When sharpening a straight razor, a “leather strop” is used. Here, Mrs. Clipper cuts right through it, implying she should not be trusted.
Tag: 1942 Page 1 of 3
By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, October 31, 1942.
“What gripes me,” announced Jimmie Frise sadly, “is what war does to friendships.”
“There is no brotherhood,” I informed him, “like the brotherhood of arms. I have sometimes thought that there is no human relationship deeper, dearer, more passionate than the comradeship of men who have passed through battle together.”
“Yet,” sighed Jimmie, “where are our blood brothers of the last old war? I remember swearing eternal friendship with comrades of mine. Yet inside six months or a year at most after the war, we had forgotten about each other. We were embarrassed when we met. Inside of three years, we were avoiding each other…”
“I remember,” I confessed miserably. “I went through the same experience. Don’t remind me.”
“After six months of front line experience,” went on Jim, “you know the difference between men and mice. You gravitate together, according to your quality. The brave guys gang together. The tough guys chum up. The medium brave guys segregate themselves into little groups. The lazy and the crafty, the lead-swingers and the bums, cast off by all the other groups, are forced into each other’s company.”
“That’s it exactly,” I recollected.
“Ordinary peacetime life,” continued Jimmie, “does not offer the same chance to weigh and measure your friendships. But in war, you see a man for what he is, morning, noon and night. He can’t pretend to be better than he is for long. The truth comes out. I think there is no greater time in a man’s life to choose his friends than in war.”
“Then why,” I demanded, “have we all drifted away from our war-made friends?”
“I remember in Hersin-Coupigny,” related Jimmie, “five of us who had served together a long time formed a sort of little lodge or secret society of our own. We lived in at billet in Hersin-Coupigny. We had it all worked out. We made complete plans for our lives when the war was over. The main feature of the plan was that we were going to stick together after the war, come hell or high water.”
“I suppose half of them were casualties?” I submitted.
“No, I was the only casualty,” said Jim, “and all I lost was a finger. We five never got together again. We’ve met, one by one, across the past 25 years. But we don’t ever refer to the plan of Hersin-Coupigny. Yet I never in my life made a more earnest and sincere vow than we made in that old chalk barn in France, a quarter of a century ago.”
“Of course, those were hard years, right after the war, Jim,” I reminded him. “We had to scramble like hogs to get jobs and get back into the swim of peacetime life.”
“If we had stuck together,” declared Jim, “we soldiers, maybe it wouldn’t have been so hard for us. But we threw off our uniforms, turned our backs on one another, and started burrowing, each his little burrow.”
“And of course,” I recollected, “the political parties of those days had no intention of letting us old soldiers form a soldier party. They both saw to that. Every time a veterans’ organization got going successfully, the politicians would finance a rival veterans’ organization with smart politicians guiding them. And so we were bust up into fragments, easily handled. Divide and rule is the ancient prescription. It worked on us old soldiers.”
“Still, that doesn’t explain,” insisted Jim, “how all our old war friendships were abandoned.”
We sat thinking about it for a while, with guilty hearts. And at length I offered this suggestion:
“Maybe friendship, the real, deep friendship such as the comradeship of war inspires, requires hardship, struggle and danger to keep it aflame. War is so stark and simple and honest. Peace is so filled with pretense and compromise, bluff and fakery. To live honestly as a civilian is ten times harder than to live as a good soldier. Maybe when we got back to the creeping, crawling ways of civil life, we were ashamed to look our wartime friends in the eye.”
“Maybe that’s it,” muttered Jim.
“How did we get on this melancholy subject?” I demanded.
“Oh, I was just thinking,” said Jimmie, “how war busts up friendships. For the past 20 years, we have been patiently sorting over our acquaintances, gathering together a little gang of those we are entitled to describe as our friends. It isn’t easy to gather together six or eight men who are all equally willing to go places and do things together; such as deer hunting.”
“Ah, deer hunting,” I said. “No thanks. Not for me. Not after last year.”
“Well, that’s what I mean,” declared Jimmie. “Up until 1939, we had, for 10 long years, the best, most congenial hunting party in Canada. No eight guys anywhere in the country were as harmoniously blended into a unit as we were. Then what happens? Jake and Lou are whisked off to war jobs in Ottawa.”
“Joe and Andy went into the army,” I added.
“Pete had to go back to the United States,” completed Jim, “and Sam wouldn’t go deer hunting because his son was in the air force and he thought it would be unpatriotic of him.”
“And there we were,” I rounded up, “you and me.”
Arguing About Shooting
“So we went. November, 1939,” said Jimmie, “and what happened? We found out that two men can’t hunt deer.”
“They certainly can’t,” I agreed. “Not you and me, anyway. We never even saw a deer, did we?”
“Not one,” said Jim. “Then, in 1940, after you got home from Dunkirk, we rigged up a dandy party. Jake and Lou both promised to take a week off their war duties at Ottawa. Pete promised to come up from Chicago. And at the last minute, they all reneged.”
“So we didn’t go at all,” I recounted. “That was 1940.”
“Last year,” began Jimmie.
“Ugh!” I said and shuddered.
We sat, with cold smiles, remembering last year’s deer hunting party.
“I never,” declared Jim, “in my life, saw three such heartless, selfish, cold-blooded guys all in one group.”
“They played us for suckers, all right,” I admitted.
“How did we ever get tangled up with them?” demanded Jim. “How did it start?”
“It started, you remember,” I said, “at lunch that day. The three of them were sitting at the next table to us. I’d often seen them around the downtown district, and at lunch and in elevators. In fact, I was on nodding terms with Jackson long before that day.”
“And I knew Buddy and Jones,” admitted Jim, “by sight anyway.”
“Well, you remember,” I exclaimed. “They were talking about whether a .30-30 was accurate at 500 yards. Jackson was blowing away about having shot lots of deer at 500 yards…”
“Ah, yes,” recollected Jim. “And you leaned over to their table and said that at only 300 yards, a .30-30 had a midway trajectory of 12 feet. And that at 500 yards, it probably had a mid-range rise of nearly 30 feet.”
“And what did our pompous friend Jackson say?” I inquired.
“He said,” laughed Jimmie uproariously, “that he always allowed for that.”
“Then,” I recalled, “we got into an argument. I asked him if in these 500-yard shots of his, the deer was standing still or running. And he said running.”
“Then you said,” remembered Jim, “with the mid-range trajectory of about 30 feet, how many yards ahead of the running deer did he shoot? And besides, how did he know which way the deer was going to jump?”
“Oh, boy,” I said, wiping the tears from my eyes. “That was some argument.”
“It was the first of hundreds!” said Jimmie. “I don’t know which was the hardest part of last year’s hunt; washing the dishes when it was Jackson’s or Jones’ or Buddy’s turn; or listening to you and Jackson arguing.”
“Well, there was nothing else to do,” I protested. “Was I to sit there silent and listen to that big blowhard?”
“It would have been better,” sighed Jim.
“It shows you how easily you can get into trouble,” I mused. “There we were having lunch. We had no intention of going deer hunting last year. It was only eight or 10 days to the opening. Then, overhearing that big fat slob’s ridiculous chatter, I lean over and make a casual remark. And inside of 15 minutes, we are invited to join their hunting party.”
“And,” said Jimmie bitterly, “what’s worse, we went.”
“It was awful from the start,” I recalled. “Do you remember the night up at Jackson’s house, planning the grub list?”
“That was bad,” agreed Jim, “but how about the trip on the train?”
“The hike into the cabin was worse,” I submitted. “I can see Jones still, carrying that one little carton. I tried a dozen times to pick it up, whenever we rested along the trail, just to see if it was heavy. I never did get my hands on it until we reached the cabin. And then we found it was nothing but a carton of soda biscuits.”
“Buddy,” said Jim, “with his sprained ankle!”
“Ah, yes, sprained at the station,” I remembered. “And he could barely hobble when we started down the trail. So he didn’t have to carry anything. And next morning, he insisted on going away over to the Cedar Narrows, two miles away, the best runway of all. And he walked like an athlete!”
“They sure made pack mules of us, that trip,” confessed Jim.
“Pack mules!” I said. “Did either of us get a shot, did we get one shot, at a deer between us, in the whole week? Who cooked the meals? How many meals did Jackson cook? How many times did Buddy wash or dry the dishes? And did Jones do a single chore the whole week?”
“Every time it was his turn,” recalled Jim, “he had palpitation of the heart. And Jackson was in with him on it, because it was always Jackson who rushed him off to bed and fed him pills. They just took us for a ride, that’s all.”
“It’s hard to say which I disliked the most of the three,” I pondered. “Jackson, with his pompous airs of captain of the hunt. Buddy with his tricks for getting out of chores, like dishwashing. Do you remember, the minute the meals were over, how he’d go out and stand by the wood pile with his shotgun, watching for ducks flying over?”
“Jones was the worst,” insisted Jimmie. “Him and his palpitations! That doe he shot, I bet he chased it two miles over hill and dale, through muskeg and tag alders. And when we caught up to him, he was as fresh as a daisy. Yet, when somebody had to bring in an armful of wood, he had heart murmurs and palpitations.”
