The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1937 Page 1 of 3

Saga of Lost Lake

We pushed on, over ridge and gully, around swamp and over ten thousand dead trees.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, August 21, 1937.

“This,” said Jimmie Frise, “is the worst year for fishing we’ve ever had.”

“Is it any wonder,” I demanded, “with fresh thousands taking up fishing every year and fresh miles of highway being built farther and farther into the wilds every season?”

“All our old haunts are ruined,” said Jim.

“Yet we,” I accused, “thought it was swell when they completed the cement highways to all our favorite spots.”

“Even Algonquin Park has a highway into it now,” sighed Jim.

“Canada’s richest asset,” I declared, “is the tourist traffic. It’s the strangest export business in the world. It brings in three hundred million dollars per annum net cash. And all it takes out is snapshots.”

“We’re selling our birthright,” pronounced Jim solemnly, “for a mess of pottage. When we have ripped our country wide open for the tourist trade, when we’ve criss-crossed it with highways and looted all our lakes and made hot dog groves of all our forests and nothing remains but an empty fraud, and all the annual three hundred millions have vanished, as millions do, into thin air, what will we have left?”

“We’ll have had a good time while it lasted,” I pointed out. “Three hundred million a year is mighty sweet money.”

“We’ll have rotting highways running through barren and useless waste,” said Jim. “Our tourist trade goes into a country unfit for anything but playing in. It has no soil for farming. It is no good for reforesting. When the fish are gone and the wild aspect vanished, the tourists will leave us holding the empty bag.”

“Why, Jim,” I laughed, “within ten years, the American tourists are going to be working their way into our Arctic. Already, hundreds of Americans are going every summer into the Albany watershed, running into Hudson Bay. Already, thousands of Americans are taking hunting trips into the Yukon and the northern Rockies. Our tourist trade is good for another hundred years, with that wild, unexplored Arctic up there.”

“And what about us poor guys,” demanded Jim, “that can’t afford to go two thousand miles north? Is fishing in Canada only to be for wealthy Americans?”

“Oh, they’ll stock up the local waters,” I assured him. “It’s all a question of demand. As soon as the fishing gets bad enough, there will be a violent uproar, and the government will go nutty planting fish. They’ll plant fish the way they have been building highways lately, or the way they do anything else to please the public. A government’s real job, after all, isn’t governing. It’s pleasing the public. They govern for a couple of years. Then they wake up with a violent start and realize that pleasing the public is the whole thing. That’s the way we’ll get fish down around these parts. The day is coming when it won’t be safe to go for a paddle on any water in the older part of the country. The fish will be a menace.”

“Tame fish,” sneered Jim. “Liver-fed fish.”

“You’ll be glad enough to hook them,” I assured him.

“I’ll be an old man,” said Jim. “Too feeble to go fishing.”

Reaction in Pioneering

“If we had any gumption,” I stated, “we’d not be sitting here letting the Americans have all the fun going up to the Albany and the Winisk. We’d be going ourselves. What’s the matter with us Canadians? Why do we insist on puddling around near home, when there is simply incredible wild fishing a day or two north? Are we getting soft? Where is the pioneer spirit that, only fifty years ago was part and parcel of every Canadian’s character?”

“I guess,” said Jim, “that there is a sort of reaction in this pioneer spirit business. Pioneering gets kind of exhausted after three or four generations. We belong to one of the two or three generations that are resting up after the ordeal. Then maybe our grandchildren will feel the pioneer spirit creeping back into them again.”

“By which time,” I pointed out, “the good fishing will be exhausted in the Arctic.”

Then our grandchildren,” said Jim, “will run across to fish in Siberia and northern Russia as carelessly as we go up to Lake Nipissing.”

“Ah, boy,” I sighed, “I wish I could go to a lake my Uncle Ed took me into when I was a kid. I was about sixteen, I guess. Talk about bass fishing.”

“Where was the lake?” asked Jim.

“It is the most lost lake,” I declared, “imaginable. In fact, we called it Lost Lake. It’s still there. It is miles from any human habitation. It is a twenty-mile walk over the wildest, rockiest country anywhere in Canada.”

“Twenty miles,” said Jim. “Whew! Your Uncle Ed must have been a tough guy.”

“Tough is right,” I agreed. “He was a pioneer. I can see him yet, with his great big packsack on his back, full of tent and grub and tackle, climbing over those wild rocks like a goat. I’ve never been so weary in all my life, yet I was a strong husky kid of sixteen.”

“What about the fishing?” asked Jim.

“Lost Lake,” I began happily, “is about half a mile wide and four miles long. It is a great bed of glacial gravel set down amidst the most God-forsaken rock in the world. It never was lumbered because there isn’t anything but scrub will grow on it. There isn’t half an acre of soil within 30 miles. Yet that long, narrow lake, full of bright gravel and boulders and reefs, is simply alive with bass up to six pounds.”

“Oh, oh,” said Jim.

“Jim,” I said,” my Uncle Ed was a fly fisherman. No bait, no worms, crawfish or frogs for him. Just common trout flies, on little four-ounce rods. He taught me to fly fish. We made a raft of cedar logs. We drifted about that heavenly lake for five days. Every cast, with those tiny little trout flies, a great whacking big bass, from four to six pounds. We put on two flies. We got two bass to a cast. We filed off the barbs of the fly hooks. We caught hundreds of bass and threw them all back except the ones we needed to eat. We never even brought any out.”

“Have you never gone back?” demanded Jim.

“I intended to go back the next year,” I said, “but I started to Varsity. Then I kept putting it off year by year, as I got into that silly age around 20, when you never seem to be able to keep your mind on anything really important. Then the war came. And then Uncle Ed got rheumatism.”

“Engraved on My Memory”

“Is it far away?” asked Jim.

“Far enough,” I said, “You go to Sudbury, and then in by train about 30 miles. You get off at a section man’s house and then walk in 20 miles. No road, no trail. Just across the wild barren rock, working by landmarks.”

“You’d have forgotten them,” thought Jim, “by now.”

“Never,” I cried, “to my dying day. It’s engraved on my memory like the path I took to school as a child. Every once in a while, over the long years, I have renewed my memory by going, in my imagination, over every foot of that trip. First you head for a distant sort of ridge or pinnacle of rocks, far in the distance. You can’t go wrong. Then, from this pinnacle, you can see, miles ahead, a series of great muskeg swamps with broken ridges of rock rising between them. You follow that series of ridges between the muskeg swamps as straight as Yonge St., and they bring you smack out on to Lost Lake.”

“Boy,” said Jim grimly. “Let’s go. Let’s go.”

“Jim?” I cried, “will you?”

“Let’s go,” repeated Jim with a sort of anguish.

“It’s a terrible walk,” I said, “twenty miles. With all our duffle. Tent and grub and tackle and pots and pans.”

“Man,” shouted Jim, “a lake like that, lost amidst all this exploitation and ruin of lakes. A lake like that, within an overnight journey in a sleeping car with hordes of people going hundreds of miles beyond to fish waters already overrun with other fishermen. How do you know it hasn’t been found out by now?”

“How would it be found out? I demanded. Nobody but Uncle Ed and two other men knew of it. And who would walk 20 miles nowadays in this age of satin-smooth highways and motor cars and outboard motors? This is a soft, padded age. The modern sportsman won’t go any place he can’t sit on a cushion all the way.”

“One good fill of fishing,” crooned Jim, “one regular orgy of fishing, and I’ll be content to hang up my rods and let my grandchildren go to the Arctic.”

“It’s a go,” I announced.

And we sat straight down and proceeded to examine the calendar and then drew up lists of duffle and supplies.

We decided to spend four days on the lake. One full day to walk in and one full day to walk out. We debated whether to take Jim’s little wedge tent or my big silk one, and we concluded that as we were no longer chickens, it might be as well to be comfortable.

“This business of going light,” said Jim, “is all very well in your twenties. But at our age, we’ve got to get our rest.”

So we wrote and rewrote our camping lists, which, as anybody knows, is the better part of camping. The tent and our two sleeping bags would go into a joint dunnage bag which we would carry between us. Each of us would have our packsacks, containing clothes, tackle, and all the things needful to a happy outing. Pots and pans we would distribute between us pro rata. The grub we would divide equally and stow in our packsacks.

And Saturday night, we left for Sudbury by sleeper, arriving early in the morning and continuing by day coach some miles out to the section men’s shack where the unmarked trail to Lost Lake began.

The section man’s shack, which had been young and red and fresh when I was sixteen was now no more than a worn old shed in which some railway ties were stored and even the rusty old tin cans in its neighborhood looked as if this had been no human habitation for many a long year. It was no longer even a section house, just a relic of a shanty, faded and old.

“Jim” I declared, as the train sped off leaving us alone with our duffle bags, “this is wonderful. I feared we might even find a village where this section house had stood. But look – it’s only a ruin. Lost Lake has stayed lost, for sure.

From a little rocky eminence handy, we could see the remote whitish rock ridges or pinnacles far to the northwest, just as I had described them.

“It’s a good ten miles to them, Jim,” I said. “By keeping to ridges and high ground, we never lose sight of them. We’ll take all morning, just to reach them.”

But it took more than the morning. I don’t know how far a lumberjack carries his packsack. Probably from the railway station to the boarding house, maybe. A distance of 75 yards in most lumberjack communities. Even the pioneers didn’t carry packsacks. They used oxen. Certainly, no pioneer ever carried a packsack ten miles. Or else why did it take a hundred years for the pioneers to work north a hundred miles?

As I said before it was a wild and rugged country, and a number of swamps had moved or side-slipped, during the past 30 years, for I found any number of swamps where there had been none the last time. A swamp is a thing you have to go around. And often you have to feel your way around it, making many false tries, this way and that.

At noon, the delectable white pinnacles were still white and remote. We halted for lunch and got out our sleeping bags to lie on for a little rest. We rested until four o’clock and then pushed on. By six p.m., the pinnacles were less distant and less white, but none the less too far away for a couple of pioneers without oxen to reach by dark. So finding a pleasant little swampy pond in the middle of a muskeg, we made camp and boiled muddy tea and went to bed on ill-made brush beds, and muttered each other awake all night. In the morning, we went through our packsacks and made a cache in a tree of all the articles, many of them costly if not valuable, to lighten our loads and to be picked up on the way out They are there forever, I fear.

Thus lightered, we struck camp and pushed on, over ridge and fully and around swamp and over ten thousand dead trees until at noon we reached the high ridge from which, stretching far to the west, we beheld, as I had foretold, the series of dark swamps between which wended bare bleak wastes of rock. But these wastes of rock were open and grim and barren and easy, and in slow stages between heavy rests, during which our eyeballs protruded and our kidneys ached and our legs grew numb and our arches fell and our toe-balls scalded, we went out across them, hog-backs of rock amidst endless wasteland swamp, straight as a ship sails towards Lost Lake.

“It’s a Mirage – a Delusion”

At five p.m. from the highest of these heaves of rock, we glimpsed a bit of blue.

“Water,” I cried, “It’s Lost Lake.”

