The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 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.

“Old Soldiers Never Die”

By Greg Clark, July 4, 1942

“This is Army Week,” announced Jimmie Frise, “and about the best way we could honor the army would be by joining it.”

“Not active,” I protested. “We’re too old to go active.”

“I mean the reserve army,” stated Jim. “They’ll take us up to almost any age if we’re fit.”

“How about that hand of yours?” I demanded. “Do you realize it’s 25 years since you lost part of that hand at the battle of Vimy? Be your age, Jim.”

“It’s still a good hand,” said Jim indignantly. “It can still hold the front end of a shotgun that knocks down five ducks to your one.”

“The reserve army isn’t for old crocks,” I insisted. “It Is for men in fit physical condition who are not quite fit enough for active service, and for all those not eligible for active service by reason of their age, family or business circumstances; or any other reason. But it is not an assemblage of old crocks. Because one of these fine days, if an attack comes on our shores, our reserve army is going to be called out very active indeed.”

“Well, you’re not afraid of a little action are you?” snorted Jim.

“Sir,” I said hotly. “I am one of the few Canadians who were in the retreat to Dunkirk.”

“Yah,” said Jim. “But you didn’t come off at Dunkirk: you came off at Boulogne.”

“Well, I was in the big skedaddle, anyway,” I said very hurt. “And I ought to know about how useful a bird of my age is in modern warfare. I tell you that it would be no picnic, you and me fighting up in Labrador or Alaska or somewhere. You’re as old as you feel, I always say. And some days, we’d be fighting fools. But other days, we’d have to be carried with the rest of the baggage.”

“Canada has been mighty sweet to us. It’s given us a grand time. We’ve had fun for 50 years. I don’t know a better way of squaring our debt to the rocks and rivers and lakes and forests of Canada, not to mention her cities, and towns and villages in which we have lived and through which we have joyously passed in our travels, than to conk out behind some rock in Labrador of Alaska, with a neat little rifle in our hands and 10 nicks filed in the butt.”

“Common sense ought to enter into this reserve army thing,” I asserted. “If 15 per cent of a reserve unit consists of old billy goats full of vim but not much vigor, they are going to be an awful burden on the unit when it comes to fast moving and hard fighting. Everybody admires an old timer trying to do his bit in the army. All the younger fellows would march slower for us. They’d weary themselves trying to carry our packs. They’d waste time trying to rescue us if we were wounded.”

Harder Than Fighting

“We could be used for traffic control, police duty and odd jobs around the camps,” declared Jim. “The main thing is – get in. All these problems will have been worked out by the reserve units, you can bet. They’ll know what to do with us. Probably they have some plan all ready to put in operation the minute the unit is called, by which they will weed us out and take only the younger men. And leave us at home to mind the armories.”

“Then what’s the use of us getting in.” I demanded, if it is only for show and pretense?”

“Listen, mister,” stated Jimmie, “if war comes to Canada, it will be far better to be even a half-baked soldier than a panic-stricken refugee. And you’re the boy that should know it.”

“I guess you’re right,” I muttered, thinking of Brussels and Lille and Arras and Amiens and all the towns I had seen two years ago, almost to the day, when the middle-aged and elderly men of France, Belgium and Holland had been looking for wheelbarrows for somebody to push them in along the shrieking roads of Flanders.

“Bad luck,” invoked Jimmie, “on the house that does not entertain a soldier to dinner this week, this Army Week! Bad luck on the prince of good fellows amongst us who does not invite a soldier friend to lunch with him this week, even if he has to go out of his way to do it; even if he has to hunt through the telephone book! The itch, the hay fever and the eczema on all who have no soldier of their own, if they fail this week to write that long-forgotten letter to some old chum, old friend, old enemy who is abroad with the Canadians in the ends of the world today! Dandruff, hangnails and a mote in the eye of all who fail to send off a parcel to some dim forgotten friend in the army overseas! For this is Army Week, and we’ve got to remember the boys, here and abroad, until our conscience wakes up and begins to hurt, like a little, far off toothache.”

“If our army had been shot to pieces in battle,” I surmised, “we’d be thinking of them hour by hour.”