“I can hear Jackson’s voice, yet.” I grated. “First thing in the morning, he lying, there in his sleeping bag roaring at us to get up. And the last thing at night, as you or I sometimes fixed the stove and turned out the lamps, Jackson sleepily droning from his snug bed the instructions for the morrow.”
“You would think one of them,” declared Jim, “would have been a little thoughtful of the visitors.”
“The first thing Jackson said,” I reminded him, “when we arrived in the cabin was- ‘now this is a hunting party, boys, and we all have to pull our weight’.”
“Whereupon,” said Jim, “they put the harness on us.”
“Why didn’t we rebel?” I demanded. “We knew what kind of birds they were, before the first day was over.”
“Well,” explained Jim, “for the first two or three days, we were sort of strangers in camp. The next couple of days, we were so mad about it, it was funny; and we just kept on to see how much they would let us do. Then, the last couple of days, we had more or less given up hope, and we just carried on…”
“We were guides, that’s what we were,” I asserted. “Two guides, without pay. Will you ever forget carrying out Jackson’s big buck?”
“I won’t ever forget it,” said Jim, “but I still don’t understand it. Not one of them laid a hand on it.”
“I gutted it,” I reminded him. “You went and cut the pole to carry it. We both tied it on to the pole.”
“Then,” said Jim, “we hoisted it up and carried it. Carried it the whole three-quarters of a mile to the river.”
“With the three of them following very jolly on behind, carrying our rifles,” I gritted bitterly.
“Well, on a hunting party,” sighed Jimmie, “some of us aren’t happy unless we are suffering.”
“Maybe that’s it.” I said. “But it certainly goes down in our history as the worst hunting trip we have ever been on, and the queerest trio of cold-blooded, lazy loafers we have ever encountered.”
“How sweet, though,” smiled Jim, “they make the memory of dear old Jake and Lou, and Pete and Joe and Andy…”
“Ah, what a gang!” I agreed. “The hunting trips we’ve had. I wonder if they’re thinking about us now, too, with the opening of the season only a couple of days off?”
“I’ll bet they are,” said Jim. “Especially Joe and Andy, over there in England somewhere…”
The phone rang and Jimmie reached for it.
“Who?” he said, eyebrows up. “Oh, hello, there, how are you? Glad to hear your wheezy old voice.”
Jim winked at me violently.
“You don’t say? When? Saturday, eh? Who else is going?”
Jimmie hunched up his shoulders and rolled his eyes at me in glee.
“Just Buddy and Jones and you, eh?” said Jim into the phone, “Are you going to the same camp?”
He reached out with his foot and kicked me, winking furiously at the telephone mouth piece.
“Well, well, well, we were just talking about you, Jackson. Sure, he’s right here.”
“No, no,” I growled. “I don’t want to speak to the…”
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” said Jimmie. “We had no plans made for this year. Our party is still all scattered to the four winds. I think we’ll wait till the war ends, and then we’ll have a grand reunion…”
Jimmie sat listening to a long harangue from Jackson. I could hear the mutter of his voice. My hair bristled at the mere sound.
“That’s a fact,” said Jim. “Mmm-hmmm. That’s a fact. Well, I hardly think we could I make it on this short notice. If you had called us a week ago…”
“Jim,” I hissed. “Hang up on him!”
“That’s a fact,” said Jim in the phone. “That’s so. Mmm-hmmm. A cook, eh? How many? Three guides, eh? Well, that would be a lot handier than last year, doing all our own work.”
I listened intently.
“Yes, you’re right,” said Jim. “It was sort of catch-as-catch can. Yes, that’s a good idea. Draw for runways each morning. Sure, that would give everybody an even break. Sure, sure; I realize that. You wanted us to get the hang of the country before putting us on the best runways.”
I waved my hands in front of Jim’s face, but he shut his eyes and went right on listening.
“Well, I’ll tell you,” he said. “I’ll talk over with him and if he feels the way I do, I’ll call you back at supper time tonight. That will give plenty of time to get the extra provisions…”
Jimmie hung up and looked at me with glittering eyes.
“Listen,” he said. “In this world, you have to take such friends as you can find.”
Anyway, excuse us now. We have to and try and locate some ammunition in the shops. And this year it is awfully hard to find.
By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, August 1, 1942.
“Oh to be young,” sighed Jimmie Frise.
We were walking past the public swimming pool. The kids were like a swarm of bees, one vast high hum.
“God bless ’em,” I suggested. “They’re having a whale of a time, aren’t they?”
“One place in these parts,” muttered Jimmie, “that doesn’t know there’s a war on.”
“And I wouldn’t change it if I could.” I reflected.
We paused to watch.
“You know,” enunciated Jimmie, “those kids are spared all understanding of the world’s troubles. They haven’t a care in the world. To them, even the 20-year-olds among them, the awful mess the world is in is just normal. They don’t know how the world used to be, before the war.”
“Yet they’re in worse trouble than any of us,” I pointed out. “It’s to them we’re going to hand over the wreckage.”
“It’s only us older people,” went on Jim, “with our memories of how the world used to be in peace, who really suffer in war. Remember back 25 years, when we went to our war? We didn’t feel it much, if I recollect. We went off to war rather cheerfully. Even when our elders ranted and raved about the wickedness of the Hun, we had quite a time working up any excitement. We took our old war as part of the normal picture. These kids are the same now.”
“It’s a blessing they don’t comprehend it,” I declared.
“Gosh, isn’t it nice to watch them!” said Jim, sitting down on the grass along the boulevard. I relaxed down, too.
The treble roar of the hundreds of children in the pool filled the air with a never-ceasing sound. Their bright-clad little figures flashed and darted in the sun, arms flailed, legs sprang, they ducked and leaped and ran and dove with the incredible energy of the young.
“The strangest thing I saw in France,” I informed Jim, “in the retreat to Dunkirk, were the big farm wagons of Flanders, hauled by two or four Percherons, all lumbering along in endless procession. Leading the horses on foot would be the man of the family, his face like death. Up on the high front seat, the woman of the family, her eyes great sockets of terror and tragedy. And in the hay, amidst the vast baggage of the forsaken farm, the furniture, implements and all, were the children, playing games, laughing, singing. As you stood in speechless agony watching this endless procession of war’s victims, you would note the haggard face of the man, the indescribable pathos of the woman’s figure humped aloft. Then over the sides of the wagon would pop the merry faces of the youngsters and they would shout out rude and gay remarks at you…”
“And I suppose,” said Jimmie, “the bombers were coming over?”
“The bombers were smashing every town,” I said, “and sweeping the roads. All was murk and disaster. Yet, after one brief pause in their play, one quick, astonished look, back they would pounce in the hay, to their gambols.”
“Did you see none frightened or crying?” demanded Jim
“Yes, I spoke to one woman nursing a little boy in her arms and he was crying bitterly.” I related. “I spoke sympathetically to her and said how terrifying this was for the little ones. Was he wounded, perhaps? I inquired. No, said the woman, he has been stung by a bee.”
“Oh, get out,” scoffed Jim.
“I can tell you dozens of stories like that,” I commenced.
“Just let’s watch these kids,” preferred Jim. “It makes me feel good. It makes me forget the war for little, just to watch them.”
“You’d Look Ridiculous”
So we sat in silence, gazing blissfully at the colorful spectacle of the bathing pool, with its clamor and din, the constant flickering motion of hundreds of little human dynamos.
“Boy, it’s infections, isn’t it?” I admitted.
“I could sit here for hours,” said Jim, “and just soak up that glorious racket. It seems to heal me, inside.”
“It’s a pity they haven’t benches,” I said, feeling the hard earth, “for the benefit of us elders.”
“What I’d like to do,” said Jim, “is get right in among them. In a bathing suit.”
“You’d look ridiculous, Jim,” I smiled. “In among all those kids.”
“I just saw a guy with gray hair in there,” retorted Jimmie.
“Aw, some old sport,” I snorted. “What would people think if they saw us porpoising around among all those youngsters?”
“Look,” cried Jim, pointing. “There’s another. See that fat bird with the big bay window? Would we look as silly as that?”
“Ah, yes,” I said. “There are some older folk in there.”
“Come on,” cried Jim. “Let’s go in. We can rent bathing suits.”
“No, Jim,” I demurred. “I’ve reached the age when I like to swim pretty much to myself. I like to ease myself in off a dock, into about two feet of water, with a bar of soap…”
“Aw,” complained Jim, “on a hot day like this? What could be better than a swim?”
“These pools.” I insisted, “are for the young. Let them be happy. Let them mix together in youthful abandon, free of the faded eye of their elders on them. I see some young ladies in there. They perhaps wouldn’t feel at ease with a couple of aged summer bachelors like us paddling around among them.”
“Puh,” said Jim. “don’t be so self-conscious. They wouldn’t even see you.”
