The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1934 Page 1 of 4

On Account of It Is Spring

“What are you two old buzzards up to?” snarled the young man. “Sticking your noses into young people’s affairs!”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, May 26, 1934.

“Ho, hum,” said Jimmie Frise, tossing a wedding invitation on to his drawing board. “That makes five wedding presents I’ve got to buy next month.”

“That reminds me,” I said. “I’ve got three.”

“A fellow really ought to save up for June,” went on Jim, “the way he does for Christmas.”

“I suppose June is the nicest month to get married in,” I mused. “Nice weather for the honeymoon. Nice weather to set up house.”

“No coal bills,” added Jim. “No ashes to take out. No nasty getting out of bed in the frosty February mornings. In June, everything not only looks rosy. Everything is rosy. It is the logical month to get married.

“I wonder what is the favorite month for proposals?” I inquired. “In what month of the year are all these June weddings arranged?”

“I’d say January,” said Jim.

“I’d say August,” said I.

“In January,” argued Jimmie, “parties are at their height. Girls are at the peak of their beauty. They got their new dresses in November. But by January, they have got over the newness of their dresses and are willing to sit out the dances. See?”

“But August is so languid,” I demurred.

“No,” said Jim. “In January, a girl has got over taking care of her party dress and she begins to act naturally. She dances with grace and joy, not stiffly and carefully, the way she does in December with her new frock and her new shoes. Her shoes, as you might say, are broken in by January. So, in January, she begins to let herself go. She dances gaily. Think of all the young people coming home from dances at three o’clock in the morning in January. The biting cold of February is not yet here to chill the young couple. They come home, as I say, through the bright mystic night of January. No. I maintain that perhaps sixty per cent. of June weddings are arranged about the fifteenth of January, either in the car driving home from the dance. Or in the front porch.”

“There aren’t any more front porches,” I reminded Jim. “Now let me sing the praises of August. Think of it. The August moon. The languid soft August air. The purple night. Girl and boy in a canoe. No matter how ill-fitting the boy’s clothes may be in January, how sadly they remind the girl of the poor job the boy has, in August he is radiant in white flannels and blue blazer. Even a boy getting $18 a week, working temporarily for his uncle, looks romantic in a blue blazer and white flannels in August.”

Is Love-Making Different Now1?

“You are very mercenary about love,” said Jim. “You make out girls to be awfully hard-boiled.”

“Girls are hard-boiled,” I assured him. “Back in the days when the only means a girl had of escaping from home was by marrying, there was lots of room for romance, free and untrammelled. But nowadays, when a girl can get out of housework by taking a job as an office clerk, she can afford to use her head in picking her man.”

“So what has that to do with August?” asked Jim.

“In August,” I said, “everything in nature conspires to confuse a girl. Boys can more easily disguise their true condition in August than any other month. In fact, all they need is a bathing suit. And then, old Mother Nature turns on the languid air and the torrid moon to exert their ancient forces upon the girls.”

“What do we know about love?” cried Jimmie. “We did our courting back in the horse and buggy days!”

“It is the same now,” I said. “Love-making to-day is just the same as it was when the Pyramids were being built.”

“I doubt it,” said Jim. “If there was any way we could find out, it would be very interesting.”

“Well, where do young people go to make love?” I asked. “We could go there and observe them.”

“Where did they used to make love?” demanded Jim. “You say nothing has changed.”

They used to make love anywhere,” I admitted. “In street cars, walking down the street, sitting on front steps, anywhere.”

“Where did you make love?” asked Jimmie.

“On a balcony,” I said, rather shyly.

“Where?” asked Jim.

“The old house is torn down,” I said. “Where did you?”

“In a dinghy,” said Jim. “It’s sunk now.”

“We could go down to Sunnyside,” I said. “There are thousands of young people down there. We could observe them. And if we see a typical young couple, obviously in love, we could sort of detach them from the mob and follow them about, discreetly, you know.”

“A very good idea,” said Jimmie.

It was a balmy May evening. The world was filled with the sense of arrival, the trees were heavy with their first soft leaves, the robins sang in the throaty voice that means the nest is jewelled with blue, the children’s voices were music far off, the cars drove more slowly along the block, it was as if all the world were a little hushed and conscious that God must be somewhere near to behold this masterpiece of an evening.

Jim drove me down to Sunnyside and we parked and joined the strolling throng. It was still early enough for large numbers of babies and small children to be assuming possession of the place, and all the young mothers were beautiful in that slightly damp and flustered fashion which makes them more lovely than they know. It was a little early for Youth to be abroad, so Jimmie and I sat on a bench alongside an elderly couple sharing a bag of peanuts, and we watched the passing show.

Youths Mystical Flowering

“Some people,” said Jimmie, “are so beautiful they hurt just to see them. Others are so perfectly homely, you wonder who on earth had the nerve to give them birth.”

“The homely ones,” I remarked, “don’t know they are homely.”

“But how,” asked Jimmie, “could the beautiful ones not know they are lovely, brushed all day long with a thousand soft glances!”

So we sat, while the gathering throng surged past us, and the traffic behind us grew thicker and more short-tempered, and blue night fell slowly over the cool shining lake.

Then, as if some invisible Piper had sounded his call, Youth appeared. Like an orchestra that played only with horns and clarinets and drums, suddenly the strings, the violins, the violas, the cellos, started to sing in that moving picture before us. Sing and throb, divine, upreaching. Youth suddenly diffused itself amidst the throng, the tune changed, the tone and pitch altered, and we beheld, from our bench, the mystical flowering of human kind.

“Jimmie,” I said, huskily, because the lake is cool at nightfall, “they are the whole meaning of life.”

Old Jim, being an artist, said nothing but sat quite still.

Threes and fours of girls, pressing forward into the evening arm in arm; fives and sixes of boys, hands in pockets, leaning back, brave and indifferent.

“Notice, Jimmie,” I said, “how timid the boys are, they are in sixes and sevens, but the girls are in twos and three!”

Pairs went by and double pairs, teeth flashing, eyes glowing. But none suggested to us two old vultures sitting on the bench that we might follow them and discover how changed or changeless are the years.

Music, traffic, the soft thunder of the throng filled the night. Presently all the threes, and fours of girls were mingled with the sixes and sevens of boys. And Jim and I rose from our bench and fell in step with the night.

“You na-asty man!” and “Don’t ever DO that!” seemed to be the theme of the conversation of all mankind under thirty. Yells and giggles from both girls and boys seemed to be the battle cry.

“When I was young.” I hollered into Jim’s ear, “we could make love quietly!”

“A distant train whistle,” said Jimmie, “was about the only thing to disturb us in the quiet.”

In and out of the multitudes we wove our way, looking for the perfect, the ideal, the idyllic couple.

Then we saw them. The boy, tall and slim and solemn. The girl, winsome but sturdy and free-gaited, but with that same intent, grave expression.

“That’s ’em,” we hissed and cut in behind them.

Gravely they stalked ahead of us, looking in at the merry-go-rounds and the games, the rides and the booths. What little they had to say to each other, they said quietly and low. They seemed to be a prince and a princess out to see how the common people enjoyed themselves.

Wherever they paused, we paused. We stood as near them as our Victorian politeness allowed. We tried our best to eavesdrop on their conversation, but they spoke in murmurs.

“That’s it,” I whispered to Jimmie. “That’s the way we used to be! Just walking along, with not much to say. Just murmuring.”

“Yes,” whispered Jim. “That was it.”

With That Faraway Look

They stood a long time at the bowling alley, but they were looking, not at the bowlers, but at the heaps of red and yellow roses which were the prizes.

They took hands after that, just their fingers entwined, and walked rather shyly, not looking much at anything, but with roses in their hearts.

“You see, Jim?” I muttered. Jim bending down to hear me. “Even in all this racket and riot and confusion, it is just the same as it was in the Garden of Eden!”

They paused. We paused.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to look, and there, with blazing eyes, stood a quite young man, his fist clenched.

“What are you two old buzzards up to?” he snarled. He had a girl with him and she was standing back frightened.

“Where, how, what, who?” I stuttered.

“Bill,” called this young man. And the young fellow we had been following, leaped towards us, all dark and ready.

“Bill, these two old alligators have been following you and Marilyn for the last ten minutes,” shouted the blazing-eyed young man. A crowd was assembling. “Jill and I have been walking right behind you. At the rifle range, these two elderly hornbills swung in between us, and we have been watching them. They have been right close behind you trying to overhear what you said…. What say if I pop them on the snoot?”

“Er, ah, oh, um,” said Jim and I, harmonizing it.

