunately, the microfilm copy of this story is of poor quality, so the article cannot be replicated here.