“They could see me,” I retorted a little warmly, eyeing Jims lean shanks, “a lot easier than they could you – in a bathing suit.”
“Look,” said Jim. “It will cool us off. It will be bracing and refreshing. And most of all, it will let us forget the war for a little while, to be in the midst of all that joyous din.”
“Well,” I submitted, “for half an hour. Just a dip.”
“That’s all,” agreed Jim, leaping up.
The Teeming Tank
We walked along a little self-consciously, to see how you get into the pool. We stood and watched the ticket window for a moment, where streams of kids bought their tickets and stampeded in. Then we saw three middle-aged people like ourselves walk up brazenly and pay their fee.
“Come on,” said Jim, and we stepped up, bought our tickets and went through the turnstile.
Inside, a vast open air locker room spread far and wide. Its aisles were lettered. A. B. C. D and amid the aisles, people were dressing and undressing in shameless innocence.
Over to one side, a counter stood forth at which attendants rented out locker keys to all and bathing suits and towels to those who had not brought their own.
“Give me a snug one,” I requested of the absent-minded gent behind the counter. He was handing them out as though in his sleep. He tossed me a bathing suit and a towel. “One locker will do,” said Jim. “Give me a swim suit with short legs.”
He tossed Jim a suit and towel absently, and handed Jim the key.
“Which is our locker?” I inquired.
“Marked on key,” said the attendant, wearily.
We read the number off. P 69.
“No. 96 F.” corrected Jim.
“Here.” I suggested, “let me look.”
“It’s B 69,” said Jimmie…
“It’s 696,” I corrected.
“There’s a letter… here, kid,” I said, showing the key to a little nude boy walking past. “Where’s this?”
“Over here,” said the youngster, glancing at the key, and he led us along one aisle, down another, across another and presented us to our locker, which promptly opened to our key.
In a trice, we were stripped and into our bathing suits.
Jim’s hung down around his knees like crepe. Mine bulged tight around my middle and otherwise hung in dank folds around my legs.
“You look,” I began…
“It’s mutual,” replied Jim. promptly. And we slammed our crowded locker door, turned the key and Jim pinned it to a little pocket on the pinnie of his swim suit.
He leading, we dashed down the concrete floor to the showers where we bathed off the dust of the day, and then out into the golden blazing sand, deep and laborious, over which we walked to the great teeming tank.
Jim is not a swimmer. He doesn’t even scrunch down in the shallow water and make his arms go as if swimming. He just wades in, ducks to his neck, wades out and sits on the side of the tank. In about 10 minutes he wades in again, ducks to his neck, stands up and wades out again.
As for me, I learned to swim the hard way. That is, swam under water for the first four or five years and finally came to the top. But I love under water. The cool green light deep down is as lovely to me as any sensation I know. So I plunged in, trying to show Jimmie how underprivileged he is by seal diving, rolling and vanishing all around him. But Jimmie has long ago lost any power to be impressed by my performances, and he slowly ducked to his neck and then, waded out, to sit on the sides of the tank and watch the pandemonium all around him.
Losing the Locker Key
So I went variously from the shallow to the deep end, on top, under water, from one side of the tank to the other, amidst the shoals and schools of young fry. I got out and dove off the concrete side of the tank, having lost my shape as far as any higher diving is concerned. It is no fun doing a belly-whacker while carrying a watermelon.
The sun was sublime, the air was warm, the water was just right. And after a little while, I leisurely floundered and walloped my way back down the tank from the deep end to the shallow. And among the small kids infesting this end of the tank. I could see no sign of Jim.
No sign of him, anywhere. And then, getting out of the tank and looking back towards the pavilion, I saw him. He was slowly walking along the sand, his head bent, looking for something.
“The key,” he said. “I can’t find the key.”
“I should have known,” I stated fiercely, “not to let you mind the key.”
“The safety pin,” replied Jim, “would not have held any better on your bathing suit than it did on mine.”
“Where did you miss it?” I demanded.
“I decided to come in and get my cigarettes,” said Jim. “I was sitting on the side of the pool, and I casually felt down for the key…”
“You lost it in the pool?” I inquired.
“I couldn’t see it in the pool,” said Jim, “so I came along here, thinking maybe…”
“Well,” I said, bleakly, “let’s go in and see about it. The attendant will have a master key, no doubt.”
So we left the sunshine and the resounding roar of the pool and walked back through the shower and made our way to the counter, where the attendant was still dishing out suits and towels.
“We’ve lost our key,” I informed him, by way of opener.
He went right on dealing out suits and taking others in, since the bend of the afternoon was past and some of the youngsters were already departing.
“We’ve lost our key,” I repeated.
Without any waste conversation, he came over the counter and reached in his pocket. “What was your number?” he said sadly.
“B 69,” I said, “or… ah…”
“It was F 96,” corrected Jim.
“It was either 696 or L 69,” I assured him. He halted and looked at us sadly.
“It was F 69,” declared Jimmie with sudden and happy assurance.
“Well, which way did you go?” demanded the attendant. “That way or this.”
“We went this way,” I stated, leading off.
“No. no,” cried Jimmie, “don’t you remember? A little boy showed us. He led us this way.”
“This way,” I stated sharply. “I have a sense of direction.”
“I can’t do nothing without your key number,” said the attendant, after having listened patiently, without any sign or emotion. “If it was B 69 it was over here. If it was P 96 it will be away over there.”
“Well, but what do we do?” I demanded indignantly.
“What do you say?” countered the attendant. “You lost your key. Now you can’t remember the number. And you can’t remember which way you went. And anyway. I got to get back to my counter. When you figure it out, come and tell me.”
And he left us.
“Well, Jim?” I uttered bitterly.
“Let’s have a look,” said he grimly.
So we went up this aisle and down that aisle. But 500 locked lockers all look alike. We went to B 96 and it was open, empty. We found P 69 and it was locked, but sounded hollow to our pounding. We tried F 69 and 96, L. 60 and 69 and 96. All were locked. All looked strange. We could not remember having stood just in this position to any of them.
“Jim,” I demanded anxiously, “what, do we do? Do we sit around here all afternoon and evening until the last swimmer goes home? What do we do for supper? Our money is in our pockets, inside that locker.”
“We could borrow some money, maybe, from the attendant,” said Jim, “and have at hot dog for supper.”
“A nice fix we’re in,” I muttered. “You and your escape from war consciousness!”
“Well, we can’t wander up and down these gloomy aisles forever, ” declared Jim. “Let’s go back and have another duck.”
“Duck my neck,” I stated flatly. “I don’t ever want to swim in a tank again. Ever.”
“Well, let’s go and sit out in the sand, where it’s warm,” suggested Jimmie.
“And get all over sand?” I snorted.
“Well, what do you want to do?” bellowed Jim.
And then a little boy passed by. Even though he was in his bathing suit, I knew him.
“Hey, kid.” I cried, grabbing him. “Didn’t you show us where our locker was, a while back?”
“Sure,” he said.
“Where is it?” we both shouted.
“Right there,” he said, “You’re standing in front of it.”
“Yah,” I said to Jim, “didn’t I…”
“You said that way.” shouted Jim.
Which I had, unfortunately. The number was B 69. We went and got the attendant. He opened. And lo, there were all our clothes.
And we dressed hurriedly. And went home without one backward look toward the tank, so gay, so lively, so full of din.
Editor’s Note: An example of an older swimming pool can be found in this article on the Sunnyside Pool. It might have been the one, as the pool they were at was outdoors and had sand nearby. From the illustration, it was also implied that the changing area was outdoors.
By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, October 17, 1942.
“The way I look at it,” propounded Jimmie Frise, “the meat shortage justifies us going duck shooting.”
“All over this country,” I responded, “people just like us are still able to find excellent excuses for doing what they like to do as usual.”
“What would be gained, to the war effort of Canada,” demanded Jim, “if we did not go duck shooting for one day?”
“I can’t put my answer into practical words, Jim,” I admitted, “but there is an answer and it isn’t practical. It is spiritual. It is mystical.”
“Mystical fiddlesticks,” scoffed Jim. “One day out of three long months of the duck season. September, October, November. One day.”
“It is the religion of it,” I fumbled, trying to find the right answer. “Our religion now should be the war. Not ducks. Not relaxation. Not civilian morale. Not anything but war, in our hearts, in our heads, day, night, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thur…”
“Look,” said Jim, picking up a pencil and making notes on a piece of paper to show how practical the whole question was, “we leave here by train – no gas wanted – at 8 pm. We are at Trenton three hours later. We are at Washabong Lake 40 minutes later, in Terry’s cabin. Up at 4.30 a.m., and out on the duck marsh until 10 a.m. We each have 10 ducks. Big northern blacks. Fat bluebills. Maybe a couple of red heads. Maybe even a mallard or a canvasback. Big, juicy, rich ducks, all added to the sum total of the country’s food supply. Ducks which we interrupted in their flight to the United States, where they would be added to the food supply of that nation. And don’t forget the foreign exchange involved. Add 10 per cent to the value of those ducks the minute they fall in the drink. They were U.S.-bound ducks until you shot them.”