“But our army has done a far harder thing than fight a battle,” declared Jim. “In a few weeks, our army will be three years old. By this time, in the old war, I had been wounded and sent back to England, and you were a frost-bitten old campaigner waiting for your captaincy to come through. By this time, in the old war, the Battle of the Somme was over and the newspapers of Canada had printed whole black pages of casualties. But that was easy, compared with what our army has done so far. For they have soldiered with never a glimpse of an enemy. They are like hockey players who practise day after day, month after month, with never a game. Yet they can’t get fed up. They can’t quit the team and go back to work. No, sir! They’ve got to go right on practising hockey, full of pep, like professionals. They’ve got to keep the team together, but never a game played.”

“I hadn’t thought of it that way,” I mumbled.

“It’s like having a car,” went on Jim, “which you wash and polish and open and shut the door and get into it and get out of it. But you never go any place in it.”

“Tough,” I admitted.

“It’s like being a skilled mechanic, but the factory hasn’t opened for business yet.” said Jim. “It’s like being a doctor, but you can’t get a practice. It is like having worked up an appetite, with no sign of supper. It’s like being unemployed.”

“We don’t realize,” I confessed.

To Join the Reserve

“Our army,” declared Jim, “has given a demonstration of morale that may stand as one of the greatest exhibitions of intelligent guts in history. Most men can fight. Most men like fighting. But to stand on the edge of a fight month by month, year by year, a fight in which you are personally concerned, a fight in which you, your friends and your family are being hurt – and still keep your shirt on takes a kind of courage that goes far, far deeper than the courage to step into the fight.”

“Maybe we needed Army Week?” I said. “Maybe it will take a week for that little fact to sink in.”

“You see,” said Jim, “the navy has been in the fight from the drop of the hat. The air force has performed some of the greatest miracles in history. The army has had to stand back, grinding its teeth. But its day will come. When a ship goes forth, it has to return to a port. When a plane goes up, it has to have a landing ground to come back on. But from the ship, the army can wade ashore. And from the plane, the army can drop by parachute. It is the army that does the trick. It is the army that takes.”

“Long live the army,” I said.

“God bless the army,” said Jim.

“I guess there is nothing for it,” I stated, “but for us to get into the reserve. Even to have a second-rate right to wear that uniform is an honor no man can dare to miss.”

“When will we find out about it?” inquired Jim, rising to his feet and reaching for his hat.

“How about now?” I agreed.

So, though it was only seven blocks to the armories, Jimmie and I went out and caught the street car.

“Don’t let’s get up there puffing,” advised Jim.

We had no more than sat down before the car, at the text block, took aboard quite a crowd of people.

And two young ladies came and stood beside our seat, cheerily chatting.

“Hrrmmpph,” I suggested to Jim, indicating the young ladies.

“Eh?” whispered Jim.

“Remember,” I whispered back. “a couple of gallant young sprigs like us must act the part. Get up and give your seat to the lady.”

“Of course!” cried Jimmie, rising very athletic and lifting his hat in the manner of 1912.

For it must be confessed, for the past few years, Jimmie and I have both been a little short-sighted on street cars – except for ladies of our own age, or older.

With lithe and straight-backed alacrity, Jimmie and I got out of the narrow little pew, flourishing our hats elegantly and bowing.

“No, no, no, no,” exclaimed the girls with great embarrassment. “No, no, no, sir.”

One of them even put her hand on my shoulder and tried to press me back in the seat.

“Please,” she said, as though speaking either to a little boy or to an elderly person, “please sit down, now; don’t be silly. We can stand.”

But I was out of the seat and the two of us very proudly stood aside.

The girls were a little flustered, and obviously did not want to take the seats at all, when one of them called out:

“Oh, Uncle Joe! Why, there’s Uncle Joe.”

Two soldiers were standing down the aisle, hanging grimly to the uprights. They were old soldiers. They had ribbons. They were in battle dress. And in the battle dress, they sagged.

“Huh?” said one of them, turning.

“Uncle Joe, here’s a seat for you,” called one of the pretty young ladies.

They Looked Pretty Tired

Without hesitation, Uncle Joe came for it.

And his comrade, another old-timer, followed smartly

“Hello, Sis,” cried Uncle Joe genially.

“Take this seat,” urged the young lady, pulling at Uncle Joe’s arm.

“Not at all,” said Uncle Joe. “Sit down, girls.”

“How about those blisters?” demanded Sis archly.

“Aaaaaah,” said Uncle Joe, collapsing into the seat without another struggle. “Hey, Bill, sit down here.”

“Aaaaaah,” echoed Bill the other old boy. “It isn’t blisters with me. It’s chafe. This battle dress is made of sandpaper.”

