The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1942 Page 1 of 2

The Mechanics of the Thing

“… in the mechanical arts you have a true demonstration of social effort.” “Ouch,” screamed Jim.

The first rule is: Leave things alone. Particularly things like lawn mower blades

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, July 18, 1942.

“You’re looking particularly gloomy,” observed Jimmie Frise.

“I’ve been thinking,” I explained, “and it always makes me bilious.”

“You want to be careful,” warned Jim. “You should leave the thinking to those whose job it is. Suppose everybody started thinking. What a fine mess we’d be in then!”

“Don’t be cynical, Jim,” I cautioned. “Isn’t it time everybody started thinking? We have been leaving everything to the guy whose job it is. Or was. If some bird was interested in politics, we left polities to him. If some bloke liked soldiering, we left soldiering to him. If some other baby liked making great big steel tractors, we left making great big steel tractors to him. Then along comes a war. So we leave the conduct of the war to the guys who like politics. And we leave the soldiering to the bloke who likes soldiering. And we leave the making of tanks to the baby who likes making tractors. It never occurred to us that maybe these people who liked doing those things were no more fitted to save us from disaster than any other three busybodies we might pick out at random.”

“Now, now, now,” protested Jimmie. “Doesn’t it stand to reason that people experienced in government should be trusted with government in an emergency? Isn’t it reasonable to suppose that people interested in soldiering should be entrusted with handling our soldiers when we raise them? And doesn’t it make sense that industrialists should know more about producing war material than anybody else?”

“What you say proves,” I informed him, “that you haven’t been thinking. You’ve got faith. But you aren’t thinking.”

“Then,” smiled Jimmie loftily, “what should I think?”

“I suppose,” I weaseled, “that because a kid likes to play hockey, you should let him on the championship team?”

“But the way you find your championship team,” crowed Jim, “is by scouring all the lesser teams. You don’t make a championship hockey team out of wrestlers and tennis players. That is precisely how we get government, soldiers and industrialists. Out of all those playing those games, we select the best.”

The Eternal Battle

“I have trapped you,” I announced. “You still think war is a game. Our government, our army and our industry are not bridge tables. Neither are they private clubs or lodges in which only members may play. War is a convulsion. It is a desperate illness of the body social. It is a natural disaster like smallpox or infantile paralysis. It is like the eternal battle between the birds and the insects. It is one of the awful manifestations of nature. Periodically, one of the tribes of man that is down suddenly struggles to rise up. It happens endlessly, all across history, like the struggle of water to seek its level; like the battle of the jungle; like the fight in a garden between the plants; or the never-ending combat between the trees of the forest.”

“I admit war isn’t a game,” submitted Jim.

“Peace is a game,” I asserted. “A shabby, sordid sort of game, at that; in the hands of a lot of cigar-chewing promoters. But war is life and death; as it was in the beginning. War calls for fighters. And now the fighters must come to the top. By fighters, I don’t mean the noisy boys, the assertive, star performers who drew the big gates in the game of peace. What is there about government that a strong fighting man could not learn in 30 days? All he has to do, after 30 days’ study, is push button and call in a chief clerk to give him the technical data he wants. You and I have both been soldiers. What is there about soldiering that a clever man who has never soldiered could not learn in 30 days? All he has got to do is push a button and call in a department manager in the uniform of a general, to get any technical data he needs at the moment. What is there about one industry that a good man in any other industry cannot take in at a glance? The greatest successes in industrial and financial history have been created by clever, outstanding and fighting men who came in from the outside. War is neither a matter of government, of soldiering nor of industry. War is fighting. And what is fighting? Is it a game? Is it a thing of rules? A lot of dead men thought so, like Caesar, Alexander, Napoleon. They all ended in ruin, because fighting is another thing entirely – a matter of imagination of courage, of intellect and of soul. And as Caesar, Napoleon and all the rest found out, too late, the fighters hardly ever wore uniform, hardly ever had any political connection and hardly ever had the patience to collect, like raspberries, one by one, a billion dollars.”

To Help the Fighters

“You’ve ruled out all the ways we have of selecting our leaders,” complained Jim.

“And our leaders are ruling themselves out,” I assured him, “to make way for the fighters.”

“How will we select the fighters,” demanded Jim.

“You never select the fighters,” I explained. “They are a gift from on high.”

We sat in silence, thinking biliously.

“How useless my life has been,” muttered Jim. “Thirty years drawing cartoons. What good are cartoons now?”

“Thirty years emitting words,” I mumbled, for myself. “Like the drip from a pump.”

“We’re too old to fight,” said Jim, “but isn’t there something we could do to help the fighters?”

“We aren’t even good enough in the legs,” I snorted, “to be water boys, like Gunga Din.”

“We can still shoot,” calculated Jimmie. “We could be guerrillas.”

“I’ve often thought,” I suggested, “that we men from 50 to 60 years of age, if we were trained, could be recruited into special maintenance companies for the tank corps. Did you ever notice, around a garage, that the fellow who really does the problem jobs, on ignition, or on faulty timing, or any of the tricky cases, isn’t the strong, husky bird in his 20’s and 30’s? It is nearly always a middle-aged man, often in his 50’s or better.”

“By jingo, that’s a fact,” said Jim.

“The big husky boys,” I went on, “do the tire changing and the jacking up and the big, noisy jobs. But when your car has to be approached as if it were a murder mystery, it is always some middle-aged gent, in the dirtiest overalls, mostly wearing spectacles, who comes in, quiet and bold, and solves the puzzle. It seems to me that in this modern tank warfare, they are trying to get along without the very men they need most.”

“The men who fight the tanks,” agreed Jim, “can be the young, dashing, tough lads. But the maintenance squads… do they have to be young and dashing?”

“The light aid detachments,” I explained, “and the repair units that follow tanks into action have to be as nippy as the tanks themselves.”

“So they say,” added Jim.

“One thing,” I summed up, “in this day and age, every man ought to know some mechanics. The time has come, in human affairs, when it isn’t enough merely to be a smart buyer or a clever, seller; lawyers, parsons, accountants, salesmen, executives, even doctors, are so much baggage when fighting comes to the bare fists as it is now. Every living man, regardless of his age, should be trained to be able to make something with his hands. Every man should be a mechanic, if only to dig swiftly and cleverly with a shovel; or to splice a telephone wire or do rough carpentry.”

“Look,” said Jim. “At all the technical schools, at the universities, they are conducting classes, night classes, to teach people any one of the many mechanical arts.”

“Then…” I said with finality.

“Of course,” cried Jimmie. “Let’s get going. Let’s make a team specializing on heavy motors. You become the ignition expert and I’ll be the carburetor expert. It will be something,” cried Jim eagerly, “to fill our nights, this autumn. Every night we work, we’ll feel of more use. This awful feeling of sitting. doing nothing…”

“And in the course of a few weeks,” I stated, “we would be fit to grab hold of a job, instead of standing by and watching.”

“Even if we can’t be of practical use,” pursued Jim, “the training will at least make us the better able to understand what our fellow men are doing with their lives. In Norway, there are no private schools. All rich and poor, farmer and banker, are given the same education as far as they go. They all speak the same language, understand the same ideas. It knits them closer together as citizens. In our country, everybody ought to be made to master some mechanical craft and everybody should be taught literature, agriculture and business practice. Then, when we part to go our separate ways in life, we won’t feel like foreigners to one another as we do now.”

“Jim,” I confessed, “in the past 30 years, I haven’t mended a tap or repaired a broken switch. I haven’t even tacked down any weather-stripping. I blush to think of all the hundreds of little jobs I have passed up, around my home, in favor of calling in the plumber, the electrician or the handy man.”

Repairing the Lawn-mower

“It isn’t that you are lazy,” suggested Jim. “It is merely that you have been taught, from your earliest childhood, in school and in life itself, that you must be smart enough to be able to employ other people to do the work that is done by hand. The beau ideal of our educational system is not the white collar man. He is the white-handed man!”

“And now, in all our war camps from the Arctic to the tropics,” I exclaimed, “the commando is our ideal in a desperate effort to convert all our soft white hands into hard brown hands.”

“Okay, carburetors for me,” cried Jim, rising and rolling up his sleeves in expectation.

“I’ll run up tomorrow noon,” I said, “and find out what I can about these night classes at Varsity and at the technical schools.”

“After all,” said Jim eagerly, “just because I have been an artist all my life, surely all the stuff my farmer ancestors had hasn’t petered out of me.”

“One of my grandfathers,” I asserted, “was a stone mason and the other was a farmer who worked 200 acres. I bet I’ve got the stuff in me, if only give it a chance.”

With his sleeves rolled up, Jimmie walked around the room, tested the light switch, tried the window latches, lifted up a chair and felt its rungs.

“There are a hundred things a man can do…” he mused.

“I’ve got it,” he cried suddenly, “My lawn-mower. There’s the very thing. I’ve been intending to repair my lawn mower for two years now.”

“Clocks and lawn-mowers,” I cut in, “are two things my grandmother told me no man should tinker with.”

“Come on,” said Jim, rolling his sleeves still higher. “We’ll begin at the beginning. We’ll tackle the job on hand, just to show our hearts are in the right place.”