“Ten ducks each, Jim,” I interrupted, “is wishful thinking.”
“Those ducks, at four pounds each,” went on Jimmie, still adding up figures on the paper, like an accountant, “make 80 pounds of highest grade provender contributed to the food supply of the nation at war. While we eat those ducks we are sparing the country’s ration of beef, lamb and other food materials. And all at the cost of one morning which we would otherwise have spent sitting at our desks trying to think up stories to write or cartoons to draw.”
“We Must Catch Fire”
“It sounds practical, Jim,” I sighed, “but it isn’t. There is something involved here, something mysterious, spiritual…”
“Don’t pull that mystical stuff on me,” warned Jimmie. “Never in our history has it been more necessary to be practical, to be icy cold practical…”
“We’ve been practical,” I cut in, “ever since September 1st, 1939. Now it is necessary for us to be infinitely more than practical. Now we must be spiritual. Now we must catch fire, as the Germans, Japs and Russians are on fire. Practical considerations – which have governed us all from start to finish so far -must go by the board. What is practical, what is reasonable, what is possible must be flung to the winds. The practical men who have been in charge of things for three years, the leaders, directors, managers generals, colonels, must be got rid of at once. And the crazy men, the fiery men, the impractical and visionary and mad men who carry fire in their very hands and who can set us afire and know what to do with fire when they set it – these must come to rescue us from the practical.”
“Sheer dither,” said Jim balling up the paper and throwing it away.
“Well, Jim,” I sighed, “I’ve been all over the world in this war. I saw the highly practical Frenchmen being blown like autumn leaves before a tornado of mad dreamers in steel tanks. There were a thousand practical ways of halting those insane men in the tanks, but with the infernal imagination of the mad the tanks always came round from an impractical direction. I’ve just now come home from flying 2,000 miles up the Pacific coast to Alaska, and I’ve visited dozens of stations where our young men, in the uniforms that attest to their vision, wait with strange expressions in their eyes for the slow feet of the practical to catch up to them and set them free upon their inspired mission. Love is not practical. Hate is not practical. None of the greatest deeds in human history has been practical. As a man falls in love, so must we now go to war.”
“Puh,” said Jimmie impolitely. “What has that got to do with a couple of middle-aged ginks like us taking a morning off to shoot a few ducks?”
“We should be afraid to go duck shooting,” I said darkly.
But shortly after supper Jimmie walked around the corner to my house with a large hay-colored dog.
“This is Tod Brown’s Chesapeake Bay retriever,” he said. “By the name of Ypres, pronounced Wipers.”
He was a terrific-looking dog. He had baleful yellow eyes and when he glared at you he held his breath an instant, as if deciding whether to attack you or not. It was a relief to see him start breathing again and let his tongue out.
“Mild as a lamb,” said Jim, snapping his fingers and caressing the beast when it ran to him. “See, here. Look at this Chesapeake coat. Dense, wiry yet soft. Like a duck’s coat. He can enter the iciest water without suffering. The Chesapeake is the most famous of all duck retrievers, strong, vigorous, intelligent. Tod Brown says Wipers is trained to a hair. He has retrieved hundreds of ducks for Tod in the three years he’s had him.”
Wipers the Retriever
“What are you doing with him?” I inquired coldly.
“I’ve decided,” said Jim, “to respect your principles as you respect mine. I am leaving on the 8 o’clock train for Trenton. And I am taking Wipers here as my companion instead.”
“I hope you have a good time,” I said grimly.
“I will,” said Jim heartily. “I’ve never yet had a real good shoot with a retriever to do all the dirty work. None of this weary business of having to shove the punt out of the duck blind every time you knock a duck down. No time wasted rowing in the cold and ice after a dead duck. The minute the bird hits the water, out goes Wipers here, overboard, swims unerringly to the duck, brings it back, shakes himself politely outside the blind and then comes back in to lie at your feet, alert and watchful, to leap again the minute a duck hits the water. Tod says the dog is practically human.”
I looked at Wipers and he certainly didn’t look human. He looked more like a grizzly bear. He was fat. His yellow eyes had an alert expression in them all right. But I didn’t like the look in them whenever our eyes met, for invariably he shut his mouth, held his breath and glared at me, as though still undecided…
It took me only a few minutes to pack my old clothes, gun and shells and make the necessary arrangements with the family. A newspaperman’s family is trained to unforeseen circumstances.
We arrived at Trenton on schedule, where Terry met us, and we got Wipers out of the baggage car and piled into Terry’s station wagon for the short run to Wishabong Lake, where Terry’s cabin nestles almost amid the bulrushes of the finest duck shooting in the country. Being hardened duck shooters, we wasted no time sitting around talking at the cabin, but headed straight to bed, for the few hours until Terry would wake us by personally pulling us out of bed at 4.30 a.m.
Wipers had been permitted to sleep in the kitchen. And even the preparations for breakfast had not waked him by the time I reached the kitchen. Even the cheering sounds of plates and forks rattling as we hastily ate the eggs and fried oatmeal porridge which is Terry’s established duck breakfast failed to disturb the big brute lying on a hooked rug back of the stove.
In fact when we were all ready to go, at a minute before 5 a.m., Jimmie had to practically lift the dog to its feet.
“Maybe he’s sick?” I suggested.
But there was no sign of illness in him, only a sort of burly reluctance as we opened the kitchen door and urged him to accompany us out into the black and windy night.
“Come on, you sap,” commanded Jimmie, shoving Wipers out the door with his knees. “Duck shooting! See? Quack, quack!”
As we walked down the path to the punts Wipers quietly eluded us in the dark and Jim had to go back and get a string on him.
“Some swell retriever,” I offered.
“This is his first trip this season,” said Jim, hauling the brute along; “maybe he has to get freshened up each year. Tod said he was raring to go.”
“Some raring,” I submitted, as we chose our punt and shoved it frostily into the dark water.
Terry had prepared our favorite blind for us, on a point where the ducks pass in droves at the first glimmer of dawn. While Jim held Wipers in the stern, I rowed out to the blind, where we drew the punt safely in on the mud and rushes and got ourselves settled on the boxes so that we could watch out over the blind for the passing ducks. A friend of Terry’s was to be in a blind opposite us, and Terry had arranged that the other fellow’s decoys would do for both of us, since the channel between the points did not allow of two sets. Anyway, it was more like pass shooting than shooting over decoys at this favorite point.
Wipers would not come into the blind. He insisted on standing in the stern of the punt, where he sniffed back towards the cabin and uttered loud, dismal whines.
“Shut up,” hissed Jim.
“Wurrrow,” said Wipers. “Yaw wooooo!”
I heaved a clod of mud at him. And even in the dark I could see his head turn sharply, his yellow eyes glare balefully at me while he shut his mouth and held his breath.
“I don’t care for that dog,” I told Jim confidentially.
In another five minutes we would be able to see the decoys bobbing quietly out in the gloom. And still the silly dog kept up his restless moaning and whining, his toenails scratching about in the punt.
“Aw, get him under control,” I demanded.
So Jimmie got in the punt and sat with Wipers, who still struggled restlessly, scratching and muttering, even though Jimmie was petting him.
“Bang!” went the gun of the shooter opposite. “Bang.”
In the Stranger’s Set
Vaguely I could see a flock of eight or 10 ducks wheeling or flaring in the faint light. But I didn’t get the gun on them.
But Wipers was all alert. He stood crossways now, his big head lifted as he stared intently across at the other gunner.
With a sudden leap, he hit the water.
“Whee!” cried Jim. “How’s that? Isn’t that the stuff? Look at him go.”
The rapidly increasing light showed Wipers’ head thrusting mightily through the water in the direction of the other hunter.
“Hey,” called Jim, “my retriever is on his way over for your duck. Don’t shoot him.”
“Okay,” muffled the stranger.
Wipers swam in among the decoys and presently turned and started plodding back.
He seemed to be having trouble.
“It’s a wounded duck,” explained Jim. “He can’t get a proper grip.”
Wipers would take a few strokes and then have to wheel around and take a new hold on the duck.
“See?” said Jimmie gleefully. “Now if we hadn’t had a retriever that wounded duck would never have been got. It would have hidden in the rushes and died a struggling death, wasted …”
Wipers struggled on, with numerous halts and turns. And at last, by which time it was good and light enough to see, he came near enough for us to behold what he had.
He had one of the decoys.
We immediately shoved the punt out and went for him. He all but upset us as Jimmie heaved his wet and heavy bulk in over the side.
“Reset the decoy,” I growled. “The best part of the flight is over. The cream.”
So we went on and reset the decoy in the stranger’s set.
“That’s quite a dog you got there,” called he.
At the sound of the stranger’s voice, Wipers rose up and stared with that same baleful glare. And before either of us could make a grab over the side he went, swimming strongly towards the stranger’s hide.
I was in the act of untangling the sinker and lowering it so as to set the decoy in its proper relation to the others. So that only by a miracle was the punt saved from upsetting entirely. As it was, we shipped several pailfuls of icy water which caught me in a sitting position.