“What’s the idea?” asked the tall young boy we had been following. “What’s the idea?”

“Why,” I stuttered, “we thought you were our friend, Bill Anderson’s, boy. An old school friend. We were just wondering if you were his boy. You look like him.”

“Does he sound like him?” asked the other lad, sarcastically. “Sticking your old noses into young people’s affairs!”

“Let’s throw them in the lake,” suggested a voice from the crowd. I looked at the crowd around us. It was all Youth.

“Let’s drown ’em,” agreed others.

Jim took my arm and thrust me through the mob.

We started slow and gained speed. We lost any pursuers about the place they run those little motor cars around and around. We kept right on until we found our own automobile and got into it.

“After a certain age,” said Jim, “it is not wise to evince too much interest in love. Even in other people’s love. Even in abstract love.”

“They were all youth,” I said. “They might very well have thrown us in the lake.”

“Young people do not like to think that old weasels like us are even interested in love,” said Jim. “It seems to them somehow ridiculous. It offends them.”

“Can’t we even sit on benches and watch them pass?” I asked.

“We mustn’t appear interested,” said Jim. “We should just sit and with a faraway look, as if we had forgotten something.”

“Forgotten everything, you mean,” I said.

“As a matter of fact,” said Jimmie, putting her in low and steering out into a gap in the long grinding procession of cars, “it is nearly everything, isn’t it?”

So we went home and pretended to be very cranky helping our various children with their home work.

Editor’s Note:

  1. It must be remembered that at this time, love making referred to courtship or wooing. ↩︎

The First Installment

April 7, 1934

More Punch!

They paid no attention whatever… they were putting on a show of their own

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, March 31, 1934.

“What are we giving our children?” demanded Jim, leaning back with chin lifted in that fashion he learned sitting on barrels in the village store of his boyhood. “Are we giving them the old simplicities on which we were nursed? No, sir! We are giving them the radio, movies, newspapers, magazines that are filled with the pep of this third decade of the twentieth century. When you and I were children, the fastest thing on the street was that high two-wheeled butcher’s cart. If we wanted music, we had to make it. Newspapers were solemn, stuffy things consisting of solid columns of dignified print. The only pictures were a few ads of ladies in corsets, or ladies with wavy hair.”

“Don’t forget,” I put in, “the fellow that drove around each morning in a little cart, changing the carbons in the arc lights1 that swung high over all the street corners. Remember the squeak of the pulleys as he lowered the ropes the arc light was on? And we used to all come running when we heard the pulleys and pick up the bits of carbon he threw away. Big pencils for writing on brick walls. Eddie loves Mary, we used to write.”

“Personally,” said Jim, “I was raised far from any arc lights. But we used to write on walls, even in Birdseye Centre.”

“I really think,” I said, “that for all the evils of the twentieth century, there is less writing on walls now than when we were children.”

“Yes,” agreed Jim. “But don’t let details deflect us from our true course. What I say is, we are giving our children the full benefit of the high-pressure twentieth century, and then we expect them to be as child-like as we were!”

“I don’t allow my children to go to movies, anyway,” I stated.

“That’s funny,” said Jim. “I saw them there the night before last.”

“You were mistaken,” I said. “The night before last they were out at a little meeting of a club some of the boys of the neighborhood have organized. A harmless little club.”

“One of us is mistaken,” said Jim.

“Hmmm,” said I. “What was the show?”

“The Loves of Marianne, or something,” said Jim.

“Well, what else is there for the poor little things?” I cried indignantly. “The only show I saw until I was about twenty was a Punch and Judy show.”

To Rescue Childhood

“There’s an idea!” shouted Jim. “You’ve hit the problem on the head! What else is there for them to see? We are neglecting them. It is the selfishness of our generation that is the fault. If we provided Punch and Judy shows for children, they would be just as interested in them as we were, and just as interested as they would be in modern love triangles!”

“That’s it,” I said.

“Well,” said Jim, “I’m an artist. You’re a pretty fair actor. Why not let us build a Punch and Judy show and lead the way. We might start a revolutionary movement. Something to rescue childhood from the dangers our selfishness has flung them into. A movement that might spread all over the world!”

“I’m game,” I said. “I think I can remember most of the Punch and Judy action and dialogue. And if I can’t, I can make it up.”

“We can start in our own neighborhood, with our own children,” said Jim. “And if It goes, we can go about the streets of the city giving free Punch and Judy shows, attracting hundreds, maybe thousands, of kids. And rescuing them from dear knows what their parents carelessly let them get into.”

“Jimmie,” I said, “at last I believe we have got hold of something real and beautiful and high-minded!”

So we started immediately drawing rough plans on Jimmie’s drawing board.

We built a little frame skeleton booth about the size of a Sunnyside ticket booth: Over it we tacked canvas and painted it pretty colors. About half way up the front side of the booth, we left the open space, surrounded by scallops of canvas, which would be the tiny stage on which Punch would run the exciting and murderous course of his brief life.

With old socks, bits of colored cloth and plasticene, Jimmie and I fashioned Punch with his long nose, Judy with her round beet red cheeks, Mr. Toby the dog, Scaramouche, the policeman, the doctor and the hangman.

And for two days and two nights while the paint and putty dried, I studied my lines. Ah, what a dear, forgotten story! Ah, how like life itself is the career of Mr. Punch.

Jimmie painted up some signs and tacked them around the neighborhood, inviting all and sundry, from eight years of age down, to attend a benefit performance, admission, two pins, to be held in the Frise backyard Saturday.

We got the show set and were in the backyard by one-thirty, and as no children but our own were on hand, we sent them out to invite any children they might meet with on the streets and bring them in.

More Jeers Than Cheers

By two-fifteen we had seven other children besides our own and a nice little audience for the beginning of a great reformation.

“All great movements had a small beginning,” explained Jimmie as I got in behind the booth and cleared my throat and sorted out all the characters ready to my hand, with their little stubby bodies and the sticks that supported them.

I rolled up the little curtain.

Cheers, Jimmie leading.

“Hallo, hallo, hallo!” I began, in the squeaky voice of Mr. Punch, popping the little, gentleman on the stage with his club under his arm.

“Louder!” came small voices from without. “And funnier!”

“When is Judy coming back with the baby?” I cried, walking Mr. Punch up and down agitatedly.

Mr. Toby, the dog, popped on. In a moment, Mr. Toby had Mr. Punch by the long red nose and a terrible tussle ensued, which ended by Mr. Punch belaboring Mr. Toby with the club unmercifully, amidst what I thought was a pretty good imitation of a dog fight.

“Haw, haw, haw!” came from without. It was more jeering than cheering.

Scaramouche enters. Is beaten and flung out of the stage. Judy and the baby are both beaten and flung out. I was giving them plenty of action, but the applause was mixed.

Then the policemen enters, slowly on heavy feet.

“I didn’t send for you.” cried Mr. Punch, in the time-honored repartee that I remembered across the years.

“No, I’m sent for you,” retorts the policeman.

“But I don’t want a policeman!” cries Mr. Punch shrilly.

“But a policeman wants you,” says the cop in a deep voice.

And of course Mr. Punch leaps on the policeman and beats him with the club, and flings the policeman off the stage, with a kick.

Outside I could hear tumult and children shouting, and Jimmie speaking to them loudly and commandingly. I peeped out around the canvas booth.

“Aw, nerts,” one of the small boys was saying. “That’s the bunk. It’s the cheese. It isn’t even as funny as Charlie Chase2!”

The children were clustered around Jimmie, paying no attention to the show.

“Here!” I shouted. Even my own boys paid no attention.

“We want Clark Gable3!” shrilled several little girls all together.

“What do you think we are?” shouted another small boy with candy goo all around his mouth. “A bunch of babies? Hey?”

Just the Form Changes

I popped back in the booth and stuck my head over the stage and said:

“Ladees and gentlemen! The most exciting chapters in the life of Mr. Punch are now to be presented. He is arrested and taken before the hangman! The hangman!”

But they paid no attention whatever. They were rearranging some quilts that were out airing on Jimmie’s clothesline. I went out and consulted Jim.

“It’s all right,” said Jim, “they have just decided to put on a show of their own.”

The quilts were drawn together for a curtain. Boxes, chairs and boards were rushed from the back kitchen and from Jim’s cellar. After a violent quarrel, the actors were divided from the spectators, and all in three minutes, they were putting on a show.

The curtains parted.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said a six-year-old, standing on the boxes, “we will now present a play called the Loves of Marianne. Certain incidents in this play have been taken from Flying Down to Rio4 and Eskimo5, and the final scene is from Dinner at Eight6.”