And with a sort of spiritual, if not physical, second wind, we pushed on. Jim holding one end of the tent bag and I the other, and clanking with our pots and pans like Mrs. Finnigan’s Cows, and over seven last great hills of rock we came at last to the very last, and there at our feet, half a mile wide and four miles long, lay Lost Lake.

“What’s that?” gasped Jim, softly lowering his packsack from his long and limber back.

It was music.

We eased our weary baggage down and listened.

“It’s ‘Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em,'” I said, “This week’s number one the Hit Parade.”

“Look,” said Jim pointing.

In the gloaming, lights twinkled at almost regular intervals along the distant shores of Lost Lake.

“Cottages,” I said huskily. “It’s a mirage. It’s a delusion. We’re suffering from explorer’s exhaustion.”

Around the point we stood on, a canoe came, and from it the music we had heard rose with increasing volume.

It was a boy and a girl with a portable victrola between them in their cushioned ease. When they beheld us in the semi-dark, frozen beside our packsacks and dunnage bags, festooned with our pails and pans, they too froze, staring.

“Hello,” I called hollowly.

The boy paddled cautiously nearer.

“Is this Lost Lake?” I demanded hoarsely.

“No, sir,” said the boy. “This is Golden Sand Lake.”

“It used to be called Lost Lake,” the girl piped up, “before the highway came by. I’ve heard my dad speak of it by that name.”

“Highway?” croaked Jimmie.

“The highway,” said the boy, “just along the other side, see?”

Three cars, lights just turned on, sailed smoothly along the far side of the lake, headed inexorably northward, northward.

“Any bass in this lake?” I asked lightly.

“Not now,” said the girl, “but my daddy has one stuffed in our cottage, he got the first year we were in here before I was born, and it weighed six pounds.”

“Do you suppose,” I inquired, “we could get a lift across the lake to the highway side?”

“I’ll go and get our launch,” said the boy, immediately. “I’ll take you across and you can get a bus. There’s a bus every two hours. both ways.”

“That’s swell,” said Jim.

So we sat down on our duffle and waited for the launch, watching the car lights streaming past on the far side, and not speaking at all, but just thinking and thinking.

“Is this Lost Lake?” I demanded hoarsely. “No, sir,” said the boy. “This is Golden Sand Lake.” “It used to be Lost Lake,” the girl piped up.

Editor’s Notes: The Winisk River and Albany River are in the Kenora area of Northern Ontario.

Varsity was the old name of the University of Toronto.

Railroad section men lived in section houses, and were responsible for the maintenance of a particular section of the railroad. These jobs were phased out over time.

I’m not sure who Mrs. Finnegan’s cows were.

“Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” may be referring to the song “Love Me or Leave Me“.

The story was repeated on August 19, 1944 as “Found – Lost Lake”. The image at the bottom is from that reprint. It is also reprinted in The Best of Greg Clark & Jimmie Frise (1977).

‘Ome Agine

May 22, 1937

This was the third and last of a series of comics where some of the Birdseye Center townsfolk sailed to the coronation of King George VI on the Noazark.

For Our Grandchildren’s Sake

We tried to look like mining promoters. We shook hand, over and over again with Mr. Milligrew and wished him luck.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, May 22, 1937.

“We ought to find some prospector,” stated Jimmie Frise, “and grubstake him.”

“What for?” I demanded.

“Grubstake him,” said Jimmie, “and send him forth to find us a gold mine.”

“What a chance,” I scoffed.

“I tell you,” cried Jim, “we’re derelict in our duty. What will our grandchildren think of us in years to come? When they know that we lived right in this great age of mineral exploration of Canada, and all we did was draw silly pictures and write sillier stories? What will they think of us?”

“Just what we think of our grandparents,” I suggested.

Think of all the great family fortunes in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver,” Jim exclaimed. “What were they founded on? On lumber and water power and railroad building. To-day the same opportunity to found our families fortunes lies before us. Mines, my boy. Gold mines are being discovered every day. Platinum mines. Radium mines. And here we sit, twiddling our fingers.”

“Stick to our trade,” I counselled.

“It’s so easy to grubstake a prospector,” explained Jimmie. “And in all the greatest mines of the past, it was the grubstakers who made the dough, not the finders of the mine. For about fifty dollars each, we could grubstake some practical experienced prospector and send him to the newest gold areas and, who can say – maybe six months from now, you and I would be on easy street.”

“It sounds too easy,” I protested. “I’m suspicious of easy ways of doing anything.”

“Ah, don’t be a sap,” cried Jim. “It’s plain business. Here are prospectors just dying to go prospecting. And here are we, just dying to own a gold mine. We bring our resources together. We provide the dough. The prospector provides the knowledge and experience. Without each other we are all helpless. Together, we set forces in motion that might lead to fortune.”

“I could use $50 a lot of ways right now,” I demurred.

“Listen,” said Jim. “Look at it in a bigger way. Never mind about you making a couple of million dollars. Think of what you owe Canada. Shouldn’t you help explore and develop Canadian resources? Think of the new wealth it would turn loose. Think of the work it would give thousands of men, if we found a gold mine. Think of the little town that would spring up around our mine, full of happy little homes. You could be honorary mayor of it. You could be patron of the hockey team. You could …”

“Where would we find a prospector?” I protested. “Prospectors aren’t wandering around city streets. They’re all in the bush at this season of the year.”

“No,” said Jim. “There is a constant flow of prospectors to and from cities at all times of the year. The minute a prospector makes a find, he rushes to the city with his samples to show it to the big shots. We could easily find a prospector if we wanted one.”

“Well,” I agreed doubtfully, “if we happen to meet up with a prospector …”

A Picturesque Figure

So we proceeded to make a systematic tour of the brokers’ board rooms downtown during our lunch hours. Jimmie explained that birds of a feather flock together. We might meet one in the hotels, but the best place would be in brokers’ board rooms where the old-timers would be gathered to see how the market was. And the second noon hour, sure enough, in one of the largest mining brokers’ ticker room, we spotted a prospector sitting all alone in one of the chairs at the back of the room, eating a sandwich.

He was a picturesque figure. He was about sixty, with a short grizzled beard.

After a cautious scrutiny, Jim and I decided to walk boldly up and accost him.

“Look at the simple, eager, child-like expression of him,” I whispered to Jim. “He’s the real thing.”

Nobody was paying any attention to him as he sat there munching his sandwich. I thought to myself, how true to life, all these pallid city slickers with their fifty-cent bets on mining stocks, ignoring this nobleman of the north, this seeker, this finder.

“Been down long?” we asked casually, dropping into the chairs on either side of the old-timer.

He nearly choked on his sandwich he was so delighted to be spoken to.

“Jist out,” he gasped excitedly. “Been out a couple of weeks. And wish to hell I was back agin.”

“Did you bring down some samples?” we asked.

“No, sir,” he said, “I came out to git me a grubstake to go into that there new Golconda Lake area. I was in there thirty years ago. Know every foot of it. But all me old friends is gone. I can’t locate nobody to grubstake me. I’m right down to this.”

And he held up the crusts of his sandwich with a broad grin.

“Me,” he said. “Old Pete Milligrew that has been in on all the gold rushes from the Klondyke to Great Bear Lake. And I can’t find me a grubstake. I guess it’s my age.”

“Shouldn’t age be an advantage?” I asked.

“Well, shouldn’t it?” demanded Mr. Milligrew mightily. “I should say it is. Half these kids rushing in there don’t know copper pyrites from pick splinters and wouldn’t know a fault if they committed it themselves.”

“Maybe they think you couldn’t stand the hardships?” I parried.

“Hardships?” cried Mr. Milligrew. “Me? Why, if them soft, pampered engineers and pretty boys can live in their fancy heated shanties and fly around in their cabin airyplanes, I guess old Pete Milligrew can throw up a brush lean-to any time he likes.

“How old are you, Mr. Milligrew?” I asked

“I’m in my prime,” said Mr. Milligrew proudly, “rising and thrusting out his chest and bending his biceps.

“Mr. Milligrew,” said Jim, quietly, “how much is a grubstake?”

And the old gentleman sank weakly back into his chair and rubbed his whiskers.

“Two hundred dollars,” he said, out of the corner of his beard, “would see me safe into the heart of Golconda Lake area and set me up for four months.”

“Would a hundred be any good to you?” asked Jim. “My friend and I might be willing to set up $50 apiece”

“Make it $150 between you,” said Mr. Milligrew.

“What would we get out of it?” I inquired.

“A fifty-fifty split on all I stake,” said Mr. Milligrew “We draw up articles. I take half and you take half between you. I tell you I know every foot of that country. I was all over it thirty years back, before I knew as much as I know now. I must have walked right over some of them million dollar finds. But they only got the edge of them. They’ve missed the core. I know the core. I camped on it for two months. Nobody’s there yet. It’s in a swamp. I can walk straight to it.”

“Mr. Milligrew,” said Jim, “when can you start?”

“I’ll catch the 9.30 train to-night,” said Mr. Milligrew.

And before our lunch hour was up, we had visited a lawyer of Mr. Milligrew’s acquaintance in a little office in a skyscraper and had signed a brief legal document wherein and whereby and whereas Mr. Peter Milligrew, party of the first part, undertook to share one-half of all mining claims, leases, etc., with the parties of the second part in consideration of the sum of $150, that is, $75 each from Jim and me.

And instead of going back to work, we took and fed Mr. Milligrew at a restaurant where for two hours he recounted for us the most fascinating tales of the north, about mining and prospecting and wild animals and tough characters. And hardly had we got to know one another before it was supper time and we decided to stay right with him until train time.

We dined him again on steak and onions.

“I won’t be seeing steak and onions for some time,” smiled the rugged old man, as he spread his legs beneath the table and shoved the minor accessories of eating aside to make him room. “Did you ever hear tell of a character that used to be up in the Porcupine…”

“Ah, but them days are done,” sighed Mr. Milligrew, shoving his meat plate aside and hauling the pie before him. “It’s all engineers now. Pale young guys in spectacles riding around the sky in airyplanes and hauling complete outfits all over the north with tractors. They live in camps with Eyetalian cooks and Chinese valets, with radio and liberries and everything.”

“Perhaps it’s just as well,” I said.

Partners in Adventure

And presently we found it was only an hour to train time, so we helped carry Mr. Milligrew’s packsack and bundles down to the Union Station, where we stood with him while interested throngs eyed us, enviously, as we saw our prospector off to the great north in the search for gold. It was a nice feeling. We tried to look like mining promoters. We shook hands over and over again with Mr. Milligrew and wished him luck and slapped his back and hired him a redcap to carry his duffle.

“How strange,” Jim said as we went and got our car. “This morning, we were just a couple of dumb guys squatting at desks. To-night, we are partners in the adventure of the age. Gold. Gold.”

“No matter what he finds, Jim,” I said, “I am not going to let it make any immediate difference to me. I’m not going to buy any big palace of a home. I’m not going to try and be a swell. We’ve got our children to think of, and nothing ruins a family like sudden wealth.”

