The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

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Bear with Us

By Greg Clark, August 3, 1935

“What I like,” said Jimmie Frise, “is blueberries.”

“I’m with you,” I assured him. Strawberries are very nice, if they aren’t sandy. But they give me hives. Raspberries are good, if they haven’t got little white bugs creeping about them. And raspberry seeds get between my teeth.”

“Thimbleberries,” contributed Jim, aren’t bad, but it is hard to get a feed of them. I like a feed of wild berries.”

“The wild strawberry,” I took on, “is probably the finest wild berry in the world. The French-Canadians preserve them.”

“Yes, but give me blueberries,” said Jimmie. “I don’t mean blueberries you get in the city, with the blue down all rubbed off them, and looking kind of damp. I mean blueberries you pick yourself and eat right out on the rocks.”

“I follow you,” I assured him.

“They are so tight in their skins,” said Jim. “They burst, they pop in your mouth.”

“Like celery, sort of,” I helped.

“Not at all,” said Jim. “Nothing like it. They are alone, unique, unequalled. Tight in their skins, with that cool, downy powder on them, and a kind of faint wild spicy flavor.”

“That’s it,” I moaned. “Faintly spicy.”

“Not rough and harsh, like Oriental spices, but a delicate Canadian spiciness,” said Jim. “Dear me, excuse me, my mouth is watering.”

He got out his handkerchief and attended to himself.

“The thing I like about them, too,” went on Jimmie, “is the way they burst in your mouth, a whole big handful of them.”

“Do you like the bright blue ones or the darkish, blackish huckleberry kind?” I inquired.

“Well, it’s hard to choose,” agreed Jim. “The dark ones often have a rich spiciness, yet on the other hand, the bright blue ones have a kind of tang. I don’t know.”

“The bright blue ones,” I pointed out, “are lovely to come on when you are wandering around on the rocks, blueberry picking. You walk along, looking here and there, and then all of a sudden, in one of those big cracks or crevices in the rocks, you see a whole hedge of little bushes that are a vivid sky blue.”

“The Jesuit Relations say,” stated Jim, “that in the olden days, away back in 1600 and something, the Indians used to pick great bushels of blueberries and spread them out on the rocks to dry and then pack them in big birch bark sacks. In the winter, they would use these dried berries to eke out their dog meat and pounded corn porridge.”

“I prefer to think of going somewhere this afternoon,” I submitted, “and picking about two quarts of blueberries and eating them right there as I pick. I’m blueberry conscious.”

“There’s no place handy where we can go on short notice,” Jim thought. “Wonder if there are any blueberries this side of Muskoka or Parry Sound?”

“Would you be game,” I inquired, “to take a run up as far as Midland and hire a boat and go out to one of those rocky islands that are fairly covered with blueberries?”

Doing Something Silly

“Do you mean in the middle of the week?” Jim exclaimed. “That would be silly.”

“Everybody ought to do something silly once in a while,” I offered, “like loosening those little twisters on the end of a banjo handle, so as to relax the tight wires. We’re full of tight wires. Can you think of any silly thing to do that would be as pleasant as driving up to Midland and hiring a little boat and going somewhere to bulge ourselves with blueberries?”

“This heat is getting you,” suggested Jimmie.

“I’m full of tight wires,” I said. “I’m going to reach up and loosen those little tighteners. I’m going to do something silly. And it might as well be pleasant.”

“I could go,” said Jim, “and think. Us artists have to do some conceiving. We ought to be free to run off and hide now and then to invite our souls.”

“The same with writers,” I agreed. “You can’t make a flower grow by walking out very day and yelling, ‘Grow, damn you, grow!’ can you?”

“Artists and writers,” said Jimmie, “are just like flowers. The heat gets them.”

“How about it?” I demanded.

“How long would it take?” asked Jim.

“If we drove to-night,” I said, “we’d be there in three easy hours. Sleep in the car, right in the tourist camp. Rise with the lark, drive down and hire a little launch for a couple of bucks, and scoot half an hour out across the lovely morning water…”

“That’s done it,” said Jim.

“Spend from, say, seven or eight o’clock till noon picking and eating berries,” I said. “Then the boat picks us up by prearrangement and scoots us back across the lovely water to Midland, we hop in the car, and saturated with that noble and patriotic berry, we drive home to Toronto, arriving about 3 p.m., much to everybody’s astonishment.”

“What would we say?” asked Jim.

“We’d say we slept in, or something,” I offered. “Or maybe in this heat nobody would have observed our absence.”

“Well, I guess,” said Jim sleepily.

And before the five o’clock whistles had stopped blowing in the suburbs, we were pointed north for Midland. And the sun was still high when we arrived in that pleasant town. Under the long, lingering sunset, we watched the boats coming and going and observed all the white-clad summer resorters so busily coming and going, probably driving their launches fifty miles for a package of phonograph needles or a camera film. So busy. So intent.

And with the floating sounds of summer in our ears, we folded ourselves up in Jim’s big car and went to sleep. Dawn and a cramp woke us. We took no breakfast, though the light was still burning in the Chinese restaurant as we drove down the street to the docks. The man we had hired the night before was sleepily waiting for us in his little putt-putt. It was just a row boat with an engine in it, but it could not have been better.

Gaily Across the “Open”

“If it is blueberries you want,” said the boatman, steering out into the bay where we could look far across the shining “open” of the Georgian Bay, “you ought to go to a point I know where I take my folks on picnics. It’s up from Beausoleil Island a piece. It will cost you a dollar extra, each way. But it has more blueberries than any other I ever heard of hereabouts. The Indians never picked berries on it because it was supposed to be haunted, or something, and they never went near it.”

“Take us there,” we agreed.

There are cottages on nearly every point of the Georgian Bay, but far in through the channels we came to an inner point, a withdrawn and rather rough and homely point where there was nothing but rude, jagged rocks and burnt-over woods and dead trees sticking up in all directions.

“Here she is,” said the skipper. “Not very handsome, but lousy with blueberries.”

And with promises to return a little before twelve o’clock, he putt-putted noisily away.

We scrambled up the rowdy rocks. Literally, the point was burdened with blueberries. Maybe three hundred yards this point juts out from that vast and practically uninhabited mainland of the Party Sound country of rock and scrub and little hidden lakes and beaver meadows. A blueberry paradise.

“Jimmie,” I said, between munches of the first handful, “don’t let us start right here. As a couple of old blueberry pickers, let us survey the land and find one of those mossy crevices hedged about with two-foot blueberry bushes where we can actually recline at our ease and pick and eat without moving except by either crawling or rolling over.”

“I know the kind of place,” agreed Jim. stooping for another fistful. And so stooping and pausing and staring and walking, we surveyed the point. There were rock gullies and little rock cliffs, little clumps of woods and sheltered spaces all clad in deep bronzy green moss. And around those little clumps of bushes and along the shady margins of those damp mossy carpets the blueberry bushes were massed and dense. And they glowed with a million fat jewels of dusky blue.

“Let’s start here.” cried Jim, finding a little island of birch and pine about the size of a street car, which was entirely surrounded by a ten-foot margin of mass. And the hedge of bushes around the copse was like a belt of azure.

“This is the place,” I admitted, kneeling down on the moss.

“You take this side,” said Jim. “I’ll go around to the far side.”

And around he vanished.

“How is it over there?” I called.

“Just about the same as your side,” said Jim.

There were both kinds. The higher bushes were the bright blue kind. And hidden in amongst the taller blue bushes were the squatter bushes of the big, succulent, black huckleberry. You would take three handfuls of the blue and follow with one of the black. Some of the black ones were as big as grapes.

“Um-yum,” I said, loud enough for Jim to hear.

“Slurp, slurp,” said he. I use the word slurp. but it hardly conveys the astonishing and slightly disgusting sound Jimmie made as he picked, unseen by me, on the far side of the little copse.

“Mind your table manners, Jimmie,” I said.

“Swush, swush, swush,” retorted Jimmie, from beyond the bushes.

“Boy,” I said, “you ought to come around to this side.”

“Whoosh,” replied Jim.

I thought how curious it is: you know a man for years and years, and all of a sudden he comes out with some curious and hitherto undetected habit.

“Jim,” I said, through a full mouth, “it may have been funny the first time you smacked your lips like that, but it is getting a little on my nerves.”

“Squish, sqush, slurp, whooof!” retorted Jim.

“Aw, cut it out,” I retorted, and hinched myself another yard along the hedge. Ah, such berries. Now I was abreast of a three-foot-high dense hedge that positively sagged with the vivid blue ones, big as alleys, clustered like grapes, cool to the touch, cool and firm and thin-skinned.

“Ah, yum-yum,” I confessed, making a little racket myself.

The sun grew warmer. I began to fill up. I could hear silly old Jim working his way around to meet me. And he was slurping.

“Jim,” I begged. “For goodness sake. You’re awful.”

It was at the next hitch I took of a yard further along the bush that I saw Jimmie was wearing a fur hat. I was mildly surprised, because at the moment my eyes were gloatingly beholding surely the greatest blueberry bush ever seen in the history of Canada. It was four feet high, it was laden, as if with blue dew, and deep within its stems I beheld the darkly glowing shapes of scattered huckleberries of size I had never seen before. My mind was divided between these two spectacles – the greatest berry bush in the world, and Jim wearing silly fur cap in the middle of summer.

Finally, with a sudden tiny tingling of my scalp, I withdrew my fascinated mind away from the berry bush in deal exclusively with Jim’s fur cap.

And I saw, to my intense astonishment, that Jimmie’s fur hat had movable ears.

“Not To Endanger You”

I stood up.

So did the bear.

With its short front legs held quaintly before it, and its head cocked on one side, it surveyed me across the bushes.