The girls had their backs to us now and the four of them, the two old soldiers and the girls, went into a jolly huddle.

“Next stop, Jim,” I said, pulling the bell cord.

“Uncle Bill,” Sis was explaining to her girl friend, said he was 49 when he really was 53. It isn’t the colonel that is finding him out. It’s his feet.”

And to mixed laughter of men and girls, Jimmie and I pushed down the aisle and got off.

“How old,” I asked Jim, as we turned north towards the armories, “would you figure those old timers to be?”

“About our age,” said Jim.

“They looked older,” I stated.

“The uniform makes them look older,” explained Jim. “Battle dress is funny. It makes a young soldier look younger and an old soldier look older.”

“They looked pretty tired,” I submitted, as we walked smartly in step up the avenue.

“They’ve probably been on route march down town,” said Jim.

“I guess that battle dress is kind of chafey,” I supposed.

“I wonder if they’ll let you wear your own boots in the reserve army?” wondered Jim.

In step, with our backs stiff, we marched across the cinders to the side door of the Armories. On duty at the gate, his hands behind his back, his rotund figure showing noticeably in front of his battle dress, an old soldier was standing. He looked a good 60.

“Good-morning,” said Jim. “We were going to make some inquiries about the reserve army.”

“Sure, boys,” said the soldier. “I’ll show the way. Were you thinking of joining up?”

“We’ll, we’re both old soldiers,” I explained. “And we thought …”

“What’s your age?” asked the weaponless sentry.

We told him.

“Ah, ah,” he said, halting. “Fifty is the top limit.”

“I suppose you’re only 49?” I demanded.

“As a matter of fact, I’m only 48,” said the sentry. “Never say 49. They always look up at you, if you say 49. We all say 49 if nobody tips us off. The thing to say is 48 or even 46, and then the officer never even looks up from writing.”

“Don’t they ask for your birth certificate?” inquired Jim.

“Say, listen,” said the sentry, indignantly. “The reserve army is too honorable to pull any dirty tricks like that. What kind of work have you been doing, by the way?”

If You’re Past the Age

He looked us over narrowly, and felt my muscles and gave Jim a little poke in the stomach. Jim hasn’t much of a one, but what there is of it is round, like a football and those tall, thin men like Jimmie show it.

We explained that we were office men, writers, desk men.

“Mmmmmm,” he said, turning me around and feeling my back muscles which protrude just a little over my kidneys. “What exercise do you take?”

“Fishing, shooting,” I said. “Outdoor …”

“Somebody rows the boat for you?” enquired the sentry.

“I bet I’m nearly 10 years younger than you,” I said a little warmly.

“Feel this,” said the sentry, bending his arm and lowering his biceps. “Hey, hit me here, hard as you like.”

He protruded his chest at me.

“I tell you, boys,” he said, leading us back towards the entrance. “They want men in the reserve in the worst way, but you’re over the age limit, and the only way you can get in, if you’re past the age, is to look and feel under the age. Now, me, I’m a carpenter. I played soccer until I was 40. My tool kit weighs 60 pounds. I carried it every day for 30 years.”

“By the way,” I asked, “does that battle dress chafe?”

“Well, it isn’t exactly silk,” said the sentry.

“And how about those army boots?” inquired Jim. “Do they give you blisters?

“The Canadian army boots are the best of any army’s in the world,” recited the sentry. “Of course, if you’ve been wearing silk socks and wearing itsy-bitsy dancing slippers all your life …”

“Look here,” I cut him off. “I told you we were old soldiers.”

“Well, you don’t look it,” said the sentry kindly. “What have you been doing with yourselves the last 20 years?”

“Good-day,” I said, Jimmie and I marching off.

“I tell you what,” called the old boy after us. “You go into training for a few weeks, walk an hour every night, row your own boat when you go fishing, eat sparingly, get regular sleep…”

But Jimmie and I pretended we didn’t hear him.

“Let’s walk back to the office,” said Jim. “It won’t matter if we’re puffing when we get back there.”

And on Bay St., there was a big parade before the City Hall, and a band began playing, and the crowds cheered, and the sound, the strangest, most moving, most heart-meeting sound in all the world smote our ears.

The sound of men’s feet, marching.


Editor’s Note: This is the first story I’ve ever seen where it is admitted that Jim has a wounded hand.

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