He drew the quilts together, and after fifteen seconds, the curtains parted and the show was on.

There were two stabbings and five love scenes in the first minute. All the men were villains and all the ladies were heroines. There was a marriage and one aeroplane ride in the second minute. The Germans attacked with machine guns in the third minute. Count von Richthofen flew over and carried off two of the best-looking heroines in the fourth minute.

And the quilts were drawn to, amidst deafening cheers both from in front of and from behind the quilts.

My boys came over sympathetically.

“See?” they said. “See, daddy?”

“See what?” I demanded.

Jim took my arm.

“Let’s go inside,” he said.

We sat in the living room and listened to the sounds of act two.

“Punch and Judy,” I declared, “has got all the elements of modern drama in it. Wife beating, child beating, murder, the gunman, the escape from the police, the gallows. It is exactly the plot of nine-tenths of the movies you see to-day.”

“There isn’t much difference in the plot of drama from generation to generation,” said Jim. “It is just the form of presentation that changes.”

Which wisdom was emphasized by shrill cheers from the backyard which indicated that act two was ended.

Editor’s Notes:

  1. Arc lights were used in early street lights in cities after gas lamps. They gained popularity in the 1880s. They were much taller and brighter than modern street lights, so fewer were needed. ↩︎
  2. Charlie Chase was a movie comedian. ↩︎
  3. Clark Gable was an actor and popular among the ladies. ↩︎
  4. Flying Down to Rio was a 1933 Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie, ↩︎
  5. Eskimo was also a 1933 film. ↩︎
  6. Dinner at Eight is also from 1933. ↩︎

To Arms, to Arms!

“Listen, you two,” said the farmer. “I don’t want you to touch my starlings!”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, February 17, 1934.

“Twenty thousand starlings,” said Jimmie Frise, “were bumped off last week by the farmers down along Lake Erie.”

“Little,” I said, “did those first sixty starlings that were released in Central Park, New York, thirty years ago, dream of the fate their children’s children would meet.1

“It was a ghastly mistake,” said Jim, “importing those European starlings to America. Why, you have no idea how they have multiplied. The sky down in Essex and Kent is black with them, Millions of them. They have spread all over America. They have established themselves permanently in the warm southern states, and yet they are reported up at Fort Churchill, on the edge of the Arctic.”

“What is the good of shooting 20,000 of them?” I asked.

“Well, when men decide a thing is bad, they like to do something about it,” explained Jimmie. “It makes them feel better to have killed 20,000.”

“But in the meantime, what are we going to do about it?” I asked.

“Nobody knows,” admitted Jim. “Whole cities, like Washington, are being conquered by the starlings. Park trees fifty years old are being sacrificed to try and drive the starlings away. Stately towers and belfries are being grotesquely boarded up in the hope that this inhospitable hint will be taken by the starlings and they will get out. But they don’t. It begins to look as if the starlings will alter the architecture of America.”

“It makes me feel very helpless,” I admitted.

“If I weren’t a hard-headed and clear-thinking twentieth century man,” said Jim, “I would almost imagine that this plague of starlings was nature’s revenge on us for destroying the passenger pigeon. It was just about the time the last passenger pigeon was slaughtered that the starlings were set loose in Central Park. Ironic, isn’t it?”

“Jimmie,” I declared. “I am a mystic. I believe in things like that. While we go blindly along imagining we can conquer the world by good business practices, while we march stupidly from one human disaster to another, each year getting more thoughtful, each year becoming more sure of our great human powers, nature keeps laughingly tossing us hints like these starlings. We strain our brains over economics. And nature plays her jokes.”

“Nature has no mind,” said Jim.

“No,” I countered. “But nature has a heart. In all our splendor and glory, we men conquer the earth and incidentally exterminate the passenger pigeon. Having conquered the earth, here comes the starling, just to see how much we have conquered.”

“Don’t forget,” said Jim, “that for all the sob stories you hear about the passenger pigeon, it, too, was an enemy of man. Why, a flock of pigeons, big enough to cloud the sun, would drop down in a pioneer’s little clearing, into a field of peas. And in a few minutes, before the pioneer could wake up to the disaster, there wasn’t a pea left.”

“Well,” I said, “we got rid of the pigeon. We’ve got the peas. What good are they? We can’t sell them.”

“H’m,” admitted Jim.

“And now the starling has come,” I said, “in ever-thriving millions, to destroy us!”

“Then,” cried Jimmie, “what are we going to do? Submit to our destruction? A fine patriot you are. Why, to arms, to arms, and join the patriots of the Lake Erie shore!”

“It is a war,” I agreed.

“You bet it is a war,” cried Jimmie. “It will make commonplace human wars like the last one, or the next one, seem like sport. Why, the starlings could starve us in one year. They could become so numerous, they would eat all our grain, our grass, starve our cattle. All the ships on the sea couldn’t bring enough food, fast enough, to keep us from starving. The starlings would consume the food of our live stock and poultry. Exterminate our grain. Gobble up our vegetables and fruits. And what an awful spectacle it would be. All of a sudden, us lovely civilized people murdering one another for a scrap of food. Bank presidents eating their old shoes. Movie actresses gnawing old bones. It’s a terrible thought. We ought to get busy and arm against the foe.”

“And all the while,” I gasped, “the sky about us black with the rustling wings of millions of birds, like demons sent to humble and destroy us. What a revenge!”

“What a revenge nature can take on us, any time,” said Jim, “for our sins against her!”

“Jim,” I said, “do you think we could rouse the people to their danger? If we could get everybody in the world to take a gun and shoot starlings…”

“If we could send our militia, armed with shotguns, out into the forests and the deserts,” added Jimmie.

“And Arctic expeditions all across the vast spaces of the north,” I said, “to pursue the deadly starling to its last lair!”

“Yet,” said Jim sadly, “if we missed only two of them, if we overlooked just one pair, then in thirty years we would have the same old menace again!”

“That’s the trouble with nature,” I said. “It is so healthy.”

“We ought,” put in Jim, “to do something about it, however. It is our function as investigators of public matters, to go and shoot a few of them.”

“I am certainly with you,” I agreed.

Defending the Human Race

So instead of going rabbit shooting, the rabbit being another, menace that Jim and I have been keeping down for years past, we spent last week-end, armed with scatter-guns and small shot, out in the defence of the human race from extermination through starvation.

We drove west, the starling menace being greater the farther west you go. We drove out the Dundas highway and then went north, zig-zagging west and north, all the while scanning the sky for the black legions of the foe.

“If we see any on the ground, or sitting on a fence.” I asked, “should we shoot them? Or only take them on the wing?”

“Only on the wing,” cried Jim, emphatically. “Remember, we are sportsmen, even though we are on the verge of extermination!”

We passed Milton, and its cleft mountains. We got up into a very pretty country of farms and swamps. Two or three times. we stopped the car violently to leap out and take aim. But the little birds we had spotted in the evergreens were only goldfinches and siskins and other tiny songbirds.

We saw one crow below Guelph, but it was too smart. The moment we started to slow the car, it bounced into the air and went away with one sarcastic croak.

Turning south, we passed wide of the cities of Kitchener so as to get southward toward that infested sea of Erie. We saw several small drab birds flitting over the snow from the fences and weedy ditches where they had been creeping, like beggars sniping butts along the roadsides of the city.

“When we come on them,” said Jimmie, while the long snowy miles ticked by us, “by all accounts there will be immense flocks of them. You will have to be ready, and load and reload like lightning, firing into the mass of them as they fly over.”

“I’m ready,” I said, setting the shotgun shells in between the fingers of my left hand, where they were held as in a holder for instant action.

“Hssst!” warned Jim. “A bird!”

He slowed the car. Ahead, on a rail fence, sat a dark bird, nearly as big as a robin. It had a long pale beak and a short tail.

“A starling,” I hissed.

“We’ll slow down,” whispered Jimmie, “and both get out together. Then when it flies, we will both shoot, both barrels. A broadside!”

We slowed. The bird was a good forty yards away, sitting serenely on the fence, all unaware of our approach, it seemed, and unafraid.

We got out.

“Quietly,” whispered Jim, “let’s walk closer. We mustn’t miss! When I raise my gun, it will be the signal to fire.”

Down the rutted country sideroad, with nary a farm or a house or a barn to be seen. but only the heaving hills and the little copses in the fence corners, and the gray winter sky overhead, we crept pace by pace, toward this mortal enemy of human kind.