First he led me down cellar where, from shelves, drawers, boxes, he assembled the most extraordinary collection of tools. A wrench, hammer, file, oil can, at least half a dozen spanners of assorted sizes.

“Who said you weren’t mechanical?” I demanded in admiration.

“Some of them,” said Jim, “workmen have left behind. Others I borrowed from neighbors so long ago I forget whose they are. Every home has a scattering of tools like this.”

Out in the garden, Jim brought forth the lawn mower from the corner of the garage.

“Why, that’s a swell lawn mower,” I cried. “What’s the matter with that?”

“It needs sharpening,” said Jim, file already in hand. “And the blades need adjusting, Every once in a while, they jam some way.”

“Do you sharpen a lawn mower with a file?” I inquired dubiously

“You sharpen everything with a file,” explained Jimmie.

With a small spanner, Jim explored around among the nuts and bolts until he found the one that held the blade assembly in place. And in a jiffy, he had the blades, all in one piece, out on the ground.

“Feel them,” he said, “dull as a hoe.”

So while Jim scrubbed at the blades with the file. I tinkered around with the frame, oiling here, wiping off there: tightening loose nuts and screws and discovering, for the first time, the simple principle of gears which makes a lawn mower operate.

In 10 minutes. Jim had a nice gleaming edge on all the blades, including the big one in the frame. He wished he had a scythe stone to finish off the job, he said. When he was a boy on the farm, the thing he liked best was to watch a man stoning a scythe with long, strong strokes of the stone and a flexing wrist, making a sweet ring of steel in the summer air.

To Go to Night School

“Now,” said Jim, lifting up the blade assembly.

As his helper, I held the frame steady and helped direct the little ends of the axle into place.

“Gimme the small spanner,” ordered Jim, very mechanic like.

He tightened the nut carefully. But the blade assembly wobbled very loose in its frame.

“Have you touched any of those other nuts?” he demanded.

“I tightened a few of them up,” I explained. So Jimmie went all over the various nuts and screws, loosening and tightening, while feeling the set of the blades in the frame.

“It doesn’t hang level,” I pointed out.

“Not likely to,” muttered Jim, “with people tinkering all over the job. The first rule of mechanics is, don’t tinker. Leave things alone.”

“All I did was oil it,” I protested indignantly, “and tighten up a couple of these nuts that were just about falling off.”

“Here,” said Jim, “take this spanner. I’ll hold the blades in the proper position, and you tighten up the different nuts until it takes hold, just the way I’m setting it.”

I took the spanner and tightened. I tightened here and I tightened there, little by little the way you put on a spare tire.

“Easy now,” warned Jim.

“How’s she coming?” I inquired.

“It’s starting to grasp hold,” admitted Jim.

“One thing about mechanics,” I said, “you always have to have a helper. There is something very companionable about mechanics.”

“Easy,” said Jim. “Pay attention.”

“In most other lines of work,” I said, “you work alone. Writers, artists, lawyers, salesmen, they all work alone. But in the mechanical arts, you have a true demonstration of social effort…”

“OUCH!” screamed Jimmie very unexpectedly.

“Oh,” I replied, turning the wrench firmly in the other direction.

“Oucheeeeeee!” yelled Jimmie in agony.

The tip of his finger was caught between the blades and the edge of the mower.

“Turn it the other way,” he roared.

“That’s tightening it,” I gasped, heaving in the opposite direction.

“Take your foot off it,” bellowed Jim,

And with the littlest move of the mower my way, the blade opened and Jim snatched his finger out.

“It was your darn foot,” he accused bitterly “shoving on the mower that made the blade catch me.”

“I was just getting a good purchase on the spanner,” I explained. “Is it cut?”

“No,” growled Jim, “but it might have been.”

“I’m very sorry,” I assured him. “I was just shoving with my foot…”

“Don’t describe it,” said Jim, standing up and shaking his hand rapidly, to take the pain out of his finger.

“I was doing the best I knew how,” I insisted.

“Listen,” said Jimmie, “there is a mechanics to all things. There is a mechanics to lawnmowers. If you shove one way, the blades go one way; if you shove the other, the blades go the other. It is the same with politics, soldiering and business. There is a mechanics to them all. First, you have to be an apprentice. Then you have to be a journeyman. It takes a long time to be a master mechanic.”

“It’s a funny thing we can’t tinker with a lawn-mower,” I asserted, “a simple thing like a lawn-mower. We’re not saps exactly.”

“Yet,” said Jim, putting the end joint of his bruised finger in his mouth, “you are prepared to let guys at least as clever as us tinker with government, soldiering and industry?”

“There’s a big difference,” I claimed, “between waging war and mending lawn-mowers.”

“You’d be surprised,” retorted Jimmie, “how much alike they are, in the main.”

So when his finger stopped hurting, Jimmie held the blades steady with a stick. And I braced both feet on the frame and took hold of the spanner and tightened all the nuts until the veins stood out on my forehead.

And the lawn mower hums like a Spitfire.


Editor’s Note: A scythe stone is a long narrow sharpening stone.

It’s Not All Twaddle

Jimmie sat slouched deeper and deeper in the chair, an air of complete coziness and social ease engulfing him as he blathered to one of his friends.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, December 12, 1942

“To heck with it,” muttered Jimmie Frise, slamming down the telephone receiver roughly.

“Easy, easy,” I counselled. “That telephone isn’t your property.”

“Oh, yeah?” growled Jim, giving the instrument another shove.

“What’s eating you?” I demanded.

“I’ve been calling my house,” said Jimmie loudly, “for the last 15 minutes. And it’s busy, busy, busy!”

He reached over and gave the phone another shove, until it was almost off his desk.

“Well,” I scoffed, “is that the telephone’s fault? Why don’t you use a little reason, Jim?”

“Sometimes,” said Jim, “I wish the telephone had never been invented. It is the cause of more high blood pressure than all the rest of our so-called modern improvements put together. Oh, if there only were no telephones what a lovely, simple, happy world this would be!”

“Jim,” I calmed him, “without the telephone our world would be impossible. Why, our industry, our domestic life, our whole modern economy, you might say, is founded on the telephone. The shape of our cities, the size and length of our streets, the location of our business districts as compared with our industrial or factory districts is entirely based on the existence of the telephone.”

“Wait a minute,” muttered Jimmie, picking up the phone and dialing slowly and deliberately.

He listened intently. And then flung the receiver down more violently than before.

“Still busy!” he rasped.

“Our fire protection system,” I went on calmly, “our police organization, the medical profession – all the security of the modern community is organized on the telephone.”

“We’d be better off,” growled Jimmie, “with a big bell hung at every street corner, to ring in case of fire.”

“And a fire station, I suppose,” I submitted, “every two blocks? Jim, if we didn’t have telephones the cost of fire protection alone would double our taxes.”

“Just a second,” said Jimmie, picking up the telephone again.

He dialed deliberately as usual, with the utmost care, sticking his finger in the right hole; and then, after one brief listen, laid the telephone down again with the greatest politeness.

“Still busy?” I inquired brightly.

“Mmmmmmm,” said Jimmie ominously.

Long Conversations

“Why is it,” I inquired, “that when an enemy attacks a city the very first objective of the bombers or the artillery is to knock out the telephone buildings, the exchanges? So as to throw the city into complete and hopeless confusion.”

“Well, if the telephones were all busy as usual,” said Jim bitterly, with the idle chatter of young ladies, it wouldn’t make much difference. I bet if you could in some way make a Gallup Poll of the telephone conversations in one 24-hour day in Toronto, you would discover that about 23 of the 24 hours of talk was all sheer piffle.”

“Oh, hold on, Jim,” I protested. “Think of the business that is done over the telephone.”

“One hour of the 24 would be business,” declared Jim grimly. “The rest would be sheer social twaddle. People have no right to use the telephone as a means of social intercourse. People have no right to go visiting on the telephone. If they want to spend a social hour with somebody why the blazes don’t they go and see them?

“After all,” I pointed out, “it’s their own telephone.”

“No, it isn’t,” announced Jim emphatically. “No telephone belongs to anybody, even in the degree that it is in their home. I realize the telephone instruments belong to the company and we only rent the service of them. But over and above that, no telephone belongs to any one person or any two persons. The telephone belongs to all the people who might want to call in. For example, take an old spinster living in an apartment. She has a telephone. Now, nobody could believe that the telephone is hers more than that spinster.”

“I see that,” I agreed.

“She talks on the phone all the time,” said Jim. “She is a busy church worker and belongs to the Ladies’ Frantic Endeavor of her church, we’ll say.”

“Okay,” I encouraged.

“So she holds committee meetings over the telephone, see?” went on Jim. “Instead of going to all the trouble of gathering the Ladies’ Frantic Endeavor together, either at the church or at somebody’s home, with all the nuisance of having to bring their own tea and sugar, why, she, as the chairman of the committee, simply calls each of the seven other ladies on the telephone. And after a nice long conversation with each one she sums up their opinions, adds up their votes, and then calls each one back again and informs them of the way the vote went and just how the committee feels.”

“It’s a common practice in business,” I pointed out, that very system.”

“Ah, yes, but wait a minute,” said Jim. “This lady is a spinster. Forty years ago she had a prospect. He was a young man of promise who was snatched from under this spinster’s nose by a local blonde.”

“This is getting interesting,” I urged.