It was a youngish bear. It was about my size. It was glossy black, with brown ruchings, and its mouth was slightly open in a friendly grin. Frothy blueberries fringed its deckle-edged lips.

“Er-hello?” I said.

“Squish, squish,” replied the bear, swallowing. I could see it was not as surprised as I. I was not wearing a fur cap.

“Where’s Jimmie? Mr. Frise?” I asked weakly.

“Mmmfft,” said the bear, cocking its head on the other side.

“Yoo-hoo, Jimmie?” I inquired, not very loudly.

“Sniff, sniff,” said the bear, looking away to one side, as if not knowing exactly what to do.

“Oh, Jimmie?” I repeated, just a little louder. “Are you there?”

The bear looked at me again, and I detected a more serious expression in its small, twinkling eyes.

“Nice berries,” I said, conversationally. I was backing slowly across the moss to where my boots, hat and coat lay piled.

The bear disappeared by dropping on to his four feet. I backed more quickly. The bear appeared at the corner of the copse and again stood up. His stomach hung very low.

Without removing my eyes from him stooped and fumbled for my boots and clothes. I continued backing.

The bear was now looking, with an expression of immense satisfaction, at the very large patch of berries I had discovered at the same instant I had discovered him.

I half turned and backed quartering away.

The bear dropped down and sat, as I had sat, before that shrine of blue. I turned and ran. In my stocking feet I ran, careless of the hot and ragged rock. Up a cliff or two and down a couple of gullies I scrambled. Looking back, I could see the bear sitting. like a schoolboy, before that feast of blue.

No sign of Jim. I felt badly to have left him. Where could he be? Had he tired of the plenty and gone wandering farther inland? I decided to avoid endangering him with shouting. I decided to go right out to the end of the point and wait for him.

When I came to the rough headland of the point, there, on the outermost pinnacle of the rock, ready to jump into the blue Georgian Bay, was Jimmie, looking fearfully up at me.

“Jim!” I accused. “You left me without a sign of warning.”

“He came out of the bushes just as I left you to take the other side of the patch,” said Jim. “So I just went right on walking.”

“You did, eh?”

“I decided not to endanger you by shouting,” said Jim.

“You did, eh?”

“I decided to come out here and wait for you,” said Jim.

So we both waited, right out on the very little and point of rock, until the boatman came for us at twelve sharp.

Editor’s Notes: The Jesuit Relations are chronicles of the Jesuit missions in New France, written annually and printed beginning in 1632 and ending in 1673.

Beausoleil Island was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2011.

This story appeared in Greg Clark & Jimmie Frise Outdoors (1979).

Five Little Birthday Cakes

By Greg Clark, May 4, 1935

Before the crack of dawn, and that’s four-fifteen in the morning, Marie wakes and starts singing.

She sings loud and clear. Like a robin. It is not cooing, or da-da-ing, or whining. It is straight, gay, and uncomplaining singing.

This wakes Annette first. And Annette, who is the trickiest of the quintuplets, generally manages to get one small bare foot out and stick it through the bars of her crib and push the bedside table. She knows a bedside table makes a grand bump. It does not fall. It just goes bump, bump.

The race for waking, Yvonne, Emilie and Cecile run neck and neck, though Cecile, “the pretty one”, is also the sleepiest one, who loves to open her eyes wide, suddenly, and then slowly close them again, the while finding her thumb and clamping on to it for a good comfortable smoke, a process involving much sudden wide opening of the big dark eyes, and much slow, lazy closing of them.

Thus morning comes to the Dionne hospital at Callander.

I spent a day with them to write this story in honor of their first birthday, which is fast approaching. I saw them sleeping and playing; being fed and being bathed. I saw them doing their first crawling, which at the moment consists of rolling over. Not a very precise mode of progression, but, when you see your sister – at least, one of them – whanging a large melodious pink rattle up against the play-pen bars, and you want to take it from her, certainly a slick trick that Clancy or Red Horner ought to know about is to roll over three times, roll right on top of your sister’s legs, pin her down, and then, amidst astonished protests from the victim, slowly, unsurely but inevitably, take the rattle from her.

The quints are at this moment flowering out of their first helpless Infancy. They have smiled, that shy crooked smile of babyhood, for a long time now. But now they laugh. They crow. In the big white bathtub, with its four inches of water in it, I saw them, two at a time, swimming magnificently, their fat little creased legs and arms flailing: and with those bright dark eyes, all aglitter with smiles, they watched each other. Then the nurses turned them over, and feet to feet, heads at opposite ends of the tub, they put on a splashing match, eyes screwed up, gasping at the splashes, and laughing – clear, crowing laughter.

And when they were lifted out, they complained in both French and English. They are bi-lingual, the quints.

So much has been written, in minute detail, about the famous Dionnes that it hard for a mere amateur daddy to know where to start a birthday party story about them. The thing that most arrested me was their color. The color of their eyes. Madame de Kiriline says they are hazel. But Nurse Yvonne Leroux says they are brown, gray and blue. They are remarkable eyes, very large and melting, and their expression veiled. As a matter of fact, when little mischievous and table-tipping Anette, lying on her stomach, rolls her head around to look up at you when you tap on the sight-seeing window of their nursery, there is an expression of almost amused condescension in her gaze. But they are certainly neither light eyes nor dark, because when you put them in a red-flowered dress, the eyes are quite dark. Yet when you put them in a blue dress, you see blue and gray in their eyes. They will be lucky when they are eighteen. They can wear both brown and blue.

The Big Drinker

They are dark babies, with a suffused flush in their color. There is nothing pearly and fragile about them, as in a blonde baby. They are very real indeed.

Another exciting thing is that they are off the bottle. Often you will see big chunky babies skilfully swizzling a nursing bottle. But at ten months precisely, all bottles went up to the hospital attic. For every one of them drinks from the glass. Cecile, “the pretty one”, is the big drinker. She drinks till she busts. She drinks until she has to come up for air with a great gasp, but with her wide eyes, she holds, she commands, the cup to remain. And then deep she dives into it again.

The race as to weight and size, the number of ounces, the number of inches, goes on week by week, but leaves me cold. For me it was exciting only for being the reason the two thirteen-pounders, Marie, and Emilie, were safeguarded in one play pen, while the three fifteen-pounders, Yvonne, Annette and Cecile, scrambled gaily about the other play pen. They are matched according to weight. It is a wrestling match, in those pens.

The routine of the babies starts at five o’clock in the morning. Fifteen minutes to three-quarters of an hour after little Marie, the robin, the alarm clock, has chanticleered the morning with her songs (and perhaps disturbed one of the big policemen sleeping in the very room with her – he’ll get used to it in time!), the whole place is alive and abustle. At that witching hour, eight ounces of whole milk and one ounce of tomato juice go down the five little red lanes. That is just an eye-opener, a hair off the dog that bit them and keeps on biting them all day long. They are changed and left to greet the swiftly rising sun.

“Daylight saving?” I asked Dr. Dafoe.

“We’ll stick to standard time hereabouts,” said he.

At 7 a.m., the day is away. Two small glasses of orange juice apiece – equal to one whole orange. And a teaspoonful of cod liver oil. I suspect those two glasses mean – one before and one after!

All this is done while the clock rushes around to 8 a.m., at which time they all, Annette usually leading, are shouting in plain bi-lingual baby talk: “Let’s eat! How about a little chow!”

And with 8 a.m. comes chow, to wit, one coddled egg, one glass of milk, and a kind of sticky-wicky made of arrowroot biscuit softened, mud-pied with water.

“How much of that there?” I asked Madame Kiriline.

“As much as they want,” said she. “They usually consume a couple of bikkies each.”

“The Pretty One”

This is an end to eating until 1 o’clock. For now at 9 a.m. they are all dressed in their little dresses and coats and out they go in their prams, rain or shine, to mumble awhile and listen to the first robins and the first song sparrows that have come, proudly, to lay their quintuplet eggs in nests nearby the hospital. Listening and crowing, there are curious small calls exchanged for maybe twenty minutes, until the last of them has rolled her eyes for the last time. And if you tiptoe across that veranda and look in each pram, you will see only five little heads, five little snubby noses, five sets of round red cheeks and, strangely, beautifully stirring, five little down-flung sets of eyelashes, the soft silken bars of sleep.

This is the hour of quiet, and the great big blue-clad police step softly on the hardwood floors, and the nurses whisk about, and the housekeeper hums to herself; Laurence, the housekeeper who is to be married the sixth of May – the Dionne hospital’s first romance, because Laurence, Madame Clusieux, is to marry the electrician she met when he came from “the Bay” to wire the new hospital.

In this time of quiet, Madame de Kiriline and Nurse Leroux showed me the works. The clothes closet where hang the rows of coats, dresses, dressing gowns, ad infinitum; where on the shelves lie the fives of bootees, and the fives of stockings and fives of this and that. Most of the gifts are from the makers of things, but there are a great many private gifts from individuals, mostly women. The things I liked best are bright red corduroy overalls, with braces and all. And on each bib of the overalls is worked the name of the wearer. It will be a big help when, in another four months or so, by the end of summer, the quints are staggering to their feet and making their first steps around the resounding nursery. We who peep through the wide observation window into that spectacular nursery will be able to know which is which.

“Do most of the gifts come from the United States?” I asked.

“It is about fifty-fifty between Canada and the States,” Madame de Kiriline thought. “There are none from overseas.”

The most curious gift was a set of five tiny white leather cases each containing a miniature set of false teeth, about the size of your thumb nail, the whole thing. Somebody in California thought of this whimsy for a toothless babe. Another odd gift was a stork made of a great southern pine cone, with pipe-cleaner neck and legs. They sent this stork across the road to the Dionne house.