Our hearts were beating high. This was the mystical moment. The first shot. It would ring around the earth. This was another Sarajevo2. What prince of the enemy was this, sitting on the rail fence!

We paced, cautiously, nearer and nearer, the guns poised. Double barrel guns. Loaded with number seven shot. To scatter and wipe out the black demon.

Then we heard a soft sound.

The stupid enemy was singing!

Squatted there, on the fence rail, its head lifted a little like the head of a mother crooning to her baby in a rocking chair, half asleep in the gray winter light, the starling was softly and aimlessly warbling.

We stopped. We lowered our muzzles.

Squeak, warble, hiss, flute, flute, flute, went the starling. Jim took another step forward and I followed. Pace by pace, we advanced. We were within twenty yards, eighteen, sixteen.

Squeak, flute, flute, warble, hiss, tinkle, squeak, softly sang the starling.

Fourteen, twelve yards.

And now we could see that the starling was not a black bird. He was in masquerade costume. A harlequin, decked out in a suit of golden chain mail, overlaid on soft brown-black velvet!

An unreal, a strange, a beautiful creature, with a pale large bill tremulous as he sang in a guttural low voice a sort of Wagnerian song. The only song in all the white, gray, bitter world!

The song of an exile. A sad, small song.

In the winter stillness, we stood listening, with reverently lowered gun muzzles, until the starling got tired of his song and fluttered his feathers out and stood up, as a dreamer wakes. He turned his head and saw us. And without haste, he took wing and flew away across the frozen fields.

“Well, well,” said Jim.

“I hadn’t the heart,” I admitted. “It seemed so lone.”

“The only way you can work up any passion about starlings,” said Jim, “is when you get them in masses, in hundreds, thousands.”

“Yet each one of them is a little harlequin in gold and black, like that one,” I pointed out.

“In war,” said Jim, “you can’t stop to consider your enemy as individuals. You musn’t picture them as nice young men.”

We got in the car and drove down at couple of lots. In an orchard, as we drew near, we saw twenty birds in the apple trees.

“Hsst!” I hissed. “An outpost! Twenty of the enemy in those apple trees.”

Two Opinions About Everything

He stopped the car. We got out with guns alert and crept down the road. We deployed. Jim took the right and I the left.

“Bang,” went Jim’s gun into the orchard.

“Bang, bang,” went my gun, scoring two misses.

“Hoy!” roared a voice.

The trouble with farmers in winter is they look so much like a plowed field.

This farmer was carrying an armful of wood across the field just back of the orchard. He dropped the wood and came, on bent legs, bounding through the orchard.

“What the Sam Hill!” he shouted, feeling his face with a large hand.

It was useless to run. He would have got our license number anyway.

He halted inside the orchard fence and glared at us.

“We were shooting starlings, sir,” I said.

“You were shooting me, you mean!” yelled the farmer, though he was only twelve feet away.

“Pardon, sir,” said Jim. “We are two public-spirited citizens out helping the great crusade against the starling. You ought to thank us for coming to help you keep down the menace that threatens not only your crops, your stock but your own very life!”

The farmer studied us for a minute.

“City fellows, I suppose,” he said, quietly. “Full of linseed and beans as usual. Listen, you two. I don’t want you to touch my starlings!”

“Why, they are destroyers of –” began Jim.

“I been watching them all fall and winter,” said the farmer. “They have been eating cocoons and grubs out of the bark of my apple trees. They have been eating pounds and pounds of weed seeds. What else would they be staying around here for all winter? There’s no other food but weeds, bugs and waste.”

“They ruin cherries,” said Jim.

“I have no cherries,” retorted the farmer.

“They will destroy a field of peas.”

“I have no peas,” said the farmer.

“The farmers of Essex and Kent slaughtered 20,000 of them,” said Jim.

“All right, this isn’t Essex and Kent,” said the farmer. “Look, I tell you what I’ll do. I’ll take your names and addresses. And if ever the starlings get so bad they are digging up my potatoes, or attacking my heifers, I’ll send for you to save me.”

“Good-day, sir,” we said, retreating back up the road to our car.

“You see,” said Jim. “There are two opinions about everything, even about extermination.”

We turned the car and went back the road we had come. And it so happened that when we came to the place where we had tried to shoot the starling on the rail fence, there it was again, huddled down in the fading afternoon.

So we got out of the car and crept up close and listened to it sing until it got up and flew away to its bed, probably some maple tree it calls its old Canadian home.

Editor’s Notes:

  1. All the European Starlings in North America descended from 100 birds set loose in New York’s Central Park in the early 1890s. The birds were intentionally released by a group who wanted America to have all the birds that Shakespeare ever mentioned. ↩︎
  2. Reference to the start of World War 1 and the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. ↩︎


I would forbid any of my tenants to shoot my rabbits

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, January 6, 1934.

“If you had a million dollars,” said Jimmie Frise, as we sat over our cigarettes and dirty dishes in a downtown lunch place, “what would you do with it in times like these?”

“I have a great idea,” I replied. “I’ve been thinking a lot about it this last couple of years.”

“Let’s have it,” said Jim, sitting back.

“If I were a millionaire I would go down around Port Hope or maybe north of Brampton,” I said, “and I would buy 2,000 acres of farmland.”

“Old stuff,” said Jim. “Rich man buys a farm.”

“Wait a minute,” I protested. “You haven’t heard my scheme yet. I’d buy 2,000 acres of fine farmland, with various kinds of soil – clay, clay loam, sandy loam, swamps, pasture, and so forth.”

“Mixed land,” said Jim.

“Yes, and then I’d divide it up into small farms. I would have 100-acre cattle ranches and 10-acre market gardening farms, five-acre chicken ranches and 100-acre mixed farms, for grain and roots, and so forth.”

Real estate racket, eh?” asked Jim.

“On each of these farms,” I went on, “I would build a beautiful modern farm house, of brick, with good barns and buildings, with all modern conveniences like running water and septic tanks and everything. The cattle farm would have modern stables. The small farm suitable for chicken raising would be all chicken runs and houses.”

This has been done before,” said Jim.

“In the midst of this two-thousand-acre estate,” I said, “I would build my own house, the Manor, a large and beautiful house, in the old fashion, but with every convenience, with garages and stables and kennels for all my dogs. From this manor house would radiate drives to all parts of the estate.”

“Ah, you’re going to have a large family?” guessed Jimmie.

“No, sir,” I said. “When I had it all laid out, I would advertise the farms for rent on five-year leases. I would invite the sons of farmers, graduates of the agricultural college and the better class of young farmers who had no land of his own, to come and lease these specialized farms from me. In no time, I would be surrounded by young men, with their wives and little families, working ideal farms provided with every aid to modern agriculture.”

“And what would you do?” Jim inquired.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “I would then hire a professor from the agricultural college to act as manager of the estate. He would have a nice house a little way from the Manor. He would do the dividing up of the estate into proper lots of land. He would select the tenants. He would act as adviser to the tenants and to me. Instead of there being an agricultural representative for the county, I would have our own resident adviser, and it would be written right in the leases that the Professor, as we would no doubt call him, would have the right to oversee all operations.”

Lord of the Manor

“Yes, and what would you be doing all this time?” asked Jimmie. “Sleeping? Or gone fishing maybe?”

“I would be the Squire,” I said. “I would be seen in the early mornings, with the dew on the grass, riding a nice quiet little horse about the lanes and roads, amidst the hedges. I would get myself made a J.P.1, so that I could do all the marrying and so forth. I would just visit around all the tenants inspiring them, joking with them, taking a great interest in the children, acting generally as the lord of the manor.”

“And collecting the rents,” said Jim.

“Yes,” I said, “I have figured out that the rents would give me a good return on my million dollars, especially as I would have a clause in the lease that would let me break it if they didn’t come through.”

“You would certainly have a good time,” said Jim.

“Yes,” I cried. “Think of it. I could pack of beagles and I would forbid any of the tenants to shoot my rabbits. Two thousand acres would provide me a lot of rabbit hunting.”

“How about giving me a job?” asked Jimmie.

“If you really knew anything about farming,” I said, “I might make you the manager of the estate. But you were only born and raised on the farm. How about you renting one of my small farms? There’s an idea.”

“One of the five-acre chicken ranches,” said Jimmie.

“Then,” I went on, “think of the social activity around the manor house! The parties! The tenants coming and going; the people from the city, all my city friends, driving out for the week-ends.”

“You would have to turn Tory,” said Jim.