But Jimmie, seeing through my false interest, suddenly remembered the phone and picked it up. He dialed rapidly. He listened acutely. Then he slammed the receiver down again as hard as ever.

The Lost Opportunity

“Still busy,” he said, this time without any blood pressure. “Well, sir. The very day that this spinster is holding a committee meeting on her telephone, that boyhood sweetheart of hers, now a widower, is passing through Toronto on his way from New York to Winnipeg. He is a widower now, the blonde having died of premature old age, as blondes so often do. He is rich. He is powerful. But he is lonely. He is returning to his great empty house in Winnipeg. And as he waits between trains in Toronto, just one hour, he remembers his old sweetheart and the thought occurs to him to look in the Toronto telephone book – at which he hasn’t looked in 30 years. And he sentimentally looks up his old sweetheart’s name. And there it is. Miss Julie Bonbon!”

“Very romantic,” I admit.

“So all slightly perspiring,” says Jim, “this rich old widower, who is an elder and manager in one of the biggest churches in Winnipeg, by the way, calls the number, in the remote chance that this Miss Julie Bonbon is the same Julie Bonbon he knew and loved 40 years before.”

“As indeed she was,” I remarked.

“He calls, his heart in his mouth,” pursues Jimmie, “and the line is busy. Good, he says, trying desperately to think up what he will say if it is indeed she. And he tries again. Line busy. He looks at his watch. Only 15 minutes before his train is called. He tries again. Until three minutes to train time that rich old widower tries that blasted telephone every minute. And all the time it is busy. Because of the committee meeting.”

“Why didn’t he make a note of her address,” I demanded, “and he could have written her from Winnipeg?”

“Nothing doing,” said Jim. “A telephone call is one thing. A letter is quite another. And, anyway, he was so mad by the time he called for the last time that he went and boarded the train for Winnipeg, saying to himself that he was a lucky man to have married the blonde instead of this awful blatherskite. At least the blonde was dead. And on the train home he sat smiling to himself and thinking what a silly fool he was to have even tried to telephone.”

“So the moral?” I queried.

“This tale needs no moral,” said Jimmie, picking up the telephone and preparing to dial his home again. “All you need is the spectacle of that spinster, sitting in her apartment, holding a meeting of the Ladies’ Frantic Endeavor on what she foolishly imagines to be her own private telephone. In view of the great mystery and all the possibilities of this life, no telephone belongs to anybody. You never know but what opportunity, which knocks only once, may only ring once on the telephone instead.”

Then Jimmie dialed slowly and carefully and a bright smile wreathed his face.

“It’s ringing,” he said, with great satisfaction.

And it rang and rang. And Jimmie rattled the hook and broke connections. And dialed again. And again it rang and rang.

Blathering On and On

“Well,” sighed Jimmie, setting the receiver down very politely. “Whoever was in has apparently gone out.”

What did you want to get your house for?” I inquired.

And Jimmie looked blankly at me for a moment and said:

“By gosh, that story I made up has chased it entirely out of my head!”

“What I dropped in to see you about,” I stated, “was that newsreel that shows Sam Doakes. I’ve located it. It’s at the Valley theatre.”

“Away out there?” cried Jim.

“It’s only half an hour on the street car,” I protested. “And after all the time we’ve talked about going to see old Sam’s face, it is time we went.”

“It’s only a glimpse,” said Jim. “One second. And we can’t be sure it is Sam.”

“His wife says it’s him,” I assured. “She’s seen it 30 times. It shows Sam standing beside an anti-aircraft gun with a pair of field-glasses and the gun is actually firing at the Huns.”

“Wait till it comes to some neighborhood theatre near home,” said Jim. “I was intending to stay in tonight and loaf. The family is out and I can get a lot of things done tonight that I have been putting off.”

“I even got the time the newsreel comes on,” I pleaded. “Look. What would Sam Doakes, a lifelong friend, think of us two if he knew his picture had been in the newsreels and neither of us had gone even to the trouble of going to see it?”

“What time does it come on?” Jim asked.

“Twenty to nine,” I said, “Allowing half an hour to get there by street car, we can leave your house at 8 and be in our seats in plenty of time…”

So Jimmie agreed that he would be ready if I called at his house a minute or two before 8.

And at five to 8 I was in his front hall and Jimmie came downstairs with his hunting boots in his hands, having been upstairs greasing them. It took him a few minutes to wash up and get his coat on. And we were just passing out the door at five minutes past when the telephone rang.

“Drat the thing,” said Jimmie, snatching up the receiver. “Why, hello, Andy!”

“Tell him you’ll ring him back tomorrow,” I said loudly, and pointed to the hall clock.

But Jim sat down on the hall chair. “You don’t say?” he said eagerly. “How many? Seven. Boy, that’s some litter. How many males?”

I walked over and stuck my watch under his nose. It was seven past 8.

“Mm-hmmm,” said Jimmie delightedly. “What color are the three males? All blue ticked, eh?”

And as the grandfather’s clock tocked and ticked the minutes away. Jimmie sat slouched deeper and deeper in the chair, an air of complete coziness and social ease engulfing him, his eyes shut, smiles brightening his countenance, his eyebrows lifting, as he blathered on and on to his old friend, Andy Perkins, breeder of beagle hounds.

Somebody Else’s Selfishness

His conversation consisted mostly of “Mmm-hmmm” and “Well, well” and “Think of that.” Just when you would think it was about to end he would ask some fool question, such as “Who was the grandsire of the dam. did you say, Andy?” and I could hear Andy’s voice scratching and droning endlessly away on the receiver.

Eleven past 8, 14 past 8, while I stood, watch in hand, coldly waiting for this social engagement to come to an end and recalling, vividly, the Jimmie I had seen a few hours earlier at the office slamming telephone receivers down and vainly dialing his home.

At 8.15 I walked over and held my watch down under his nose and made him open his eyes as he lounged there, drowsily “Mm-hmmm-ing.”

“Well, Andy,” he said, straightening up “it swell to hear from you. I’ll be coming over as soon as I can to have a look at the litter.”

And then it took him, another good five minutes to wind up. He stood up. He buttoned his coat with one hand. Straightened his hat. Smiled. Nodded his head. Bowed. Handed me the cigarette butt that was now burning his gloves. And at 23 minutes past 8 made his final “So long” and hung up reluctantly.

“Okay,” he said briskly.

“Jim,” ‘I stated bitterly, it is too late. We never can make it now.”

“Nonsense,” he cried. “I wasn’t three minutes.”

“Jim,” I stated, “you were 15 minutes on that phone. Longer than you were trying to get your house this afternoon, remember?”

“But I haven’t seen Andy for five months,” Jim said indignantly. “And, besides, it was a more or less of a business conversation …”

“It’s a queer thing,” I informed him levelly, “how we can always justify our own misuse of the telephone, even while our blood pressure is still up 100 over somebody else’s selfishness.”

“If we step on it,” said Jim, nudging me out the door, “we can still make it to the theatre by 20 to 9.”

But just off Jim’s front steps I saw my small daughter coming full pelt around the corner and when she saw me she cried out:

“Hurry, Daddy, hurry. Long distance!”

And up the street like a terrier I legged it to my house to hear across 1,000 miles from his camp in Nova Scotia the voice of my son.


Editor’s Note: In the early days of the phone network, the phone company would own the telephones as well. So when they were discussing the ownership of telephones, there was that aspect as well.

Miracle Year for Salmon!

Leo Briar, 16-year-old student at Magee high school, Vancouver, is one of hundreds of volunteer workers who are helping to haul in this year’s record salmon catch and pack it for shipment overseas.

Like an answer to prayer Canada is hauling in its greatest catch in history, packing it all for Britain and starving Europe…

By Gregory Clark, October 17, 1942.

VANCOUVER

Captain Joe Katnich is 40. He is master and owner of the 63-foot fishing boat Westview, home port, Vancouver. In 10 days, Captain Joe and his six chosen crew netted 50,000 sockeye salmon averaging seven pounds apiece, in this greatest salmon run, this most miraculous salmon run, in Canada’s history.

Captain Joe owns the boat, but, for the salmon season, charters it to the big canning company which takes his fish, so as to put himself and his crew on the old-established co-operative basis with the cannery.

The catch is divided into 11 shares. That is tradition. To the boat, 2 1/2 shares. To the net, a vast, complicated seine, 1 1/2 shares, making 4 shares. The remaining 7 shares are divided equally among the seven aboard, master and six of crew.

50,000 fish at 6 1/2 lbs.

325,000 lbs. at 13 1/2 cents.

$43,875 or, with “scrap fish” added, $44,000. Each share, $4,000.

For 10 days’ work, each of the crew gets $4,000. The net belongs to Captain Joe, so he gets another 1 1/2 shares, or $6,000 more.

For 10 days work, in this miracle subterranean blizzard of precious sockeye storming up from the Pacific, Captain Joe gets $10,000.

From the 2 1/2 shares belonging to the boat, he gets a rebate, for chartering it to the company, of another three or four thousand.