Knowing which is which is problem. The nurses say they know them apart, not quite unerringly, by their expressions. Cecile, “the pretty one”, though they all looked pretty to my eyes, is rather reserved and quiet. Yvonne has a great crooked smile. Annette is, as I said before, slightly amused and tolerant in her gaze. Marie is the little one, the singer. And Emilie is the one with the rather still, slightly sly and mischievous expression.

Who are the favorites?

Annette is Madame de Kiriline’s favorite. Yvonne is Nurse Yvonne Leroux’s. Nurse Pat Mullen favors Marie. Mrs. Clusieux, the housekeeper, goes for Emilie, and Father McNally, “chaplain of the hospital,” sees something in Cecile that cannot be denied. Maybe it is a certain piety in Cecile.

Hard to Pick a Favorite

I tried to pick a favorite. I first and impulsively chose Annette, because Annette, on seeing my bulbous brow above the window sill of the observation tower, burst into a mighty toothless grin and quite accidentally succeeded in making a certain gesture up at me that was both disconcerting and extraordinarily diverting. I tried to hold her in my memory, so that I could tell her apart. But within five minutes another perfectly charming Annette gave me that same grin.

“Ah, Annette,” I cried. “Hello, there!”

“That’s Yvonne,” said Miss Leroux.

An hour later, I was again quite certain that it was Yvonne who was my favorite because there she was clapping two tiny hands together and looking at the miracle with her eyes slightly crossed – you know the way. So I praised her as Yvonne.

“That,” said Madame de Kiriline, “is Cecile.”

So I gave up. They are all my favorites.

“I would like to have them all on my knee,” I exclaimed. “The whole seventy-five pounds of them!”

“Unless,” remarked one of the policemen, leaning interminably on the window sill with me, watching them, “unless they all got the same idea at the same time!”

At one o’clock, noon, Marie sings a song about eating. It sounded about eating to me. Maybe it was only that she was cawing back at a crow, or warbling at a meadow lark. But by one o’clock, all the little prams were waggling and jiggling and there was a certain hollowness, like out of a tiny empty barrel, to the music.

The 1 p.m. meal is vegetables galore. Sometimes it is a kind of soup or puree of vegetables, carrots, green beans, spinach, beets. Sometimes it is mashed or strained. They are getting their vegetables a little more solid lately. After the feed of vegetables, they get either a baked apple, or bananas, prunes, apricots or apple sauce. Then a glass of milk.

“Who is fed first?” I asked jealously, because at this time I had my eye on Yvonne.

“Whoever is shouting the loudest,” said Madame de Kiriline. “There is no regular order.

So while Cecile was stretching out her little chin and eagerly gulping the spoonfuls, the other four yelled murder. Annette even had tears. But one by one they were fed their big meal of the day, and one by one they were dumped into the play pens, and there they rolled and kicked and humped themselves up like weight-lifters on their heels and the crowns of their heads.

And so came the rest hour, which is until three o’clock, and consists of about as much rest as you’ll see about beehive on a July noon when the clover is blooming. For this was the period of wrestling and of banging rattles, of Cecile lying serenely on her tummy, all uninterested in Yvonne and Annette who staged rolling match to see who could get on top and have the big pink rattle.

“Do they pull each other’s hair?” I asked anxiously.

“Not intentionally,” said Miss Leroux.

“H’m,” said I. For only that moment, one of them had deliberately pulled the hair of my then reigning favorite, Cecile.

“That one,” I accused, “pulled Cecile’s hair.”

“That one,” said Miss Leroux, “IS Cecile, and the one whose hair was pulled was Yvonne.”

“H’m,” said I.

At 3 p.m. they get a glass of pineapple juice to cover up another teaspoonful of cod liver oil.

Then Comes the Bath Hour

Thus they kick and sing and roll and sometimes snooze drowsy-eyed until five, when comes the bath. The bath is magnificent. They go two at a time. One odd one coming last. No order is kept. Sometimes it is Marie’s turn to be left. But they give them all an even break at playing the splashing game. They know about the splashing game. It is no accident. They lie feet to feet and slam their little legs as hard as they can, heaving up and gasping every time the adversary slashes theme good one.

Finally comes the last meal of the day, 5 p.m. Cereal, fine wheat cereal. And a glass of milk. And a big sigh. And a nightie. And no more people peering through the window. And quiet comes creeping. And away they go all five, like a flight of doves, into the Never Never Land. The nurses change. The policemen hitch up their belts and go out into the dusk.

But one policeman must modestly unveil and take off his belts and harnesses, his pistol and ammunition pouch, and when all is still, creep into the room to sleep on a couch set strategically amidst these tiny room-mates of a policeman … At his hand, in this sweet white chamber where five wee princesses, wards of the King, lie softly sleeping, stands a loaded rifle.

“Do you snore?” I asked Constable McCord, as he prepared himself for his incongruous vigil.

“I don’t know,” he confessed in a hushed and shocked voice.

So ends the day in this house of miracle. Far and lonely amidst a rocky land where patches of little fields lie sparsely scattered, this pretty bungalow is the centre of the eye of the world. And the heart. About a year ago, all science on earth would have gambled a thousand to one against this incomparable consummation. A million to one. Premature, like little raw nestlings in wild bird’s nest, all flung into the world within three quarters of an hour. Down this new highway that was then a rocky back road of the north came a motor car swaying through the bird-filled dawn of May 28. Between 4.30 and 5 o’clock in the morning, when the mosquitoes were just taking wing, these five were born before the astonished eyes of a country doctor and a huddle of neighbors.

“Not a chance,” said science in Chicago and Bombay and Vienna

But here is a fresh road. And here are telegraph wires and a special telephone line. And here, in this remote country is a hospital staffed with nurses and every aid to science, standing as a new monument to the ever-widening beam of heavenly light that shines on the babyhood of the world.

They live. Lovely and alive and gay, Yvonne, Annette, Cecile, Emilie and Marie, they live.

And for the heart as well as the mind of the world, they are guarded and watched and tended, the King has made them his wards, the fences are of steel, policemen armed with high-power rifles and wearing bedroom slippers slumber in a nursery, and the medical science of the whole world is at their command.

So strangely sleeping, we leave them.

Editor’s Notes: I debating including this story, since to modern readers, the sugary-sweet tone is appalling to anyone who knows the history of the Dionne Quintuplets. Aspects of the story treated matter-of-factly, like the armed policeman who stays in their room while they sleep, and no mention of their parents like they don’t exist.

They were the first known quintuplets to survive birth, and became a news sensation during the Great Depression. They were taken away from their parents by the government “to prevent exploitation”, but were in turn, put in a human zoo, and exploited by the government charged with protecting them. Admission was charged to see “Quintland”. Quintland constituted Canada’s highest grossing tourist attraction between 1934 and 1943, earning $1 million in its first year and as much as $500 million for the province of Ontario in total. In those nine years, approximately three million tourists paid admission to catch a glimpse of the Dionne sisters.

How could this have happened? For more information on this tragic story, I would strongly recommend Pierre Berton’s The Dionne Years: A Thirties Melodrama. Another highly recommended source is the episode The Infantorium by the podcast 99% Invisible, which explains the history of premature babies, incubators, and their ties to side-show carnivals. This really provides some context around babies on display, and specifically speaks of the Dionne Quintuplets at the end.

Call It a Spade

By Greg Clark, April, 13, 1935

“This year,” said Jimmie Frise, “I’m going to have a real garden.”

“Me, too,” I admitted.

“A garden full of old-fashioned flowers,” declaimed Jimmie, his eye roving out the window. “Hollyhocks, zinnias, verbenas.”

“Stocks,” I said, “and phlox.”

“Sweet william,” added Jimmie, “and pinks and gillieflowers.”

“What is a gillieflower?” I enquired.

“Hanged if I know,” said Jim, “but I love the sound of them and I’m going to have them.”

“Dianthus,” I said. “There’s a swell name, Let’s have dianthuses.”

“But really,” said Jim, sitting forward and resting his elbows so that he could cuddle right down deep into the very heart of the thought of a garden scented with a hundred perfumes and glowing with color in a June evening, “really, I am going to have a garden. I’m going to put time and thought and labor on it. I’m going to plan it. I’m going to take my time about it. Usually, the way we all do is go out some evening, after supper, buy a couple of dollars’ worth of seeds and a few boxes of infant annuals, and stick them around the garden before dark. Now, this year…”

“Every year,” I interrupted, “I go through what you are going through now.”

“So do I,” confessed Jim, sadly. “But this year I am going to try and really do it. I’m going to hold grimly to my determination.”

“I remember that, too,” I remembered. “But always, some time between the fifteenth and thirtieth of April, a queer change came over me. And by the time the planting was to be done, my heart was In the Highlands or something.”

“This year,” said Jim, sitting back fiercely and crossing his arms tightly across his chest, “I’m going to do my garden in a practical and common sense way. For example, I will spend two or three long evenings digging and turning it over.”

“Like plowing.” I said.

“Precisely,” said Jim. “I was born and raised on the farm. I know the principles of agriculture. The farmer spends weeks plowing. He does not plow and plant all in one day.”

“No, indeed,” I agreed.

“So,” went on Jim, “I’ll spend maybe three long evenings spading and turning over my borders and beds. If the weather is rainy, I won’t desist merely because of the discomfort. I’ll carry right on. Rain or shine, cold or warm, I’ll spend three evenings, one after the other, spading over my garden, burying the top earth and revealing the rich undersoil, exposing it to the life-giving air and light.”

“Good man,” I said, admiringly.

“Then I’ll break it up with my hoe and rake,” said Jim. “I’ll break the lumps, disintegrating them, so that the soft living rain of April may nourish the soil. Why should a man, born and raised on the farm, be afraid of a little rain on him?”