“Yes, I suppose I would have to,” I said. “I can’t imagine even a Liberal, let alone a Radical lord of the manor. One has to be firm about one’s rents, and you can’t do that if you have any funny political ideas. Yes, I’d be a Tory. And I have thought, too, that I would build a church on the estate. We would have our own church and our own minister. It would be nice to have a front family pew, perhaps raised a little, with me and all my children and grandchildren in it.”

“Ah, grandchildren?” said Jimmie.

“Yes,” I said, “I can picture myself growing pleasantly old around that large and happy community, loved and respected, and perhaps, if titles ever come back, I might have a grandson that would be Lord Clark.”

“Ah, Lord Clark!” cried Jimmie, waving his cigarette. “Lord Clark of Brampton or Port Hope!”

“Mind you,” I cried, “an old-fashioned lord. A lord of the old school. Not one of these industrial lords, in shipping or manufacturing.”

To Recover a Lost Happiness

“But you would still collect the rents,” said Jimmie.

“Yes, and I’d have a community general store on the estate,” I said. “The storekeeper would draw a salary, and he would sell everything at cost to the farmers. I might even have a co-operative marketing office, like the U.F.O.2 A fleet of trucks to carry the produce of the farms to the city.”

“Your tenants would never really have to go to town at all,” said Jimmie. “They could just sit there in the peace and quiet of your magnificent estate, and worry about nothing.”

“What would they want go to town for?” I demanded. “You miss the point of the whole scheme. It is to recover a lost happiness. To bring back a former glory. Yes, the professor would manage the co-operative marketing system. There might be even a little profit there. In time, one of my sons might get a good job right on the estate as marketing expert, at a good salary. A salary that would keep him in a condition that befits the son of the manor.”

“And maybe you could bring up one of your sons in the ministry, and he could run the community church?” said Jim.

“Self contained,” I agreed. “That’s the idea.”

“It’s a great idea,” said Jimmie. “I know of no safer way to invest your million. Your family would be fixed for generations to come. How about the sons of your tenants?”

“They could inherit the leases,” I explained.

It was time to go. The waitress was leaning over us piling the dishes on her tray.

We put on our coats and walked out to the street, and I must say, I was surrounded by a kind of pearly-colored glow. I felt benign and serene. I felt kindly toward all mankind, and if any bum had caught me right then, as we stepped out on to the street, I would have given him a shilling or maybe even half a crown, as you might call a fifty-cent piece, along with some sound advice. Yes, sir. I wished I had a walking stick, as I stepped out on to Yonge St.

We walked over to Jimmie’s car that was parked on the kerb, and there was a truck parked ahead of it, with its engine running.

“Drat the truck!” said Jimmie, surveying the way we were trapped by cars behind and in front. It was the usual street scene.

“The man will be out in a moment,” I said. “Don’t be impatient, Jimmie. No gentleman is ever indignant. Or impatient.”

We got into Jimmie’s car and sat there. Three, four, five minutes went by, and still the big truck stood right in front of us, prisoning us, with its body gently jiggling all over with the engine running.

“Look here, Jim,” I said. “There’s an opening across the road. I’ll just get out and drive the truck across to that space.”

“If you like,” said Jimmie.

Back To Reality

I got out and looked about. There was no sign of any truck driver.

I got in the cab of the truck. It was just the same as an ordinary car. I let go the brake, let in the gears, and drew carefully out from the kerb and steered for the open space across the road. But just as I got into the middle of the street, a car slid along and parked itself in the opening I was aiming for.

I drove on slowly. There were no more spaces in the block!

So I drove around the block, carefully, trusting that by the time I got back, there would either be a new opening along the kerb, or else Jimmie would see the situation, move out of his place and let me in and wait for me.

But all down the block there was no open space, and there sat Jimmie, solemnly waiting at his wheel. I drew alongside of him with the truck and stopped.

“Hey!” I cried. “I’ll go around the block once more, and you watch for me coming. And when you see me. draw out of the kerb here and let me drive in. Then wait for me a jiffy.”

“Right-o!” cried Jimmie.

So I drove around the block once more. I ran into a few delays. There was a traffic jam on a side street. And I was held up at all three corners of the block.

And then I got back on to Yonge St, and started slowly for Jim, watching ahead to see if he saw me coming. Jimmie is forgetful.

But there he was, turned in the driver’s seat and watching me approach. I slowed.

Suddenly, I saw a figure running beside me.

He was big and hairy, he had on overalls, his arms were bare and dirty, and he had the most terrible expression I have seen on a human face since the last of the great war cartoons.

“Aaarrrrnnnnnhh!” he snarled, galloping alongside the truck.

I surmised he was the truck driver.

“Just a minute, my good man!” I cried down to him, trying to handle the brakes, gears and steering wheel and also to keep an eye on traffic, though both my eyes were strongly attracted down to this man snarling below me on the pavement.

“Gearrrratttt!” roared the big brute. And while I clung helpless to the big steering wheel, he leaped on the step and laid hold of my shoulder.

“Gearrrratttt!” roared the big brute as he leaped on the running board

He chucked me out over his shoulder as if I were a pillow. As I felt myself passing over his head, I sensed him sliding as if in masterful hands, gain speed and leap down the street.

At that moment, I landed. I landed in slush and mud and cigarette butts and old chewing gum.

Independence Highly Prized

I landed right in front of Jim’s car. I slid quite a piece, gathering slush as I slid. I lay still.

Jimmie was out and beside me in an instant. I felt him wiping my face off with his handkerchief.

“Ah,” cried Jimmie, “as I live! If it isn’t Lord Clark of Port Hope!”

“Jimmie,” I spluttered, “get me out of this!”

He assisted me to my feet. He hastened me into his car. Only a few of the common people had gathered around to see me. “Take me somewhere,” I cried, as we drove off. “Take me to a cleaner’s and presser’s or something.”

“How about a Turkish bath, milord?” asked Jimmie.

“Did you ever see anything so brutal?” I demanded, holding my hands in the air, because I was all gooey. “That truck driver might have known by my appearance that I was not a car thief!”

“Well, if you were a truck driver,” said Jimmie, “and you came out and saw your truck vanished, and then all of a sudden saw your truck driving along the street with a stranger at the wheel, what would you do?”

“Throw him to the street!” I said hotly. “I never saw such outrageous conduct!”

“Ah, times have changed,” said Jimmie. “In the old feudal days, in the days of the manor house, for example, truck drivers knew their place and they knew the lord of the manor when they saw him. Now in the old days, that truck driver would merely have tipped his cap to you. And curtseyed!”

“Jimmie!” I said.

“But you see,” explained Jimmie, “times have so changed. There is a great independence abroad in the world. Men want that independence even more than they want comfort and security.”

“It was outrageous,” I said.

“Sure,” said Jimmie, “but no matter how honest your intentions, you can’t monkey with a truck driver’s truck nowadays. That big guy would rather drive a truck and have the right to throw a benign old squire like you in the mud, than be your flunkey and live on the fat of the land.”

“If I had a million dollars,” I said, “do you know what I would do with it?”

“What?” said Jim.

“I’d buy a fleet of trucks, and by George, I would teach those truck drivers manners!”

“Ah, well,” said Jim, “the main thing is you haven’t the million dollars.”

March 23, 1940

Editor’s Notes:

This story was repeated on March 23, 1940 as “Times Have Changed”.

  1. Justice of the Peace. ↩︎
  2. United Farmers of Ontario. This party formed the Ontario government from 1919-1923. By the time of this article, they were in decline and dissolved by 1944. ↩︎

The Evening Salute

October 20, 1934

An Old Lady’s Hat

I drew forth the yellow 20-dollar bill and casually handed it to him without even looking at it or him.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, September 22, 1934.

“Do you know,” asked Jimmie Frise, “who are the happiest people in the world to-day?”

“The Eskimos?” I ventured.

“No,” said Jimmie, “the bums. The fellows who ask you for a dime. They’re the happiest. Not a care in the world. And always guaranteed, by the eternal goodness of human nature, a dime.”

“That’s very interesting,” I said. “You think human nature can always be depended upon to the extent of a dime?”

“Yes.” said Jimmie. “That is the measure of it. If it were more, bums would ask for more. It is the ancient and exact measure. You never hear a bum ask for fifty cents or a dollar. That is, except some of the bums that are your personal friends.”

“I wonder what a bum would do,” I asked, “if you did give him a dollar? Or ten dollars!”

“Or twenty,” said Jimmie. “Imagine walking along the street and a bum shambles up.beside you and asks for a dime and you nonchalantly reach into your pocket and hand him a twenty dollar bill. What would he do?”

“Probably drop dead from heart failure,” I guessed.