High Man of the Run

For 10 days, then, of this incredible gift of the sea to us poor, food-rationed, anxious and bedevilled humanity, Captain Joe Katnich is somewhere near $15,000 richer; his crew of six, plain, strong, brave men of the sea, Slavs, Swedes, Natives, walk up the catwalk to the cannery offices and draw a yellow cheque each for $4,000. And, in the day and night humming cannery, vast and white by the teeming. stupendously generous, life-giving river, by the action of these seven men from the 325,000 pounds of fish they caught, stream out more than half a million cans of salmon, one pound, half pound and quarter pound.

To go to Britain! To go into food reserves on our coast, and in Britain. Food reserves for a starving Europe. One of the mightiest weapons of war. The promise to France, Belgium, Holland, Russia – them all.

“But,” said Captain Joe with one of those permanent Slav grins, “don’t think I’m rich. When the government gets through with that $15,000 – poof! – taxes!”

“Where do you come from, captain?”

“Yugoslavia.”

“When?”

“1925. I take one look. I made a couple hundred. I go right back and get my wife and baby.”

“Did you learn fishing here on the Pacific coast?”

“No, SIR! My family have fished the Adriatic since olden time; since the Romans.”

“You glad to be a Canadian!”

“Ohoho yes!!! Who isn’t? And it was not hard to be. In 1930, five years here, the company (packing company) think I am safe man, so they choose me for master of one of their boats. In 1936, I got enough money to buy my own boat. This is her. The Westview – 63-foot. The best.”

And best she is. For, unless the incomparable storm of salmon runs far longer than any one dreams, Captain Joe Katnich is high man of the great 1942 run, with his 50,000 big fish.

The Canneries Glutted

There were any number of other boats that made over 30,000 fish catches, some over 40,000. A few boats landed square into the middle of the run, even though it had passed up the gulf past the hordes of State of Washington seiners, and made one-day hauls of 12,000 fish. One captain got 15,000, had his boat filled to the point of sinking and then threw his seine again and filled it and had to wait until the “packer,” the company boat that comes around and takes some of the fish off the seiners, arrived. He had nearly 3,000 corralled in that net, overflow.

Of course, it is silly to try to depict this great miracle of the fishes in terms of one boat, one master, a few men.

Over 45,000,000 pounds of sockeye salmon were caught in this one swift run of only a few days. The canneries of the B.C. coast were glutted. Day after day the government had to order “cease fishing” to the seiners so that the fish would not be wasted, so terrific was the catch and so hopelessly swamped were the canneries.

All this miracle came following the dedication of the whole catch to Britain. Was it a miracle? Was it answer to a prayer? And what these Canadians have done, the Americans have done equally, in the lower American waters through which the mighty Fraser salmon run has to pass.

Well, to a stranger like myself, this spectacle at the Fraser’s mighty mouth looked more like some Wagnerian regatta of the gods than a mere industrial scene. When we speak of the large seiners like Captain Joe Katnich’s, it is nothing. There are only 100 of them. When we speak of the gill netters, in their little 30 and 40-footers, who do not go out in the treacherous gulf but labor in the more or less sheltered mouth of the Fraser, it is nothing: although there are literally hundreds of them.

They’re “Dollar Fish”

There were rowboats in this miracle. Little one-man dories. As we cruised with camera up and down the miles of river mouth in a speed boat, we saw and talked to kids, two in a boat, with a gill net 100 feet long, which they laid out over the stern of their skiff, who had got 160 salmon yesterday and had 60 more, at noon, as we passed; and they, like kids, hauling in their net into the silly little boat, with the high waves running, and taking the big seven-pound sockeyes out of the meshes and the 10 and 15-pound chums and an odd cohoe (“scraps,” says the cannery man, not meaning any insult to the fish) and one loner, a shy lad of about 20, toiling alone with a big net over the stern of a rowboat I wouldn’t go out on Toronto bay with! The sea running, the crazy little craft bouncing and rearing, with 20 sockeyes all over the floor of her, sliding; and 60 the day before.

At a dollar a fish. “Dollar fish is what they were called along the coast; although, at an average of 6 1/2 pounds, they came to 80 some cents.

“There goes a dollar,” yelled one gill netter indignantly, as our speedboat hove near and he, in paying attention to us, allowed one writhing, sea-bred seven-pounder to struggle out of his grasp from the net and back into the sea.

That sockeye, released from the mysterious net and from the hands of man, put on an incredible performance. In a vast arc, three hundred yards, at intervals of about 20 yards, it leaped along the surface, in terrific muscular leaps of 20 feet, a living torpedo, plunging, careering madly over the surface, either in terror or ecstasy; until it finally went deeper and leaped no more.

The seiners, the big boats, left at 4 a.m. from the Fraser and went as far out and down the Gulf of Georgia as they needed to meet the incoming miracle. Early in the run they went far down, near where the Americans were making their first, their choice skimming of the mighty crop. As the 10-15 day stampede drew northward to the great Fraser, home of them all, the seiners backed up, day by day. The seiners go forth in as much of a flotilla as they can, because the channels and the tides which the sockeye ride are well known to the captains, and the best captains are watched narrowly by all the rest of the flotilla.

Overside goes the dory: grabs a rope attached to the outer end of the piled seine net, with its thick corks to float it, and its big fat lead weights to sink it. And its brass rings, big around as a tea plate, to purse it when the fish are in the bag.

Past the American seiners, far more numerous, has come the silver tide. Past the seiners out of the Fraser it surges. And then the gill netters get their chance.

Besides several days of the run on which the government called a closure by reason of the glutted canneries, Saturdays and Sundays are also closed. This lets a share of the sockeye get safely past the perils of man and up into the Fraser to go through Hell’s Gate and hundreds of miles up into the rivers and lakes where they spawn and make their promise of another record run four years from now.

The gill netters are the little people of the miracle. But they have the most fun. The average gill-net boat is a chunky little craft of 32 feet, with a small cabin forward, a round drum amidships for helping haul in the net and a sort of slide or pulley at the stern over which the 150-fathom – or 300 yards long – net, with its floats and sinkers, comes, hand fed, but engine-drum hauled.

You will see little boats like them all over the waterfront of the world, in Muskoka, on the St. Lawrence, even up on the lumberjack lakes.

The reason we pick the Geddes boat, which is only a 28-footer, is because Mr. and Mrs. Lawrie Geddes were the captain and crew, man and wife, and mighty pleasant young people, too. Geddes and his wife come over to the Fraser mouth, 15 miles from Vancouver, for six months of the year. Then tie up their boat and come home to Vancouver for the other six months, where he works in the shipyards.

How the Gill Netters Work

We came alongside and talked to them, all bobbing up and down on the windblown Fraser fresh off the gulf. They had 165 fish in the boat at the moment. No. 167, because there were two threshing about in the net, half up over the stern, right where Mrs. Geddes had slipped the clutch as we hove alongside. Yesterday they took 300.

Mrs. Geddes was about 27. Lawrie Geddes about 30 or 32. Six of the spring, summer and autumn months, they fish together for a living, with gill nets, as now, in the great sockeye run; with plain trolling when the huge spring salmon or tyee are on the move, 20 to 80-pounders. They have a happy and amusing life. When we took our picture of them. Mrs. Geddes said, “Goodness, I haven’t even had a chance to redd the place up.” The place being this little boat which, with its cabin, is their home for months of every year.

Beaming at the whoppers in their fishing smack are Mr. and Mrs. Lawrie Geddes.

Nothing like this 1942 sockeye run of the dollar fish have the Geddeses ever seen; for it was 1913 when the last great sockeye run was recorded. They make enough, in ordinary seasons, to keep them happy and paid for their time. This year, they will probably pay off all the family debt.

They feed out their net both day and night. Picking a clear spot in the crowded river, they start feeding their gill net, 900 feet long, over the stern. Mrs. Geddes lets the engine slowly pull ahead while her husband feeds its neatly folded length over the roller at the stern. Once they get a few yards of it out, it is easy to feed the rest off. They may lay it straight out, in a line; or curve it; or make a letter S of it. For this net does not enclose the salmon. The salmon, running this and that up the river, now fresh water, hit the net, shove their heads through, are caught by their shoulders. And if they try to back up, are trapped by the gills.

On the end of their net is a small wooden buoy with a bright cloth flag on it. At night, they put a lantern on it. This to warn the fishermen not to foul their net, although most of the fishing boats have a guard or skeg around their propellers, so they can ride right over a net. And if they do, okay, for sooner or later, in a madhouse like this, somebody is going to run over somebody else’s net,

The net is fed out to its full length. With its corks holding its top edge up and the weights holding its lower edge down, there it rides, 12 feet deep in the river.

Some of the gill netters leave it only half an hour. Others leave it two or three hours and have a nap in the little cabin of their craft, or eat a meal. It is all a matter hunch.

Just When They’re Needed

Of the little rowboats and skiffs we were able to get little information beyond the number of their catch which they could shout to us, because we dared not run to close in on them, due to the rough sea in the river mouth. They were all being run by boys, some of them appearing to be under 18.

They did not bring their catch into the big canneries, and we were unable to locate them along the shore. But they were having the most fun of all, their feet braced on the gunwales, as the crazy little craft bucked and leaped. If they got as much each day of the run as they had when we passed, they would make several hundred dollars; their license costs them a dollar; and their net, new, $300 from the company; or a second year net, $150. One young fellow in the Western Leckie Co. which makes nets, took his holidays in the upswing of the run, bought a fishing boat for $350, got a net for $150, caught $900 worth of fish, sold the boat for $450, and came back to work much refreshed by his vacation. And besides, he will sell nets much more efficiently from now on!