“It’s ridiculous,” I agreed.

Violence is Necessary

“Then, with the spade work well and truly done,” said Jim, making notes on a piece of paper, “I will go out and buy a few boxes of the taller annuals. A few boxes only. It is a mistake to buy the whole works the one night. You have to hurry to get them in. No. Take your time, that is the secret. A few boxes of tall annuals, like zinnias, nicotine, and so forth, the first night. And at great leisure, in comfort and east, so that you can have time to reflect and put them where you want them, you plant them slowly and thoroughly.”

“You do, Jim,” I pointed out. “It is you we are talking about.”

“Quite,” said Jim. “Then the next night, if It is soft and pleasant for planting, get a few more boxes of the less tall annuals, stocks, verbenas, the old-fashioned marigolds.”

He pronounced it the English way, marry-golds.

“Jim,” I said, “you deserve a lot of credit. If everybody in Toronto were like you, what a city this would be!”

“Now, mind you,” declared Jim, “a garden does not consist merely of some plowing and some planting of few square yards of earth. There comes all the long and happy weeks of cultivation. The hoeing of the soil around the young plants. The watering, weeding. The regular spading up of the earth, so that water, air and light may penetrate down towards the roots. I intend, this year, to devote one hour to my garden every night, rain or shine.”

“It is noble of you,” I admitted. “If I hadn’t gone through just what you are going through so often that I have lost faith in myself, by George, I would be tempted to be inspired by you, and try to make the same resolutions.”

“One thing you might do,” said Jim, “just for your amusement, is to come over and watch me do some spading?”

“I certainly will,” I said heartily. “In fact, I might even do a little spading for you myself.”

Which accounts for the fact that two nights later, that particularly soft evening last week, I walked over to Jim’s and sat in the rustic bench while he, looking fresh and healthy, worked with a spade along his borders.

A robin singing and a man spading in April – what more lovely moment is there in all the year?

“Dig deeper,” I said, after watching Jim a few minutes.

“It is the top six inches,” said Jim, pausing in his labor. “There is no need to dig deeper.”

“I disagree,” I said, lighting a new cigarette and signaling to one of the girls in the house to bring me a cushion. “What is true of farming is not necessarily true of city gardening. The open fields of the country are subjected to violence. The great rains pound down, Gales blow across the land. The ice in spring causes great cracks deep into the earth. The freshets belabor and smash the soil. But a city garden, protected by walls and fences and houses, gets no such essential disturbance.”

“Gardening,” replied Jim, delicately spading the earth, “at its best, should be a leisurely pastime.”

“You’re just tickling the earth,” I declared. “Just titivating it, dabbing at it like a lady applying cosmetics. Dig it, man!”

“It is the top six inches,” repeated Jim.

“Now I know the reason,” I said, “why city gardens are such poor, fragile things. They last a week or two: then they are burned up in the first heat of summer. Why? Because you have just dibbled or fiddled the top few inches. You don’t get down deep, the way nature does in the open fields. To make a garden fertile, we have to tear it loose.”

Jim stood leaning on the spade.

“Sail into it,” I admonished him. “Give it what November gives the farms. What March does. Knock hell out of it.”

Jim began to dig with more resolution. He began to enjoy it. He began hurling earth in all directions.

“Now you’re shouting,” I shouted. “Whale the stuffing out of it.”

Jim paused. He jabbed the spade into the earth and came over and sat on the rustic bench beside me. I lent him the cushion.

“I believe you’re right,” he said, “I honestly think what a garden needs is a real shaking up. I never thought of that before. We shelter our garden from nature, and then expect nature to make it bloom as healthy as nature itself.”

“What a garden needs,” I assured him, “is a steam shovel.”

Jim sat up and slapped me on the back.

“Great,” he cried. “Great. I know a guy who owns a steam shovel. And it’s unemployed.”

“Swell,” I exclaimed. “All my life …”

“He was saying a few weeks ago that he wished there was some place he could dig with it just to keep it in shape. It needs exercise.”

“Get him to come up,” I cried. “You could pull it through this back gate.”

“Get him nothing,” said Jim. “I’ll run it myself.”

“Why not?” I admitted. “Go and telephone him.”

And, in five minutes, Jim came out radiant, to inform me that for $2 paid to the caretaker for bringing it up, Jim could borrow the steam shovel any day.

“I said Friday,” Jim exulted, gazing around his garden. “It is one of those self-contained steam shovels. It has its own tractor tread. It’s not one of those great big steam shovels, you know?”

“All my life, Jim,” I said, “I have wanted to run a steam shovel. Just once.”

“Every man does,” agreed Jim. “Why do men stand by the hour watching a steam shovel down in an excavation? A steam shovel is the most fascinating thing in the world. It has power, might, strength. It is power, rude power, all in the hands of one man.”

“Could I help you?” I asked.

“Certainly,” said Jim.

So Friday after early supper I came over to Jim’s in a suit of overalls I borrowed from the garage. One of my boys owned a cap such as engineers wear, and my wife put a gusset in the back of it so it would fit me. Even Jim was astonished and delighted with my appearance.

“Boy,” he said, “you look like the real thing.”

“All I need,” I said, “is a chew of tobacco,”

“We can pretend,” said Jim, shooting an imaginary squirt to one side. “Now let’s look her over.”

The steam shovel, which Jim said was a small one, just about filled the yard. It had a cabin mounted on caterpillar trends. From its top was suspended a giant rusty iron arm on the end of which was a bucket as big as a roadster.

“She works,” said Jim. “The man that brought her banked the fire for me, and I turned it on a few minutes ago. We’ll have a head of steam in ten minutes.”

Jim showed me inside, where, in a little boiler, a fire gleamed brightly and there was a sizzling and a hissing. The steam gauge trembled. There was an air of excitement in the little cabin.

Jim showed me the various levers, throttle and handles, one for hoisting, one for lowering and opening the massive jaws of the shovel. And by this time, the hot and hissing little fire had set the steam gauge trembling at the necessary figure.

“O.K.,” cried Jim. “You get out and stand well over by the corner of the garden.”

Jim tried the various levers. The great arm rose slowly and dropped suddenly with a terrific crash. The cab rattled violently, and the huge creature took half a step forward.

The great bucket descended with a crash to the earth. It fumbled and groped on the ground. It scrabbled and opened and shut. It was like a prehistoric monster mumbling the earth in pursuit of a mole. The engine roared. Steam belched. The arm tightened. The bucket began slowly to rise, rise. It rose twenty feet in the air, slowly swung northerly, and paused, suspended over the middle of the back lawn. Then with another mighty roar of engine, the jaws of the bucket opened, the bucket crashed to earth, and a soup plateful of dirt deposited in the middle of the lawn.

“Hooroo!” yelled Jim, sticking his out of the cab.

In five minutes Jim had mastered the machine. It was a noble sight. One small man the god of the machine. Once he got a little hole dug, it was no time until Jim could sink that steel-toothed, iron-jawed monster into the soil, gouge a hunk as big as a piano, close the teeth on it, hoist it up and swing it into the middle of the yard and dump it. He began to get a big pile on the lawn.

“Why not put the dirt back,” I said, “as you go along?”

“I’ll put it back on the return journey,” hollered Jim, vanishing into the cab.

And with roarings and snortings, the great clumsy pachyderm waddled inch by inch down the border, and inch by inch Jim turned it back, and then, with increasing skill, grabbed scoopfuls of earth from the pile on the lawn and laid it into the border.

“Come on up,” he bellowed from the cab.

I got in. It was hot and steamy and tangled with levers and gears and wires and gadgets.

“Now, watch,” shouted Jim, over the hissing of the engine. “You take this lever, see? Now, slowly, slowly, see? That hoists her. Then this, see? That lowers her. Then you take this one, and it makes it open and grab, see?”

“All right, all right,” I cried, for it was fast growing dark outside.

“Take it slow and steady,” shouted Jim, swinging back out of the cab.

I shoved the second lever. The whole vast contraption began to shudder and stagger. I made a quick grab at what looked like a hand brake. I felt the colossal thing begin to lurch and move.

Jim’s face appeared whitely at the cab door, his mouth open wide. But I could not hear him. I snatched all the different levers and handles one after another. I saw a small dirty rope hanging from the roof. I thought it might be the ignition. I frantically yanked it, and a piercing whistle sounded above the din and drunken clamor of the vastly lurching and staggering machine. The giant arm rose and fell. I felt the cab turning dizzily, as each lever failed to quiet it. I heard crashings and felt crunchings. But in the fumes and the vapor and the staggerings, I dared not look out. My eyes, my soul, my brain were glued to the mass of levers glittering at me in the gathering gloom.

Then, in the midst of a more savage lurch than all, Jim came through the open door of the cab, flung me aside and in an instant all was still.

“Quick,” he gasped. “Get out.”

“What happened?” I asked, friendlily.

“We’re five doors north of my place gasped Jim. “Up a hill. Across five fences. Through one garage.”

“Jim, it went wrong,” I explained. “Suddenly it went wrong.”

“If only,” gasped Jim. “you hadn’t blown the whistle. Why did you blow that whistle?”

“I didn’t know it was a whistle,” I complained bitterly.

“People will be here,” said Jim breathlessly, “any minute.”

But mysteriously, despite all that tumult and crashing and screeching of whistles, nobody came. They must have all been at the movies. Jim had lost his nerve. He would not drive it back to his yard. He telephoned his friend, and, in half an hour, the caretaker came and drove the short away down the lane and off to New Toronto through the dark and shining streets.

“Now,” said Jim, “while I inspect the damage and make an estimate of the cost, the least you can do is shovel that heap of earth out of the middle of my lawn back into the border.”