Thus we chatted, Jimmie of race horses and I of cabins in the wilds near famous trout streams such as the Nipigon; and we drove west towards home, passing along Dundas St.

Jim tramped on the brakes at the same instant I saw Mr. Milligrew, with his packsack on his back and his bundles under his arms, hurrying along the crowded night street.

“Blow the horn, Jim,” I cried. “Signal him.”

“No, no,” hissed Jim. “What’s he doing here? He must have got off the train at the West Toronto station.”

“The old crook,” I said.

“No, no,” warned Jim. “He may have forgotten something. A map or chart or something important. We’ll just follow along and think this thing out. We mustn’t accuse him or he might throw it all back in our faces.”

Mr. Milligrew hurried, heavy under his packsack, in his prospector’s garb, along the unheeding street and turned up a dark side street. After a moment, so did we, driving slow. He turned in at a house and we saw him admitted.

“Well,” said Jim, drawing up to the curb and turning off the engine.

“He got off at West Toronto station,” I said. “It’s only three blocks away.”

“He’s doubtless forgotten something,” said Jim. “Anyway, his ticket is still good. He can catch the morning train.”

We sat watching and waiting. Presently a car drove up and two men got out and entered the same house. A little while later, two more men walked up and entered, all busy and active.

“Let’s go and ask for him.” I demanded.

“Give him half an hour,” said Jim. If he doesn’t come out in half an hour, we’ll call.”

Three more men came and entered the same house.

“It must be a lodge meeting,” said I.

“All right,” said Jim, “the half hour is up.”

We rang the bell and a man answered the door.

“Is Mr. Milligrew here?” we asked.

“Old Pete?” said the man.

“Can we see him?” we inquired.

“Are you friends of his?” asked the man. “Are you in the game?”

“Yes, we’re partners of his.”

“Oh, step right in,” said the man. Fling your coats right there in the hallway.”

Nothing Else to Say

There were a dozen hats and coats hung. We followed the man upstairs and along another hall where we could hear a mumble and buzz of sound. He threw a door open and showed us in.

There was a large table with green cloth tacked on it. Around the table, in the smoke-filled room, were gathered a dozen men of all ages and descriptions. At one end, a man with a green eye-shade sat on a high stool.

Mr. Milligrew was standing with back to us, bending over the table. He turned his head over his shoulder when we came in.

“Ah, gents, just one minute and I’ll be with you,” he said.

We stepped up. On the table before him were three twenty-five-cent pieces. Out in various parts of the table were other piles of bills and silver in front of the different men.

Mr. Milligrew was waving his right hand in the air.

He threw. Two dice bounced and rolled over the green cloth.

Mr. Milligrew shoved the three quarters away and turned to us.

“Now, gents,” he said, “just step outside here in the hall a minute.”

“Mr. Milligrew,” I said fiercely, when we got into the hall, “what does this mean?”

“Now, gents,” said Mr. Milligrew, “It looks to me as if I was being framed.”

“Framed?” we both yelled.

“Sssshh,” said Mr. Milligrew. “I been in the mining now for fifty years and I never saw anybody get anything out of it yet. Seeing what nice boys you are, feeding me and everything, I figured I could do better with your $150 than take it up and lose it in the bush. So I just come here to some old friends of mine and tried – honest I did try – to double your money. Or even better. I was figuring on walking in on you tomorrow and surprising you with your money doubled. One hundred and fifty dollars – each!”

“Mr. Milligrew, we could jail you!”

“Ah, don’t be hasty,” he said. I’ll get your money back. There’s lots of grubstakes floating around. Leave it to me. I’ve got your addresses. Right here on this paper, see?”

“Give us the railway ticket,” I demanded.

“I sold it to a friend of mine on the train,” said Mr. Milligrew. “He was going up prospecting.”

“Mr. Milligrew,” I said, but could think of nothing else to say.

So we left him and went down and let ourselves out,

“It’s a shame to leave the old boy broke,” said Jim.

“Broke?” I said. “He’s got a packsack and clothes and a prospector’s pick and new high boots…”

“He’ll have no trouble,” said Jim, getting another grubstake,”


Editor’s Notes: Grubstake means what it implies in the story, providing financial backing for a share of profits. It was a commonly used term in prospecting.

$50 in 1937 would equal $965 in 2022.

Yellow Sally

“Why, she looks new,” cried Jim, walking around the beauty. “Oh, I had her washed up.” admitted Mr. Gitch, frankly.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, March 13, 1937.

“At last,” said Jimmie Frise, “at long last, I am about to buy a new car.”

“Jim,” I congratulated him, “it’s about time. What make are you choosing?”

“When I say a new car,” stated Jim. “I do not mean a new car in the full meaning of the word. It will be a used car.”

“Oh, not another second-hand car,” I protested.

“A used car,” repeated Jim. “There ought to be a better word than used car. Matured car. Ripe car. Car tuned in or broken in.”

“Broken in,” I assured him, “is the word. Will you never learn to profit by other people’s mistakes?”

“I do profit by other people’s mistakes,” said Jimmie, “Profit very neatly too. And the only mistake they make is turning in a car just when it is getting prime.”

“You’ve never yet bought a new car,” I accused him. “In eighteen years you have never had anything but used cars.”

“I would just as soon,” declared Jim, “pick a green banana off the tree and eat it as buy a new car. I like my cars to be run in and matured before I get them. Let somebody else pay for a lot of shine and a stiff engine. Let somebody else have the grief of seeing dents and scratches come on that investment. Let somebody else have the doubtful pleasure of driving it during its infancy at twenty-five miles an hour for the first 500 miles and thirty miles an hour for the next 500 miles.”

“If you have never had the pleasure of driving a beautiful smooth new car, Jim,” I informed him, “you are hardly in a position to judge that pleasure.”

“Let somebody else,” continued Jimmie, “have the fun of paying for all the adjustments and replacements that have to be made on a car before it is right.”

“New cars,” I advised, “are guaranteed for 90 days.”

“Yes,” said Jim, “and for the first 80 days you own a new car, you are conscious of it every time you are in it. You take special care of it. Give it oil. Treat it with consideration. There is blame little likely to happen the works of a new car in the first 90 days. But in about 180 days, you lose that first fine rapture and begin to put the car really to work. You have lost your silly pride in it. You step on it. You neglect its oil and grease a little. Whatever defects there were in it come to the surface. And our proud first owner has to pay for those corrections.”

“You make me feel,” I said, “as if I had been a fool for fifteen years.”

“There always have to be fools,” said Jim kindly. “But I have a line on a car, a swell sport model Allnox Eight.”

“What year?” I asked.

“A 1930,” said Jim. “But it has belonged to a man who has spent most of his time abroad and down in Florida. A rich guy, apparently. And it has spent most of its life in a garage. It has only gone 16,000 miles.”

“The price?” I asked.

“Prepare yourself,” said Jim triumphantly. “Get set. Take hold of something for support. Only $400.”

“There must be something wrong with it,” I said. “A new Allnox Eight is $2,200.”

With a Weasel Smile

“I Telephoned this guy last night,” said Jim excitedly. “It’s a private deal. No dealers, he said. He’s going on another trip abroad and he says he sees no reason for keeping this car laid up in his garage all the time. But he realizes it is a 1930 model and he is willing to let it go at a nominal figure, despite its wonderful condition.”

“What color is it?” I asked.

“Daffodil yellow,” cried Jimmie. “And he says it looks as if it had just come from the factory.”

“Are you going to see it?” I inquired.

“Am I going to see it?” shouted Jim. “Have I got the $400 in my mitt? Have I an appointment to see it at noon to-day?”

“How about …?” I began.

“Certainly,” said Jim. “I expect you to come with me.”

The neighborhood to which we drove to inspect the Allnox Eight was hardly the type of district a rich man would choose to live in. As a matter of fact, we were doubtful if we had the right house when we rang the bell because there were “roomer” signs in the windows. But this was all explained by Mr. Gitch when the landlady called him to the door.

Mr. Gitch was a small lean man who looked as if he were wearing somebody else’s clothes. He had a smooth tapered face that made him look like either a fox or a greyhound, and his eyes had that slitty, greyhound appearance of being able to see around to the back. Still, lots of men look rather funny by the time they are rich. You can’t get rich for nothing, I always say.

“Gentlemen,” said Mr. Gitch, softly, coming out on the porch, “I have the car around at the back. You will pardon my diggings here, but as I explained to you, I am seldom in Toronto; and whenever I am, I stay with this dear old soul who was a chum of my dear mother.”

He led us around the narrow side entrance and through a yard full of junk and boxes, to a lane. All the way through, he continued to explain in his soft, tender voice.

“After stopping at such places as the Ritz in London,” he smiled, “and the Ambassadoria in Rio and the Hotel London in Shanghai, you would imagine I would find it a little irksome to stop in a neighborhood like this.”

He smiled up at us from under his forehead and shook his hand delicately at the junk around. It seemed to me I had seen a weasel smile at me like that in the instant it had appeared and disappeared in the grass along a country fence.

“But this dear old body,” he chuckled, “would be simply heart broken if she heard I was in Toronto and had not stayed with her.”

He pushed through a hole in the back fence where a plank was off, and there, there, stood the Allnox Eight.

Daffodil yellow, sure enough and gleaming, flatly, indeed, as if she had come straight from the factory. Not a dent or scratch marred her satiny glowing surface.

“Why, she looks new,” cried Jim, walking around the beauty.

“Oh, I had her washed up,” admitted Mr. Gitch, frankly.

Inside, her upholstery was covered with dust covers of a snappy color and design, securely fastened down with tapes. It seemed to me that here and there, faint signs of age showed on her, such as the nickel of the lamps and the felt around the windows. I wordlessly placed my fingers on these slight omens, but Jimmie ignored my hints and walked around the car with increasing excitement.

“Nature is Completely Honest”

Mr. Gitch followed him with a curious softness of foot and voice that made me think of a cat.

“Hop in,” said Mr. Gitch. “We’ll take a spin.”

He drove. We rolled smoothly along the lane and into the streets full of bakers’ wagons and under-school-age children. Mr. Gitch raced the engine to show its power, since, obviously we could not let her out in these narrow streets.

“Listen to that,” cried Jim. “Has she ever got power!”

“At 16,000 miles,” said Mr. Gitch.” these American cars are on a par with European cars such as I am familiar with, I should say she was just nicely run in.”

He steered her around the block and back into the lane, where we dismounted.

“How about it?” asked Mr. Gitch and while I could not be sure, it seemed to me I saw his hands clutching and unclutching the way a hawk’s talons do.

“It’s a deal,” said Jim. “Can you drive her downtown to my office? We’ll drive down there and meet you and close the deal.”

“That,” said Mr. Gitch, “would suit me perfectly.”

“Meet me in half an hour then,” said Jim, “right in front of the office. I’ll be waiting there.”

We hastened out to my car and as I slammed the door, I cried:

“Jim, there’s something phoney about this whole thing. Call it off. Have the car examined by a mechanic.”