It would be nice to take another couple of pages of The Star Weekly to tell the why and wherefore of this miracle of the salmon run of 1942. For there is a why and wherefore. Twenty years ago, the salmon industry in B.C. was a $20,000,000 producer. Ten year ago, it had fallen to a mere $3,000,000. The scientists and the business men got busy. They are finding out new things about salmon every year. Why, when they dwindled to the vanishing point, this colossal resurgence of the sockeye in 1942, this year of crisis and of need?

Well, maybe the editors will let Norman James, the photographer, and me go rampaging around, at their expense, to view more miracles. This is a miracle at Hell’s Gate, on the Fraser. There, 130 miles up from the mouth, these billions of sockeye have to negotiate a terrible door. Some years it is closed. Some years it is open. Sometimes, the day, the week it is open the sockeye are not there. They are miles away, hundreds of miles, at sea. Or strewn downstream dead, from having assailed Hell’s Gate a week too soon, or too late. Then, one year, they arrive and find it open. And they are in plenty. And they go through. And then the miracle blooms. For down, the next year, come their billions of babies. And on the fourth year, return again in the marching myriads.

Then we get the miracle, like 1942.

And in 1942, it is miracles we need.


Editor’s Notes: This story was published in the middle of World War Two.

A seiner is a boat that fishes with a seine, a large net with sinkers on one edge and floats on the other that hangs vertically in the water and is used to enclose and catch fish when its ends are pulled together or are drawn ashore.

To “redd up” means to tidy up.

“Never a Dull Moment” – Pepsi Ads

The following are various advertisements created by Jim Frise for Pepsi that ran between 1942-43. They feature a smart kid thinking philosophically about Pepsi, and two other regular kids.

1942
1943
1943
1943

And The Fish Were Biting!

And licketty bang, we went thundering and bouncing over the field in a hay rick …

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, August 22, 1942.

“I’m glad,” stated Jimmie Frise, “that you I are wearing your business clothes.”

“As a matter of fact,” I confessed, “it is getting a little harder all the time to put on my fishing togs. At least, in public.”

“To tell the truth,” said Jim, “the reason I suggested we leave as early as this was to avoid the neighbors seeing me pack up the car with fishing tackle and the outboard engine.”

“I noticed you drove up to my house very quietly,” I informed him, “not tooting your horn as usual, but just rolling up into my side drive.”

“Well, I didn’t know what you might be wearing,” explained Jim. “I’m glad to see you put your fishing clothes and tackle in an ordinary suit-case this time, instead that old canvas bag you generally use.”

“I guess we both feel the same about going fishing,” I submitted, “We are both trying to conceal the fact that we are taking a holiday.”

“Well, for all our brave talk,” said Jim, “this is the first time we’ve gone fishing since the opening of the season, away back in the end of June.”

“And now the summer’s nearly over,” I sighed.

“If people knew how we measure our lives,” said Jim, “not by years, but by days spent in the open, they mightn’t think ill of us.”

“Well, I hope we have some luck,” I stated. “This is our last fishing trip for 1942. With the end of this trip, another year has gone out of our lives.”

“We should kick,” said Jim. “Think of the boys in the army who have been three years away.”

“They’re young,” I reminded him. “They can catch up.”

“If,” said Jimmie.

Be Ashamed of Others

Which brief remark gave us a few minutes of silence as we drove out of the city and got on to the highway leading north. We were both in our regular business clothes. Our bags and fishing rods were carefully stowed out of sight in the car. We might have been mistaken for a couple of gentlemen of the War Prices Board heading out to some neighboring city to investigate a scandal.

“I guess,” said Jimmie, after we had both pondered that wicked little “if” for a while. “I guess when people begin being ashamed of themselves, the war may be said to have arrived in our midst.”

“The best way to avoid being ashamed of ourselves,” I agreed, “is to be ashamed of others. When you are busy being ashamed of the government or your neighbors or relatives, you have no time to think up things to be ashamed of in yourself.”

“And the louder the critics talk about others,” pointed out Jim, “the nearer, probably, they are to realizing their own faults. The awful day dawns sooner or later.”

“Of course, there are some people,” I recollected, “who are physically incapable of being ashamed. They haven’t got the necessary mental organ to feel shame with.”

“That’s called conscience,” said Jim.

“No, it’s different from conscience,” I declared. “Conscience is the moral sense of right and wrong. And right and wrong are like the stock market; you’ve got to have the latest quotations. But I know lots of people who do the most dreadful things without the least sense of shame. To be able to be ashamed, you’ve got to be a little soft. The harder you are, the less shame you can feel.”

“Then where does that let us off?” demanded Jimmie. “Because it certainly isn’t softness we need now. The war demands hardness from us in every possible respect. Hardness in our soldiers and fighters. Hardness in us at home here, to quit our selfish, creeping ways and get into the chain-gang of war. If being ashamed is a sign of softness, then we should not feel ashamed.”

Old Man Wilson’s Oats

And as we rolled up hill and down dale, we noted the farms and how thoroughly gleaned they all looked; all the fields stubbly brown; all the barns full; threshing going on at some; and only here and there a few farmers still toiling in the fields.

“Oats,” said Jim, “and wheat.”

Ahead of us on the side of the gravel road, a man was sitting who as we drew near, rose to his feet with every indication that he intended to hail us; a hitch-hiker, no doubt.

He waved his arm with more authority than most hitch-hikers and signalled us to halt.

He put his head in Jim’s window.

“Good-day, gents,” he said. “Are you from hereabouts?”

“No, we’re from the city,” I replied with dignity. There was something breezy and commanding about this man in his shirt sleeves that caused me to regard him with suspicion.

“H’m,” he said, casting his eye over our baggage. “Are you bent on business? Urgent business?”

“Yes,” I said shortly.

“Could it wait for a few hours?” he inquired. He had a cold, hard eye, with a slight glint in it.

“How do you mean?” demanded Jim a little sharply. “What are you getting at?”

“Well, gents,” said the stranger, “the probabilities are rain tomorrow. The farmer who lives in here is an elderly man. His oats are still in the shock. We have organized this township the past three weeks better than any other township in the province, but we still haven’t got Old Man Wilson’s oats in.”

“So?” I said firmly.

“I’m out here, on the road,” said the stranger, “commandeering anybody I can find to come in and help us get those oats in.”

“I’m afraid,” I stated, “we wouldn’t be much use to you. City men are hardly the type you are seeking.”

“Listen,” said the commando stranger, “anybody can pitch sheaves of oats.”

“I was born and raised on the farm,” said Jimmie proudly, leaning back.

“Hey, then, will you come?” cried the high-jacker, delighted.

“I thought,” I stated loudly, “that you had all these farm commandos worked out within your own township. Why stop people who…”

“We did have it organized,” explained the stranger, giving me a hostile look. “Even the boys in the army from the farms around here came and spent their leaves pitching oats and wheat. All the old men, all the girls and women …”

“Wouldn’t you be better employed,” I inquired pleasantly, “in there pitching sheaves than standing out here on the road?”

“Well, I’m a city man myself,” said the stranger, “and I’ve been up since 4 o’clock this morning. And I could see we would never get the job done before dark if we didn’t have at least eight more forks working…”

“We’re on,” said Jim, grabbing the steering wheel. “Hop on the running board and show us in.”

“No, drive right in,” said the stranger. “I’ve got to get two more…”

Just Opposite Types

So we left him on the road and drove up a few rods to the lane and drove in.

In the distance, we saw four wagons on the fields, some loaded and headed for the barn, some empty or half laden, out in the fields. And at least eight men were working on the wagons or with forks in the fields.

“Old Man Wilson’s got a lot of oats,” I remarked.

“And the country needs them all,” said Jim.

“I don’t think I like our friend out on the road,” I stated, as we drew up at the barn.

“I don’t think he likes you either,” smiled Jim. “You’re just opposite types, that’s all.”

“I think he is one of those busybodies,” I said. “There is at least one in every service club. One on every church board of managers. Always going about, doing good; in loud voice and with a commanding manner.”

“He seemed a good guy to me,” said Jim.

“What do we do?” I demanded grimly, getting out of the car.

“First put on our fishing clothes,” said Jim, “and come on out in the fields and I’ll show you how to pitch oats.”

And while we changed, the stranger arrived in the barnyard on the running board of another car with three men in it.

He greeted us in our fishing clothes with hearty enthusiasm.

“Hah,” he said “you even have the clothes. Gents, my name is Wilson, I’m nephew of the Old Man who owns this farm. These gentlemen were just heading into town to sign some property deeds so they figured that could wait.”

The three newcomers were farmers; the six of us marched in a body into the field where, at the back of the barn, Old Man Wilson was sitting amidst a collection of hay forks, pails of lemonade and other accoutrements of the harvest. Old Man Wilson was an extremely old man in his 80’s by the look of him. He was long past work himself.

“I’ll pay you regular wages,” he quavered at us grinning, as the whole platoon of us swarmed around him. “Regular wages, by jimminy. Now wade in there, boys.”