“No, now, there’s an interesting experiment,” went on Jim. “We could go out on the street, and you walk a few paces ahead of me and be the one the bum would ask. You hand him the twenty and I’ll follow him. We’ll just see what a bum would do with a lot of money.”

“He would head for the first beer joint,” I said.

“I don’t know,” demurred Jimmie. “Maybe he would head for the barber shop and then go and get a new suit. It would be interesting to find out.”

“We would have the pleasure,” I said, “of seeing our hard earned twenty being shot to pieces in record time on a lavish investment in rubbing alcohol, native wine and canned heat. I can think of better investments.”

“You have a very poor opinion of your lesser brethren,” said Jim. “I find it convenient to believe that a heart of gold beats beneath those shabby outer integuments. Just give the boys a chance, and they will rise, not fall. Anyway, it would be very interesting just to see what would happen if we handed out, to the first bum we met, not a selected bum but just any old bum, a twenty dollar bill. How about contributing ten of it?”

“Who is going to hand the money out?” I questioned.

“You could,” said Jim, generously.

“Very well,” I said, because it wouldn’t be the first time I had been manipulated into paying the entire cost of one of our social experiments.

“I tell you,” suggested Jimmie, “we’ll make a little gamble of it. If the bum does what I think he will do, that is, buy some clothes or pay his room rent, you pay $15 of the cost of the experiment. If he heads for the beer joint, or otherwise flings the money away, I’ll pay $15 of the $20. How about it?”

“Now it’s a sporting proposition,” I agreed. “I like to see optimists pay 75 per cent. of the costs.”

The Happiest People

“I said,” pointed out Jimmie, “that the bums were the happiest people in the world, because they had no cares. Did you ever read Thoreau’s ‘Walden’?”

“Not yet,” I admitted.

“Well, it’s a book nearly a hundred years old that ought to be a best seller to-day,” said Jim. “It answers all the questions people are asking these times. In it, Thoreau shows that every bit of property you acquire, whether it is only a rake or a hoe, or block of a quarter million shares of stock, is tied around your neck like a stone. And the more you possess, the more hopelessly are you burdened.”

“I don’t mind a few burdens,” I said.

“These bums,” said Jim, “are secure in their belief that somebody, every day, is sure to be found good enough at heart to save them from starving. What more do they want.”

“I suppose they have a lovely free feeling,” I said. “With us, it isn’t a question of where is the next meal coming from? It is the question, where are the meals we have had for the past two or three years coming from?”

“Now you’ve hit it,” said Jim. “And I want to see the face of the guy you give that $20 to.”

We changed our various small bills into one $20. We arranged that I would stroll along the street in an expansive and leisurely manner, looking as much like a stockholder as possible, while Jim would come ten or fifteen paces in rear of me so that the bum would not notice him. I have the faculty of being able to disguise myself completely with nothing more than my hat. If I wear my hat in the in the middle of my head and perfectly straight, I look like the organist in a Methodist Sunday school. If I wear it where it feels most natural, on the side, I look like the proprietor of a pool room. I was to wear my fall coat until I had given the $20, and carry the coat thereafter. A fall coat carried over the arm gives a man a very racy look.

We went out to King St. We walked to Yonge. No bums. It was around 3 p.m., which is a good time for bums. We turned up Yonge and worked back to the office district via Adelaide. Up Bay again and west on Richmond St. Reflected in shop windows, I could see Jimmie following me casually along.

Then we met our bum. He was walking slowly toward me. He was the typical panhandler. Coat and pants did not match. Shoes pretty soft looking. Panhandlers, like all other kinds of people about to commit some irregularity, never know what to do with their hands. They usually hold them together in front of them, twisting the fingers. I suppose it is because a panhandler doesn’t want to accost you with his hands in his pockets for fear you would be frightened. He shows his hands, a mute, unconscious gesture of his humility and innocence.

As this bum selected me for the touch, he turned quickly and started walking the same way I was walking, only slower, so that I would catch up to him.

As I came level with him, he cast a quick, furtive look around, and then sidled alongside of me.

“Say,” he said, confidentially, “could you spare the price of a cuppa coffee, mister…”

Keeping right on walking, but bending my head sympathetically, I said:

“Why, sure,” and reached into my pocket. After a moment’s pause as I felt about in my pocket the usual way, I drew forth the rich yellow $20 and casually handed it to him, without even looking at it or him.

For an appreciable moment, he just kept walking beside me, and I could see he was looking down at my hand.

“Here you are,” I said, shortly, speeding up a little, and thrusting the bill at his dangling hand. He took it. I walked straight on.

Panhandler Goes Shopping

Jim had paused and was looking in a window. I went on a few doors, as prearranged, and then stepped into the lobby of what happened to be an office furniture store where I studied the hat racks and roll top desks, watching out the big window.

Jim says the man stood like a statue, head bent, hand in pocket, where he had whisked the bill. For a long moment after I had disappeared, he stood there. Then he raised his head slowly, and looked all around, at the street, at the passerby, at the windows above.

Very slowly he turned and with dragging feet, he walked back past Jimmie, staring at the pavement with a stunned look, his face brightly flushed.

I waited a full minute in the furniture store before walking casually out on to the street again. There, almost out of sight was Jimmie, anxiously looking back. I snatched off my rain coat, tipped my hat to its proper angle, and chased along until I caught up with Jimmie in the southwest entrance of a big department store.

“Hurry,” said Jim, “we’ll lose him in here!”

But we didn’t. There he was ahead of us, slowly advancing, as if he were timid, into the resplendent aisles of the big store. Carefully, by circling around aisles and counters, we followed him, filling in the pauses, as he stopped and stared at the various displays.

“I win,” said Jim. “He’s going to buy new clothes!”

I had my first good look at him now. He looked stunned. Every few seconds a kind of shy grin would start to spread over his face, and he would chase it with a frightened glance around. One hand was tightly in his pants pocket.

“He’s afraid to offer the $20,” said Jim.

He looked at the men’s clothing, the cameras, the school text books. He wandered down the long bright aisle where they have all the little islands filled with lingerie, beads, gloves. When he stopped at the bead counter and fingered a string of pink beads, the girl looked at him more in surprise than anger, and he hastily dropped the 20-cent string of beads and went on down the aisle. He came to the escalator and asked the uniformed girl a question. She motioned him. up the escalator and followed him with her eyes filled with a cold amusement.

“Pardon me,” I said to the girl, “would you please tells us what that bum wanted to find?”

“Ladies’ hats,” she laughed. “Old ladies’ hat.”

“It’s gone to his head,” I suggested to Jimmie as we trailed him up the escalator.

Among the counters and the racks and knobs of the ladies’ hat department he wandered, timidly pausing and looking sideways at certain hats, always moving away when a clerk came near. Then a short, stout lady with gray hair popped up to him and they went back to where there were some elderly ladies’ hats – you know the kind.

He bought a black one, with a purple ribbon across it. He handed his $20 bill out quickly, without looking at it. The saleslady took it unconcernedly, and after a pause brought him the change, and the hat done up in one of those paper hat bags of a bright brown color. Before we had time to question the saleslady, he was speeding for the escalator and we had to follow.

We followed him out into the street, along Queen to Church. Never a moment did he pause, across against the red lights he went, with shabby legs striding strongly. With one hand tight in his pants pocket.

Our Lesser Brethren

Away beyond Church he went, until we came to those streets where dwell our lesser brethren.

Up one of them he hastened, and into a tall gray house in whose windows hung the cracked card, “Bed 25c.” Across that grassless handbreadth of lawn, into that shabby door he went.

“So what?” I said.

“Of all things, an old lady’s hat,” said Jim.

We went to the corner and stood there. We walked to the other end of the block and stood there, debating, questioning. Nearly half an hour went by.

“We could go to the house,” argued Jim, “and say we were sanitary inspectors or something. Or we were thinking of buying it. That’s it, the real estate men had sent us,”

We went back and rapped, since there was no bell. A girl of fourteen or so, dirty and small, answered.

“Is your momma in?”

“No, she’s working.”

“Your poppa?”

“He’s out.”

“Well, now, that’s too bad. The real estate man said we could come and look through the house, we were thinking of buying it. It’s for sale, isn’t it?”

“I wouldn’t know,” said the little girl. “We just board here.”

“Well, do you think it would be all right if we just walked through the house to get an idea of what it is like?” asked Jim.

“I guess so. It’s a nice house. It’s the best one we have ever stayed in,” said the little girl proudly. “The bath is of marble.”

“Well, now,” exclaimed Jimmie.