“Some dog,” repeated the stranger from his hide. “Here, get the hell out of this!”
But Wipers was with him and seemed to be making friends.
“Come and get this bloody dog,” commanded the stranger.
Which we did anyway. Because I was thoroughly wet and Jim had scooped water in his boots. So we got Wipers and rowed back to Terry’s wharf and went and changed our clothes and sat around the fire to warm our chilled bones. Wipers, with a sigh of content relaxed on the hooked rug again.
And I got a pencil and a piece of paper
“Let’s see,” I began, “10 ducks each, that’s 20; at four pounds apiece…”
But Jimmie didn’t see the joke. And anyway, Terry had got the morning newscast which opened with the cheering information that the Russians were still putting up a glorious and savage resistance.
Editor’s Notes: The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a large-sized breed of dog belonging to the retriever, gundog, and sporting breed groups, similar in appearance to the Labrador Retriever, but with a wavy coat.
Ypres is a Belgian town that was central in several battles in World War 1. British troops called it Wipers.
By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, October 3, 1942.
“It’s time,” uttered Jimmie Frise, “that we quit thinking that machines were going to win this war.”
“You must admit,” I pointed out, “that airplanes and tanks and machine tools are playing an important part.”
“Nothing,” declared Jim firmly, “nothing but brains will win this war and it is time we woke up to that fact. Machines are all very well. But look at them. All over the deserts of the world, all over the jungles, the beaches, the mountains, the machines are strewn in tangled and rusty wreckage. And where are we? Just about where we started. Both sides. Machines nearly won the war in 1940 when the Germans overran France and just about blitzed Britain to pieces. But nearly isn’t enough. Something bigger than machines beat them.”
“Was it brains?” I inquired bitterly.
“No, it wasn’t brains,” admitted Jim, “but it was the next thing to them – the human spirit. The blind human spirit, which needs only brains to make it supreme over fate itself.”
“The best brains in all countries,” I asserted, “have been devoted to the production of machines as being the winning factor in this great struggle.”
“It occurs to me,” stated Jimmie, “that it was not the best brains of all countries but merely the most highly paid brains of all countries that filled us full of this machine war stuff. I imagine the biggest paid brains in the world, in Germany, France, Britain and America, were these hired by the machine making industries of the world before the outbreak of war. The minute war loomed, these bimboes immediately saw the opportunity for themselves as well as for their industries. So they put on a powerful campaign to convince us that their machines would win the war for us.”
“I must admit,” I confessed, “that there was a decided similarity in the early stages of the war between propaganda and big business advertising. After all, you would hardly expect the board of directors of a big machinery industry to sit back and let moujiks win the war with clubs and pitchforks.”
“We let the wrong kind of brains,” declared Jim, “lead us into this war and the wrong kind of brains are still selling us machinery. The Japs only use machinery where 1,000 or 10,000 human lives won’t do the job better and cheaper. We go on the theory that a $50,000 machine is cheaper than one human life.”
Hypnotized by Machines
“Isn’t that so?” I demanded indignantly.
“Yes, it is so,” said Jim. “But meanwhile will it win the war? My own idea is that nobody above the rank of foreman should be allowed to have any further share in the war thinking. Let us get rid of all presidents, chairmen of the board, general managers, managers and even superintendents. To date, in all countries, these have loused things up good.”
“It is merely silly,” I declared, “to think that it is not a machine war. What gave the Germans command of France in 40 days in 1940? Simply this: that they had 11 armored divisions and we had only one.”
“If we had had any brains,” countered Jim, “we could have starved and gunned those 11 divisions into eternity in 10 days. All we had to do, about May 15, 1940, once we saw what those 11 armored German divisions were doing, was to bring ashore a British admiral.”
“An admiral?” I protested.
“Yes, a British admiral,” said Jimmie, “and appoint him generalissimo of the Allied forces. Because we knew by May 15 that all that was happening was that 11 flotillas of battleships were loose in the land. A British admiral would have figured the thing out in one night. By noon of May 16, the British army would have been converted into a seagoing institution. The artillery of the British army would have been converted into tank hunters – as they are in Libya today – and the British infantry would have been converted into an organization to serve the guns. There would not have been a German tank in France by May 30.”
“You’re very wise after the fact,” I snooted.
“All we did,” declared Jim, “was spread our infantry out, as in the Boer or Crimean war, and put our artillery back of them to support them. It was pie for tanks. All we had to do was to turn our infantry into a tank-seeking force whose only other job, after locating the tanks, was to act as horses, mules and human tractors, to drag those guns to where they could shoot tanks. It was that simple. But nobody could think simply. They were hypnotized by machines.”
“I’m willing to bet you,” I informed him, “that it will be a machine – a new, astonishing. revolutionary machine, that will win this war.”
“What will win this war,” retorted Jimmie, “is more likely to be something as simple and homely and old-fashioned as Aunt Sally’s cranberry pie.”
“Cranberry pie?” I exclaimed.
“We’ll be at Aunt Sally’s,” said Jim glancing at his wrist watch, “in five minutes. And within five minutes more, I bet you we will be sitting at the kitchen table eating a quarter of a cranberry pie each.”
“She keeps them handy?” I suggested,
“From now on,” said Jim dreamily, “Aunt Sally always has cranberry pies in the pantry. She makes them with the open face you know: with strips of pastry across, instead of the usual lid on a pie. It’s a great wonder to me that cranberry pie is not equally popular in Canada with blueberry pie. The cranberry is an even more widely distributed berry than the blueberry. You find cranberries from coast to coast and right up to the Arctic Circle. And, boy, do they taste good, with their queer, tangy, wild flavor!”
“They’re the perfect autumn flavor,” I agreed. “I bet a cranberry has more vitamins in it than alfalfa.”
“It is my private opinion,” declared Jim, “that wild ducks, robins and geese and all the birds that have to fly to the Gulf of Mexico, eat a few cranberries before setting out. And that’s what gives them the pep to go that awful journey through space and storm.”
And in less than five minutes we were in Aunt Sally’s side drive and rapping at her side-door.
“Mercy, Jim,” she cried when she opened the door. “It’s you, and I haven’t a cranberry pie in the house!”
“Nonsense,” said Jim, heartily, “it wasn’t for cranberry pie we came to see you. We just happened to be passing this way…”
“It’s a queer thing,” said Aunt Sally, taking our hats and coats and pulling out kitchen chairs for us, “but you never happen past my house except in October and November.”
“Nonsense,” laughed Jimmie.
“I’ll go out right away,” said Aunt Sally, “and get some cranberries. I’ve got to go out and do a little shopping anyway…”
But before she went she had to sit down and chat for a while. She had to get all the family news from Jim since last November, almost.
Aunt Sally is one of those ladies who talk best while resting their elbows on the table. And in chatting with her, it is best to rest your elbows on the table too. It is the natural attitude for the kind of intimate. easy gossip of which Aunt Sally is mistress.
“Drat this table,” exclaimed Aunt Sally, as she rested her elbows. “It’s got one short leg and it keeps wobbling around.”
“Put a bit of paper under the short leg,” said Jim.
“I do, but I sweep it up when I’m redding up,” said Aunt Sally, stooping over to examine the defective leg.
“All tables,” stated Jimmie, “should have only three legs. No table needs more than three legs. But they always put four legs on a table, and in the course of time one leg warps and you’ve got to joggle in it.”
To Cure the Wobble
So we all three rested our elbows on it, which held it more or less solid except when one or the other of us lifted our weight for a minute, and then the table interrupted the flow of whoever was talking at the moment by giving a sharp little tip and making a bump with its shortest leg.
“Drat the thing,” repeated Aunt Sally, rising and getting her hat. “I’ve been going to nail a little piece of shingle on that short leg for the past 10 years. Now, boys, I’ll only be 15 minutes. And when I come back you can sort the cranberries while I mix the pastry, and it won’t be half an hour before we have a cranberry pie. And a fine pot of tea.”
And she bustled off, without Jimmie even offering to drive her up to the corner in his car.
“I figure,” said Jim, when she slammed the door, “we can fix her table for her while she’s out.”
So he opened the pantry drawers and found a hammer, saw, a tin of assorted nails. And after exploring around the back kitchen and the yard, we found a small piece of a cigar box lid which had been used to cover a knothole in the back fence.
“We’ll use this,” said Jim. “I remember nailing this piece of cigar box on that very knothole 30 years ago. It was to keep a lot of little girls who lived next door then from spying on our Indian camp we had here in Aunt Sally’s yard.”
We turned the table over, with its legs in the air, and with my sharp penknife whittled the piece of cigar box into a disc just the right size to fit over the defective leg of the table. By testing carefully, we had determined it was the northeast leg that was short. With two small tacks we nailed the disc on the leg and then reversed the table to its normal position.
“Worse than ever,” declared Jim, as we tried the table. It joggled now in three directions instead of one. Now it has three short legs.”