An empty hay rick came clattering out from the barnyard and Mr. Commando Wilson hailed it and signaled to Jim and me to climb aboard.

“There’ll be two others down there to help you pitch on this one,” he yelled, giving the horses a spank.

And licketty bang we went, thundering and bouncing over the field in the hay rick, headed for the long row of stooked oats.

I tried to yell to Jim that this was quite a fishing trip, but the words came out all jiggled. All the end of a half pitched row, the rick drew up and almost before Jim and I got off, the sheaves were flying from below the as the two farmers already on the job began pitching.

From everything I have seen of farm life, it’s a leisurely profession. You never, for example, see a farmer actually plowing. He is either resting from plowing; just going to plow; just finished plowing; or else is stopped down by the fence talking to somebody passing on the road.

But this was different. This oats pitching. It takes more skill than strength. But it takes strength too. Jim, after a few minutes, was almost as good as the two farmers on the far side of the rick. But after about 10 minutes, one of the farmers from the far side came around and traded places with Jim.

“I’ll just team up with you,” he said to me amiably, “until you get the knack of it.”

Getting the Knack of It

They said, at supper, that I did get the knack of it, more or less, before the day was done. I may have. But I had knacks in my neck, and knacks in my waist, kidneys and tenderloins; knacks in my legs, arms and shoulders. I was one large knack.

The wagon keeps slowly moving ahead, in short starts and stops, as the sheaves are pitched. The more you pitch on, the higher and harder you have to pitch. By the time the rick is loaded, you are heaving those apparently flimsy bundles of straw right over the moon, it seems.

By resting the handle the fork over my hip, I could get a fair heave. But to tell the truth, it was the farmer who came around to my side who really did most of the pitching. He would pretend, as he caught one I fumbled in midair, and pitched aloft for me, that that was a great improvement on the ordinary way of pitching oats. He said I had probably stumbled on a new idea of great importance to agriculture, to have a little man and a big man on one side of the rick so that the little man could pitch it halfway, and the big man catch it and pitch it the rest of the way.

He was a swell guy.

We had the whole field done well before supper time, and Old Man Wilson’s grand-daughter had prepared a magnificent spread for us.

Before we sat down, Old Man Wilson came in and staged a regular ceremony. He had an old purse, and from it he counted out our wages. We each got a dollar thirty.

“These high wages,” said the Old Man, “will be the ruin of farming.”

Mr. Commando Wilson took each of our dollar-thirties off the whole party to send to the boys of the township overseas in cigarettes from “the Oats Pitchers”.

“I came up here,” declared Mr. Commando Wilson, “on a holiday. I came up here to fish. And I got let into more work than I’ve done in 30 years…”

“Where were you intending to fish?” I inquired.

“In the lake here, back of the farm,” said he. “There’s a little lake back here, about 40 rod, that has more big bass, by big bass. I mean five, five and a half…”

Well, of course, it was too late for anything but a few casts before dark. We got two each, Wilson, Jim and I.

But we had the whole of the next day.


Editor’s Notes: Greg and Jim probably feel guilty enjoying themselves during this period of the war, when everything was still uncertain.

A rod, is an old unit of measure, about 5 metres in length.

A hay rick is a wagon, stooked oats means uncut oats, and a stook, is the stack they are in.

The Kernel

August 15, 1942

The Kernel

July 11, 1942

Case of the Useless Dog

By Greg Clark, December 26, 1942

“Do you want my share,” inquired Jimmie Frise cautiously, “of the Duchess?”

“Jim,” I replied craftily, “I will very gladly surrender to you any claim I may have on the Duchess. Two men can’t successfully share a dog.”

“Look,” said Jim. “You take her. You’ve only got that one little house dog, Dolly. I’ve got old Rusty for a house dog, and now, on the very eve of Christmas, I learn I am to get a beagle pup for my Christmas present.”

“Unless you live in the country,” I ruled, “two dogs is too many. My family would never let me keep the Duchess in addition to Dolly.”

“A lovelier English setter never breathed than the Duchess,” said Jim. “Besides, being a lady, she would make a perfect companion for your Dolly, who is getting old.

“Jim,” I said, “we made a great mistake, right at the start, in trying to deceive our families about who owns the Duchess. We agreed to keep her, week about; I telling my family she was your dog; and you telling your family she was my dog; and all we were doing was helping the other fellow out for a few days, by keeping her. The Duchess has only been a guest in our houses, Jim. The minute I try to put over the fact that she is a member of the family, there will be a row.”

“My family adores her,” submitted Jim. “But she sheds her hair. It’s all over the carpets, the chesterfields.”

“My family,” I confessed, “envies you the ownership of the Duchess. But there is an awful difference between having a guest in the house and making a stranger a member of the family. It is the same problem, for example, as choosing a daughter-in-law. The boys bring some awfully cute kids to the house. But when I look at some of them as permanent fixtures… I dunno!”

“Look,” pleaded Jimmie. “I’m getting one of Andy’s new litter of beagles. I’ve wanted a beagle all my life. Old Rusty is getting on in years. He has never been worth his salt as an Irish water spaniel. He’s terrified of water. And every time he sees a duck, dead or alive, he goes and crawls under the back kitchen. But a beagle… there’s the dog for the city sportsman! You can hunt rabbits almost on the edge of the city limits.”

“Aw, Jim,” I protested. “Don’t you remember the way we talked before we bought the Duchess? Last September? The greatest dog in the world was an English setter.”

“Well,” explained Jim, “in September, the pheasant season and the partridge season was just ahead…”

“A couple of weeks of shooting,” I snorted. “Out of the whole year. And how many days did we get off to shoot? Two. Yet we spent five bucks each on the purchase of a setter. And she turned out to be a lemon. And now she is a burden not only on our hands but on our consciences.”

“I Couldn’t Shoot Her”

“Boy, was she ever a lemon,” mused Jimmie. “When we bought her, I thought I had never seen a more perfect bird dog. She certainly looked as if she had been trained.”

“But out in the field,” I remembered, “she was just about as useful as a dachshund.”

“What could you expect,” said Jim, “for 10 bucks? Imagine two guys like us thinking we could buy a bird dog for five bucks each!”

“Well, as the fellow said when he brought her around to your house,” I reminded him, “the war has depreciated the value of sporting dogs. Only a few old guys like us can do any shooting now, and mighty little at that.”

“What we should have done,” said Jim. “was rent the Duchess from him. We could have paid five bucks each for two weeks’ rent of her.”

“Okay, then,” I exclaimed “why not take her back to him and give her to him. That’s one way of getting rid of her.”

“I’ve thought of that already,” replied Jim. “I went to the address he signed on the receipt, and there is nobody of that name living there. They’ve never heard of the guy.”

“That’s odd,” I suggested. “But isn’t there somebody else we could give her to?”

“Who wants a bird dog at this season of the year?” demanded Jim. “And besides, all our friends know she is no good. We made the mistake of yelling about what a lemon the Duchess is. If we had kept our mouths shut, we might have sold the Duchess to some real dog lover for a little profit on our 10 bucks.”

“She’s a beautiful beast,” I pondered, “but she’s utterly useless. Did you ever see a setter act so crazy in the field?”

“I never did,” said Jim. “Instead of birds, she seemed to be hunting for people. When we let her out of the car, instead of dashing out to find a pheasant, she visited every other human being she saw, and left each one sadly, as if she were looking for her master. It took us all morning merely to round her up. That’s no way to waste your time on one of the few hunting days we have now.”

“I was tempted to shoot her,” I submitted. “A real dog fancier has no sentiment about him. If a dog won’t work, he shoots it. But I’m a sentimentalist. I couldn’t shoot the Duchess. I couldn’t even speak crossly to her. She’s a lady.”

“Lady is right,” said Jim. “My family is crazy about her. Whenever it is my week to keep her, the family all says: ‘Aw, dad, why don’t you buy her from Mr. Clark.’ Is my face red?”

“Well, if it weren’t for the fact that we have one dog already,” I mused.

“Well, I can’t keep her, either,” declared Jim firmly. “I have it on the best authority that I am getting a beagle pup, six weeks old, and that is going to be all the dog the family will go for around our house, along with old Rusty.”

“There is only one way,” I stated, “to get rid of a no-good bird dog. It is a method well known to all dog lovers.”

“And what’s that?” inquired Jim.

“You put an ad in the paper,” I elucidated, “like this:

Found – Beautiful English setter, female, white with blue and brown markings. Appears well trained. Owner can claim by paying for ad and small amount for keep.”

“Ah,” smiled Jimmie. “Small amount for keep.”

“About 10 bucks,” I suggested.

“Five bucks each,” mused Jimmie. “But who will claim her?”

“The first crook who reads the ad,” I cried triumphantly. “There are guys who love bird dogs and who at the same time are as crooked as a dog’s hind leg. The minute one of them sees that ad, he will come rushing up here and take one look at the Duchess and rush up to her and fall on his knees and make an awful fuss over her. Of course the Duchess will respond. She’s a lady. And he will leap up and thank us a million. And 10 bucks to him will be a mere flea bite.”

“Owner Can Claim”

“Why should a crook pay 10 dollars for a bird dog at this season of the year,” demanded Jimmie, “when we couldn’t get an honest man to take her as a gift?