Into the high dark hall we stepped. There was no dining room. The dining was a family apartment. Terrible tangled kitchen, with an empty high-chair standing there, and a holy picture on the wall. Up the steep, old fashioned stairs we went, the little girl showing us the rooms, rapping for us and explaining to the strange stern women and men who answered the knock, that we were gentlemen sent by the real estate. She showed us the marble bath. Oh, isles of Greece, where burning Sappho…

But none of the knocks revealed our man. “Are there more rooms?” asked Jim.

“In the attic,” said the little girl. “But the old lady is sick there.”

“If you don’t mind,” said Jim. “We can just take a peep.”

He was there. In the front attic room, with its steep ceiling. He was sitting on a chair drawn up close by the bed.

The bed had a patch quilt worked in two colors of gray. Light gray and dark gray. And in the bed sat against the soiled pillow, a very old and a very thin woman. I am sorry she was not beautiful and pale in a lovely way, but her white hair hung in straight wisps down about her sunken face.

On her lap lay a new black hat with a purple ribbon.

“Pardon me,” said Jimmie, stepping right in. “We were sent by the real estate people. We are thinking of buying. Do you mind, please?”

“Go ahead,” said the bum, shifting his chair. He had to let go the two hands of the old lady. They were like bones.

We walked about the little room, with its bed, its unmatched dresser, its two chairs and its terrible bits of this and that flung about. We stalled for time, looked at the window sills and frames, all in a silence as thick as soup.

As we turned away, our inspection ended, Jim said, gently:

“Not very well, eh?”

“I’m all right now,” said the old lady in a husky voice. “My boy has got a job!”

The man turned a surly face to glance at us, and in that instant, he recognized me. His face went white and he continued to stare at me with a frozen expression. I tried to signal back to him with my eyes.

Everybody Has Cares

“Yes,” said the old lady, “my boy. He’s got a job. And what’s more, his new boss gave him $20 in advance. You see, we are not on relief.”

“Why not?” demanded Jim. “My goodness.”

“Well, you see, we came here…”

“I got into trouble with the pol…”

“Now, now, Jimmie,” said the old lady, laying her hand on the bum’s arm. “For reasons we have of our own, we came to Toronto from where we had lived for years, and we haven’t been here long enough to be on relief.”

“Well, I hope you’ll soon be well now,” said Jim.

“Ah, well,” sighed the old lady.

We went out and down the attic stairs, and the bum followed us, after closing the door. He came right down to the ground floor and on to the street where he touched my arm.

“Aren’t you the gentleman?”

“Yes,” I said.

“It was like this,” said the bum. “I was brought up good as a boy. So I was walking along that street, and I was praying to God. And I said: ‘God, please let me do something good for her just once before she goes.’ She’s going to die any day, mister. It’s one of those terrible things. You know.”

“Sure,” I said, because it is so easy to say.

“I said to God, just let me get her some little things, a nice room where she could look out the window. Or maybe a dress. It would be only about three dollars, God, for a week for a good room. And then I touched you, mister, and you gave me that twenty.”

“That’s all right, that’s all right,” I assured him.

“I’ve been a tough egg,” said the bum. “I just wanted to do one good thing. I even thought of boots for her, mister. Wasn’t that funny?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Boots,” said the bum. “But, anyway, when you handed me that twenty, mister. I thought I would drop dead right there. It was like I saw an angel. It was like something you didn’t believe and it happened.”

“I am sorry,” I said.

“Did you want it back?” asked the man, and I noticed for the first time he needed a shave and that he had a poor weak mouth.

“Certainly not,” I said. “This is just a coincidence. I am in the real estate business.”

“I see,” said the bum, but he couldn’t see.

“Good-by,” I said.

“Thank you, mister,” he said, but it was not me he was thanking, I could see that. He was still in a daze from having seen brighter glories from those low mountain tops on which the poor may stand.

Jim and I went straight down to King St. and slowly back. I think we both wanted to talk but we had cramps in our throats.

However, there is a little second-hand store window away along east there where they have old bayonets and mugs with “Down She Goes” painted on them and views of early Toronto. We always look in that window. It pulled us together.

“You see,” said Jim. “That proves that we are wrong when we think there are some fortunate people, like bums or millionaires, who haven’t a care in the world. I guess everybody has cares.”

“You can’t tell,” I said, “where a dime is going when you give it away.”

“By the way,” said Jim, “you pay $15.”

“Not on your life,” I assured him. “You said he would buy clothes for himself and get a shave.”

“You said he’d get pie-eyed,” countered Jim.

“I guess it’s fifty-fifty,” said I.

“Fair enough,” agreed Jim, glad to be back on the solid ground again where all happy-go-lucky people dwell.

Editor’s Note: Personally, I think this is their best story to come out of the Depression era. It also appeared in Silver Linings (1978).

$20 in 1934 would be almost $430 in 2023. The Bank of Canada only started issuing bills in 1935, so this was likely a Canadian chartered bank note. So when they say it was yellow, I don’t know what bank it could be from. When searching, I think it could have been from the Bank of Toronto. When the Bank of Canada stated issuing notes in 1935, only 10 Canadian banks were still issuing them, and they stopped doing so in 1944.

“Canned heat” was another name for Sterno, a portable heat source used for camping and other purposes, including use during the Depression to make cheap alcohol.

During the Depression, getting “relief” (welfare) was controlled by the municipalities, who often had residency requirements for a number of years to avoid having to provide for transients.

Summer Orphans

We carried the dishes upstairs, stacked them in the bathtub and turned on the shower.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, August 11, 1934.

“Well,” said Jimmie Frise, “what’ll we do to-night?”

“Let’s wash dishes,” I suggested. “I have a sink full, besides another pile on the drain board and a few on the kitchen table.”

“Mine,” said Jimmie, “are neatly stacked in piles in the sink. All scraped. Are yours scraped?”

“No,” I admitted rather shamed. “They’re just the way I put them down.”

“You’ve been a summer bachelor often enough,” criticized Jimmie, “to know better than leave dishes unscraped. All you need to do is spread out the morning paper on the kitchen table, scrape the egg, corn flakes or tomato squitters off the plates, empty the coffee cup, and pile the dishes and roll up the newspaper and toss it in the garbage pail. It’s no trouble at all. Yet it saves that funny smell that pervades a man’s house in the summer when his family is at the cottage.”

“I know, I know,” I admitted. “I have been intending to scrape my dishes for years. But somehow, a summer bachelor feels so dreary and low in his spirits, he can’t even summon enough energy to do a little thing like that. I hate my bed, too. All muddled and wrinkled.”

“Don’t you even change your bed?” cried Jimmie.

“Oh, I sometimes do,” I assured him. “But it’s such a problem, pulling the old sheets out and then working the new sheets back under the blanket and quilt.”

“You don’t do that!” scornfully cried Jim. “You pull all the bedclothes off, throw them on a chair, spread fresh sheets, and then put the blankets…”

“But you have to have somebody on the other side of the bed,” I explained. “To tuck in the far side.”

“Ach!” snorted Jim disgustedly. “You a summer bachelor! Do you know what you are? You’re a summer orphan.”

“I get along pretty well,” I protested.

“Listen,” said Jim, “I’ll tell you what to do to-night. If you’ll help me with my dishes, I’ll help you not only with your dishes but I’ll help you change your bed.”

“Swell,” I agreed.

What to do with yourself in the evenings is one of the eternal problems of that class of men whose families go away to summer cottages. Movies are good for so long. Sunnyside is good for a couple of trips. Watering the lawn is splendid maybe for about the last two nights of the week, Thursday and Friday, when you are feeling as homesick as possible and looking forward to seeing them all on Saturday; and it gives you a strange, virtuous feeling, a sort of religious feeling, to water the grass in their honor. But watering the grass is no good Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

“Let’s eat supper downtown,” suggested Jim, “and then we’ll go to your place first, wash your dishes, make your bed, and then, over to my place. It will fill up the evening beautifully.”

For the Big Clean-Up

“Where will we eat?” I asked rather mournfully.

Jim looked thoughtful.

We summer bachelors eat our way right around the city. It isn’t that the restaurants are not good. They are all good. But after a few tries, each one gets on your nerves. So you try something different. You are seeking something unknown, unseen, indescribable. You are seeking your own home. But you don’t know it. So you go anxiously, like a wolf in a cage, from place to place, seeking. And not finding.

Jim named one restaurant. I made a face. Then I named a restaurant. And Jim made a face. So we decided to go to my house and pick up some tomatoes, cheese and a small bottle of cream at the corner store.

The house, when we entered, had that stuffy smell, of closed doors and windows, of stale smoke, of unwashed dishes in the kitchen. Maybe two weeks’ dishes.