So we turned the table over on its back again and studied the problem.
“Let’s,” I suggested, “cut a thin slice off all three other legs, to bring them to the same length as the warped one.”
“Why didn’t we think of that at first?” cried Jim, seizing the saw.
“Careful to get it flat across,” I warned, holding the leg while Jim worked the saw and got it to start its bite into the old dry wood of the table leg.
After one slice, the others came easy. A saw is like that. It soon understands what you require of it. And we took a neat slice off the three legs and reversed the table in to its feet again.
We touched it and it teetered like a seesaw.
“Good heavens,” I said.
“We must have cut the short one by mistake,” worked out Jim.
It was obvious, on examination, that that is exactly what we had done: for now we had one very long leg, two medium long legs and one very short leg, which had been the short one.
“Okay,” said Jim, upturning the table again, “we’ll measure them this time. We’ll do it scientifically.”
With the broom-handle we measured the shortest leg, marked the length with a pencil, and then checked off an equal length on the three other legs, to get them all the same.
“Make it snappy,” I warned Jim. “Let’s have it done before Aunt Sally gets back.”
Jim sliced off the three discs in record time. And we turned the table back on its legs feeling sure the problem was solved.
“Heck,” said Jim heatedly.
For there was a worse wobble than ever. From whatever side you touched the table it teetered.
We got down on hands and knees and studied the situation.
“I think,” I offered, that you’ve got them on the slant. You can see each leg is sort of standing on tip toe.”
“It still shouldn’t wobble,” said Jim, giving it a nasty push.
“Measure them up again,” I said resolutely. “This time let me do the sawing. I’m shorter. I can see what I am doing better than you.”
Again we upturned the table. And after carefully measuring the leg lengths with the broom-handle, marking the length of the shortest leg on each of the others, I set to work and sawed off, net a thin wafer, as Jim had tried to do, but a good substantial chunk.
“We’ll have enough for croquinole.” muttered Jim, anxiously, as he watched me at work.
When Dee Dee, Aunt Sally’s little dog, scratched at the kitchen door we knew we were in for it. Aunt Sally pushed the door open and promptly dropped all her parcels.
“My grief,” she gasped.
“We were only trying to even off the legs,” said Jimmie eagerly. “You said you…”
“It isn’t the legs,” cried Aunt Sally brokenly. “It’s the top that has warped. You would never get them level by sawing the legs even.”
“Well, who ever would have thought of that?” exclaimed Jimmie indignantly. “Anybody would imagine that a table that wobbled had a short leg…”
“It’s never a short leg,” snorted Aunt Sally angrily. “It’s always a warped top. Anybody that knows anything about tables would know that.”
“Which teaches us,” I chimed in, “never to meddle with things we don’t know anything about.”
“Like tables?” said Jimmie. “Then what do we know about?”
“Oh, wars and things,” I sighed, putting the saw back on its hook in the pantry.
So we sorted the cranberries while Aunt Sally, with many a backward look at the sorely stunted table, mixed the pie crust on the cupboard edge.
And while the two pies were in the oven Jimmie and I went three doors south to Mr. Dimmick, the carpenter and cabinet-maker, and arranged with his wife for him to come up after supper and organize four new legs for Aunt Sally’s kitchen table.
Editor’s Notes: Moujiks are a term for Russian peasants.
“Redding up” is an old term meaning to wash up, or tidy.
Croquinole, or Crokinole, is a disc flicking board game from Canada.
By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, November 28, 1942.
“I’ve got the week-end shopping to do,” announced Jimmie Frise. “Want to come along?”
“Wait till I phone,” I said, “and see if I can do our family shopping, too.”
And I phoned and got a list of a few things the house required together with due warnings not to go and buy up a lot of silly things we didn’t need.
“You’d think,” I said to Jim, “women would be glad of a change.”
“Aw,” smiled Jim, “the Saturday shopping trip is the most delightful fixture of the housewife’s life. The market place is one of the oldest of human institutions. And in the modern city, where the market place is spread along miles and miles of shopping streets, it is still perhaps the greatest human institution.”
“In days gone by,” I offered, “it was in the market place that public opinion was formed. Nowadays, to form public opinion, you have to organize service clubs, like Rotary and Kiwanis, the Board of Trade and other business organizations.”
“And the trade unions, don’t forget,” added Jim, “and the churches. In the olden days, when the market place was the centre of the community, all they did in church was worship God.”
“I have the idea,” I submitted, “that as the market place gave way to rows and rows of shops, and men stopped coming to market and let their wives do all the shopping, public opinion began to lose its power.”
“Nonsense,” scoffed Jim. “There was never so much public opinion as there is now.”
“Nor was it ever more confused and formless,” I retorted. “In the time of King Charles, the yokels in the market places had more opinion that mattered than we have within half a mile in all directions from King and Yonge streets. They had so much that the king lost his head.”
“Puh,” said Jim, “you can always dramatize history. It was just a gang of Nazis that executed King Charles. That was the only time Britain ever had a dictatorship.”
“They had market places in the days of the Roman Empire,” I recounted, “and in those market places, a little bunch of agitators called Christians told their story and took possession of the whole earth. They had market places all across the ages that followed and there resulted the slow and patient destruction, by an ever maturing public opinion, of tyrants and masters and cruel government. In the palaces, the rulers gave forth their edicts. But the palaces fell to dust and the market places stayed on. In the monasteries and colleges and churches, the thinkers spoke and wrote with the sublime power of logic and intelligence. But what they spoke and wrote seemed silly in 50 years, even to their own successors, and the market places stayed on and flourished. For in the market places, the mass of mankind met and talked, free of all party or sect, because in the market place, there is no room for party or sect.”
To Form Public Opinion
“But they could go home with their vegetables in their arms,” pointed out Jim, “but with their prejudices and convictions still in their minds.”
“No, sir,” I stated, “in the market place you go to buy or sell. And to buy well or sell well, you can’t take into account your own personal opinions nor those of the man you deal with. A service club or a lodge or a union or a church, you join it to signify the opinions you already hold. It is a place in which not to change your opinions. But in the market place, new, strange and often disturbing opinions are to be met with. You are exposed to the ever-present danger of the germ of a new idea in the market place.”
“You’re just one of those,” accused Jimmie, “who try to see something noble and spiritual in sordid business.”
“Far from it,” I responded. “It is the way in which sordid modern business has robbed us of the market place that disturbs me. For it is the way modern business has cut all men off from one another so that most business is done without men ever meeting one another and sharing each other’s minds that has got us all adrift in a vast sea of trouble.”
“The world has got too big,” said Jim, “for market places. The market place we are heading for now, down on Bloor St., is 15 miles long and 60 feet wide.”
“And in no half mile of it,” I declared, “is public opinion the same. Sometimes, Jim, I feel awfully suspicious of Nature in connection with this war. I wonder sometimes if it isn’t Nature that flings us headlong at each other’s throats every once in a while. Because we are too numerous. She is always trying to cut us down in numbers, so that we can get together more easily. In the rest of the animal kingdom, whenever rabbits or pigeons or anything else grow too numerous, a plague gets loose among them and they are practically wiped out – all except the strongest and toughest. As rabbits grow more susceptible to plague, the more numerous they are, so do men grow more susceptible to war, the more numerous they are. Because they can’t get together in market places and form their opinions. They have no opinions. Then along comes a small gang with a powerful opinion – like the plague germ in rabbits -and away we all go into a dreadful war.”
“There might be something in it,” said Jimmie, as we neared the corner and could see ahead the principal shopping district of our neighborhood. “And I can’t think of any cure for it, unless it was made the civic duty of all men to go shopping with their wives.”
“That is an important idea, Jim,” I exclaimed. “The civic duty of all men to go shopping with their wives. And while the wives are shopping around the shelves, the men could gather in little neighborly groups and chat together. ….”
“The way it is now,” said Jim, “the weekend is given over to men to golf or go fishing. The one period of the week when men might get together, as neighbors, and exchange a few ideas is given over to escaping from their neighbors, and to the companionship of those they have chosen to be with.”
“Yet there seems to be quite a lot of men, Jim,” I said, as we reached the corner and looked over the throng of Saturday afternoon shoppers milling along. “Why, there are hundreds of men out with their wives.”
“I should say, then,” pronounced Jim, “that these men we see are full of civic virtue. These are our better fellow citizens.”
Men Who Go Shopping
And despite the fact that a little rain had started to fall, cold November rain, we stood on the corner, watching the crowds of shoppers hurrying past, with our eyes especially on the men, to see what manner of men they were.
There were plenty of middle-aged men and not a few men in their 30s. And here and there some quite young house husbands. 30 and under.
“There is one thing about the men in this shopping scene,” said Jim, a little doubtfully, “they do look a little hen-pecked. Don’t you think?”
“Well, not hen-pecked, exactly,” I submitted. “They just look like guys who can’t think of anything better to do.”
“Now that one there,” muttered Jim, as a young, rosy faced man in spectacles and with light red hair, passed by with arms full of parcels, “looks as if he were fond of his stomach. I can understand him coming shopping.”