“It’s just the way of men,” I explained. “A man who is a little crooked will get more kick out of getting something by skullduggery than if he had the dog given to him.”

“We could try it,” muttered Jim.

“We’ll split the cost of the ad?” I suggested.

“You pay it,” said Jim, “and deduct my share from what the guy pays us.”

So it was with a good deal of pleasure I inserted an ad in the final edition of the paper so that Jim and I would both be home for the arrival of our victim.

“After all,” I said to Jim, “he will be getting a good dog. And the Duchess will be getting a good home, which is all we are worried about. We say she appears well trained. And the Duchess certainly does appear well trained.”

“Go ahead,” said Jim doubtfully.

I inserted the ad as outlined. “Found: Beautiful English setter, female, appears trained, white with brown and blue ticking, owner can claim after paying cost of ad and small expenses re keep.”

And Jim and I hurried home a little ahead of the 5 o’clock jam to wait. For, if my prescription for getting rid of a no-good bird dog was to work, the man who answered the ad would be up at the house hotfoot ahead of any possible competitors.

We had hardly got our coats off before there was a loud ring of the bell.

And the Duchess, who was reclining like a queen on the chesterfield, leaped up with a loud and joyous bark.

Jim opened the door to a heavy built and eager looking gentleman who, the minute he saw the Duchess let out a wild yell and the Duchess, like a lady swooning, fairly fell into his arms.

We urged the two of them to come in and shut the door.

“Daisy, Daisy,” crooned the stranger, tears flowing down his cheeks, and the Duchess blind with the light of love, emitted an endless series of little whimpers that was enough to make anybody weep.

“Where,” demanded the stranger, from his knees, “did you find her?”

“Er… aw … wuh…” said Jimmie.

The stranger rose to his feet and swelled himself up.

“Where,” he said slowly, “did you find her?”

Jimmie looked at me and I looked at Jimmie.

“Come, come,” said the stranger loudly. “I ask you, where did you find her? This is Daisy of Thermopylae, dual international champion, field and bench. She cost me $600. And she was stolen from my kennels on September 16.”

“Well, well, well,” I said, with profound interest.

Awkward Questions

“May I, inquire,” said the stranger, advancing on me and towering himself up, “where you found her? Your ad says you found her. Okay. Where did you find her?”

There was no use in trying to equivocate.

“Sir,” I said humbly, “we did not find her. We bought her, about September the 18th last for $10.”

The stranger staggered.

“For … 10 … dollars,” he whispered, reaching down and fondling the fine domed head of the Duchess, or Daisy.

Then he drew himself up again.

“You bought her, eh?” he gritted. “On the very eve of the bird season, she is stolen from my kennels. I have not only missed the pleasure of shooting over the finest bird dog that ever was sired, but I have missed two important shows and one field trial of the utmost importance, in the States. To me, the loss of Daisy of Thermopylae is a matter of dollars and cents. I have been robbed. Therefore, I propose to deal with the matter in forceful manner. I am going to hand you over to the police.”

“Hold on, there, mister,” interposed Jimmie who is bigger than I am, “just a minute. We bought that dog in good faith.”

“Who from?” inquired the stranger grimly.

“Aw,” said Jim, remembering that he had been unable to trace the man from whom we bought the dog.

“We have a receipt,” I cut in. “A signed receipt.”

“For $10,” sneered the stranger. “Show it to me.”

“As a matter of fact,” confessed Jim, “we went to find this man who gave us a receipt and there is no such man at the address.”

“A fine cock and bull story,” yelled the stranger. “You put an ad in the paper saying you found the dog. And when I claim my dog, you admit you bought her, away back in September, for $10. My fine friends, you can tell all this to the judge. Maybe he’ll listen. But I won’t.”

“Excuse me,” I put in. “Will you listen to a simple story of what has happened? All you’ve got to do is look at the Duchess  – or Daisy as you can call her – to see she has been well cared for. Have you to sense of gratitude for that? Suppose some cruel person had had her all this time…”

The stranger looked down at Daisy and immediately knelt down and petted her and felt her ribs and took her head in his hands and nuzzled at her in the curious love that men and dogs can share.

Crazy to Get Daisy

“And furthermore,” suddenly announced Jim, you haven’t satisfactorily identified her. How do we know you aren’t some faker, just making a fuss over the dog?

“I can produce a thousand witnesses,” declared the stranger, hotly, “to prove this is Daisy of Thermopylae.”

“Very good, produce them,” said Jim harshly.

“Look here, gentlemen,” said the stranger, changing his tone. “I’m so crazy to get Daisy back that I’ll forget all about the funny angles of the case if you’ll just let me quietly depart with her.”

“That’s better,” said Jim.

“On the other hand,” said the stranger, rising and buttoning his overcoat, “I do not feel under any obligation to pay you for Daisy’s keep nor even for the advertisement. You were harboring stolen property.”

“Not wittingly,” I put in.

“You did not know the vendor,” declared the stranger, “you bought the dog, at an absurd price – if you know anything about dogs – and you should at least have established the bona fides and title of ownership of this thief you bought her from.”

“All dog sellers look funny,” I submitted.

“Furthermore,” accused the stranger “when you tried to get in touch with that person later, you could not find him at the address he gave. Your suspicions should have been aroused at once.”

“I always thought there was something funny about the Duchess,” said Jimmie. “But the funniest thing about her is the way she behaves in the field. If she is a field champion then I’m a Mexican hairless.”

“Then I can produce documentary evidence,” smiled the stranger, “that you are a Mexican hairless. For this lady is one of the greatest bird dogs in the world.”

“She wouldn’t hunt for us,” I stated.

“Is it any wonder?” inquired the stranger, showing his teeth.

So we stood silently looking at each other while the Duchess tried to climb her lovely and lithe length into the stranger’s overcoat pocket, so desperate was she to be off and away with him, back to heaven somewhere.

“I tell you what I’ll do,” said the stranger at length. “I’ll pay the cost of the ad. But I’ll be hanged if I will pay you anything for her keep. That goes against the grain.”

“It has been a great pleasure and privilege,” said Jimmie, “to have had this lady as our guest for a few weeks.”

“Ah, then,” said the stranger, “I’ll pay $10 into any charity you gentlemen care to mention.”

“The Santa Claus Fund,” cried Jimmie and I both together.


Editor’s Note: The Santa Claus Fund is a charity that is run by the Toronto Star for children at Christmas. It still exists today.

All’s Fish to the Net

By Greg Clark, October 10, 1942

“Here’s a letter from Skipper,” cried Jimmie Frise, “inviting us to see them spawning the trout.”

“It might be fun,” I admitted. “If the weather isn’t too cold.”

“Besides,” announced Jim, studying the letter, “he wants us to help him catch some poachers.”

“Poachers?” I protested. “At this time of year?”

“He says,” read Jimmie, “that despite the Airedales they’ve got, despite watch kept by the hatchery employees, and despite trip wires that he has jigged up attached to a rocket that goes off with an awful bang, not merely as an alarm, but to scare the heck out of the poachers if they tripped it, there were poachers three nights last week.”

“But Jim,” I argued, “nobody would poach trout at this season of the year. October? Why, they’re full of spawn. Even the dirtiest poacher in the province wouldn’t kill trout now.”

“They’re doing it,” insisted Jim. “Skipper wants us to come up after lunch, some day this week, see the spawning set-up and have supper with him. And then join in a poacher hunt. He says he has got some of the loveliest trout netted into the spawning pond he has ever seen. Beauties.”

“It’s too early for spawning, Jim.” I said. “They don’t spawn until November, sometimes  as late as December.”

“Even so,” said Jim, “Skipper’s very proud of his arrangements, and even if we only see the set-up he’s got, we can have a lovely afternoon and then we can have some fun trying to catch poachers.”

“I don’t want to get mixed up,” I said, “with any tough big poachers, in the dark. Especially the kind of birds that would kill trout at this time of year. They must be pretty low.”

“Don’t fret,” assured Jim. “Old Skipper will do it by remote control, anyway. He’s probably got some comic trick rigged up. He wouldn’t just walk up and grab a poacher. He never does anything the dull, ordinary way. He likes fun.”

“Those Airedales,” I submitted. “He’s got three of the meanest, biggest Airedales I ever saw. I’m scared every time I go up there that one of them will be loose.”

“They’re tied up,” soothed Jim, and usually only let loose at dusk.”

“Boy,” I said, “if he is using them, I don’t want to help in any poacher hunt. I’d hate them to mistake me …”

A Trout Rancher

Listen,” said Jim, “if the Airedales could catch these poachers why would he send for us? There’s something funny about this case.”

“There sure is,” I agreed. “Those dogs can smell a stranger a mile off. And they don’t even bark. They would just close on him and bite the pants off him…”

“You like mysteries, don’t you?” said Jim. “Okay. Here’s a mystery.”

So we telephoned Skipper long distance and said we would be up about mid-afternoon. Old Skipper is one of our most interesting friends. He retired from business some years ago and then devoted himself to fun. There is one thing he loves above all else, and that is feeling a trout, a good trout, on the end of a line. So he went and bought a farm with good springs on it, dammed up the springs to make a series of delightful ponds, deep amidst cedar groves. And then erected a very costly and complicated modern trout hatchery, where, in the fall of the year, he, like a rancher, corrals the choicest big trout in his ponds, takes their spawn from them and raises some hundreds of thousands of infant trout. He rears them to one and two-year-old trout in special ponds and sells them, at a handy price, to other sporting and fishing clubs all over the country. Skipper is, you might say, a trout rancher.