“Phoo!” said Jim.

So we ate our tomatoes and cheese out in the garden, on the rustic table. And then we peeled up our sleeves and entered the kitchen for the big semi-monthly clean-up. As I had told Jim, my dishes were partly in the sink, partly on the drainboard, and the rest of them were laid on the table, the kitchen cabinet and the gas stove.

“Even if you piled them up,” argued Jim, “it would give you some feeling of decency. Why do you scatter them around like this?”

I spread a newspaper and started to scrape. But the stuff on the dishes, odds and ends, had dried tight to the dishes and you needed a chisel, not a paring knife; for a scraper.

“Put them in the sink and soak them while we make the bed,” suggested Jim.

“The sink isn’t big enough,” I pointed out.

“Ah,” cried Jim. “An idea! Look here, why should we summer bachelors be slaves to woman’s way of doing things? Let us carry these dishes up to the bathroom and do them in the bathtub!”

“There’s an idea!” I shouted., “Why should we be handicaped by a silly little sink?”

“Put them in the bathtub,” said Jim, “let the water run on them, leave the plug open, and the current will wash them automatically. All we have to do is come along and dry them. Come on.”

So we got trays and we loaded up the dishes, plates, cups, bowls, saucers and all those things you never saw before but which you found in back of the china closet when you started to run short of dishes about the third week. Dishes, little pitchers, funny plates that you dimly remembered having seen when you were a boy.

We carried them up and stacked them in the bathtub. We turned on the shower both hot and cold, although there was no hot water, of course. But the spray of water splashed and roared on the dishes, and in a minute or two, we began to see the remnants of scrambled egg and toast crusts come loose and vanish down the hole.

“Marvellous!” yelled Jim, above the noise of the shower. “We have discovered something every summer bachelor should know.”

By shifting the pile of dishes now and again, the streams of water went new ways, found new channels, and every new way they went, the streams of pure water did good.

“Let’s make your bed while they wash,” said Jim proudly. “It’s automatic.”

So we went in and Jim showed me how to haul the bedclothes off with one large swipe, fling them on a chair, and then he and I laid fresh sheets, and put back the light blanket and the quilt. Jim even tucked the quilt up that way the ladies do, you know, sort of dinted in the middle with the two ends flounced out.

“Ah,” I said. “I’ll hate to disturb it to-night.”

“I’ll come and help you make it any time,” said Jim grandly.

We went back into the bath tub and there the top dishes were already shining white, and we shifted the pile loosely, exposing new surfaces to the rushing water. You could see the old stuff whirling about and vanishing down the pipe.

“Look here,” said Jim. “let’s leave them and run over to my place and put mine in the bath tub. And by the time we get back, they will be ready to dry.”

“Won’t they be kind of greasy?” I asked. “We should put soap on them.”

“Where’s your soap flakes?” asked Jim.

I ran down cellar and got a package of soap flakes, which we sprinkled liberally over the pile, and even the cold water made foamy suds. A lot of the flakes caught in various places in the pile which would melt in time.

“Come on,” said Jim.

So we walked the two blocks over to Jim’s house, carried his dishes up to his bathroom, piled them and turned the water on and scattered soap flakes all over them. We also went in and saw Jim’s garden for a few minutes, and chatted with a neighbor who knew all about zinnias. And then we strolled back to my place.

We went in the garden and sat down. Through the open bathroom window we could hear the shower mumbling. Occasionally we could hear a dish clink.

“Having solved the dish problem,” said Jim, leaning back in the garden seat, “let us turn our attention to the laundry of a summer bachelor. You know, all it takes is a little attention to solve any kind of problem. Women are set in their ways. They have their little dinky way of doing things. Little sinks. Little dish towels. Everything is tiny and routine and sissy. Now, if we men can improve on dish washing, why can’t we improve on laundry? In time to come, I would not be surprised if, instead of a little sink, and dishes to wash three times a day, the house of the future will have a huge sink in it, where all the dishes will be put after each meal. And then, at night, one big dish washing bee will held. How much more freedom this would give to womanhood! One dish-washing bee each day, on a large scale. It would be a lot cheaper to buy a few more dishes than to spend three-quarters of an hour three times every day, like a slave, washing a few dishes. We haven’t solved the problems of the domestic world yet. Science needs to pay attention to the home.”

“It isn’t science so much as just common sense, Jimmie,” I said. “That bath tub idea has been staring mankind in the face ever since bath tubs were invented. Yet who thought of it?”

“I did,” said Jim, “in the year 1934. Let’s remember it.”

We chatted on, philosophically.

“Perhaps I should run up and shake a few more soap flakes over the pile,” I suggested. “I don’t hear the taps.”

“Maybe Women are Right”

We listened.

There was no mumble of the taps.

“That’s funny,” said Jim, half rising.

“Jimmie!” I gasped.

We had both thought of the same thing. We leaped and ran to the back door.

We were too late.

The back entrance is a French door leading directly into the dining room. When we opened the doors we were at first confused. The dining room had disappeared. The wallpaper was drooping in large glistening festoons from the ceiling. I thrust through the clinging jungle. Water was dripping merrily, briskly. Bumping against tables and chairs. I got into the hall, where there is a painted plaster ceiling. Into the front lobby I dashed, to find a cascade of water pouring down the front stairs. There was a secret, busy air of water seeping, creeping. crawling, dripping, everywhere. I sloshed upstairs, Jim behind me.

“Oh, gosh!”

The bath tub was overflowing, and cups and bowls were floating happily in a little sea.

“It’s plugged, Jim,” I moaned. “Something plugged it.”

“Toast crusts,” cried Jim. “Bacon rind.”

I snapped the taps off. An inch of water lay all over the floor and out into the bedrooms, the rugs were soggy, the garments I had thrown on the floor of different rooms, the items of next week’s laundry that I had tossed aside on various floors, all, all were sodden. We heard strange, mysterious slithering, slickery sounds downstairs again. We hurried below, to find wallpaper slithering off walls, collapsing off ceilings. We tore it away, to discover tables, chairs, upholstery soaked and soggy. The chesterfield was like a vast pudding.

“Oh, Jimmie,” I moaned.

“You’ll have to excuse me,” said Jim, starting for the front door. “I got to get home and turn off my shower.”

“Don’t leave, Jim!” I shouted. “Not now.”

But Jim was gone.

I waded about for some minutes, baling, mopping, sloshing. What a terrible thing! Then the telephone rang. It was Jim.

“I got my taps in time,” said he. “Come on over and help me with my dishes and let that place dry overnight. You had better stay over here with me to-night.”

“All right, Jim.”

“We can see what has to be done better to-morrow at your place. Let her subside.”

“All right, Jim.”

“And incidentally, maybe women have the right idea about things. Maybe sinks are better for dishes.”

“You’re right, Jim.”

So I got my hat and went over to Jim’s.

August 10, 1940

Editor’s Notes: We’ve mentioned summer orphans before, when men used to stay in the city during the summer while their family went to a cottage or summer resort. The men would only join them on weekends and therefore were on their own during the weekdays.

“…although there was no hot water, of course”: Some people turn off their hot water heater in the summer to save money.

The dishwasher was invented before this article came out, but did not really become more common until the 1970s.

This story was repeated as “Almost Automatic” on August 10, 1940.

It also appeared in Silver Linings (1978).

Gentle Sleep

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

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

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

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

“I mean, do you sleep well?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m on,” I said. “Any time.”

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

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

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

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

“Not too far from town,” I said.

Glorious Freedom

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

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

“It’s pretty near bedtime,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim shifted.

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

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

“Kind of buggy around here,” I said.

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

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

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


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

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

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

A Ghostly Awakening

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

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

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

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

We rapped delicately at one of the cabins.

“Hello,” said a sleepy voice.

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

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

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

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

“Swell,” said Jimmie, lighting a match.

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

The next thing I knew Jimmie was shaking me excitedly.

“Hey, hey!” he cried hoarsely.

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

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

“Jimmie!” I yelled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But we just went rolling along.

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

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

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

“I was so sleepy,” said Jim.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hist!” cried Jim.

We heard a train whistling.

“Wooo, woo-woo!”

“A train!”

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

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

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

“Good-by, Jimmie,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello, there! Hoy, thump, thump!”

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

“Let us out!” we shouted.

The door of the trailer opened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But I have no money,” I exclaimed.

Jim had eighty-five cents.

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

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

“Jimmie,” I said, “he can’t do that!”

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

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

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

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

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

In Dry-Dock

July 7, 1934

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