“What’s that?” demanded Jim, coming out of his trance.

“Something phoney,” I repeated. “I don’t like the man.”

“It’s the car we are buying,” retorted Jim. “Is there anything wrong with the car?

“Nature,” I declared, “is pretty honest in puting on the outside of all her packages a description of the contents. A crow is black and evil looking. A fox is sly and slinky. A deer is graceful and timid and shy-looking. If a man looks like a pig, you are generally pretty safe in assuming that he is a pig. ‘If a man looks like a fox, he is generally sly. If he…”

“What are you giving us?” snorted Jim.

“It’s a fact,” I assured him. “Nature is completely honest. She rarely fakes the outside of a bad package. Men are different. They can fake up the outside to look like a million dollars. That man reminded me of a fox, a weasel and hawk. I don’t like him.”

“Listen,” said Jim, “if we went around buying stuff only from the people we liked the look of, where would we be at?

“We would be a lot better off,” I stated.

“I guess,” smiled Jim, “you’re just a little jealous. As a new car buyer, you are just a little ribbed on seeing what kind of deals can be made if you look around. Oh, boy, can you see me sailing around in that yellow baby? That’s a sportsman’s car. Can you see me going to the races in it? Or out in the country, on a fishing trip?”

“Jim,” I said, “it’s phoney. It looks all right, it seemed to run all right. But that man is a weasel.”

“Haw, haw,” laughed Jim.

So we came to the office and parked my car and went and stood in front of the building to await Mr. Gitch. As we stood there waiting, our old friend Constable McGonigle came sauntering along and stopped to have chat with us. He belongs to the anglers’ association and is one of the most distinguished pike fishermen in the country despite his enormous size. Most good anglers are on the small side, but Constable McGonigle is a notable exception. We chatted merrily about the fast approaching season, Jimmie keeping a weather eye open for Mr. Gitch and Constable McGonigle keeping a weather eye open for sergeant; and suddenly Jimmie cried:

“Here he comes.”

Waiting For Delivery

Mr. Gitch in the magnificent yellow car was slowing down to come in to the open space where we were standing.

But suddenly he seemed to change his mind. He swung the wheel and stepped on the gas and with a roar of the engine leaped away and all we could see was the great yellow car vanishing along the street swaying in the traffic.

“What the dickens,” said Jim.

“What was all that?” asked Constable McGonigle.

So we explained to Constable McGonigle about the impending purchase and arranged to take him along with us on the first fishing trip in the new car which, in honor of the trout fly of that name, we agreed to call Yellow Sally. And he sauntered on, leaving Jimmie and me to wait for Mr. Gitch to come back around the block.

“Maybe,” said Jim, “he was just showing us how it handles.”

“Maybe,” I suggested, “he thought this space wasn’t big enough for him to park.”

We waited five minutes, ten minutes: no Mr. Gitch. We walked up to the end of the block both ways and looked. No Mr. Gitch. We walked right around the block and met Constable McGonigle again but he said he had noticed no yellow car.

At the end of an hour, we decided to go back to Mr. Gitch’s and see what had happened. A sad little old lady opened the door and we asked for Mr. Gitch.

“Mr. Who?” said she.

“Mr. Gitch,” we explained, “the gentleman we called for this morning about a big yellow car he was selling.”

“Oh, him,” said the landlady. “He only rented the room for an hour this morning. I never saw him before.”

“Ah,” said Jim.

“But,” said the lady, “maybe you could get him at a garage three streets over. I forget the name, but they have a big garage three streets over. I noticed that big yellow car backing out of it only yesterday, the same one he had in the lane this morning.”

Hastily Jim and I drove along to the garage which we found without trouble and we asked for the boss.

“A big yellow car?” he said. “Sure, we did the paint job on it just this week.”

“Paint job,” said Jim.

“One of the best paint jobs we ever did,” said the boss. “It set him back $70. But he insisted. We did a swell paint job and we trimmed up all the nickel and we sewed down a new set of dust covers on the seats and you wouldn’t know it from a new car hardly. That is, by the looks.”

“Was it in pretty good shape?” asked Jim.

“Pretty good shape?” asked the boss. “It was the worst old wreck I ever had in this place. He got it for $50 and he spent $70 on it. Can you imagine that?”

“Heh, heh,” laughed Jimmie.

“But he said in his business – he’s a salesman,” explained the garage boss, “he says appearances are everything.”

“Well, if he turns up,” said Jim, “tell him a couple of people were looking for him.”

“I doubt if he’ll be back,” said the boss. “He told me he was heading for California.”

So we drove back down town, and on the way, we stopped and bought a nice box of cigars for Constable McGonigle.

And Jim says it is always best to take a mechanic along with you when you got to look at a used car.


Editor’s Notes: “Allnox 8” is a made up car name, and is a play on words for cars of that era. The “8” would be an indication that it was an 8 cylinder engine, and “Allnox” is a joke on the term “Nonox” which meant “No Knocks”, an engine that would not “knock” thanks to additives to gasoline like lead. It would only be later that it was discovered that leaded gasoline was bad for the environment and for human health.

$400 in 1937 equals $7,400 in 2021. $2,200 would be $40,600. $50 would be $925.

Expensive Invalid

February 6, 1937

This is another illustration from a story by Merrill Denison about his Irish terrier Boo-Boo, after he moved to New York.

Toot! Toot!

“These two ladies say you were making faces at them,” said the conductor. “Is there any law against making faces?” I asked.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, January 9, 1937.

“I haven’t been on a train,” said Jimmie Frise, “for I don’t know how long.”

We were on one now.

“They’ve certainly made some changes,” I remarked. “Look at the color of this car.”

It was a parlor car and it was all done in maroon.

“I wonder,” said Jim, “they haven’t made more changes, after all. The competition of motor cars and buses ought to have done more than just a little upholstery.”

“This car is air-conditioned,” I pointed out. “A few years ago, even when you travelled in a parlor car for eighty cents extra, you still got cinders through the screens, and it still smelt of cigar butts from up at the smoking end.”

“It certainly is nice,” admitted Jim, leaning back in the luxurious revolving easy chair and looking out the wide observation window at the beautiful country wheeling by.

“It’s better riding,” I commented. “Feel how sort of nice and smooth and springy it is.”

“Modern, too,” said Jim, waving his hand at the pretty light fixtures, the handsome carpet, the architecture in general of this fast travelling living room.

“Wait till to-night,” I said. “Wait till we get into the sleeping car at Montreal. Then you’ll see something. We ride sideways.”

“Sideways?” said Jim.

“Yes, sir, we sleep sideways,” I explained. “It’s called a bedroom car. Instead of the old sleeping car, with berths and green curtains and feet sticking out and funny smells, we sleep in a car full of little sideways bedrooms. The corridor is along one side of the car and off that corridor are a lot of tiny bedrooms, with a bed, a wash basin, table, chair, nice soft table lamps. A regular dear little apartment bedroom. And instead of sleeping end for end, with your feet or head going first, you sleep crossways of the way you are travelling.”

“I don’t know how I will like that,” said Jim. “Every time the train stops or starts, I’ll be rolled out of bed.”

“They’ve got special engine drivers,” I suggested. “Specially trained to start and stop easy. You’re going to like it.”

“I saw a movie once,” said Jim, “in which there was a scene on a train where they had a sort of movie theatre on board, and a dance floor and a bar. It was just like a travelling hotel.”

“They have those in the United States,” I informed him. “We’ll get them in Canada in due time. With automobile trailers coming along the way they are, the railroads are sure to follow. Pretty soon there will really be hotels on wheels. Lots of people will just live in travelling hotels on the railroads. After all, why live your life in one place?”

Smoking Car Big Shots

“No, sir,” I predicted. “In a few years, our rich won’t have to be put to the inconvenience of stopping in this place and that, being bored to death all the time. They can simply take an apartment in a super-modern railway coach, and travel all the time, keeping constantly in motion, seeing fresh scenes not every month but every minute. Now that’s what I call living.”

“You’re right,” said Jim, leaning back heavily, like a banker or a president of something. “One lives rather dowdily, does one not, on the whole?”

“One does,” I agreed, also settling back in my deep ball-bearing, maroon lounge chair.

And so we sat, comfortably racing through the beautiful Canadian countryside. How much nicer it is in winter than summer, from a railway car window. When you are driving a car in the winter you are so busy watching the snow and ice ruts, you can’t look at the country. But in its white robe, with its dark trees, its scattered woods patterned far and near, its little farm homes not nearly so colorless against the white as against the green of summer, the winter view from a railway coach has a curious spell about it.

For a long while, we lounged, listening to the dull giddley-bump of the rails, looking at our fellow passengers and wondering who they were. Then we got up and went into the handsome smoking room of the parlor car. In the deep leather chairs were sitting a number of large fat dark men smoking cigars, with their eyes half shut and their minds partly open. And in loud, nasal voices, they were making speeches to one another and the car at large. They were talking about things they knew about. The King and business and Mackenzie King and Spain, politics and Bill this and Herb that, from which, in time, as we listened, we learned they were talking about prominent Canadian millionaires and such.

After quite a long time listening to the two or three talkingest ones, Jim and I tried a little private converse, but the others raised their voices and sat forward with fat hands resting on fat knees, and drowned us down.

So after a cigarette or two, Jim and I went back to our chairs in the car.

“That’s one thing hasn’t changed on trains,” I remarked. “The smoking car big shots.”

I started to read several things, but either something out the window would loom and distract me, or somebody would walk through the car and I’d have to take a look, or else somebody three seats down would suddenly start talking to his wife in a ringing voice for a half minute and then suddenly quit, leaving me with a wondering fragment in my mind….

I looked at Jimmie. He was snoozing. So I snoozed.

There is no nicer place on earth to snooze than in a parlor car chair. The murmuring giddley-bump of the wheels, the deep slumbrous hum, the gentle jiggling, all induce slumber. Yet there is just enough to keep you from going deep. The click of switches as you cross them. The varying sounds and silences as the train slows and stops and starts. Thus you hang suspended between sleeping and awake. A sort of lovely, lingering twilight.

Always the Human Factor

I woke wide. Jim was sitting gazing at me out of half open eyes.

“Where are we?” I asked.

“Kingston, I think,” said Jim, sitting up and yawning.

“Kingston,” I cried. “And here I’ve been sleeping all this pleasant journey away.”

Two or three of our neighbors in the car woke heavily and stared balefully at us for waking them with our talk. Their eyes were heavy and contemptuous. They revolved their chairs around to turn their backs on us. They resettled themselves in deeper, more comfortable attitudes for slumber.

“What’s the use,” I asked Jim, leaning close, “of modernizing the railways if all we do with them is to lie in old-fashioned sleep?”

“It’s always been the way,” said Jim. “Everybody sleeps on trains.”

“Then what’s the use of dolling trains all up and fitting them with every modern convenience, if we are too sleepy to notice the improvements?” I demanded.

“Look at them,” sneered Jimmie, staring along the parlor car. “Look at that woman with her mouth open. Look at that old guy there with his lip pushed out.”