And it was midnight before I got home, all dirty.

Editor’s Notes: A freshet is flooding caused by a spring thaw.

Titivating means to make small alterations to something.

To older readers, a steam shovel, might be recognized as a generic term for an excavator, but as can be seen in the story, it was a mechanical excavator that was really powered by a steam engine. Actual steam powered machines were being replaced by diesel ones by the time this story was written.

New Toronto was a separate town west of Toronto which was later merged into Etobicoke and eventually amalgamated into Toronto itself.

The Holocaust!

March 9, 1935

This comic was titled when the term “holocaust” referred to any particular disaster, often by fire, and before it took on new meaning during World War Two.

Bow Wows Love New York

January 19, 1935

This is an illustration by Jim for a story by Merrill Denison, who he often illustrated for in the pre-Greg-Jim era of the early 1930s. Denison moved to New York to become a playwright and would still occasionally publish a story in the Star Weekly, usually about his dog, Boo Boo.


By Greg Clark, January 5, 1935

“Psst,” said Jimmie Frise. “Look at this guy.”

We were walking along King street back to the office.

A scarecrow, cringing from the wintry wind, was hugging the tall buildings, and from under his capbrim he was anxiously scanning the passers-by.

We drew near. The scarecrow sighted us. Pulled himself together. He fell in beside us.

“Excuse me, Mac,” he mumbled. His face was bloated and boiled looking. His eyes were sunken. “Spare a guy a bite to eat. I ain’t et–“

“How much?” said Jim, cheerily. “Two bits?”

The scarecrow snatched the coin from Jimmie. With scarcely a gesture, much less a word of thanks, he cringed into the biting wind and sped away. We looked after him. He was a ragged, shambling caricature even of a bum. But he sped away as if filled with a mighty purpose.

“Jimmie,” I said, “you’re a sap. That, if ever I saw one, was an undeserving case. An unworthy case. He looked as if he had just risen up out of a ditch where he had lain drunk all night. A horrible specimen.”

“He was unworthy,” said Jim, gently. “That’s why I gave him two bits.”

“Because he was unworthy?” I gagged.

“Exactly,” repeated Jimmie. “Because he was unworthy. In this town are a thousand agencies of state and church; municipal and national, amateur and professional, for the care of the worthy and the deserving. But there is no place for the unworthy and the undeserving. There is no place for that man.”

And we looked back again, into the biting wind. But he was gone.

“Jimmie,” I said, “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“That’s what we have to think about now,” stated Jim. “We have everything solved. We know the cause of all our troubles. We are planning the remedies. We have planned recovery. We have official government relief. It is part of the scheme of things now. But outside all of it there are the unworthy, the undeserving. Now somebody has to come along and look after the unworthy.”

“It sounds funny,” I assured Jim. “It’s a new idea.”

“It’s an old idea,” argued Jim. “There once was a great Teacher who said He did not come to save the worthy, but the unworthy, and who went first amongst the publicans and sinners, who sought out the bums and the street walkers. I don’t think He even once mentioned planned economy or relief. He just went around and touched with His hand dead men and gave them life, diseased men and healed them, lepers, the scum of the earth.”

“I see,” I admitted.

“Suppose,” said Jimmie, “we start a society for the assistance of the unworthy and undeserving?”

“Wonderful,” I cried.

“Suppose we just organize a little society of a couple of dozen of us that feel the same way we do about things,” went on Jimmie: “a society that takes just as much trouble to make sure the applicant is unworthy as the social workers take to make sure their cases are deserving?”

Starting a New Society

“We could maybe hire a social worker, a girl,” I added, “who could have a little office. It wouldn’t cost much.”

“No,” said Jim. “Our secretary would have to be some worthless failure of a guy, a complete and unreclaimable wreck of a man, whose investigations of each case would have to be doubtful and themselves not very reliable. What I want isn’t a half-way sort of society. I would like to see our society itself unworthy. Its very unworthiness would have to appeal to those of us who were the supporting members.”

“We could go out and ask the social welfare people who is the most undeserving man in Toronto and hire him?” I suggested.

“Perfect,” said Jim. “Perfect. Our office would be the shabbiest and dirtiest little office we could find in downtown Toronto. The secretary would have to be a loathsome object, with a jail record preferred. To him would come all the most unworthy cases in the city, the ones without a single thing to be said to their credit. They would be the perpetual drunks, the wife deserters, the petty thieves. No big thief could get a cent of aid. Just the miserable thieves, the cowardly, creeping thieves.”

“I begin to see the beauty of it,” I breathed.

“It is beautiful,” said Jim. “But it is more than that. It is the secret at the bottom of all our human troubles to-day. We base our entire human society on worthiness. It’s wrong.”

“We have to adopt some standard,” I submitted.

“We don’t,” said Jim. “That’s where we make the first mistake. That’s the wrong alley we turn up into, right at the start. Jesus didn’t ask Lazarus what he believed in. He just raised him, knowing that when he was risen he would believe.”

“I wasn’t taught that way,” I protested.

“Can’t you read?” retorted Jimmie.

We went up to Jimmie’s studio in the tiptop of The Star and looked across the world fogged with driving snow and a wind that blew grimly from the Pacific to the Atlantic,

“Out there,” said Jim, “the ones to worry about are the undeserving. An unworthy man, it seems to me, gets colder than a worthy man. And hungrier. It helps keep man warm if he knows he is worthy.”

“I suggest,” I said, “we pick out about thirty or forty of our friends and start a little group for the assistance of the worthless.”

“You draft a letter,” said Jim. “We can send it around to a select bunch. Let’s call a meeting for some day next week. If enough turn out we can organize a group and draw up a set of resolutions.”

So while Jimmie worked at his cartoon I drafted a beautiful and impassioned letter. I wrote and rewrote and tugged at the heart strings and brought tears even to my own eyes. I read bits to Jimmie. He nodded and went on scratching.

When the letter was done I read it all, standing up and using gestures. Jim and I were both deeply moved. We both blew our noses and frankly wiped our eyes.

Hunting Undeserving Cases

“That’s a beautiful letter,” said Jimmie. “It’s a classic.”

“Now we can have it mimeographed,” I said.

“Wait a minute,” interrupted Jimmie. “Just a minute. We don’t want to go off the deep end. We want to have some idea of the number of the undeserving cases. How many really undeserving cases are there in town? One hundred? Five hundred?”

“Perhaps the social service people could tell us?” I offered.

“They sort out the worthy,” stated Jim. “Let us find the unworthy ourselves.”


“I can find ten between here and the Market,” said Jim.

So we went along King street in the wind and sleet. We saw numbers of poorly-dressed men and one old woman. But she had a bunch of pencils in her hand, offering them timidly from a damp and ill-sheltered niche in one of the big buildings.

“No, no,” whispered Jim, when I paused.

“She’s trying to make a few cents. She’s a worthy case.”

We went on. Up until Yonge street, we had found none at all.

“It takes a worthy man to be out at all on a day like this,” I said. “All the unworthy are sheltering somewhere, sneaking into missions and things.”

At Toronto street we met a panhandler. Our hearts leaped.

“Could you spare-” he began.

“Are you a worthy case?” we demanded. “Do you drink? Do you support a wife and children… ?”

The poor chap broke down and moved aside into the shelter of a building.

“I have a wife and child,” he said. “I spend the mornings collecting scraps of wood and junk to keep the fire going while I-“

“Sorry,” we said, leaving him.

Between Toronto street and the Market we met three more. One of them was quite tipsy, but he said he was going back to a good job with his older brother as soon as he sobered up. The other two were both willing to work and showed by their calloused hands that they had jobs lately.

“Would you work in a ditch?” we demanded.

“Lead us to it,” they cried, heartily.

So we left them.

“We’ll have to go to some mission or some place,” I said. “That’s where the unworthy will be cringing on a day like this.”

“It will be like poaching,” said Jim, “but we will go.”

We dropped in on a mission not far from the Market. There were fifteen men in it at the time. Some were scrubbing floors, some were making stew, others were making beds, one old man was darning socks for his comrades. A young man was lying very ill on a cot and three men were down in the big room around the piano, singing softly.

“What are you singing for?” I asked. “Is this a worthy pastime when all your comrades are working?”

“We’re rehearsing for a concert to-night,” said the man at the piano. “We expect a full house the way the weather is.”

A Box Car Club

Jim was already tugging my sleeve, so we went on the streets again. Along Queen we walked. Two very young chaps, extremely chilled looking and ragged, responded to our friendly eye by pausing.

“Well, boys,” said Jim. “You look kind of peaked.”

“How about something to eat?” asked the larger boy.

“Where are you from? Toronto?” I asked.

“No, sir; we’re trying to get to Owen Sound,” said the big one. “We’ve come this far from Montreal.”


“Riding freights.”

“In this weather?”

“Well, it got too bad yesterday, so we laid off until it gets milder.”

“Do you live in Owen Sound?”

“I don’t, but the kid does,” said the bigger one. “We met in Montreal trying to get a job on a ship. That was last September we met. We didn’t get a ship. So finally the kid said he wanted to get home to see his mother for Christmas, and I said I’d get him home. But we kind of got away to a bad start. We got pinched at Prescott and laid up ten days. However, I’ll get him home before all the goose is eaten.”

The younger boy turned a pale color.

“No, Jimmie,” I said. “These boys are both worthy. They were both trying to run away to sea. Then the one tried to get home for Christmas. And the other one was trying to help him.”

“Very deserving,” said Jim. “I would like to do something for you, boys, but it is against our principles.”

The older boy smiled thinly and the young one turned away.