He took in three partners from among his well-to-do acquaintances. Neither Jimmie nor I had enough money to horn in on such a delightful enterprise. But we get invited up often enough.

But old Skipper, apart from his war activities, his winter job in the civilian defence corps and similar interests, devotes his summers to maintaining that precious little creature, Salvelinus fontinalis, the speckled trout, one of Canada’s most valuable assets. which brings millions of tourist dollars into the country every year. Without such men as Skipper, nature alone could never preserve the supply against the ravages of sportsmen.

When we arrived at the farm, Skipper was a high state of excitement.

“Boys,” he said, “I’ve got a real mystery on my hands. And tonight, I think I’m going to solve it, with your help.”

“Do you mean to say,” I demanded, “that those three wolves you keep can’t …”

“That’s the weirdest part of it,” declared Skipper. “I was sure I heard the poacher last night. The Airedales were loose. I called them, and they came straight from the spot I thought the poacher was.”

“Is it only one poacher?” I inquired.

“Only the one,” said Skipper grimly. “And what a beggar he is. Every night, he poaches in a different spot on the ponds. Last night he was on the pond I have got all my choicest spawners in. I can trace his footsteps so far and then I lose him out on the road. He even wears different boots every night.”

“I’ve got it,” I announced. “He carries a couple of pounds of raw hamburger to feed the dogs.”

“Never,” said Skipper. “I’ve trained them never to accept food from strangers. The why I did that was to put cayenne pepper and other stuff in meat and have strangers give it to them. They won’t accept any food from anybody but the kennel boy who looks after them.”

“Hmmmm,” said Jimmie and I both.

“Look,” said Skipper. “He usually fishes from one of the rustic piers we have built out in the ponds. I’ve even sawed planks part way through in the piers to trap him. And do you know who is the only guy to step on a sawed plank?”

“You?” we asked.

“Me,” said Skipper bitterly. “I nearly broke my leg.”

“Why don’t you put a bear trap for him?” I inquired.

“I have,” said Skipper. “And in the morning. I found a ham sandwich in it, sprung.”

“Why don’t you put spring guns?” said Jim.

“I have,” said Skipper. “And in the morning, I find the gun uncocked, with a fine big trout hung on the muzzle, with a sprig of water cress in its mouth, all ready for the frying pan.”

“This is Sherlock Holmes stuff,” declared Jim.

“He knows the paths,” declared skipper, as well as I do. He knows all the approaches. He is somebody who was born and raised around here. And I’m going to get him, if it costs a thousand dollars in electric wires and dynamite and bird lime.”

“Bird lime?” I inquired.

“It’s a sticky concoction,” explained Skipper “that they used to use in the old days to smear on branches of trees and catch wild pigeons and things. It’s the stickiest stuff in the world, and I have used about $30 worth of it trying to catch this guy. But he avoids it as if he had spread it there himself.”

“Maybe,” I said, darkly, you’re the poacher, Skipper? Maybe it’s a sort of Jekyll and Hyde business. You love trout fishing so much, your evil self departs from your body, after dark, and goes poaching…”

Skipper gave me an anxious look.

“I’ve even thought of that,” he confessed. “But I’ve had the farmer and the boy watch me. No, sir. It is some native of these parts. I’ve hunted the countryside, trying to put the finger on the likely man. But all in vain. Tonight, with your help, I think I can catch him.”

What was left of the afternoon we spent in looking over Skipper’s arrangements for the spawning of the trout which would take place late in October, early in November, or even as late as December, depending on the weather and the season. When the hen fish were ripe in spawn, they would be netted out, and their eggs, by the hundreds and thousands, removed from them by a gentle pressure of the hand, into big white pans. When a sufficient number of eggs was gathered, the male fish selected from the nets by their distinctive color and shape, with undershot jaw, would be relieved of their milt, by pressure of the hand. And then a big wing quill feather from a goose is used to stir the milt among the eggs. Instantly, a miraculous change occurs in the eggs. And then the eggs are spread flatly on trays to be immersed in cold, running water. You can watch the growth of the eggs day by day, but it is not until February that the young trout hatch out. And then, from trough to trough of running icy spring water, to little pond and larger pond, they are nursed to fingerlings and then to yearlings. It is like chicken ranching.

We went in at dusk and sat down to one of Skipper’s famous dinners. Corned beef, which he handles himself, from the butcher right to the guest’s plate. And a farm salad he mixes himself, from the raw beet and cabbage to the dressing. And then, about 8 p.m., he sent word to the kennel boy to let the Airedales loose.

“Much as I distrust these Airedales, said Skipper, “I feel this poacher has got some hold of them. They’ve all bitten me. They’ve all bitten the kennel boy. They are chosen for their job. No dog will do a job better than an Airedale, whether it is to mind a baby, guard a house or be the milk of human kindness to an old lady. Also, bite the pants off poachers. But this guy has got some hold on them…”

We went out on the veranda, which overhangs the ponds like the hanging gardens of Babylon. The October cedars wafted their fragrance to us, the stars fairly dripped and the planes of young gentlemen in training droned amid the stars.

For an hour, we sat, in the chill, listening to the eerie sounds of night. Only once did the Airedales make their presence known, by galloping, like menacing ghosts, across the lawns of the farm, noses out, rugged shoulders driving, as they went in search of what they were taught to seek.

Then came a small bump of sound from No. 2 pond, the pond Skipper keeps his chosen breeders in, just to the right of where we sat.

Skipper tip-toed in the house and got the kennel boy.

The kennel boy came out in the veranda and let go a short, commanding whistle.

And in less than half a minute, up on the veranda raced the three Airedales, in a pack, to be snaffled and leashed by the kennel boy immediately and hauled into the house.

“You saw where they came from?” whispered Skipper harshly. “The pier on No. 2 pond. That’s where the poacher is. Okay. The kennel boy will be back in a minute with a coil of rope about 200 feet long. He and you will go down to a path he’ll show you, which is the escape from the No. 2 pond, the only escape. He will weave the rope in amongst the trees, knee high, waist high ankle high. Your job is to help him, by tightening the rope as he weaves it. Haul it taut as a fiddle string.”

Jimmie and I were up ready.

“When the kennel boy has the rope strung,” whispered Skipper, “to its full length, crisscrossed from tree to tree across the path and all approaches to pond 2, he will bark like an Airedale. That is the signal to me to come down from the front here, with my flashlight, yelling ‘turn on your lights so I can see where to shoot’.”

“You won’t shoot?” I inquired.

“Heck, no,” said Skipper. “But that will cause him to start to run and he’ll trip over the ropes …”

“Got it,” we said.

And the kennel boy came out on the dark veranda with a big coil of rope over his shoulder and we followed him. He led us rapidly through paths in the night to the rear of pond No. 2, and then tied one end of his rope to a tree and wove it back and forward between trees until he had a maze of rope, ankle high, waist high, tightened by Jim and me until it was like a fiddle string.

Then the kennel boy led us to a vantage point to one side and barked sharply like an Airedale.

In a moment, we saw Skipper’s flashlight bobbing amidst the cedars on the far side of pond No. 2. And Skipper’s angry voice rang out:

“Turn on your lights, so I can see where to shoot!”

A Surprising Captive

We heard a terrific commotion in the dark and loud grunts and bellows. In a minute, Skipper came raging around the end of the pond and raced past us to the place in the ropes where apparently a hippopotamus had been enmeshed in the ropes we had strung. For It leaped up and fell down, leaped again and threshed madly, emitting terrific snorts with every crash of its body to the earth.

Skipper went by us full steam, his powerful light stabbing the night.

And there, in the bull’s-eye of his light, lay a large, elderly gentleman, with cheap telescope rod and a worm on the hook and a fine clutch of big spawner trout on a string hopelessly tangled in the ropes.

“A dirty trick, Skipper,” yelled the victim angrily. “A dirty, low-down trick.”

And Skipper, his eyes popping out of his head like pickled silver onions, was staring speechless at his captured poacher.

Jimmie and I leaped, with the kennel boy, to his aid.

But Skipper was tenderly and speechlessly assisting his captive to his feet.

“Boys,” he said brokenly, “let me present Bill McCoomb, W. T. McCoomb, one of my partners in this place …”

So we went up to the house and got the corned beef out of the ice box and while we sat around the kitchen table Mr. McCoomb explained:

“Sure I’m a member,” he said. “Sure I fish with flies, all summer. Sure I do. I even helped old Skipper lay out the program for checking poachers. But I also made friends with the Airedales. And then I…”

And a strange, willful expression flittered across his strong, tough old face.

“Heck,” he said, “there is nothing to fishing!”


Editor’s Notes: Airedales are a type of terrier. Milt is a term for fish sperm.

Skipper is a real friend of Greg and Jim, who would play a bigger role in Greg’s stories of the 1950s and 1960s after Jim’s death.

All Aboard!

August 29, 1942

During World War Two, hitchhiking was common due to gas rationing. Not giving a ride to servicemen in uniform if you could was considered very rude and unpatriotic.

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