“See?” I said. “It’s always the human factor that is amiss. What can you do about life, if the people aren’t alive?”

“You’re right,” agreed Jim. “It’s the people we’ve got to work on, not the fixtures or the upholstery or the rolling stock. Yet what can you do about it? Life, after all, look at it with common sense, life is pretty dull. For the vast majority of us, life has no more surprises.”

The train slowed again, somewhere east of Kingston, came to a stop, and as we looked out the window, we saw the platform, with the usual scattering of people standing gazing, with open mouth, at our train. There were funny-looking men in ear flap caps too big for them, and a drop on the end of their noses. Ladies staring intently at the wonder of us. Strangers, strange, beautiful, passing through their little town, going places, doing things.

Two middle-aged ladies came walking slowly along the platform, arm in arm and huddled close together as they walked, deep in talk. They leaned their heads together to chat in each other’s ears.

As they passed, they both glanced up, to see Jim and me staring out the window at them. Now, amongst ladies of this age, they have a saying which goes something like this: “I just gave him a look!

These two ladies did give us a look. A kind of perky, prim, indignant flick of the eyes.

But I beat them. I made a face at them.

I screwed up my nose and stuck my tongue out at them.

The effect was electrical.

“What on earth?” cried Jim, leaning to watch the two startled ladies dash along the platform.

“What did you do?” demanded Jim, looking at me.

“I made a face at them,” I confessed. “I did this.”

I showed Jim.

“What on earth for?” demanded Jim.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said. “We were talking about life being so dull and weary for the vast majority. And when I saw those two coming along, and the way they looked up at us, and so belligerent… I don’t know, I just suddenly thought it would be swell to make a face at them.”

“You nearly scared the wits out of them,” laughed Jim.

“I guess,” I admitted, “I put a little mystery into their lives. I guess there’s two old gals in this town that will have something to wonder about for a while.”

“For a while?” howled Jim, as the train started, and we could see no trace of the two startled ladies. “All their lives, you mean. That’s a thing they’ll never forget. Imagine walking innocently along and suddenly have people making faces at you out of train windows.”

“It’s a natural,” I admitted.

“It’s a swell idea,” cried Jim. “We’ll both do it at the next stop. Boy. what a kick. Making faces at perfect strangers from train windows.”

No Law Against It

So we sat and laughed and giggled until all the people around us shifted and changed their positions six or seven times. We had a happy half hour rehearsing faces. Then we felt the train slowing. We sat forward, our faces close to the glass. As the train came to stop the usual man with the drop on the end of his nose was standing on the platform. He was gazing blankly.

Jim and I waited until he looked at us.

Then we both made a dreadful face.

The poor fellow glanced quickly away, and then returned his astonished gaze to us. We instantly made two more hideous faces.

He wheeled and walked rapidly away down the platform.

We clutched each other in agony of laughter. Several of our fellow passengers sat up and craned their necks at us, outraged.

Two ladies came walking arm in arm along the platform, looking eagerly up at the windows. They were middle-aged ladies.

“Wait a minute, Jim,” I hissed, ducking back. But Jim was forward, his laughter-flushed face almost pressed against the window, and indulging in the most awful face you ever saw. Eyes hugged, tongue out mouth twisted into a regular gargoyle grin.

“Oh, oh,” said Jim, sitting suddenly back. I looked out. There were the two ladies, pointing accusingly at our window, and they had the brakeman and conductor with them.

“Oh, oh,” repeated Jim. “They stopped and pointed, and the conductor was right behind them.”

“There’s no law against making faces,” I said, resolutely. “Anybody can make faces. But what worries me, those are the same two ladies I made a face at back at the last station.”.

“Ow,” said Jim. “They’re passengers, then. They were out for air.”

“Ow,” I agreed, seeing, out of the corner of my eye, the conductor and the two ladies, all drawn up with their chins in and a look of battle in their faces, coming into the parlor car.

“That’s them,” said a clear, thin voice.

“Pardon me,” said the conductor, “pardon me, gents, but these two ladies say you were making faces at them. I don’t know just what …”

“Is there any law against is making faces?” I asked in a low voice, because the train had not yet started.

“There certainly is no regulation,” said the conductor, “no regulation in the company’s rules about making faces.”

One of the ladies brushed the conductor aside, and stood before me. I rose, politely.

“Just because you’re riding in the parlor car,” cried the lady shrilly, “you can’t sit there making faces at innocent women.”

“Ma’am,” I said, “I’m very sorry. I have hay fever. I have a very bad cold, that is my nose itches …”

“Does his nose itch, too?” the lady demanded, pointing at Jim. “The most awful, most dreadful face, he made at us. Two ladies, walking on the platform.”

“If there is no rule of the company,” I said, politely, “and no law preventing us from making faces, after all…”

“Very well,” said the lady, breathlessly, and turning white. “Very well, mister man, if there is no law…”

And with that she swung her leather purse on its strap and cracked me on the head. And, to make the payment in full, cash, she turned, and took a spiteful whang at Jim, who was still seated, looking very unparlorish.

And shoving the conductor, she and her lady friend, heads high, marched back out of the parlor car, their duty done.

“Imph,” I said. “Harrummph. Jim, let’s have a smoke in the smoking end.”

Which we did, and listened with great interest to the big dark fat men and their cigars, nasaling along about the King and business and Dicky Bennett and all that stuff, all the way to Montreal.


Editor’s Notes: Mackenzie King was the current Prime Minister of Canada at the time, and “Dicky Bennett” would be R. B. Bennett, the leader of the Conservative party, and former Prime Minister. If people were also talking about Spain, it would be because of the Spanish Civil War which was still in progress.

Skunked Again

“Oooofff,” we both said as the car door opened. Mr. Jackson was sitting, feet up, with Lightning beside him and the skunk wrapped in a red handkerchief on the seat.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, December 11, 1937.

“What I like about the country,” declared Jimmie Frise, “is the people.”

“All the scallywags,” I explained, “have been chased out of the country and have gone and hidden in the cities.”

“Well,” said Jim, “that may be a little broad. But it covers the situation. For instance, a young man grows up on the farm and turns out to be a little too bright for the country.”

“It’s the same thing,” I defined. “What does too bright usually mean?”

“Thousands of the finest people in cities,” stated Jim, “have come from the farms.”

“And thousands of the cities’ worst rascals, too,” I insisted. “Let’s be fair.”

“At any rate,” argued Jim, as we drove eagerly out into the wintry farm country, “we are agreed on one thing – there is a process of selection going on, as between city and country, that is leaving a mighty decent lot of pleasant, gentle people in the country. They are not the ambitious type. Not the grasping and grafting type.”

“Gumption is the word,” I interrupted. “If anybody has any gumption, they pack up and go to the city. And gumption covers a multitude of qualities, from the kind a young fellow has who becomes one of our greatest surgeons or ministers, to the kind of fellow who wants to skin widows and orphans alive.”

“Well,” explained Jim, “a man couldn’t become a great surgeon living on a lonely farm. You’ve got to give a man a terrible lot of sick and diseased people, before he can become a great physician. And as for widows and orphans, they are few and far between in the country, with plenty of people watching them all the time. A fellow couldn’t work up a real business skinning widows and orphans out here.”

“It’s curious,” I remarked, that there is really no counter-flow of people from the cities.”

“It’s on account of the plumbing, pure and simple,” said Jim. “Once accustom people to hot and cold water and indoor plumbing generally, and you can never get them back to the outside pump. There are in cities, tens of thousands, yes, perhaps millions of people who are living in misery and degradation, jobless, homeless, who would be happy as kings living on farms, working the slow, patient life, amidst the cattle and the land. But they prefer to live in degradation, with hot and cold laid on, rather than risk having to dig a path in the snow.”

“Some day,” I predicted, “cities will have walls again. So many are becoming dependent in cities, that taxes will presently be unable to bear the strain. Then the cities will build walls around themselves. And to get inside, you’ll have to have a passport, identifying you either as a citizen or as a business man on business bent. For every country man wanting to move in, arrangements will have to be made for a city man to move out. Suppose a bright young man on the farm has the makings of a distinguished banker. Before he can get into a city he will have to arrange with his parents or relatives or the county council to accept a young city man to come and live in the country.”

Looking for Jack-rabbits

“It sounds Chinese,” said Jim.

“I shouldn’t wonder,” I admitted. “The Chinese figured these things out thousands of years ago. Then they let the white men in, and now look at China. There is something essentially silly about white men, don’t you think?”

“I often get that notion,” agreed Jim, “hearing them talk.”

“Sooner or later,” I declared, “the country has got to cease producing bright young men.”

“Of course,” suggested Jim. “we’re forgetting that there is a certain flow of city men back into the country. I mean the retired bankers and big shots who buy swell big farms.”

“A lovely trade that is,” I agreed. “Imagine a pleasant comfortable township having a big shot suddenly come and buy 400 acres. A big shot used to having his own way and wangling everything he wanted by the methods familiar to all big shots.”

“Well,” said Jim, “the reeve and council and the various committees and the church wardens and managers, in that case, will appreciate the feelings of city men when some son of the soil rises in their midst and becomes general manager.”

“Fortunately,” I pointed out, these city big shots only come out to the country in their old age. It isn’t for long. Their children never dream of keeping the farm on. It comes back, after a little while, into the kindly arms of the country once more.”

“At a nice bargain,” said Jim.

“Where,” I inquired, looking out over the wintry fields heaving away to the frosty skyline, “were you figuring we’d start looking for jack-rabbits?”

“It’s only three or four concessions up,” said Jim. giving the car the gas. “I was talking to some kids that were on their way home from school, and they said nobody ever hunts around here. And I saw three jack-rabbits in about one mile.”

So we sat and watched the country wheel by, the huddled little farm homes, lost amidst the wide barren fields which, in summer, they seem to dominate. How curious it is that in summer a farmhouse seems to own its landscape. And in winter, the same farmhouse seems to own nothing.

As we rolled, we kept a wary eye for the big brown hares which in Ontario go by the mistaken name of jack-rabbits. They are the true European hare, a great big foreign hare that stays brown all year round, and goes to 12 and 15 pounds in weight commonly, and three or four pounds greater than that on occasion. It was introduced, as far as anybody can discover, during the war, when a breeder of them, down near Brantford, had a large pen of them washed away in a flood. From that 50 or so hares, they have multiplied to hundreds of thousands and have spread all over central Ontario and provide game for hunters by the tens of thousands. There are 80,000 gun licenses sold in Ontario, and about 50,000 of that number generally point at a jack-rabbit, so called, at least a few times in November and December. Jim’s and mine are two of them.

“This,” said Jim, as we came over a rise, “looks like the spot.”

Fence-Climbing and Clod-Hopping

Fields of stubble, fields of plow and green patches of winter wheat lifting away for rolling miles looked like the terrain favored by the big jacks. We saw some patches where the hares had scratched the frosty earth around the winter wheat. Parking the car on the ditch shoulder, we dismounted, set up guns and started for the pleasant game of fence-climbing and clod-hopping which is jack hunting. Separating the width of a field, and moving slowly and watchfully for the sudden springing and skedaddling big hares, we did four fences when we spied, coming towards us, a burly big figure of a man with a gun over his arm and a hound running forlornly beside him. Jim crossed the field to me.