In silence we walked toward Yonge street and just as we turned into Yonge who should we see creeping close along the tall walls of the buildings but the same worthless bum that Jimmie had treated to a quarter at noon! We stood in front of him.

“Ha,” said Jim. “Here we are again!”

“How about something to eat?” asked the bleary-eyed bum. “I ain’t et–“

“I gave you a quarter at noon,” said Jim. “What did you do? Drink it?”

The dreadful looking man rubbed his nose with the back of his hand.

“Listen,” he begged, “you’re the only touch I’ve made all day. There I got seven guys in a box car. One bottle of cat costs forty cents.”

“What’s cat?” I asked.

“Catawba,” said the bum, “wine. There I got seven guys in a box car. We gotto have our rum issue when we go to sleep, don’t we? We’re old soldiers, see? We’re used to havin’ a shot of rum in loo of a hot meal, see? In loo of. So it’s my job to rassle one bottle of cat a day, that’s for bedtime, and another guy he gets bread and whatever else is going, see, and another guy he’s got to get hay for the floor, and another guy tobacco. We each got our department, see?”

“What is this, a society?” Jimmie asked.

“A kind of society, captain,” said the bum, shuddering down into his collar. “A sort of society of bums, the ones that ain’t worthy, see, the undeserving, see? We just give up, we can’t get anywhere, so we just clubbed up. My job is to get a bottle of cat, see, and it costs forty cents, and all I got is your two bits. It’ll be dark soon, so I got to work up here.”

“Just a second,” said Jimmie. “I think you’re a liar.”

The bleary eyes opened and showed two icy gray pupils that stared steadily into Jim’s eyes.

“I’m a lotta things, captain, but I ain’t no liar,” said the bum.

“You look as if you had been on a drunk for a week,” stated Jim, staring back.

“Oho, that!” laughed the bum, revealing crooked teeth. “Oho, me face? My eyes? Oho, that’s hay fever!”

“Hay fever? In mid-winter?” scoffed Jim.

“Sure, you sleep in hay and see what you get, even in winter,” said the bum, hotly.

“That’s right, Jim,” I hastened. “Every time I change the hay in the dog kennel, even in winter, I get an attack.”

“Oho, so that’s what you was thinking?” laughed the bum. “The boys was saying last week that somebody else ought to have the rum issue to look after. They said I looked like a jag even when I was praying for Daffy Baird.”


“One of the guys is Daffy Baird,” said the bum. “He got shell shocked in the war and every once in a while he starts crying. He’s a little off, you understand; he’s not all there, see? So the only thing stops him is me praying I stand up over him and pray. I used to be good at imitating a preacher, see? So I pray and pray and pretty soon Daffy shuts up and we can all go to sleep.”

“That would be quite a sight,” said Jim.

“Where’s your box car?” I asked.

The bum looked sharply at me.

“Well, gents, thanks for the two bits,” he said.

“Look here,” cried Jim. “I’d like to fix you boys tip with a real feed. Suppose you let us come down and see your place, and we can bring a load of stuff with us we can get in the store here; we’ll make it a surprise party.”

The bum was shoving past us. His face had set again into a bleary mask.

“Nuttin doing,” he muttered.

“Half a minute,” I said after him.

But he started fast and although we walked back to the corner of Queen he was swallowed up in the five o’clock throngs.

“I guess he thought we might be informers or busy bodies,” I suggested.

“He figured we weren’t worthy,” corrected Jim.

And we got back to The Star without finding anybody unworthy but ourselves.

Editor’s Notes: This story appeared in the book Silver Linings (1978). It is one that really displays the difficulties of the Great Depression.

Catawba is a type of grape that can be used to make wine.

What! – No Lighter?

November 9, 1935

For Remembrance

By Greg Clark, November 9, 1935

“Seventeen years,” mused Jimmie Frise, “since the Armistice. Mm-mm!”

“It’s so far away,” I said, “it seems like a story I read in a book.”

“I’ve been reading this ‘Paths of Glory’,” said Jim, “and It seems far realer in that book than in my memory.”

“But you’ve got that finger to remind you,” I pointed out, indicating Jim’s left hand, where one of the digits is missing. “I haven’t even got a pock mark.”

“You haven’t got any marks outside,” agreed Jim. “But I often see signs of severe internal head injuries in you.”

“How did you lose that finger, Jim?” I asked.

“It’s a silly story,” said Jim. “Like picking up a book and opening it in the middle and reading a couple of pages. It seems so detached. I was walking up a steep hill in the dark. There was a kind of track in the mud like cows make in a field. I was coming up the track. I had two mules, leading them, a bridle in each hand. I was coming up the hill, they called it Vimy Ridge, from the battery, where I had just delivered two mule loads of shells. I guess it was about 9 p.m.”

“Raining?” I asked.

“Slushy,” said Jim. “Mules are funny. They love to be coaxed. I was coaxing them. You know? You know the way an artillery driver coaxes?”

“Sure, sure,” I admitted

“I didn’t hear anything,” said Jim. “I guess it was because I was coaxing rather loudly. And the mules’ feet were making sucking, squashy sounds in the mud, and anyway, down in the flat valley where I was coming from, a lot of doors were slamming… All of a sudden, I am surrounded by a terribly bright light. A bright light with rainbow edges all around it. A terrible large round light. I didn’t hear anything. All I saw was the stunning light. My head seemed to be buried in an immense feather mattress. I felt myself fading, dreamy, dreamy, dreamy.”

“No pain?” I asked.

“No pain,” said Jim. “Anyway, when I woke up, I was lying face down, head down hill, in the mud and slush. It was still dark, and the doors were slamming, slamming, down in the flat plain. So I knelt up. In my right hand I still had a bridle. But all that was attached to the bridle was a mule’s head. I then, very methodically, thought of my left hand. It hurt. I didn’t have any bridle in it. I held it up. Down in the valley, a gun flashed briefly, but in the burp of light, I saw my hand was shiny, and one finger was gone. Wherever that off mule is, my finger is.”

“So then?” I argued

“So then I got up and floundered up the hill,” said Jim, “and it was dark and slushy and muddy and I fell into shell holes and got tangled in barbed wire, and the more lost I got, the more lost I got, if you understand me?”

“I can well imagine,” I agreed, “an artillery man off the beaten track.”

Couldn’t See It Coming

“Anyway, I got to a dressing station, and the war was over,” said Jim. “How about you?”

“As a matter of fact,” I stated, “I shed blood, but not from a wound. It was from a bloody nose.”

“That’s unique,” said Jim.

“It was at Vimy, too,” I said. “A few minutes after 7 o’clock in the morning of the first day on Vimy. A major of my regiment came up and said there was a gap on our left, and the Germans were coming up a deep trench called Artillery Way, up the side of the Ridge. So he told me to take a party of men and go down and bomb out the trench.”

“There was something so romantic about the infantry,” said Jim.

“Yeah,” I said. “So I went and got my sergeant – his name was Charlie Windsor – and explained what the major said, and asked him who I should take with me. ‘Me and five others,’ said Windsor. So we each filled up with Mills bombs and ran across a kind of vacant lot and got into Artillery Way. The Germans threw their stick bombs up at us. But we were throwing down-hill, so we did better. And we pushed them down half way. Then I decided we were getting too far away from Canada, so we had better pull in a block in the trench. A block means putting a sort of dam in the trench, earth. wire, junk. Something the Germans couldn’t get past. Once we put a block in, you see, we could back up a bit and fling bombs down at it all day.”

“So you put in a block?” said Jim.

“And while the boys were pulling in the block,” I said, “I decided to take a quick peep down hill, in case any Germans might have crawled out of the trench to come sneaking up on us from the sides. So I kicked a little foot-hold in the earth of the trench wall and hoisted myself up. I popped my head over. And to my astonishment, there, not 20 yards away, at the next zig of the zigzag trench, was the head of a German wearing a coal scuttle helmet, grinning at me. He was a pleasant-faced chap. Blond. Blue eyes, wide open in an expression of surprise. So I grinned back at him.”

“A sort of armistice between you,” said Jim.

“Not exactly,” I explained. “My steel helmet I always wore well down over my eyes. Like a big peak on a cap. Unknown to me this German had been looking over the trench, all ready to fling one of those little black egg bombs they carried. And just as he was going to throw, he saw my helmet start up over the edge. So he let go.”

“And you didn’t see it?” gurgled Jim.

“It was up in the air, coming in a nice big lob,” I elucidated, “but on account of the rim of my helmet. I couldn’t see it. That was why the German was smiling so delightedly.”

“What did you do?”

“I sort of waved at him, you know?” I explained. “Gave him a kind of top-of-the-morning flick of my hand to my helmet, and just as I did that, the egg bomb landed in the soft earth out of the trench, about a yard from my nose, and went off the instant it struck.”

“Your head was blown off,” gasped Jim.

Everything Seemed Accidental

“Fortunately,” I said, “those German egg bombs weren’t very well made. They had a sort of ring or belt of corrugations around their middle, and often they just split in half at that ring. This one split in half. There was an awful concussion. My helmet was violently lifted by the blast from my head. The chin strap, which was resting right on the point of my chin, caught on my nose as it went up, and it was like being kicked on the nose by a boot. As I fell from the side of the trench into the arms of Charlie Windsor, I automatically flung my hands to my face. The blood which was spurting from my nose I smeared with my palms all over my face. By the time Charlie Windsor got his eye on me, I was just a smear. ‘Back up, Boys,’ he commanded the men, ‘Clarkie has had his blankety blank head blew off.’ So they carried me up the trench and I let them carry me nearly to the top before I allowed myself to come to. They set me down, the most amazed bunch of men you ever saw I wiped the blood off my face and took out my hankie to dabble my nose. And then they all started to laugh. They laughed for two years. They are laughing yet. Every time I see any of the three that are left out of that six, they always start to laugh, and rub the back of their hands across their noses.”