“And that cadaverous bird,” I pointed out. “He looks as if he wouldn’t trust his wife with the money. Maybe he just comes along to pay the bill.”
“And that one,” checked Jim, as a thin, neat little man trotted anxiously past in the wake of his large, commanding wife, “is obviously just brought along to carry the parcels.”.
“Our theory,” I submitted, “is not upset in the least by these examples. It is the men who don’t want to come shopping who should be obliged by law to come to market.”
And upon this reflection, and the rain starting to come down in earnest, Jimmie and I stepped into the stream of shoppers and hustled along to the big store where Jimmie prefers, if not to buy all his supplies, at least to look over the vast array of provender and get some ideas as to what to buy from the smaller merchants whom he has known for years and who give you the feeling of having bought something rather than having popped something out of a slot.
“I’ll get my tea here,” said Jimmie, putting Rusty on the leash and picking up a basket from the basket rack. “I’ve got the tea coupons, I hope.”
And to our astonishment, he had the tea coupons sure enough, and we went and got the one precious pound of tea for Jim’s numerous family. And then we started exploring, after tying Rusty up in the vestibule. One thing about these big modern groceries is that there seems to be no end to their expansion. The next thing they will be selling is phonograph records and 49 cent novels; and then the drug business will really have to step out.
I had a basket, and we moved happily along the high banks of merchandise, I getting a new shoe brush, a bottle of ginger marmalade and a new kind of light rope clothes line I had never seen before that would come in very handy next summer for putting new bow lines on the rowboat and canoes, up at the cottage.
Jim collected oranges, two cauliflower, ketchup, a small bag of flour, a carton of salt, a peck of potatoes and so forth; and then we came to the canned goods. We love the canned goods. Not only their immense array and variety but the human comedy that goes on in their presence. It is delightful to edge slowly along past the high cliffs of brightly clad cans, noting all the endless variety of the things that can be bought already cooked, from vegetables to filet mignons, from carrots to pig’s tails; fish, flesh, fruit, of every description. But one of the best things about the canned goods section is a lady buying a can of anything. Jimmie and I have spent hours observing the ladies. They stand wrapt before a huge pile of one sort of canned goods. There are 50 cans, all the same, all containing the same thing, all the same size, the same brand, all the same price. Nothing, not even a fly speck, distinguishes one can from the other.
The Wrong Basket
But it is more than a lady can stand. Not easily does a lady give in to the triumph of modern business.
There she stands, baffled and troubled. She stares intently at the trim stack of, let us say, canned tomatoes; all the same brand, same size, alike as modern scientific perfection can make them. She picks one off the top and examines it. Then she puts it back and takes down its neighbor. This she sets back, carefully, on the pile, and removing two other cans to one side, selects one perilously from the second row.
She nearly takes this one. She almost gets it into her basket but her eye unwillingly strays back to the stack and she pauses. Fascinated, she stares again, returns the can she has selected to its place and, with still greater risk of upsetting the whole stack, takes one from the third row. This she studies intently and thoughtfully for a moment, then steps back and stands gazing with wide-awake intelligence at the whole stack.
Abruptly, she steps forward, sets the can she has in her hand resolutely back on the shelf and takes one, any one, from the top of the stack. This, with an air of great resolution, she drops into the basket; and with an air of tremendous accomplishment, she moves along to the next stack.
“It never fails,” breathed Jimmie, rejoicing.
“Maybe there is something about the solder, or the way the can is closed,” I suggested.
“No, no! They all do it,” gloated Jim.
And he reached down to pick up his basket so that we could proceed with our own affairs.
“Hey,” he said. “Where’s my basket?”
“That’s yours,” I assured him.
“No it isn’t,” declared Jim. “I didn’t buy any bread. And hey… where’s my TEA!!”
He was looking in the basket. There was no doubt of it. His precious pound of tea was gone.
“Why, somebody has picked up my basket by mistake,” he said, raising his voice in the hope of attracting the attention of the guilty party. Everybody around examined their baskets. But Jim’s was not among them.
“Let’s get to the turnstile, quick,” I advised. For I too like tea.
At the turnstile, we explained to all the young ladies what had happened, and inquired if anybody had found a pound of tea they didn’t belong to. But nothing of the sort had been reported.
Again we examined Jim’s basket. In in among other things, was a bag of sugar, about six pounds.
“Well,” said the head girl, “whoever has lost that sugar would probably be as anxious to get it back as you are the tea.”
So Jim took one aisle and I another and we cruised up and down, looking at every body’s basket, without any luck.
“Look here,” said Jim, very worried, “that was our two week’s ration of tea. Can I get any more, by explaining….?”
“Maybe if you wrote the Tea Controller,” suggested the girl.
“Was That My Sugar?”
So Jim took back all the stuff in the basket, and set each item back where it belonged, except the sugar, which he kept as hostage. And then refilled his basket with the oranges, ketchup, potatoes, cauliflower, etc. that he required. And very crestfallen, stood before the tea counter for a while, hoping somebody would restore his tea. And also before the sugar counter, hoping that the loser of the sugar would come with his complaint.
“Men,” said Jimmie, as we wended our way hopelessly back to the turnstile, “should never be allowed to go shopping. They are too sloppy. They pick up the wrong basket.”
“How do you know it was a man?” I inquired.
“No woman would pick up the wrong basket.” said Jim.
Our parcels were bagged up, all except the sugar, which Jim gave me to carry as he wished to lay no claim to it.
“Take your time,” he pleaded, “Don’t let’s be in a hurry. Let’s even hang around in front for a few minutes…”
As we came through the door, a lady from behind gave an impatient shove, and to my horror, the bag of sugar, balanced conspicuously on the top of my load, fell off and burst with a most horrible squash fair in a puddle on the rainy sidewalk.
“Was that my sugar?” cried the lady angrily.
She had a square package in her hand.
“Is that my tea?” inquired Jimmie, taking it.
I was trying to scoop what sugar was still dry into my hat, and at the same time chasing Rusty away from the widening pool of sweetness.
Everybody was sympathetic about the sugar, but the lady accused us of having picked up her basket; and we retorted by fetching witnesses to prove our basket had been picked up first, because we had gone all over the place trying to set the mistake right; whereas the lady had to admit that she had only discovered her mistake when she came to the counter a moment before.
So Jim got his tea. And the lady accepted as a compromise the three pounds I had salvaged in my hat, plus a pound each from Jimmie and me, which we would faithfully deliver to her house in a few minutes, from our own domestic supply.
“For after all,” said Jimmie eloquently, clutching his pound of tea firmly, “aren’t all in this war together?”
Editor’s Note: Receiving rationed goods during the war would require you to hand in ration coupon before receiving the product (it would be behind a counter that someone would have to get for you). This would explain why Jim was distressed while he was still shopping when he lost his tea, as the coupon was already spent, and why he could hold the sugar “hostage”.
“Wrapt” is an archaic spelling of “rapt”.
By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, August 29, 1942.
“Now I’ve got squirrel trouble,” announced Jimmie Frise indignantly.
“Chewed into your attic?” I sympathized.
“No,” said Jim. “It’s complicated. This squirrel has a feud on with my Irish water spaniel, Rusty. For about two hours every morning and two hours every evening, it teases Rusty almost to distraction.”
“Well, that’s not your trouble,” I pointed out. “That’s Rusty’s.”
“No, but the neighbors,” explained Jimmie. “They’re complaining about the row Rusty makes over the squirrel.”
“Okay, keep Rusty in,” I solved.
“You can’t keep a dog in all day,” protested Jim. “And anyway, the darn squirrel doesn’t even come around our place until it sees Rusty out.”
“Well, discipline your dog,” I advised. “Give him a spanking or two and he’ll soon quit bothering with squirrels.”
“Not Rusty,” declared Jim warmly. “This feud has been developing quietly for two or three years. Now it’s the biggest thing in Rusty’s life. It’s the biggest thing he has ever had in his life. He’s scratching at the door to get out the first thing in the morning. He races around the yard, checking over the ground to see if his enemy, the squirrel, has been around yet. Then he gives a couple of defiant barks and sits back to wait.”
“There’s the moment to discipline him,” I explained.
“Aw, you don’t know Rusty,” said Jim. “He’s eight years old. He’s a person now, not a dog. He has his rights and knows them. He knows he can bark if he likes. There is no law against a dog barking. Except to excess.”
“Then what happens?” I inquired.
Then Comes Trouble
“Well there sits Rusty, all on the alert,” described Jim, “and sure enough, in a few minutes, along comes this squirrel on the telephone wires, coming from the south.”
“A black squirrel?” I inquired.
“A mangy, middle-aged dusty sort of black squirrel,” said Jim. “He lives in some oak trees about a block to the south of us. Along the telephone wires he comes, a few feet at a time. And when he sees Rusty crouching and watching for him down at the foot of the apple tree he starts a queer rusty, sucking sort of sound which is squirrel for cursing.”
“You understand squirrel talk?” I asked.