“Here’s somebody,” said Jim, “can tell us where the jacks are. Whenever you see a man with a hound in the country, you know he isn’t feeding a hound for nothing. A hound is a one-purpose dog. It can’t fetch cattle. It won’t guard the house, being away hunting most of the time. See a hound, in the country, and you’ve got a man with an eye to rabbits, foxes, and coons.”

We went forward and met the stranger.

“Howdy,” he called cheerfully. “A nice day for scent, and not a rabbit in the county.”

We all leaned our guns up against the fence in the approved country fashion and prepared for a little conversation.

“I came past here a month ago,” said Jim, “and saw three jacks in the fields just as I passed by. I thought this particular stretch would be crawling with them.”

“Them three,” said the stranger, “must have been the three I got at the start of the season, me and Lightning here. If there is a rabbit in the township, Lightning will find him and tell the whole world, day and night, day after day until somebody comes and shoots it to keep him quiet. All I do is keep coming out to shut Lightning up. The township protests about him all the time, so I got to keep coming out and shoot rabbits.”

“They must be kind of scarce around here, then?” Jim asked.

“A rabbit,” said the stranger, whose name was Mr. Jackson, “is very ill-informed to come into this township. But I know a spot about seven miles north of here. Man, oh man.”

“Seven miles is nothing,” said Jim. “In a car.”

“Ah, yes,” said Mr. Jackson, sadly, “but a car is exactly what I haven’t got. Perhaps it’s a blessing or there wouldn’t be any game in the whole county.”

“Listen,” said Jim, “we’d be only too delighted to have somebody show us where the shooting is, if you can spare the time. Our car is only out at the road there.”

“Time?” said Mr. Jackson. “What is time?”

“Let’s go,” said Jim and I together.

And with guns and hound eagerly sensing sport, we walked rapidly back out the road and got in the car. Mr. Jackson easing himself luxuriously in the back seat with Lightning.

“Straight ahead, until I tell you the turn,” said Mr. Jackson.

It was a trifle more than seven miles, as a matter of fact. But country people have only a vague idea of distance. It was thirteen miles, and about eleven of it over pretty tough side roads that got wilder and more rocky and cedar swampy with every mile.

“This looks more like snowshoe rabbit country than jacks,” said Jim, as we cautiously negotiated one of the several narrow steep inclines on a road that got swampier and more cedary.

“Them jacks,” said Mr. Jackson, “are everywhere.”

And guiding us left and right and north and west, we came at last to our destination, which was an abandoned farm with cedar swamps encroaching close about its crooked fields, an orchard lifting forsaken arms, and the rest of it scattered patches of brush stealing back, the advance guard of the eternal and ever-conquering wilderness that will haunt mankind to the utter end.

“Where do we hunt here?” I inquired a little doubtfully, for I like my jacks jumping neat out of stubble, at about 20 yards.

“I tell you, boys,” said Mr. Jackson eagerly. “I’ll just head into that cedar swamp with Lightning and you two spread out and scuffle them meadows good. It’s full of jacks. One day last winter, I got ten jacks in an afternoon, right here. Between here and the next cross roads.”

“Won’t you come with us?” Jim inquired. “There’ll be no shooting down there unless it’s white snowshoe rabbits.”

“No, no,” insisted Mr. Jackson. “It’s jacks you’re after. Go get ’em. Lightning and I will amuse ourselves down there. I’m not as handy on my legs as I used to be.”

So Jim and I scuffled off into the fields, and scuffle it was. Weeds and burrs, thickets of alder and willow, swampy patches rough and frozen into nasty nubbles, and not a sign of a jack by the time we got to the farthest end of the clearing and came to a bush.

In all the hundred acres, no life stirred, no chickadee, no squirrel. In these old abandoned farms there is a hush that both scares and heals. Jimmie and I stood by the remains of the rail fence, now fallen and already returning to the reaching earth, and harked. Men had come here, and destroyed the hard covering that had succeeded in taking hold on this thin soil, over these rocks. But none of man’s delicate creations had roots enough to take hold in their turn. Now, after many years, the harsh advance agents of nature, the weeds, the briars, the willows, were slowly getting their grip into it again. The men and women who had come here lived in hope and pride. They left only a scar. And even the little winter birds could find nothing to eat in it.

“It’s kind of eerie,” murmured Jim.

“All the big companies,” I replied bravely, to scare away the ghosts, “all the big corporations, all the great churches, halls, all the long handsome streets, will be like this some day.”

“This time of year,” said Jim, “it gets gray and gloomy early in the afternoon.”

“Little or big,” I declared, “it all works out the same in the end. Men come in, so proud and loaded with seed…”

“We’ll head up the road,” said Jim. “There will be more farms beyond.”

We heard Lightning suddenly begin baying, and almost immediately the sound of shot.

“The old boy,” said Jim, “is getting swamp hare. What do you say we go back and have a day at the white bunnies?”

“Aw,” I said, “my children won’t speak to me for several days after I bring home a white hare. Let’s go after the big boys.”

And we had got half a mile up the road, seeing nothing but rough clearings and no open fields in sight, when we heard a car horn blowing steadily, in long signals.

“That sounds like my horn,” said Jim.

“Maybe the old boy has struck good hunting,” I said. “Let’s go back.”

So we retraced our steps down the rutted frozen swamp road and came to the car, where Mr. Jackson was sitting, feet up, and pipe going with Lightning in beside him.

“Mmmfff, mfff, mfff,” said Jim, as we neared the car.

“Ooooffff,” we both said, as the car door opened.

Couldn’t Breathe in a City

“Got him,” said Mr. Jackson, comfortably, patting an old red handkerchief on the seat beside him. “Lightning and me.”.

“So it seems,” said Jim, standing back. “A skunk?”

“We first spotted him,” said Mr. Jackson, excitedly, “three weeks ago, in this very swamp. But he got into a stone pile. Neither of us has had our proper rest since, worrying about this skunk. One dollar that skin’s worth.”

Mr. Jackson patted the red handkerchief, which bundled something flabby and terrible within.

“One dollar,” said Jim breathing out.

“Common skins,” said Mr. Jackson, “are worth 60 cents. But this here one, it’s the biggest I see in years, and beautifully marked. Wait till I show you.”

“No, no,” cried Jim. “Let it lay.”

Jim looked at me and I at Jim, in one of those instantaneous glances that make plans and settle questions without a word being said. We got in. We drove Mr. Jackson home, back all the winding, steep back roads, while he sat comfortably in rear, chatting pleasantly, and fondling Lightning who whoofed deliciously from time to time.

“Tell me, Mr. Jackson,” I inquired in the midst of his reminiscences, “are you a native of this part of the province?”

“No, sir,” said Mr. Jackson sitting forward happily. “I’m not. You wouldn’t take me for a city-bred man, now, would you?”

“There is something about you…” I said, turning to look at him and also to lean a little farther away.

“Well, sir,” said he, expansively. “I was born and raised in the city but I couldn’t stick it. I can’t go cities or towns. I feel as if I couldn’t breathe in a city. So I up and left it, as a young man. I shook the dust of cities off my feet as soon as I was old enough to be my own boss.”

We drove Mr. Jackson right to his door, and a little old shanty it was.

“Not much to look at,” he said heartily, as he and Lightning got out with their package. “But it’s all I ask.”

He thanked us profusely, regretting we had seen no jacks, on such a lucky day, at that.

“And by the way,” he said, as he slammed the door and stepped up to shake hands through the front windows, “if you notice any little smell of skunk in the car, though I don’t notice it myself, just use vinegar. A quart of raw vinegar, slosh it around. It’ll kill the slightest trace of it.”

“Thank YOU,” we assured him.

“Thank YOU,” he corrected, as we geared away.

“It’s getting a little late,” I informed Jim.

“Well,” said Jim, “we always seem to get something when we go hunting.”

“Let’s stop,” I suggested, “at the next corner and get a quart of vinegar.”


Editor’s Note: A clod-hopper, originally meant someone who walks over ploughed land. Later it took on the meaning of a country bumpkin, or the heavy boots worn by a country labourer.

This story appeared in The Best of Greg Clark & Jimmie Frise (1977).

Vice Versa

The dentist started drilling. I let out an indignant nnnn or two but he went right ahead.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, September 4, 1937.

“Mmmmmm,” moaned Jimmie Frise, “have I got a toothache!”

“Poor chap,” I sympathized. “When are you going?”

“I’m waiting,” said Jim, “to see if it will go away. Often, if you just sit tight…”

“My dear man,” I protested. “Don’t be absurd. You might just as well wait for a broken ankle to go away. A toothache is a reality. A dreadful reality. The tooth enamel has decayed and exposed the nerve. Or maybe it’s an abscess at the root. Anyway you’ve got to get it fixed. And right away.”

“Lots of times,” said Jim, “I’ve had little twinges and they’ve gone away.”

“How ridiculous,” I cried. “Jim, have you no sense at all? Don’t you even read the advertisements? Those little twinges were warnings. Now you’re getting the works.”

“You’re telling me,” said Jim, with a gaunt look, placing his palm tenderly against his jaw.

“Clean your teeth twice a day,” I quoted. “See your dentist twice a year, whether you think you need it or not. But good heavens, man, when you have had twinges of toothache, don’t you realize…?”

“I hate dentists,” said Jim, intensely. “I hate them.”

“What nonsense,” I stated. “Do you hate doctors? Do you hate motor mechanics?”

“I don’t know,” said Jim, haggardly. “Dentists are different.”

“Poppycock,” I said. “You go into a garage and see your poor car all dismembered and lying around in horrible rusty gobs, greasy and repellent. There with its hind end all jacked up in the air on a pulley, stands your poor car, the companion of your joys and sorrows, and do you hate the guy that has done it? Even when he presents you with the bill, do you hate him?”

“That isn’t it,” said Jim hollowly, looking at space.

“A doctor hurts you a heck of a lot more than a dentist,” I pointed out. “He cuts right through your hide. He makes swipes with his knife that are sheer agony.”

“Yeah, but you don’t feel them,” said Jim. “You’re unconscious.”

“Dentists have anaesthetics,” I cried.

“Local anaesthetics,” said Jim. “They jab a needle into your gums.”

“You can take gas,” I reminded him. “You can take a local anaesthetic, and feel nothing until you wake up.”

“Yeah,” said Jim. “But who would want to take a total anaesthetic for a mere toothache?”

I looked at him pityingly.

“What’s the use of arguing with a man like you?” I demanded. “You hate dentists, yet they can do more for you than any doctor living. They can whisk a tooth out, so you never feel it.”

“Until after,” said Jim.

“They can put you right under and do a week’s work on you,” I declared. “And you don’t know anything until it is over.”

“Yeah,” withered Jim, “until it’s over.”