“So what did you do?” asked Jim.

“Well, we went back down and threw some more bombs, and finished pulling in the block.” I explained, “and then the major sent word down to me to come on up and take command of my company because now I was the only officer left. So I hurried back up and found the major and started talking to him as an equal. You know the way? Sort of ‘now, my dear chap, what do you think we ought to do about our flanks?’ That sort of thing. But as my nose was still bleeding, all day, I guess I didn’t really look like a company commander. Anyway, they sent up a fresh officer to take command, and by the time my nose quit bleeding, I was just a lieutenant again.”

“Queer,” said Jim, “how everything that happened in the war was sort of accidental. The war was so terribly on purpose. Yet everything that happened seemed accidental.”

“That’s it,” I cried. “The war was so big, and we were so terribly small. And whenever anything happened to us, we thought it must have been just pure chance, because surely the war couldn’t be specially aware of us, as individuals.”

“I guess life itself is like that,” said Jim.

“Some day,” I said, “we will get on top of war and on top of life. And life won’t be allowed to destroy us and grind us down.”

“Life is pretty good,” said Jim. “That is why we are all so anxious to keep it. But I guess we look at life optimistically, the same way we remember the funny things in war. You never hear us old soldiers telling sad stories.”

“There was so much sadness,” I explained, “we don’t have to remember it, maybe.”

“Tell me a sad war story,” suggested Jim.

“I can tell you one,” I started, “about the very same day I got the bloody nose. That first day at Vimy. Along about sunset, I began to think of the dead. They were lying about, the way we had to place them, with rubber capes over them. It had started to snow, but along the western horizon, away back over Mount St. Eloi and Villers au Bois, far back westward over where Canada lay, and all heart’s desire, there was a narrow magenta strip of red sky. I was standing in our newly dug trench, looking back at the sunset through the queer grotesque and shattered arms of the apple trees had been the orchard of La Folie Farm. And there I saw a curious figure. It was our new chaplain, Padre Davis, whom I had not yet met, and he was kneeling in the mud with his helmet off. Reading from a little book.”

It’s the Littleness That Hurts

“Burial,” said Jim.

“On the field of battle,” I said, proudly. “He was a great padre. He would not leave the boys out for even one night. So I got Charlie Windsor, and he got two men with shovels, and we crept out into the battered orchard and dug a big grave. We had seven men to bury, out of our little platoon. And while they were carrying the boys to be best spot I could find, under the last mangled of the apple trees that one day, I thought, might leaf and bloom again, I went and told the padre, but he said it would be long hours before he could get to me, because he had so many right there where he was. ‘Bury them,’ he said, ‘and if you like, say the Lord’s Prayer over them. That is your privilege. An officer may bury his men. And then, in the morning, as soon as it grows light, I will come and we will hold the service over them.’

“He was so gentle, standing there in the slow falling snow, his head bare, the odd shell moaning over, darkness grimly dropping down. So I went back, and the boys had been placed in the grave. The two chaps with the shovels were standing by, like in the picture called The Angelus. Windsor said I had to get down in the grave and take the personal effects and pay books off the boys, but I asked him to do it, because he was a much older soldier than I, though younger in years. But he had been in three battles.

“I could barely see his face when he got out and handed me the seven handkerchiefs tied up into little bundles.

“‘Now men,’ I said, ‘I will say the Lord’s Prayer, before you cover the grave.’

“And we all took off our helmets and bowed our heads and then I started to remember the Lord’s Prayer.

“It seemed so far away. The Lord’s Prayer, I said, to myself. And my mind started wandering down all the long, empty alleys of my mind, away, away, down lonely empty forgotten alleys, where there was nobody any more, but like a vacant house that had not been lived in for many a year. And I could see my mind, shaped something like me, but more like a boy, a boy that grew smaller all the time it wandered back down those gray forgotten corridors, and it could not find the Lord’s Prayer anywhere. I could feel the men standing there across the grave, waiting, and one of them coughed briefly.

“But all of a sudden. I found it. The Lord’s Prayer, why, of course. “So I started:

“Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep;

If I should die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take.’

“‘God bless father and moth ..’

“And then I stopped, because I knew it was wrong. I felt a terrible lost sensation. I looked fearfully at Windsor and he was grinning a twisted grin at me in the gloom, but tears were flowing down his cheeks. So I said ‘God bless these seven men.'”

Jim pulled his feet down off his desk and went and looked out the window.

“Well,” I said, “that’s sad, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” whispered Jimmie. “That’s sad.”

So a little later, Jimmie said:

“The way the world is now, and Armistice Day being so near, let’s write that story.”

So we did. Because after all, it isn’t the bigness of war that hurts, it’s the littleness.

Editor’s Notes: Greg and Jim produced many Remembrance stories about their time in World War One over the years, and is often the case, unlike with other stories, the reader can expect this one to be 100% true. Greg also revisited the burial story in a future article many years later.

Vimy Ridge was an important battle for Canadian troops they both participated in.

A Mills bomb was a British hand grenade, and the German Model 17 was the “Egg Grenade”.

Mont-Saint-Éloi and Villers-au-Bois were areas of France familiar to Canadian soldiers in World War One.

The Angelus is a painting by Jean-François Millet, completed between 1857 and 1859.

The Lord’s Prayer is the most common Christian Prayer, but Greg confused it with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a common children’s prayer to say before bedtime.

Gummed Up

By Greg Clark, November 6, 1943 (and December 7, 1935)

While Greg was away as a war correspondent in World War Two, it was not uncommon for the Star Weekly to reprint an earlier story, with a new title and new drawing by Jim. The text would be edited (usually shortened), and perhaps a reference to the war would be added. This story appeared under the title “Leak Stoppers” in 1935 (illustration at the end). The text that was removed in the 1943 version is underlined below. The text added is in bold italics (though in this case there was little changed).

“You can buy a gun,” said Jimmie Frise, “what they call a caulking gun, and seam up all your windows and doors with it, using a kind of putty or cement.”

“I’ve seen them,” I said. “Like a grease gun.”

“Exactly,” said Jim. “A child can use them. You have no idea how many leaks there are around a modern house. Air leaks.”

“I’m beginning to feel them,” I agreed. “You would think we Canadians would have solved the question of housing a couple of generations ago. Yet the average Canadian home is stifling in summer and freezing in winter; that is, unless you keep a furnace going full blast from October to May.”

“Yes,” pursued Jim, “and what’s more, when you have the furnace going full blast, what are you doing? You are merely squirting 50 or 100 jets of hot air out of 50 or 100 leaks in your house. Through cracks and crevices. Through keyholes and under warped doors. Hot air squirting out of your house, and cold air shooting in. I’m going to get one of those caulking guns. How would you like to go halvers with me on one?”

“Sure,” I agreed.

“The best house for Canada,” said Jimmie, relaxing, “is a log house. It is warm in winter and cool in summer. Our first ancestors who came to this country were a lot more comfortable than we are. They picked a nice spot on the side of a hill for a cabin. A hill that would protect them from the cold northwesterlies.

They left a few tall maples and elms over it, to shelter it in the heat of summer. Out of cedar logs, they built their little cabin, and chinked the spaces between the logs with mud mixed with a little lime they burned themselves from limestone lying around.”

“I often wish I were my ancestor,” I mused.

“The roof,” said Jimmie, they made this way, they laid stout saplings close together, and over them laid what they called cedar splits, like big shingles. Sometimes if they could afford it, they laid couple of layers of heavy paper between the saplings and the shingles. One of my ancestors was called Proudy Frise, because he lined his roof with rawhide deerskins that he bought from the Indians. It was wonderful in the winter, but in the summer, it smelt kind of close.”

“He could stay outside most of the summer,” I pointed out.

“Once the snow fell on the cabin roof,” went on Jim, everything was hunkey-dooley.”

“The fireplace,” I carried on, “was built of stone, with the chimney.”

“As a matter of fact,” corrected Jim, “they built the stone fireplace and chimney first, and then added the cabin on to it. Here and there, throughout Canada, you will find a few weed-grown remnants of these pioneer chimneys and fireplaces. Every true Canadian should reverently lift his hat when he sees one of those small, unhonored ruins. Around those stones, the builders of empire have huddled in the long and bitter winters of their lives.”

“Babies, too,” I said.

“We Could Be Ancestors”

“Let us picture that little cabin,” paused Jimmie. “Never mind the cutting and the hauling of those cedar logs, the finding and hauling of the stones for the fireplace and chimney. They had no horses. Oxen were few and far between and very expensive. I think we may reasonably suppose that our fathers hauled the logs by hand, and carried the stones in their arms. I think I can see everybody in the family, lonely in that small stumpy clearing in the deep forest, hauling, hauling all day. The mother, leaving her baby, to help haul cedar logs. The little boys of 10 and 14, laboriously loosening and rolling stones towards that sacred muddy little spot where soon, before the chill of autumn grimmed to winter, there must rise the stone altar of home.”

“Jimmie,” I said, “you’re a preacher.”

“Day after day, they hauled and notched and piled and plastered with their rude cement,” said Jim. “Then they had to cut and pile firewood, long, ragged stacks of it. But at last, the rough little cabin was made, and the snow fell, and the soft white blanket warmed the little house. And inside, on a big hearth, a far bigger hearth than you will see anywhere today except at golf clubs, burned a bright fire.”

“One of my ancestors, called Great Grandpa Willie,” I interrupted, “had one of the biggest and best-drawing fireplaces in Markham township. They tell that when the fire was drawing good in it, the draught was so strong it sucked great big cordwood sticks up the chimney and threw them hundreds of feet away. In fact, they had to keep letting the fire go out because they couldn’t get any wood to stay on the fire long enough to burn.”