“Then Rusty starts to bark,” said Jim. “He rushes forth barking up at the squirrel, who sits on the telephone wire, looking down at Rusty and emitting those nasty, wheezy sounds baring his teeth.”
“Naturally the neighbors would complain,” I submitted, “if Rusty keeps it up.”
“Keep it up?” cried Jim. “They go for an hour or more. You would think a squirrel had more to do than come and tease a dog.”
“Well, you’d think a dog had more to do than get all bothered by a black squirrel,” I countered.
“Do the neighbors blame the black squirrel for inciting the row?” demanded Jimmie. “Not they. They blame it all on Rusty.”
“Aw, Jim,” I laughed, “don’t be silly. Either train your dog to keep quiet or get rid of the squirrel.”
“I’ve heaved rocks at the squirrel,” confessed Jim, “with only this result: that the squirrel thinks I’m in the game now too. And Rusty regards my actions as legal confirmation of his own attitude.”
“Haven’t you got an air rifle?” I inquired quietly.
“They’re illegal in the city,” said Jim, “and anyway, black squirrels are game and protected by law.”
“Get the hose after it,” I suggested.
“You don’t know black squirrels,” said Jim “They are the hardest animal in the world to snub. The more you disturb them, the more pleased they are. This blame squirrel sits on the telephone wires until he has got Rusty frothing at the mouth. Then he comes a little farther along the wire until he can take a jump on to the apple tree. Rusty regard this tree as sacred to him. It is his altar. His property. In all the world, Rusty makes claim to only one thing, and that’s our apple tree.”
“I can understand a dog,” I admitted.
“Well, sir,” went on Jim, “teetering and crouching on that telephone wire, the squirrel measures the four-foot jump to the nearest branch of the tree. Rusty, in a frenzy of excitement below, and at the same time trying to hold himself in control in the hope that the squirrel will miss the jump, alternates between almost insane rushing back and forth and stopping all of a quiver to watch the leap. It is like us at the circus, when the acrobats are ready to jump. We don’t know whether to look or not to look.”
“So the squirrel jumps?” I egged.
“And then Rusty really goes nuts,” said Jim. “For there is the squirrel up his sacred tree, running around it gaily, as if the tree belonged to him: running up to the topmost branches, darting down the trunk almost to within one jump of Rusty.”
“The poor neighbors,” I reminded.
“Well, after about 15 minutes,” related Jim, “Rusty gets completely exhausted. And he quiets down and goes some little distance from the tree and sits down. He knows the squirrel can’t jump back to the telephone wire. He knows that it has to come down the trunk and make a dash for the fence.”
“Why doesn’t he sit at the foot of the tree and out-wait the squirrel?” I inquired.
“He has tried it hundreds of times,” said Jim, “and the squirrel always wins because somebody comes and calls Rusty to supper.”
“Is there any hope of Rusty catching the squirrel at least?” I inquired. “The law of averages is on his side now.”
“No,” said Jim, “he waits and waits and finally he lies down, with his eyes on the tree. Then the squirrel, tired of the game, starts experimentally coming down the trunk. If Rusty leaps up too soon, he just retreats up the tree and sizzles derision down on Rusty’s head. When Rusty least expects it, the squirrel makes the jump, rushes across the garden, up the fence, back up a telephone pole and on to the wire again, with Rusty one jump behind. And, after a few choice insults, retires south to his own domain.”
“Does this go on every day?” I asked.
“The neighbors have complained to the police,” said Jim, “and the police have given me warning.”
“Did you ask them if you could dispose of the squirrel?” I demanded.
“All they said was, it was illegal to use firearms or air rifles within the city limits,” said Jim.
“They never mentioned catapults?” I pursued.
“By jingo, no!” cried Jim.
“Okay,” I exclaimed exultantly. “Then I’ll help you deal with that squirrel.”
For wrapped spirally around one of my fishing rod cases is an old piece of inner tubes too small to be remembered for the salvage drive, but not too small to be remembered when you want a catapult, after 40 years.
And in Jimmie’s apple tree we found perfect crotch and from an old boot’s tongue we cut the perfect patch. And in a matter of half hour, we had as fine a catapult anybody ever saw.
“I don’t think,” I suggested, “that we should shoot stones. Or any hard objects. There are too many houses and garages around. I never broke a window when I was a boy. I would hate to break a window with a catapult at my age.”
“We are rendering a public service,” declared Jimmie, “in getting rid of this squirrel. Get rid of that beast, and Rusty becomes once more the honest, kindly human being he has always been.”
The apples on Jim’s tree have long since gone back to nature. They are small and runty and woody in texture and sour to taste. Not even the kids eat them. I tried one in the patch of the catapult and let drive with up into the leafy solidity of the apple tree.
“Whee,” said Jim. “Perfect.”
“And if I hit the squirrel,” I added, “with a nice, smooth, round apple, it won’t really injure it. It will just give it a hint.”
Rusty Ready For Battle
Rusty who had been looked in the kitchen until the preparations for battle were complete, came out on the dead run, ran excitedly around the garden smelling the tree and in the fence corners until he was satisfied with whatever report the squirrel had left its recent visits.
Then he stood at the wire gate at the back of the garden and emitted couple of defiant hoarse barks.
“See?” said Jim. “No harm in that.”
So we sat in the garden chairs and Rusty took up a position under the apple tree, watching with lifted muzzle to the south along the telephone wires.
Suddenly Rusty whined.
And in the distance, I could see the squirrel running in short stops and starts, high on the telephone wire, heading our way.
“Well, I’ll be jiggered,” I confessed.
Rusty crouched in the corner of the garden, his whole body shaking as with an ague. The squirrel arrived overhead, and detecting Rusty hiding below let loose a volley of wheezy, sucking and chattering abuse.
Rusty went berserk. He barked, whirled, leaped, like a dervish, letting loose a veritable clamor of sound.
“Okay,” said Jim, signalling. “Let him have it.”
I stood up and picked a nice, small, smooth apple about the size of a ping-pong ball.
Fitting it snugly in the patch of the catapult, a drew a long stretch.
“Ffffttt,” went the catapult, and the apple sped through the air, passing within about six inches of the swearing black squirrel.
With the greatest of ease, through the distance was nearer seven feet than four from where he was at the time, the squirrel leaped and soared into the apple tree.
“Hey,” came a distant shout in a loud, angry voice. “Hey you.”
“Psssst,” warned Jimmie, signalling me to hide the catapult.
A Visitor Arrives
And up the back gate, in the paved lane, rode our neighbourhood policeman, on a bicycle.
“Have you seen any kids throwing apples?” he demanded, glaring suspiciously at the apples on the ground.
“Kids? Apples?” I requested politely.
“Some kids throwing apples,” announced the cop, angrily, “and one hit me square on the back of the neck.”
“We certainly haven’t seen any kids around here,” said Jimmie.
But Rusty, who now discerned the squirrel in the lower branches of the tree, began to go into hysterics.
“Here, shut up,” cried Jim, leaping for him.
“Ho,” said the cop, “that’s the dog they are complaining of, isn’t it?”
Rusty, with an audience of three, went into a terrific spin. He Frothed. He leaped half way up the trunk. He nearly strangled to death, he barked so hard.
“What’s he got up there?” demanded the policeman, getting off his bike and walking in to look up the tree.
The squirrel, with bared teeth and mouth all puckered up, was giving us a fine going over.
In my excitement, being unable to push the catapult in my trouser pocket, I had stuffed it down the back of my pants. And before I realized the situation, the cop had seen the weapon and had quietly reached and withdrawn it.
“So?” he said, eyeing me and the catapult.
He reached down and selected a nice shiny apple.
Setting his legs wide apart, he drew a long stretch and let the apple fly up into the tree. It hit the branch on which the squirrel was squatting, directly under the beast, and it burst into a flying explosion of juicy fragments that hissed and ripped amid the leaves all about the squirrel.
With all bravado gone, the squirrel with extraordinary alacrity, leaped unerringly from the topmost branch of the apple tree back on to the telephone wire. So eager was it to get away, it never even had to balance itself when it hit the wire. It kept right on going south until it was out of sight.
“That’s done it,” said Jim, with deep satisfaction.
“You could be pinched,” said the policeman, “For shooting a catapult in the city.”
“You shot it,” I pointed out.
“It’s a dandy,” said the cop, stretching it, and trying another apple in it. He let it go up through the tree. We heard a distant cluck as if it had hit a car top.
“Nix,” said Jimmie sharply.
The policeman hastily shoved the catapult down the back of his pants.
“I’ll have to confiscate this,” he said sternly.
And he stalked over and got on his bicycle.
Rusty, Jimmie and I went over and saw him off the premises in the friendliest fashion.
He rode with the majestic slowness of the law up the lane until he was nearly out of sight. Then he bent over the handlebars and put on speed.
“Yeah,” said Jim. “He’s got a catapult. Now he and his buddies will be shooting with it all night.”
Editor’s Note: A catapult was common slang for what we would now call a slingshot.