Closely Allied to the Brain

“Anyway,” I said with finality, “you’ve got to go to a dentist. This tooth has been warning you. Like a baby, you have ignored the warnings. At last, it has collapsed. Now you’ve got to face the music. The nerve is exposed. Like a live wire, there it is, jumping and sizzling.”

“Throbbing,” said Jim, passionately.

“Exactly,” I said. “And now that you have delayed as long as possible, there is only one recourse. Who’s your dentist? I’ll make an appointment.”

I picked up the telephone.

“No, no,” begged Jim. “Wait a second. I think it is going away already.”

“Jim,” I said earnestly, “even if it does go away, don’t you understand that every twinge is a warning? This tooth is ill. It is slowly going to pieces.”

“What did our ancestors do,” demanded Jim, “before there were any dentists? They just grinned and bore it. And they were better men than us.”

“Jim,” I pleaded, “don’t be silly. Our ancestors died at the age of 40. It was their teeth that killed them.”

“They were tough,” said Jim. “They could take it.”

“Look at the miracles,” I informed him, “that modern dentistry is performing. They are discovering new connections every day between the teeth and disease. You see one of your friends slowly growing thin and old. His eyes are dim. He is suffering from arthritis. He is slowly withering away. They pull a few teeth, and presto, he is born again. His teeth were slowly poisoning him.”

“I’ve heard all that,” said Jim. “But there’s nothing the matter with me. All I’ve got is a thumping toothache.”

“They’re finding more than that,” I persisted. “They’re discovering that teeth are responsible for thousand things besides physical disease. Teeth are responsible for bad temper, insomnia, indigestion, high blood pressure, overweight, thinness, baldness, failing eyesight, sinus trouble, antrum trouble.”

“Corns, warts and bunions,” said Jim.

“The teeth,” I informed him, “are in the head. The nerves of the teeth are closely allied to the brain. It is only a matter of a fraction of an inch from the tooth to the brain. They are beginning to believe that teeth are responsible for our mental quirks. They think criminal tendencies are due to defective teeth.”

“Now who’s been reading the advertisements?” jeered Jim.

“I tell you,” I announced, “they have pulled teeth out of habitual criminals and cured them. The poison from those teeth was responsible for the weakness, the instability, the mental and nervous disturbance that made criminals of the subject.”

“Maybe I’m a cartoonist,” said Jim, “because my teeth are defective? Maybe if you had your teeth pulled, you’d be an insurance agent?”

“I wouldn’t wonder,” I assured him. “Only a thin, fragile bit of bone separates the teeth from the brain. That nerve that is jumping in your jaw right now, is it any wonder you are suffering?”

“Mmmmmmmm,” said Jim, hissing cold air through his teeth and putting on an expression of agony.

Too Much Imagination

“Come,” I said, “what’s your dentist’s name? We’ll get this over with.

“If only they wouldn’t fiddle,” moaned Jimmie. “If they wouldn’t fiddle and poke around and pry. If only they didn’t have that drill.”

“They’ve got to prospect around,” l explained. They have to locate the source and nature of the trouble.”

“Why don’t they just yank it out?” asked Jim. “I think I’d be willing to have it yanked out.”

“Don’t be silly,” I laughed. “They know their jobs. Come, what’s his name?”

So Jim gave me the name of his dentist and I looked up the number in the book and Jim himself called him.

“I’d like you to have a look at my teeth,” said Jim, smiling easily into the telephone, “one of these days.”

“Here!” I commanded sharply.

“Haven’t you a spot about a week from now?” said Jim, quite cheerfully.

Apparently the dentist had not. Apparently, he was going on his holidays at this late season, he being a musky fisherman. So Jim had to take an immediate appointment.

“This afternoon,” said Jim, wanly, as he hung up the receiver. “At 4.”

“Good,” I said, “That’s the boy. I’ll go with you.”

“Come along,” said Jim hollowly. “See me suffer. Sit out in the office, reading last December’s magazines and hear me groan.”

But nothing could deter me from accompanying Jimmie to the dentist’s. I wouldn’t put it past him running his car into a hydrant half way to the dentist’s rather than face the music. He is a man of too much imagination. I made it my business to stay right with him for the balance of the morning, had lunch with him and then, with ever increasing vigilance, remained in sight of him as the afternoon drew on. At lunch, he barely ate anything, so severely did his toothache make him suffer. Beads of perspiration came out on his forehead and he kept issuing great sighs instead of groans.

But about 3 p.m. he began to brighten.

“Do you know,” he said,” the blame thing is weakening! Really weakening. I can hardly feel it, for minutes at a time.”

“Go on,” I scorned.” Don’t kid yourself.”

“It’s a fact,” he declared. “I honestly believe it was just another of those twinges…”

“Jim,” I said, “use your head.”

“That’s precisely what I am doing,” said he. “Why embarrass my dentist who is hurrying to clean up his business so as to get away on a holiday? Why start something that may take weeks to finish? If this twinge goes away, like the others did. I can telephone him and make an appointment for October, some time, when he’s back, and he can do a proper series of work on that tooth.”

“Jim,” I said, “I never heard such subterfuging. Anybody knows that a toothache seems better as soon as you reach the dentist’s office. This is just a case of your imagination getting the better of you.”

“I Gave You More Credit”

“I’ll give him a ring,” said Jim, getting up.

“Jim,” I shouted. “I gave you more credit. This is childish. Your tooth is aching like sin. Get it fixed.”

Jim sat down again, his eyes turned aside as he listened for the toothache, as it were. A shadow of pain crossed his face.

“Very well,” he said, thinly. “We’ll go.”

And we went. I drove. We arrived promptly and without mishap at the dentist’s office at precisely 4 o’clock. There was one woman in the chair and three more waiting when we got up to his waiting room. It was 20 minutes to five by the time Jim’s turn came, and we read all the Geographic Magazines back as far as 1932 and Jim kept growing more and more cheerful as each of our predecessors was silently called into the inner studio. But at last Jim’s turn came, and the dentist, with a merry smile, beckoned him in. I walked in too, because in my heart, I knew perfectly well that old Jim was going to stage an alibi.

“Well,” laughed Jim heartily. “I’ve often heard about a toothache vanishing the minute you arrive at the dentist’s, but I never had it happen to me before.”

“Up here,” said the dentist tenderly, indicating the chair. “We’ll just have a look around.”

“I don’t even remember which side it was on,” said Jim, astonished at himself.

“We’ll just take a look,” soothed the dentist.

Jim straightened like a hero going to his execution, and sat up in the chair. The dentist tied on the bib and took the little mirror in hand and stood expectantly. Jim opened his mouth slightly.

The dentist peered and probed. He tapped around.

“Was it in this jaw?” he asked.

“Nnn, nnn,” said Jim, shaking his head.

“Upper jaw?” said the dentist.

“Nnnn, nnn, nnnn,” repeated Jim firmly.

The dentist got a little light and peered within the cavern. He probed and Jim sat like a rock. He had a kind of nut pick, with which he jabbed and scraped. Jim never uttered a sound, and the dentist frowning, sighed and grunted into Jim’s face.

“Well,” said the dentist, “I can’t see anything much wrong here. Was it on the left side or the right?”

“To tell you the truth,” said Jim, “I’m darned if I can recall. Maybe it was only a little neuralgia? Eh?”

“I see no signs of any cavities,” said the dentist. “As a matter of fact, your teeth are in pretty sound shape.”

Jim sat up eagerly.

“Wait a minute,” I said in a level voice. “Doctor, this man was in agony up to about an hour ago. It was his left jaw he had been holding all morning. A regular thumping toothache.”

“So You May Think”

The dentist was looking at me in a curious way. His eyes seemed narrowed right on to my mouth, as I spoke.

“Excuse me,” he said, suddenly stepping forward and taking my chin in his fingers. “Open. Open.”

“What is this?” I said, opening slightly.

“My dear sir,” said thee dentist anxiously “Step up here. Let me have a look at this.”

“What is it?” I said, standing firm.

“Caries. I’m afraid,” said the dentist, sadly. “Or perhaps trench mouth. Did you serve in the war?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Sit up here, please,” said he, as Jim slid off the chair. I climbed into the chair numbly.

“Open,” said the dentist, the nut pick poised.

“Mmmmm,” he said, peering inside “Mmmm, mmm, mmmm.”

“Nnnn, nnnnnn?” I asked.

“Your teeth are in wicked shape,” he said. “Wicked shape. Have you been attending to your dental responsibilities regularly?”

“I have had no trouble with my teeth,” I assured him, “for ten years. They’re perfect.”

“So you may think,” said the dentist gravely. “That is the worst of our profession. Unless you are driven here by the toothache, you imagine your teeth are in no need. I assure you, sir, that if you don’t have these attended to immediately, you will have no teeth in a year or so.”

“Nonsense,” I said, “I can crack hickory nuts with my teeth.”

“You will be toothless in two years,” retorted the dentist.

“I’ll have them looked at,” I said, starting to get up.

“Wait a minute,” cried Jim, seizing my elbows and pulling me back down in the chair. “I’m alarmed. Doctor, take a look. Give us a survey. It won’t take a second. Just tell him the extent of the damage.”

“I’ve got my own dentist,” I said firmly.

“I’m worried,” said Jim. “This is my partner. I’m entitled to know about this. Good heavens, anything might happen to him if he lets his teeth go. Let’s have an outline of the situation.”

The dentist pried. He scraped and cracked things loose. He jabbed down under the edges and pried up. While my eyes were closed in disgust, he got his drill, unseen by me, and began drilling. I let out an indignant nnnn or two, but he went right ahead, with Jim holding me firmly but kindly.

“There’s about ten hours’ work on them,” said the dentist, at last. “Ten hours good work.”

Jim released me.

“I’ll see my dentist at once,” I said, getting out of the chair with dignity.

“I’ll make a memorandum for him,” said the doctor, earnestly.

So I’ve got an appointment for next week.

The dentist pried, scraped and cracked things loose. I let out an indignant nnnn or two, with Jim holding me firmly but kindly. (September 11, 1943)
At last Jim’s turn came, and the dentist, with a merry smile, beckoned him in. (September 9, 1944)

Editor’s Notes: I’ve mentioned before that stories were sometimes repeated while Greg was off as a war correspondent during World War Two, but this one had the unusual distinction of being repeated twice, in 1943 with the same title Vice Versa, and again in 1944 as Open Your Mouth.

I had never heard of a nut pick, a sharp metal pick for digging the meat out of a nut, often sold in sets with nut crackers, but I guess they are not as common now.

“Caries” is just another term for cavities, and “trench mouth” is an infection that causes swelling and ulcers in the gums. The term comes from World War I, when this infection was common among soldiers.

Goosie, Goosie, Gander

“Hey,” came shrill voice … down the lane and out the gate came fierce little woman…

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, August 7, 1937.

“What gets me,” said Jimmie Frise, “is the way everybody is so sure they are right nowadays.”

“True,” I admitted.

“And so sure everybody else is wrong,” pursued Jim.

“Aye,” I confessed.