“The floor,” went on Jim, as if I hadn’t spoken, was generally just plain earth, worn hard and smooth by human feet. The beds were rough hewn bunks. A home-made table. The chairs, a couple of stools, and the rest just round pieces of logs set on end. On that bright fire they cooked their meals on spits and boiled their kettles on hobs. All winter long, they hugged the bright fire, never letting it go out night or day. And the only thing that happened was when daddy walked 14 miles through the deep snow to the nearest village, for a bag of flour, to bring back on home-made sled. And maybe a piece of pork he would get from the local missionary, or maybe from United Empire Loyalist, who might live in the village. That is unless your ancestor had been out with Mackenzie.”

“Mine were out with Mackenzie,” I stated proudly. “And they never wanted for a slab of salt pork or a bag of flour. The ones who were out with Mackenzie stuck together a lot longer than the ones who weren’t, let me tell you that. One winter’s night, nearly 30 years after the rebellion, an old man came to the back door of my great-uncle’s farm, and he said he wanted a meal and shelter for the night. The old man came into the kitchen where the candles were burning, and when he saw William Lyon Mackenzie’s picture on the wall, he snatched off his hat and stood in front of it, crying. So my great-uncle sent everybody to bed; and hour after hour the women and children could hear the two old men in the kitchen making speeches and singing, and reading all my great-uncle’s clippings of the sacred newspaper writings of William Lyon Mackenzie. And finally they went out into the winter night, both of them, about midnight or after, and from that hour, my great-uncle was never seen again.”

“Never seen?” asked Jim.

“Never seen again,” I stated. “He had got out his old high hat and his black coat with the silver buttons. His pike, which hung on the wall, a funny old weapon made of a broken scythe blade on a long ash handle, was gone. We say in the family that the old stranger who called at the door was Mackenzie himself or his ghost, and that he came and took great-uncle away with him. I tell you the rebels stuck together, at least in the country.”

“I wish I was my ancestor,” agreed Jim. “They had something to do. Something to fight. Something to believe in.”

“We could be ancestors, too,” I explained to Jim. “By going up north, around Cochrane or out to the far west. And build a little log cabin and go through all the very same things our ancestors did.”

“Yeah,” sneered Jim, “and the minute we began to fail, we’d go on relief.”

Everything Goes in Circles

“Our ancestors went on relief, too, don’t forget,” I stated. “All the Empire Loyalists got what was called ‘assistance’; that is, free seed and potatoes and all sorts of government grants of this and that. And even after the rebellion, the government wouldn’t see you starve. Anyway, your neighbors wouldn’t. And that’s much the same thing as it is now out on the frontiers, where we would go if we wanted to be ancestors, too.”

“Everything sort of goes round, doesn’t it?” muttered Jim. “The same thing happens over and over, only to different people. I guess we had our turn in our great-grandfathers.”

“We’re pretty comfortable,” I confessed. “Except for those leaks around the windows and doors. When do you expect to get the caulking gun?”

“I could get it Friday, and we can do the job Saturday.”

So Jim got the gun and three bags of the powder that you mix up in a pail to make the putty or gum used to fill the cracks.

It was a cold day. In fact, it was so cold I suggested we leave the job over until milder day. But Jim was indignant.

“In the first place,” he cried, “what would our ancestors think of us, passing up a job that takes half an hour out in a little cold? And in the second place, it is a cold, windy day like this we need to help find the leaks.”

We started at Jim’s. Under the downstairs living room windows was a leak that gave you a backache in 10 minutes if you sat in the chesterfield. It was a leak under the window frame and behind the big radiators that filled the front end of the room. So cold was the breeze that cut in across the radiators that it was still freezing after it had passed across practically red-hot radiators.

In a big wash boiler, with water we mixed the gray powder out of the paper bags.

“This stuff,” explained Jim, sniffing loudly, “is sort of like gum. It swells as it hardens. It hardens light and fluffy but strong as stone.”

“Like,” I said, “a sort of asphalt or concrete seidlitz powder.”

Jim and I went and studied the leak from the inside and then from the outside. His family were all away, or we would have had someone stand inside and call out to us where the leak still leaked. Jim did the gun work while I did the mixing and gun-filling. It was an even division of the job, and a cold job at that.

Inserting the flattened end of the gun into the crack below the stone window sill, Jim would press the gun handle and the putty would squeeze inside. Jim shoved and heaved and sniffled, and I crouched down out of the wind, just coughing

A Dreadful Sight

After four gun loads, Jim went inside and reported the cold leak as cold and leaky as ever.

“There must be a hole,” he said, “as big as a piano box inside that wall.”

So I mixed and puddled and Jimmie gunned and heaved, and that one leak took seven pails of putty.

“We ought to have some sort of automatic gun,” declared Jim, “that would connect to a hose. Then we could fill these holes in jig time.”

“My hands,” I said, “are numb.”

“I feel hot chills, confessed Jim. “I bet I am catching pneumonia.”

“Any number of our ancestors must have died of pneumonia,” I offered.

So we broke off, and drove over to the hardware store for another three bags of the gum.

“We’ll fill this leak,” said Jim, setting to, “if it takes all day and 50 bags. Just imagine the kind of man that would build a house with hole like that in it.”

“Maybe,” I suggested, we are filling up hollow wall right to the roof?”

“If we are,” said Jim, “We are. But I going to stop this leak.”

And grunting and sniffing, he leaned on the gun, and shot another two pailfuls of the gum into the chink below the window sill.

“Our ancestors, I coughed, “generally did their wall clinking in the summer.”

“Sniff,” said Jim, heaving hard.

“Our ancestors,” I further coughed, had enough sense to do their chinking from the inside, in winter.”

“There’s an idea,” exclaimed Jim. “Let’s find the leaks inside and work from there!”

“For mercy’s sake,” I said, seizing the pail and one of the two remaining bags of powdered gum. “Why didn’t we think of that sooner?”

So we hustled inside through the kitchen, and we paused in the kitchen with all our paraphernalia long enough to brew a pot of tea and drink it neat.

“To be an ancestor,” said Jim, much improved, “you had to have common sense. I bet the bones of amateur ancestors lie thick all over Canada. Men who didn’t use their brains. Men who couldn’t take it.”

“Let’s go find the leak from the inside,” I encouraged.

So we carried the gun and the pail and bags into the living-room.

A dreadful sight met our eyes.

Like candle drippings, like the winter icicles of Niagara Falls, huge stalactites and stalagmites of gray gum draped themselves up and over the big radiator of the living-room, sizzling and smoking. Out across the shining hardwood floor, a great gob of gum, like lava from Mount Vesuvius, bulged grotesquely, pushing a Persian rug ahead of it.

Halvers on the Gun

Jim said nothing. He just dropped the gun and stood loosely, bending at the knees, sort of.

“Jim,” I said, “quick, when are the folks coming home?”

“Ancestors,” said Jim, thickly, “where are you now?”

With garden spade and ice pick, with rags and trowel, we labored. The gum had apparantly been pushing through into the living-room as fast as we shoved it. It had filled the space behind the radiator and finally rose up and flowed over it, so that the radiator was all but engulfed. Where we lifted it, like a great gummy rug, off the hardwood floor, it peeled the beautiful satiny finish off the way a mud pack removes the ageing epidermis of a lady. It smelt rubbery and asphalty. The hot radiator stewed it. It stuck, as gum sticks to your heel. We had the job not quite finished when the family arrived and consigned Jim and me and all our apparatus to the cellar where Jim has a billiard room.

“Will I offer to re-polish the floor?” asked Jim, as we sat there.

“You can if you like,” I said. “If we do the same thing at my house, I’ll offer to re-polish my floor.”

“I see,” said Jim. “I see. You are leaving me?”

“Yes,” I said, “I am all chapped and raw. I feel a bad cold coming on. I have been doing foolish thing.”

“Helping a friend, scorned Jim.

“I have been doing a foolish thing,” I reiterated. “I forgot that my ancestors did all the suffering any family needs to do. They used up in their lives, a basic fund of energy, a sort of family supply of vigor, so that they had none to pass on to me. What they suffered, they suffered for me. And they no doubt were encouraged, as they toiled and suffered, by the thought that their descendants would not have to suffer as they were doing.”

“I bet they thought of no such thing,” said Jim.

“Well, anyway,” I coughed heavily, “there is no call for me to go on suffering when I can hire an ancestor just fresh out from Scotland who will gum up the leaks in my house for two dollars.”

“How about going halvers on the gun?” asked Jim.

“Sure,” I said: “I’ll give you the money the next time I have it.”

So I got up and hurried home and put my feet in mustard bath and put my grand-mother’s Paisley shawl – the one she got for a gift the night the fall of Sebastopol was celebrated in Toronto – round my shoulders and read an old book, a raggedy old book we have, called “The Life and Times of William Lyon Mackenzie.”

December 7, 1935

Editor’s Notes: This is yet another story in the theme of Greg and Jim trying to do some sort of household repair while the family is out, and making a mess of it.

William Lyon Mackenzie was a politician, journalist, reformer, and leader of the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion. He is consider a hero by many as the failed rebellion eventually led to more local control.

Seidlitz powders is a generic name for a laxative that required mixing of two ingredients.

The fall of Sebastopol was a battle during the Crimean War, which would have been celebrated in the British Empire.

To Close to Nature

September 7, 1935

One of the illustrations Jim provided for a Merrill Denison story. A former regular contributor to the Star Weekly, Denison had moved to New York by 1935 to write for Broadway plays, but still contributed infrequently. This was a story about squirrels invading his house and chewing on wood.

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