“We’re perfectly sure, for instance,” said Jim, “that our form of government is the only possible thing for self-respecting people. Germany is perfectly sure her system is the only possible. Italy the same. Russia, the same, breaking her neck not only to believe it herself but to teach the whole world to see the light.”

“We’ve done a little neck-breaking, in the past,” I pointed out.

“It wasn’t so bad,” said Jim, “when we were the only nation showing others the glory of our particular kind of freedom. But nowadays, with every nation that isn’t defunct trying to stuff itself down the throat of all other nations, it’s getting a little tedious.”

“Tedious is the word,” I agreed.

“In former times,” said Jim, “we nations wed to fight over property. They’d quarrel over honor or something equally silly and practical. But now the nations are quarrelling over who’s got the best form of government. It’s childish.”

“You said it,” I assured him.

We were driving in the country and it is always best to agree with the man at the wheel. If you argue with him, he takes his eye off the road to turn and look at you.

“I blame education,” said Jim.

“The more you educate the people,” I said, “the more enlightened they become.”

“That was the theory,” declared Jimmie, “but it hasn’t panned out. It ought to be pretty evident now that you can’t change people’s ideas. They are born with their ideas, the same as they are born with their noses or the color of their hair.”

“Oh, come, come,” I said.

“All right,” cried Jim, “how do you explain the universal disagreement? For the past hundred years there has been an enormous and universal growth of education and enlightenment. Think of the vast expansion of publishing, until books and papers, billions in number, are like to bury mankind. Think of the movies and the radio in recent years, flooding the humblest places with facts and truth. Yet, instead of becoming gradually of one mind, we have never been of so many drastically different minds in human history. Not only donations disagree, but our provinces disagree, and we ourselves all disagree, until you can’t find two men in the whole world who think alike.”

“Ah,” I said, “education has set us free to think as we like.”

“No,” said Jim. “All education has done has been to give us self-confidence in our ignorance.”

“A fine opinion you have of yourself,” I suggested.

Nobody Changes His Mind

“Common sense and a casual glance at human history,” said Jim, “will show you that wise men are few and far between. Would there be one really wise man in every hundred men?”

“I hardly think so,” I admitted.

“Then,” said Jim, “ninety-nine of a hundred of us are ignorant.”

“Speak for yourself,” I stated.

“Yet,” said Jim, “education has taught us to read, write and talk. It has given us self-confidence. It has removed all doubt from our minds. However, as our beliefs and ideas are born in us, and can’t be changed any more than the shape of our noses, why, all we can do is give vent to these inherited notions.”

“I think for myself,” I declared.

“You think,” said Jim, “the way you were born to think. In former days, unless you had some special energy that made you stand out as a leader or thinker or firebrand, you kept silent. Your ignorance did not matter. But now, you need no special energy. You are forced to go to school, by law, until you are a competent blatherskite. If you are a little backward in expressing yourself, they put you in special classes, where your self-confidence is nourished by extra tuition. This has been going on now for about fifty years. The result is the universal cockeyed disagreement between nations, communities and finally individuals.”

“What do you suggest?” I inquired. “That we put an end to education?”

“I think everybody ought to be taught,” said Jim, “that they can’t help thinking what they think. It ought to be dinned into them, in the first book and the fourth book and in high school and at the university that the unfortunate notions they entertain cannot be altered by any process whatsoever, with this result, that we would all understand one another, at last.”

“It would fill us with contempt for one another,” I cried.

“And who else?” laughed Jim.

“Why, it’s an awful thought,” I protested.

“Think, now,” said Jim, “of all the people you have known, across the year, your family and friends, whom you have known since childhood, can you think of a single one, a single, solitary one of them who has ever really changed his mind?”

And across the years, I couldn’t. I marched them past my mind, one after another, my brothers – little fat boys and bold young soldiers and middle-aged business men; my friends – beloved chums, gay companions of my youth, comrades of my manhood, comfortable friends of my present life, and of them all, not one but was in the beginning what he is in the end; the same slants on life, the same ideas, notions, beliefs, subdued a little, maybe, or modified out of politeness of wisdom; but abandoned, never. Changed, never, thank God.

“Jim,” I said, “education is a good thing, even so. It points out to us a lot of things we wouldn’t perhaps have noticed in life, as we passed by.”

“Agreed,” said Jim, “but education is too proud. It ought to be humbler. It ought to wear the uniform of the spieler on a sightseeing bus. For that, in the end, is all it is.”

“A Nice Thing You’ve Done!”

We were driving through a very pleasant country full of ripening fields and bulging cattle and orchards already twinkling their fruit at us, and there was the first faint hint that in a few weeks the deep winds will be blowing all this away, all this green beauty that we think of as the permanence, and autumn, winter and spring only the impermanence.

Being in so pleasant a land to look upon, we were dawdling, so when a car with a voice like a ripsaw came from behind and, in a great swirl of gravel and dust, threw us to one side as it plunged past, our country humor was disturbed.

“The dang fool,” said Jim, recovering his control of the car, “where is he going at such a rate and what does it matter?”

Through the swirl of dust, we saw the stranger’s car lurch violently, swing to one side and then continue with increased fury, on its way.

And then just as we came to the place he had lurched, we saw a flock of geese scattering wildly up the ditches, and, on the side of the road a great fawn-colored gander, huge wings outspread, feebly flapping its last.

“Pull up, Jim,” I shouted. “A hit and run driver.”

Jim drew the car to a stop and we leaped out and ran back. The geese were making a great hissing and trumpeting, as they stood looking back at the great dead master. For now he flapped no more.

“What a magnificent bird,” I said, gazing down on him. “And Thanksgiving only a couple more fattening months away.”

“It must have been concussion,” said Jim, squatting down and touching the bird. “No signs of being smashed.”

“Hey,” came a shrill voice, and from a little farmhouse on the side, down the lane and out the gate came a fierce little woman.

“Let’s carry it into her,” said Jim.

So we picked the goose up by a leg each and started toward the house, like mourners.

But the little woman came, all hunched up with purpose, straight at us.

“Well,” she bit off, “a nice thing you’ve done.”

“Madam, we did…”

“That’s the prize gander,” stormed the little woman with a thin, penetrating voice, “at five fall fairs last year.”

“A car came past…” I began.

“And,” shouted the little woman huskily but raspingly, “it was going to bigger fairs this fall. That there gander…”

“We didn’t do it,” shouted Jim, unexpectedly.

“No, no, I suppose the gander hurled himself at your car,” screeched the little woman with a surprising reserve supply of voice. “I suppose you were travelling by at fifteen miles an hour when suddenly the gander just took a dislike to you and dashed his brain out against your car. I tell you, that gander was worth eight dollars if it was worth a cent. I been selling eggs sired by that gander for fifty cents apiece. Breeders from all over Ontario…”

“Madam,” I roared, still holding one of the feet of the poor gander. “I tell you we had nothing to do with it. We saw another…”

“Oho,” cackled the little woman with a break in her voice like those old stars of opera on the radio, “so I suppose it was some other car hit him and you just stopped to help the poor beast.”

“That’s it,” shouted Jim and I together.

“A likely story,” said the little woman witheringly. “A couple of gentlemen from the city passing along a country road see a gander brutally run over by another motorist and they stop to lend a friendly hand. Heh, heh, heh.”

“That’s precisely the case,” we both stated firmly.

The little woman was convulsed with mirth.

“You stand there,” she squealed, “trying to tell me that. We’ll see what the magistrate thinks.”

“Madam,” I announced loudly, “we are two humane men. When we saw the poor creature fluttering on the roadside, in the wake of a scoundrel who plunged by at fifty miles an hour…”

“I saw you,” hissed the little woman, crouching accusingly, “pick the bird up and start toward your car with it.”

“Madam,” we shouted, dropping the bird as if on a word of command.

When Education Doesn’t Help

“Oh, I’ve got your car number,” grated the little woman, and you’ll get a summons. And there’s been too much poultry killing in this county to suit the neighborhood. You’ll catch it.”

“We can prove we didn’t kill it,” I insisted.

“But you can’t prove,” cried the little woman triumphantly, “that when I came running out my door, you had stopped your car and picked the goose up.”

We stood gazing at one another heatedly. The poor beast lay at our feet in the dust.

“How much did you say the bird was worth?” demanded Jim.

“Eight dollars,” said the little woman firmly, “and I wouldn’t take a dollar less than four for him.”

Jim and I dug. Two dollars each.

“We keep the goose,” said Jim.

“If you want a run-over goose, you’re welcome,” said the little woman grimly.

She held the money in her hands, counting it two or three times. Jim and I picked the goose up by the feet and carried it, with dignity, to our car and laid it on the floor of the back.

“What’s the use,” demanded Jim, as he got behind the wheel, “of being humane? Why try to be decent? You’re always misunderstood.”

“Education wouldn’t help that situation we’ve just been through,” I sighed, as we got under way and bowled less observant through the country scene.

We heard a hard, thudding sound back of us. It was the gander.

“Jim,” I said sharply, “he’s come to.”

“Good,” said Jim, “we’ll sell him to some farmer down the road.”

Enormous flapping and scrambling sounds came from the back, then a fierce hiss, and my hat was kicked smartly over my eyes.

“Hey,” I ducked, “pull up the car.”

On the shoulder of the road, Jim and I leaped out, while the gander, fierce head erect, neck feathers swelling, hissed malevolently and flapped his immense wings helplessly around in the back of the open car.

“Open the door, let him out,” I ordered.

Jim opened the door and with a wild honk the gander leaped to the ditch and waddled furiously away toward the farm we could still see in the distance.

“Follow him,” I commanded. “Turn the car around and follow him.”

“To heck with him,” said Jim.

“He’s heading straight home,” I cried “Let’s get our money back.”

“To heck with him,” said Jim, but he got in and turned the car around and slowly and at a snail’s pace, we followed the silly bird back a mile. It waddled in the ditch and it took the fences; it paused and it sat down and rested; it turned its wicked eye on us if we got too close and simply stood its ground. I threw clods of sod at it to hurry it, and instead, it came back and attacked me, so losing twenty feet of good ground.

Finally, the weary and obese bird turned in its home lane, where with royal honks all its family welcomed it. We walked up to the farmhouse and rapped.

No answer. We went back to the barn and hallooed and howled and howled, but no sign of living person was to be seen. Across the fields, nobody moved.

“We’ll wait,” said I.

“So will she,” said Jim.

“I wouldn’t wonder,” I accused,” that gander was trained to play dead when cars go by. I wouldn’t wonder if she’s trained that bird to pretend to be hit…”

“What good does education do anybody?” said Jim, sadly.

“Well, I’ve got my own ideas,” I said.

“So has everybody,” sighed Jim, getting in the car and starting it. So I got in too and we went on our way.

“That’s the prize gander,” stormed the little woman with a thin penetrating voice.

Editor’s Note: This story was repeated on July 29, 1944 as “Getting Educated”. The bottom image is from that story.

Wotta Picnic!

July 17, 1937

Page 1 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén