The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1947 Page 1 of 4

A Bird in the Hand

I was on him like a flash, and had my hat on top of him before you could say Jim Frise.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by Jim Frise, March 8, 1947.

“Dickie,” announced Jimmie Frise hollowly, “is sick.”

“Dickie who?” I inquired, alarmed.

“The canary,” explained Jim. “He hasn’t uttered a peep for a month.”

“How long have you had him?” I asked.

“Six years,” said Jim. “Six happy, cheery years.”

“Well, heck,” I submitted, “you can’t keep a canary forever. Probably he’s just come to the end of his time. He’s about to pop off.”

“Don’t say that!” snapped Jim indignantly. “That little bird is practically a member of my family.”

“You people,” I scoffed, “who carry sentimentality for animals and birds to silly extremes make me sick. If all the love and affection lavished on dogs and cats and birds were directed to the human race instead, this world would be a far warmer place for a great many neglected people.”

“Dickie,” stated Jim as if he hadn’t heard me, “is a great little fellow. He’s brought music and gaiety into the house, winter, summer, fair weather and foul. He doesn’t shut up shop, like common birds, as soon as spring’s gone. He sings the whole year through. Until now!”

Jim gazed gloomily out the window.

“Aw, for Pete’s sake!” I cried cheerfully, “you can replace him for six bucks. You can get another so like him that you can’t tell the…”

Jim whirled on me angrily.

“Kindly don’t talk,” he grated, “about something you know nothing about. Some people are color blind. Some people are tone deaf. And there are people in this world who are incapable of true, affection for small and helpless creatures.”

“I like dogs,” I protested, “but I don’t elevate them to human stature. I keep them in their place, I’ve seen people hugging dogs. I’ve actually seen people KISS dogs!”

“I’ve often felt,” said Jim sadly, “like kissing Dickie. Often, when he’s in one of his frenzies of song, I’ve been so lifted out of myself that I’ve jumped up from reading or whatever I was doing, and gone over and put my arms around his cage.”

“Huh!” I laughed. “Cage! You love Dickie but you keep him in jail. A pitiful little prisoner…”

“Now, look here!” snarled Jimmie.

“Of all the muddled and perverse forms of affection I ever heard of,” I pursued relentlessly, “loving a canary that you keep imprisoned every day, every hour of his poor little life!”

“We don’t keep him a prisoner,” declared Jim hotly. “Every day he is let out of his cage and he flies around the house in complete freedom. But would he leave us? Never!”

“Probably,” I suggested helpfully, “while you’ve let him fly all over the house, he’s picked up something that has poisoned him. Maybe he’s swallowed a pill, or possibly a needle.”

“Good heavens!” gasped Jim, jumping up.

“Ah, you see?” I followed heartily. “Possibly the poor little thing has swallowed a sharp glass bead. Or maybe has taken a sip out of a dish of cleaning fluid or something…”

“I’m going straight home!” declared Jim, “I’m going to rush him up to a pet shop I know. There’s a specialist there…”

“This is what comes,” I hung on, “of trying to make a human being out of a dumb animal. You let the helpless little thing have the run of your home. Sure! You love it. But what kind of love is it to expose a defenseless creature to all the perils of the modern home?”

“I’ll take him straight to the specialist,” muttered Jim, getting into his overcoat.

“There’s probably little can be done,” I sympathized, “for a bird that’s been poisoned. They’re so fragile and small. If it hasn’t sung for a month, as you say, it’s probably too far gone. If you look around the pet shop while you’re there, you will likely find the exact replica of Dickie…”

“You’re not coming, are you?” demanded Jim, seeing me up getting my coat on too.

“Certainly,” I said. “I’m not the kind that would ignore a friend in trouble – even a trifle like a sick canary.”

“I’d prefer…” said Jim, hurrying out the door.

But I could see the poor chap was really perturbed. And I followed on his heels.

“The beauty about canaries,” I pointed out, as we strode down to the parking lot, “is, they are all very much alike, you can’t tell one from the other. Now, if you lose a dog…”

“I’m not losing Dickie,” asserted Jim, lengthening his pace.

“Dogs,” I went on, just to take his mind off his worries, “are individuals. No two dogs are alike, in temperament. When you lose a dog, I can understand a certain amount of personal grief. But canaries, don’t you see, are much lower in the scale than dogs. A bird has practically no brains at all. Therefore it can’t have personality. A bird, for example, is incapable of feeling affection…”

Jim swung the car door open and flung himself inside. I joined him.

“Look,” said Jim, quietly, “I’ll tell you about Dickie. The time we got him, we had a lot of sickness in the house. A lot of sickness and a lot of trouble. It was gloomy. Now, I forget just how we happened to think of the bird. But somehow, Dickie took up his stand by the living room windows of the house. And I tell you – it wasn’t a day, it was hardly an hour, until that bird had transfigured our house. They say new birds don’t sing for a few days, until they get accustomed to the new environment. You say birds have no brains?”

“Everybody knows that,” I agreed.

“Well, then,” demanded Jim fiercely, “how did that bird know, the minute he got into my house, that he was needed, that he had to sing…!”

“Just coincidence,” I murmured.

“Ah,” ignored Jim. “He started to sing. And the sick ones started to sit up and take notice. And the tired and weary ones began to smile and cheer up. And Dickie sang and sang and fairly yelled. He hopped around, cheering through the bars as if he were trying to single each of us out for a special song…”

“What imagination can do!” I chuckled.

“In two days,” cried Jim, “he had sung us all into happiness again. In a week, he was the treasured darling. In a month, he was the king of the house. THAT’S the bird you say you can pick up three for a dime!”

“A dollar apiece, wholesale, probably,” I corrected.

“Let’s not talk about it,” muttered Jim.

So we reached his house and went in. Dickie was in his cage. A kind of a dowdy looking yellow bird, with random dark markings. Just a tired, aging canary to my eye. But I decided not to air my opinion at the moment.

“I’ll take him,” said Jim, “in a paper bag. That will be warmer than the cage.”

He got a paper bag of the size half a dozen oranges come in. Dickie made no resistance when Jim reached into his cage and picked him off the perch. He emitted one hoarse cheep as Jim slid him into the bag, and wrung the paper around to make a sort of neck. The bag ballooned out with the air in it. Dickie fluttered around inside.

“The air in there,” explained Jim, “will stay at the house temperature for the time it takes us to reach the pet shop.”

We went back out to the car and I offered to hold Dickie on my lap.

“No,” said Jim, “he’ll be less, frightened right back there on the back seat.”

And he placed the bag tenderly on the cushions.

“This specialist,” said Jim, as we drove off, “is a wonderful man with birds…”

And he regaled me with a lot of optimistic details about some gnarled little Englishman, an ex-sailor, who ran the pet shop.

We were just nicely into the business district when I happened to hear, behind me, a curious thrrripp- thrrripp! of wings. And I turned in time to see Dickie, loose in the car, flit out the slightly opened window.

“Jim!” I bellowed. “Dickie’s loose…!”

Well, sir, it was quite a chase. We got parked and ran back. And sure enough, there was Dickie perched up on a swinging signboard over a shop entrance. Three or four ladies were stopped watching.

“Dickie!” called Jim in a high, falsetto voice. “Pffft! Peeeep! Dickie!”

He held his hand up toward the scared and chilly looking bird.

But Dickie just hunched himself, and turned his head sideways to look in a dazed fashion at the enormous wide moving world around him.

“Oh, he’ll perish!” cried one of the ladies.

“Jim, get him moving,” I commanded. “Keep him on the go, or the cold will finish him.”

Jim threw his hat up at Dickie, who immediately flew to another hanging signboard; a higher one.

“There,” snarled Jim. “You’ll drive him up to the roofs and that’ll be the end of him…”

“I didn’t do it!” I protested hotly.

By now, a dozen ladies, half a dozen men and 20 kids had gathered around us.

“I’ll get the people who live above the shop,” offered a lady, “to scare him down.”

Heads came out of the windows above Dickie a moment later and away flew the little bird in fright. He went straight at a brightly lighted Neon sign.

He struck it.

And fluttering, he fell to the pavement.

I was on him like a flash, and had my hat on top of him before you could say Jim Frise.

“Good!” yelled Jim, shoving through the moiling crowd. “Let me reach under…”

“No, no!” I cried. “You’ll crush every bone in his poor little body. You go and get the bag out of the car and I’ll just guard him right here…”

“Okay,” puffed Jim, shoving through the crowd.

Now, if there is anything that excites a crowd, it is the sight of a gentleman squatted down on the pavement with something hidden under his hat.

What had been, to start with, a couple of dozen idle passersby became, in an instant, a shoving, heaving crowd. From stores up and down the street they came on the gallop. Everybody behind shouted to know what the- excitement was. And those in the inner circle shouted that it was a man with a canary under his hat,

But all THAT did was make those in the outer circumference fight all the harder to get inside the crowd until I was in danger of being crushed to death. I had to bellow at the top of my lungs and take a few sharp jabs at the legs nearest me, when I heard the voice of authority.

It was the police.

“Here, what’s this?” he demanded. “Break it up! Break it up!”

But when a policeman joins a mob, that only attracts more. The fact is, traffic began to be tied up. I heard car scrape to a stop. Horns began to toot impatiently, both above and below.

The cop got through to where he could look down on me.

“What are you doing?” he demanded.

“I’ve got a canary” I explained up. “If you can make a lane through this mob, my friend with a paper bag can…”

At the moment, a sound rose loud and fierce above the noises of the crowd. It was the savage horn of a car, some little distance up the street, coming at a furious clip. And almost simultaneous with the roar of the horn came the screech of brakes, cries of fright, the furious racing of an engine – as though the car were backing – and then a loud, thunderous crash.

The cop burst his way through the crowd toward the racket. Another car, and then another, came roaring down the street.

My crowd melted as though struck by a tornado. I heard strong shouts.

“Grab them! Grab him! Gunmen! Hold-up men.”

Occupied as I was, I did not see what was transpiring. But Jim, freed of the crowd, came puffing; and he had Dickie in the bag in a jiffy.

“It’s gunmen!” Jim gasped. “They were driving hell bent down the street until our crowd stopped them! The cops have got them…!”

“Why, Jim!” I cried. “Maybe there’s a reward for them! Maybe they’re desperate characters and a thousand dollars reward for them! In that case, it was me that created the crowd. It was MY crowd that blocked their escape and enabled the cops to capture them. Wait till I get in there and see the cops…”

“It was WHOSE crowd?” demanded Jim, stepping in front of me. “It was WHO created the crowd?”

“Why… me!” I gulped.

“It was DICKIE!” shouted Jim, clutching the paper bag to his bosom tenderly.

So we drove a block farther to the pet shop where we went in and found the little gnarled Englishman. We revealed Dickie to him from within the paper bag, at the same time telling him, with great gusto, the story of how Dickie had been instrumental in the capture of two fleeing bandits.

“Well, well, WELL!” said the little old sailor, picking Dickie up in his knotted hand.

“Well, well, WELL!” said the little old sailor, picking Dickie up in his knotted hand, feeling him roughly over the wishbone and giblets, and then tossing him in the air.

Dickie flew frantically about the shop, past all the cages full of singing birds, the budges, the parrots. He took up his stance on the topmost row of cages, leaned back and burst into ecstatic song.

“There y’are, see?” said the specialist. “All ‘e needed was a little excitement!”

Juniper Junction – 02/26/47

February 26, 1947

Always Answer the Phone

“Look,” warned Jim, “now don’t make a move! We are NOT going to answer the blame thing.”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by Jim Frise, February 22, 1947.

“PAY NO ATTENTION!” commanded Jimmie Frise cheerfully.

The telephone continued to ring.

“Don’t answer!” repeated Jim firmly. “Ignore it!” And he relaxed luxuriously in his easy chair by the living room window.

The phone rang again, steadily, insistently.

“Is it somebody you are avoiding…?” I inquired.

“No, no,” said Jim airily. “But I’ve just been thinking about these darn telephones lately. Why should we always jump up, as if we were shot, every time the telephone rings?”

It continued to ring. I sat forward on the edge of my chair and looked out towards the hall where the telephone was.

“Now, now, relax,” chuckled Jim. “I know it’s hard. We’ve been trained for years to jump like jack rabbits every time that silly bell barks at us. But relax, relax.”

“Well,” I puzzled, leaning back in my chair, “aren’t you going to answer it sooner or later?”

“No,” replied Jim cheerily, crossing his legs. “I’m not. I’m simply not going to notice it. For once, I’m going to be a man, not a monkey.”

The telephone ceased ringing abruptly.

“There, you see!” cried Jim, delighted. “It was probably just somebody with nothing else to do. Probably somebody wanting one of the kids, anyway. And they’re all out.”

Suddenly, the phone started ringing again. I half rose from my chair.

“Look,” warned Jim, “now don’t make a move! This is a matter of principle. This is a struggle. We are NOT going to answer the blame thing.”

“How can we talk with that bell yelling at us?” I pleaded. “Answer it and get it over with…”

“Heh, heh, heh,” said Jim, languidly rising. “I’ll fix it.”

And he tore a corner off a magazine cover on the table and went out in the hall. I heard the bell go suddenly soft. Jim had plugged the bell with a squib of paper.

“There,” sighed Jim, returning and sagging back into his easy chair. “Now let her buzz. What were you saying, there, a few moments ago…?”

I couldn’t remember.

“You see?” expounded Jim. “The telephone interrupts a conversation. And now we can’t remember what we were talking about before the rude interruption. I tell you, the telephone has got to be put in its place. Here we are, a couple of decent, respectable citizens, quietly chatting in my living room, when all of a sudden, the phone rings. Some stranger, somebody maybe we never heard of before, wants to intrude on our privacy, our comfort. And what are we supposed to do? We’re supposed to leap obediently to our feet, drop whatever we are doing, forget what we are talking about – and rush over at the beck and call of some dope who wants to know if we would like to buy theatre tickets for some benefit concert….!”

Out in the hall, the muzzled phone buzzed, buzzed, buzzed.

“Determined person,” I muttered, “whoever it is.”

“Actually,” confessed Jim, “I’m just as uneasy as you are right now. The long training of the years has got me in its grip just the way it has you and everybody else in this city. In this country. In fact, in the whole world, wherever telephones are used. In China, probably.”

Buzz….Buzz…. Buzz.

“It’s instinctive in us,” went on Jim reflectively. “Instinct. Yet the telephone is not a half century old. In a half century, our very instincts have been tampered with. This goes to show you just how easily human instinct can be brought into subjection.”

The buzzing ceased abruptly.

“Have you no curiosity,” I demanded, “as to who that might have been? How do you know that wasn’t some important message from some member of your family? Maybe somebody is ill…”

“To tell you the truth,” admitted Jim, sitting a little anxiously, “I am a little curious. Now that I come to think of it, my wife said something about having supper with her down town tonight, and maybe…”

Suddenly, the buzzing began again, dogged, tireless, measured. With all the infuriating dumbness of a newborn baby crying.

“Aw, answer it, Jim!” I commanded.

But Jimmie had instantly relaxed back in his easy chair by the window and started lazily to light a cigarette.

“I’ll be darned if I will,” he said, blowing a ring. No sir! The more I think of it, the more I am convinced that I’ve got hold of a pretty big moral problem here. The telephone my boy, that silly little squat black monster in my hall, represents something we have overlooked in our long struggle for freedom. Only a few centuries ago guys like you and me were at the beck and call of despots. In every country, in every town, there were despots who merely crooked their fingers at us, and we came running.”

The phone buzzed relentlessly.

“Then,” went on Jim defiantly, like one speaking in spite of hecklers, “then, as the struggle for human freedom and human dignity advanced, we got the despots under control. We got parliament. Then we got universal suffrage. Finally, we got the labor movement. Now you know how, only twenty or thirty years ago, in every factory and plant in the world, the superintendent or foreman could come yelling into the place and everyone quailed and quaked? Well, sir, what do superintendents do now? They tip-toe through the plant!”

The phone went right on heckling. Its sound seemed to grow.

“I’ll fix it!” cried Jim, leaping angrily to his feet.

And this time he did fix it. He stuffed paper in so that it didn’t ring at all.

“Ah…” he breathed, as he flung himself back in his chair. “Isn’t that heaven! Aren’t we fools to place ourselves at the mercy of a machine like that? As I was saying, we’ve succeeded by the most tremendous effort over centuries and centuries, in removing all despots from our midst. Yet, like fools, we adopt into our lives, into our most sacred strongholds of freedom — our homes! — this most despotic of all institutions. No longer is it the squire who can make us come jumping by the mere crook of his finger. No longer is it some haughty duke or count who can command our instant obedience. No. It is this little instrument. And by that instrument we are made the slaves, the serfs, of any blame fool who gets the notion that he wants our ear!”

“It is kind of ridiculous, when you come to think of it,” I admitted, my mind waiting for still further commands from the gagged machine out in the hall.

So we sat listening to the uneasy silence.

Jim was still lounging back in the attitude of calm. But I could tell by his face that a mounting curiosity and anxiety was consuming him. He was chewing the cigarette.

“After all, Jim,” I began, to ease the tension, “slavery or serfdom isn’t very far beneath our skins. The call of authority can still make most of us jump. When you come to think of it, about ninety-nine point nine percent of us have been serfs for millions of years. Mighty few of us are the descendants of dukes, counts or even superintendents.”

“Hmmmm,” mused Jim. “I wonder who that was?”

“The instinct to obey,” I pursued, “is much more widespread than the instinct to command.”

“I wonder,” said Jim, absently, sitting upright. I wonder if that could have been my wife?”

“Even a few centuries ago,” I enlightened, “when the ancestors of the vast majority of us were scuttling, scampering and cringing to the orders of some petty tyrant, that tyrant was equally at the beck and call of some larger tyrant…”

“I think,” said Jim, rising, “I’ll take that paper out of the phone bell now. After all, I have declared my independence. I’ve showed that darn telephone where it gets off…”

He hurried out to the hall and I heard him scratch the plug of paper out.

We both held our breath and listened.

No bell.

Jim appeared starkly in the living room door.

“WHO,” he demanded hotly, “do you suppose that could have been?”

“Probably your wife,” I suggested. “She’ll just think you haven’t got home from the office yet…”

“Well, if it had been my wife,” said Jim, anxiously coming and sitting on the edge of his easy chair, “she wouldn’t have rung and rung like that.”

“It isn’t ringing now,” I assured him.

“No, I wish it was,” said Jim hollowly, gazing into space. “I wonder if the kids are all right. I wonder if anything might have happened…”

“Now, now, relax,” I urged. “If it’s anything urgent, they’ll ring again.”

Jim jumped up and stood in the hall, looking at the telephone and waiting.

It didn’t ring.

“Hmmm,” he said, “I think I’ll just call a couple of stores where my wife said she was going to call…”

So he sat down and dialled three or four numbers, in rapid succession, to inquire if his wife had been in, the last little while.

“Look, Jim,” I advised, coming out to the hall, “I wouldn’t sit there using the phone like that. If anybody was trying to get you…”

“Yes, yes!” agreed Jim, leaping up. “You’re right!” And he came back and began to prowl up and down the living room. We both went to the window and looked out.

And there, coming down the street, was Mrs. McGuiness, Jim’s neighbor three doors north.

Mrs. McGuiness had her topcoat thrown over what appeared to be a wrapper. She had her goloshes on, unlatched.

And she was coming on the dead jump, her arms gesticulating, her eyes wild.

“Hey, Jim,” I exclaimed, “your neighbors are in trouble…”

“Say!” shouted Jim.

For Mrs. McGuiness was turning up Jim’s side drive, holding her face in her hands in an expression of horror.

As we raced for the front door, we heard Mrs. McGuiness thundering on the side door.

And when we reached the verandah, there stood Jimmie’s car, in the side drive, with thick black smoke billowing and rolling from under the hood, from under the car itself.

“Hey! Quick! Fire!” yelled Jim, wildly starting to run both forward and back at the same time.

“Get something…” he shouted. “Water!… the hose!…”

But in winter, the only place you can get water is in the kitchen. And the only thing handy to carry it in is the tea kettle. So Jim and I both carried the tea kettle out, in our first valiant effort.

So Jim and I both carried the tea kettle out, in our first valiant effort.

I should set you at ease at once by informing you that it was only the wiring that had caught fire. The generator, apparently, had started it, and the fire had smouldered and smoked up the wiring, licking around the oil on the block.

A few well directed slurps of water, some fistfuls of snow, an old bag that Jim snatched from his garage, soon had the matter in hand.

And there, panting against the side of the house, leaned Mrs. McGuiness still sobbing for breath. When we got the thing squelched, Jim went over to her and offered his hand.

“You saved me,” he said, “from losing my car. In another couple of minutes, and the whole thing would have blown up.”

“Yes,” gasped Mrs. McGuiness, wrapping her hastily donned clothes around her, “and set fire to your garage and maybe the house too!”

“How on earth,” inquired Jim, “did YOU spot the fire? Why, you’re three doors up!”

“Oh, don’t thank me,” said Mrs. Guiness. “Thank dear old Mrs. Crisp, directly across the road from you. She’s laid up with the quinsy. And she happened to look out the window and saw the smoke. She telephoned you immediately, but nobody answered…”

“Aaaaaahh!” said Jimmie.

“Ah-HAAAHH!” said I.

“The dear old soul,” went on Mrs. McGuiness, “swears she could see you sitting beside the front window. She swears she saw you get up to answer the phone. But she simply COULDN’T get your number. Then she tried all the neighbors but they were out, until she got ME!”

“Well, I must go and thank Mrs. Crisp,” said Jim abjectly.

“I came as fast as I could,” apologized Mrs. McGuiness, looking at the soggy mess of Jim’s car.

“A THOUSAND thanks!” cried Jim devoutly.

So we went in and Jim straightway called the garage that does his work.

But first, he held the receiver up fondly and looked it bung in the eye.

“Brother,” he said humbly “I apologize!”

The Holiday Spirit

“… the entire community should burst forth in a great national festival.”

The beauty of winter, Jim and Greg discover, can easily run away with the imagination

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by Jim Frise, December 27, 1947.

“Come on!” protested Jimmie Frise. “Wake up!”

“I’ve et too much,” I groaned.

“Look!” cried Jimmie, shaking me. “It’s the holiday season. Listen to the kids outside. Look at that beautiful snow.”

“Relax,” I begged. “Let’s relax. Let everybody relax.”

“Listen to this,” insisted Jim. “It’s something we should never forget. If we live to be 60, and if we sleep eight hours a day, we have spent 20 years – 20 YEARS – of our lives unconscious!”

“Unconscious,” I murmured, sinking deeper into the after-luncheon easy chair.

“Doesn’t that horrify you?” demanded Jim hotly. “Twenty years – a third of your entire life – you have spent, wasted, thrown away, in sheer unconsciousness.”

I waked slowly. I slowly sat up. I fought back the lovely soft, drowsy waves of sleepiness that had me, even to my finger tips and toes, in their luscious embrace.

I pushed myself heavily out of the easy chair. I stood up and re-buttoned my vest. There is nothing dearer to me than a holiday afternoon snooze following a good fat lunch.

“What,” I inquired formally, “did you say?”

“I said,” repeated Jimmie distinctly, “that if you live to be 60, and if you sleep eight hours a day, you have spent 20 years of your life UNCONSCIOUS!”

I fixed my mind on that horrifying statement. The more I examined it, the more horrible it became. With a sudden jolt, as it were, I came wide awake. I walked with decision to the window and looked out at the street.

A gorgeous new fall of snow had mantled the whole familiar dismal scene in Arctic splendor. The vulgar frowning houses across the road were cheerily fantastic in blankets, hoods, veils of shimmering white. The sky above was icy blue. The sun cut strange golden patterns with mauve shadows.

“Jim,” I demanded, with Canadian tears in my eyes, “what do you suggest we do?”

“Well,” considered Jim over my shoulder, “look at those kids building show men. How about going out and romping with the kids?”

“What an absurd suggestion!” I snorted. “Romp with the kids! Jim! As Canadians, on a day like this, it is our holy duty to celebrate it in some fitting fashion.”

“Two minutes ago,” scoffed Jim, “you were all for sleeping.”

“Heaven forgive me,” I whispered, pushing the curtain aside and looking out again on the vision of loveliness that comes with winter’s first snowfall.

“We Canadians,” I enunciated, “ought to have long ago devised some ceremonial, some sort of spontaneous carnival to welcome winter on its first true arrival. I mean a day like this. Not those bleak and slushy early December days. But a day like this should, by common consent, be the occasion of a city-wide, a country-wide celebration for which we have all been waiting. We should have carnival costumes all ready, we should have family parties organized and standing by. And when the first true, glorious day of full winter dawns, work should be forgotten, routine cast aside, and the entire community should burst forth in a great national festival.”

“Yeah,” interrupted Jim. “The only trouble is, this snow we’ve got here is more than likely local; and out in the suburbs, it’s still mud.”

“Er…uh…” I submitted. “But it’s a beautiful idea, don’t you think?””

“I think,” stated Jim, “we ought to put our coats on and go out and romp with those kids. They’re trying to make a snow man. Let’s go and show them what a real snowman looks like. Eh?”

“Jim,” I responded, “I feel more like standing here at this window, in this warm room, looking out upon the glories of winter and thinking beautiful thoughts about it.”

“There!” agreed Jim. “There you are: the typical Canadian! Our glorious winter is something to be viewed with deep appreciation from the storm windows of a nice cosy room.”

“I assure you,” I said, “that if there were some sort of festival, some kind of public celebration today, nobody would be out there joining in it with more gusto than I. But merely to go out and flounder around in the snow, with a bunch of children…”

“You are getting old,” smiled Jim. “You forget that this is the holiday season. All those youngsters are enjoying their freedom. The holiday spirit should be shared by us elders. When I was a child, my parents romped with me, built snow men for me, hauled me on toboggans, took me to the hills where I could slide….”

“Kids are more independent today,” I pondered. “They prefer to make their own fun.”

“What an alibi!” scorned Jim. “And still you wonder at juvenile delinquency! Still you complain about the lack of discipline in children! The secret of it all is, we have brushed our children off. We shoo them away to school as soon as they get up in the morning. We give them the radio to play with, rather than be bothered listening to their little questions. We toss them a quarter to go to the movies, to be rid of them for an evening. I venture the opinion that we are the most selfish generation in all history. We don’t want to be bothered with our own children!”

“Those kids out there,” I remarked, pushing the, curtains aside to look, “aren’t our children.”

“No, but they’re happy, joyous little creatures,” pursued Jim, “and I can’t imagine any finer, pleasant, more seemly way for you and me to give thanks for such a beautiful winter afternoon than by going out there right now and taking a kindly, human interest in them. Build them a snow man. Show them how. Make ’em a snow man six feet high. With a funny nose. And old hat. With coal for eyes…”

“Where are their own parents?” I queried. “Why aren’t their own parents out romping with them?”

“Probably,” said Jim bitterly, “their own parents kicked them out of the house to be rid of them. Greg, don’t let us fret about other people. Let us face our own consciences. That’s the great need of this day and age: let us face our own consciences!”

I could feel the old drowsiness starting to sneak back over me. The snow had such a glare. It made me have to shut my eyes. The room was so warm. The big chair so empty, so soft…

“Come!” cried Jim, detecting the symptoms. “You want to celebrate the arrival of the true, the glorious Canadian winter! You want a festival, a carnival, welcome it! For half an hour, for just a few minutes to breathe that clear delicious air…”

He ran to the vestibule and came back with my overcoat and muffler and hat and piled them on me. He hastily flung on his own.

“Come on!” he exulted. “Some day we’ll be unconscious for keeps.”

And that did it. For after all, on a genuine winter day, you can’t help but feel how good life is, and how precious the blood pumping in your veins; how fleeting the days and the years.

We stood on the verandah, inhaling the spice of the cold. Spice is the word for it; because the air of a snow-washed afternoon has that same almost aromatic tang to it that ginger and cloves possess.

Yet it was not a sharp cold. It was, in fact, the perfect afternoon for making snow men. It had just the right temperature to make the snow packy in the hand and squeaky under foot.

“Let’s,” I suggested, “take a brisk walk.”

“Let’s,” corrected Jim, suddenly leaping down the steps, “make a snow man.”

Stooping down, with his gloves on, he rolled a good fat snowball about the size of a grapefruit. This he placed on top of the snow and started to roll it.

In a moment, he had a good big snowball the size of a pumpkin. In another jiffy, he was grunting with the effort of rolling ahead of him across the lawn a monster snowball as big as an apple barrel.

“Come on!” he cried, flushed and puffed. “Hey, kids!”

On both our side of the street and across the road, a variety of small children paused in their revelry to look.

“Hey! Come on, kids! Let’s make a snow man!” roused Jim, waving his arms.

Several of them, I observed, had the makings of snow men of various sizes already rolled up. Nothing very big.

“Come on,” wheedled Jim. “Roll yours over here, and we’ll combine on a snow man six feet high!”

“You roll yours over here!” retorted a little girl in a high clear voice.

And all the others bent to their own enterprises.

“Oh, very well!” cried Jim heartily.

So I came down off the steps and helped him roll our snowball down the slope and start it across the street.

But it was pretty heavy going, as the snowball grew in size with each revolution. In fact, when we got it half way across the pavement, it had grown so large that the two of us could barely move it.

The children had by now quit their individual efforts and came running from the different lawns to watch us. They stood on the far sidewalk in silence, a snowsuit jury.

“Yo-heave!” commanded Jim.

We laid our shoulders to the ball and got it another 10 feet.

“Where,” inquired the little girl with the high clear voice, “where are you going to put that dirty big thing?”

We stood back. It had picked up quite a bit of dirt off the road as it rolled.

“Roll it back,” ordered the little girl, “where it came from. We don’t want any dirty big thing like that over in front of our house.”

“Roll it back,” ordered the little girl, “where it came from.”

“Don’t you want a great big, six-foot snow man?” coaxed Jimmie breathlessly.

“We’re building a fort,” said the little girl. “We’re going to have a fight. To the death.”

“Oh,” said Jim.

“I’m Superman,” announced a little boy who needed his nose wiped.

“I’m building,” lisped another little girl, “the Yempire State Building.”

“Take it back,” interrupted the little boss girl with the clear voice. “Get it the heck out of here.”

She indicated our large snow sphere with her foot. Jim started to speak and changed his mind. We both bent to roll the ball, now waist-high. But it stuck and we couldn’t move it. Jim kicked a large chunk off it, to reduce it. I kicked another. The children went back to their enterprises. The segments of our big snowball we cast away in various directions so as not to obstruct the pavement.

Then, in silence, we returned back across the road to our own side. We walked slowly up the front walk and stood at the foot of the steps.

“How,” I began, clearing, my throat, “how about a nice brisk walk?”

“Maybe,” ventured Jim, “if we stayed here on our own lawn and built a real big dandy of a snow man, we could show them…”

We both heard a sudden deep rumbling sound.

But it was already too late.

A big snowslide had begun on Jim’s roof, right over our heads. It fell on us like a ton of bricks.

As we picked ourselves up and started knocking the snow from our heads and shoulders and hooking it from inside our collars with crooked fingers, we could hear the hilarious laughter of little children in the distance.

“Jim,” I puffed, as we stumbled up the steps and into the vestibule, “the thing to do on a beautiful winter day is look at it through the window.”

Juniper Junction – 08/27/47

August 27, 1947

Don’t Be a Snitch

With a loud, derisive blast of the horn… McArony swept cheerily by.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by Jim Frise, July 12, 1947.

“Get his number!” yelled Jimmie Frise from amid the dust cloud.

“Got it!” I replied grimly, picking myself up out of the roadside ditch.

We stood glaring after the vanishing car.

“A lunatic,” declared Jim. “Nothing but a lunatic.”

Here we were, a couple of decent, law-abiding citizens, in summer negligee, leisurely strolling along the gravel road which, behind Jim’s cottage, serves the whole summer resort.

And at 50 to 60 miles an hour, on that winding, twisting gravel road, a big new car, in two tones of gray, had come roaring along and blown its horn almost under the tails of our sports shirts.

“That’s the third time in two days,” I announced, “that the same crazy guy has hooted us off the road. He’s going to kill somebody yet.”

“Get his number down,” commanded Jim.

“It’s 41728,” I stated, putting it down on an envelope from my pocket. “But I know the fellow. He’s a broker,” name of Doug McArony…”

“You wouldn’t think a guy of Scottish descent,” said Jim, “would be so reckless. How old is he?”

“He’s our age,” I supplied. “Maybe he hasn’t had a new car for four or five years. Maybe it’s gone to his head.”

“Look, definitely,” declared Jim, “we’ve got to do something about that lunatic. Everybody in the district is complaining about him. He’s done nothing for the past week but race back and forth on this winding road at breakneck speed.”

“There’s one at every summer resort,” I submitted. “This is what you get for buying a cottage that can be got to by road. Now, up at my place, it’s 16 miles by boat from the nearest road.”

“If they aren’t racing in cars,” interrupted Jim, “they’re racing in fast motor boats, kicking up swells, upsetting canoes and rowboats and banging all the craft in the lake up against wharves.”

“There ought to be a speed limit of five miles an hour,” I offered, “at all summer resorts. The minute you introduce speed into a summer resort, all you’ve got is a suburb of the city.”

“What are we going to do about this guy McArony?” demanded Jimmie, as we resumed our stroll. “Will we go and call a meeting of the cottagers and frame a protest?”

“I’ve got a better scheme,” I stated.

“The best thing,” said Jim, “would be to go and see the guy and tell him about the way he practically booted us off the road just now. Tell him that there is a general resentment all along the shore, about the speed at which he drives. Tell him he’s going to kill some little kid one of these fine days.”

“These fast drivers can’t be talked to,” I informed him. “They just grin at you pityingly.”

“Okay,” said Jim, “let’s go and see him, and tell him that if we see him driving fast any more, we’re going around to call on him and simply punch the stuffing out of him.”

“Aw, you can’t do that, Jim,” I scoffed. “That’s taking the law into your own hands.”

“Well, there’s a law against speeding,” argued Jim, “which he ignores. There are the laws of decency and common sense, which he flouts. Very well. There is one little fact which those who break the law don’t seem to think of. And that is, that others may break the law too.”

“He’s quite a hefty specimen,” I advised.

“In that case,” said Jim, “we’ll just go along the road and recruit a little committee of those who are sore at him. And we’ll select good big men. Then we’ll call on him and tell him that, as a committee, we demand that he reduce speed to 25 miles an hour on this road. And if he doesn’t – we’ll all come and punch his nose.”

“That’s lynch law, Jim!” I protested.

“Okay,” said Jim, blandly, “how do you suggest we make this character slow down?”

“It’s very simple,” I announced. “Down at the cross roads, where this road meets the main highway, there’s a gas station. The speed cop, who controls this part of the country stops at that gas station every day. We’ll go down there and wait for him. And we’ll explain the situation to him. We’ll inform him the whole district is up in arms but doesn’t know what to do. We’ll give the cop this guy McArony’s description, licence number and so forth. It stands to reason if McArony drives the way he does on the back roads, he’ll drive like a maniac on the good roads.”

“It may be weeks before the cop happens to catch him,” protested Jim.

“I bet,” I stated, “that the speed cop, in view of a public protest like this, will lay for him.”

“It might work,” grumbled Jim. “But we’ve got to drive home ourselves, tonight. And I don’t want to waste any of what little time we’ve got up here hanging around a gas station, waiting for a speed cop to turn up.”

“Okay,” I said, “I’ve got a better idea. We’ll write a note to the speed cop and leave it at the gas station as we pass by tonight on our way home.”

“There’s an idea,” applauded Jimmie.

And he had hardly got the words out of his mouth before we heard a low humming sound ahead of us, and around the turn of the road came the very same two-tone great big beautiful car, racing like fury.

Jimmie and I leaped for the opposite ditches, waving our fists. But with a loud, derisive blast of the horn and amid a cloud of flying gravel and dust, McArony swept cheerily by, his elbow out the window.

As we came out of the ditches, dusting ourselves off, Jimmie and I faced each other with a great resolve glittering in our eyes.

“I,” I enunciated, “am going to write that note to the speed cop NOW! And before lunch, we’re going to drive down to the gas station at the highway and leave it.”

“The sooner this guy McArony is pulled up,” agreed Jim, “the better.”

So we about-turned and strode back to Jim’s cottage where we got paper and pen and set down the following document:

“To the Highway Constable,

Moose Bay area.

Dear Sir-

“There is a large brand new car, Licence No. 41728, which is terrorizing this entire summer cottage district by the insane speed with which it is driven around the winding back roads. It is a large two-tone gray car owned, we believe, by a man named McArony. If he is not brought under control, someone, probably a child, is bound to be killed. You can confirm this by enquiring anywhere along the gravel road into Moose Bay. We believe it is the proper and most effective method to hand this complaint to you so that you can catch him red-handed and give him the works.

Yours truly,

J. FRISE.

G. CLARK.”

“That says it all,” I announced, after reading it off to Jim.

We got immediately in the car and drove out to Dunc’s gas station, 12 miles to the highway. Dunc said he expected the speed cop within the hour, and he promised to give him the letter, which we marked Confidential.”

We got back in time for lunch. And after lunch, as is our custom, we lay down for an hour’s snooze under the balsams, amid the soft July breezes.

It was a quarter to four when I felt Jimmie shaking me.

“Time for a swim,” he said, “before we push off.”

“Where’s the car?” I inquired, sitting up.

“The kids drove it to the village for some watermelon,” said Jim.

“Gosh, Jim, the village! That’s 16 miles,” I complained. “I hope they get back in good time. I like leaving here not later than five.”

“They’ll be back,” soothed Jim. “Come and get your trunks on.”

“Anything I hate,” I muttered, “is driving in Sunday night traffic in the dark.”

“They’ll be back any minute,” assured Jim.

We had a good swim. At four-thirty we came out and dressed and packed our grips. At a quarter to five, no sign of the car or the kids.

“Jim, I wish you hadn’t let them have the car,” I fretted.

“They’ll be along any minute,” said Jim, “Let’s have a cup of tea.”

So we had a cup of tea. And by the time that was done, it was a quarter past five, and no sign of the kids.

“I hate this,” I groaned. “By the time we get 30 miles from the city tonight, traffic will be barely crawling.”

“What’s a few minutes one way or the other?” smoothed Jimmie. “They’ll be along any minute. You know kids.”

But at five-thirty no kids. And along the beach came the bellboy from the summer hotel half a mile up the road. He was on his bicycle, peering in at the cottages as he passed. When he saw Jim and me on the verandah, he dismounted.

“Mr. Frise?”

“Yes?”

“Oh,” said the bellboy, “we got a telephone message. Your car has broken down. The clutch. They had it towed back to the village. It can’t be fixed until tomorrow and they wanted to know if you could get somebody around here to go and pick them up.”

I was on my feet in consternation, looking at my watch.

“Jim,” I grated, “we’ve got to be in town first thing in the morning!”

“Easy, now,” suggested Jim, giving the bellboy a quarter. “Easy, now. We can catch the six-twenty from Bracebridge if we can get somebody to drive us.”

“Bracebridge,” I snorted, “is 28 miles.”

“We’ve got nearly three-quarters of an hour,” pointed out Jim, picking up his hat.

“See if the Higgins’s are in,” I cried, “and I’ll go this other way and see who’s home to drive us.”

I dashed down the steps and ran west, looking at the Wintermeyers, the McDonalds, the Millers… but not one of them was home, no car beside the cottage, nobody on the verandahs… I turned and raced back, hoping Jim had done better.

But as I came in sight of Jim’s, there was Jimmie hastening back from the other direction.

He waved: “Nobody home!”

“What’ll we do?” I shouted. “Jim, we’ve simple got to be home first thing in the morning!”

“Take your grip,” commanded Jim, as we collided at the front steps. “We’ll go down to the gravel road and hitch-hike to Bracebridge.”

“There’s no chance…” I moaned.

“Otherwise,” said Jim, “if we miss the six-twenty, we’ll get a lift out to the highway and see if we can hitch-hike to the city.”

“Oh, of all the dreadful…” I groaned. “Hang those kids!”

With our bags, we hastened out the back and down the lane to the gravel road.

We took up our stance,

In the distance rose a low, powerful hum.

Around the bend of the road came a long, low two-tone job in gray.

Yes, it was McArony.

In a cloud of dust, he pulled up before us and swung a door wide.

“Want a lift?” he called.

“We have to catch the six-twenty at Bracebridge,” said Jim lamely.

I hesitated to get in. But Jim boosted me.

The door slammed.

“Six-twenty, eh?” said McArony, glancing at the clock on his glittering instrument panel. “I don’t know whether we can make it or not, but we’ll try!”

And I felt the long, low monster beneath me surge into lithe motion.

Trees whizzed by. Sickeningly, we raced up to corners and turns. I nudged Jim’s back – he was up in front beside McArony. But Jim ignored me. He was telling McArony about our car and how the kids were marooned at the village.

“I’ll pick them up, after I let you off at Bracebridge,” said McArony.

“Aw, no,” protested Jim. “It’s in the opposite direction.”

“No trouble at all,” sang McArony. “I just love driving this new job. Haven’t had a new car in six years. It’s just heaven to drive this car. Don’t you think so? Isn’t she smooth?”

“These turns…” I piped from the back seat.

“Oh, don’t worry,” laughed McArony, turning his head to smile at me, though we were going 60, “I can handle her.”

And then ahead, we saw a motorcycle parked against a birch tree. In front of it, the speed cop was standing forth on the side of the road with his arm raised.

McArony braked hard amid a vast cloud of dust.

“Oh, oh! Sorry,” he said. “I guess you miss your train now.”

We drew up level with the cop.

He walked around the back, looked at the licence and then came around to McArony’s window, drawing a paper from his breast pocket.

“Well, well, well!” said the constable. “What a coincidence! Not an hour ago, I get a letter from the citizens of this district complaining about you, mister. What’s the name?”

“McArony,” said our friend. “Douglas McArony.”

“The same,” said the cop, glancing at the letter. And then, word for word, he started to read our letter, while McArony listened and Jim and I started to shrink and shrink.

He reached the “yours truly,” and stopped!

“Who wrote that nonsense?” demanded McArony.

“It’s marked ‘Confidential’,” said the cop. “Anyway, I don’t need any more confirmation than what I saw just now. You coming along this winding road at a good 60 miles an hour.”

“These two friends of mine,” said McArony, “have to catch the six-twenty at Bracebridge. A matter of life and death.”

The cop glanced in at us.

“We must,” I agreed. “We… we simply MUST…!” He looked at his wrist watch.

“You’ll hardly make it,” he said. “Now, look here, Mr. McArony or whatever your name is: I want to give you fair warning…”

“Constable,” said McArony, “I never go at any excessive speed on this road. Do you think I’m crazy? On these turns? Do I want to break my neck? Do I want to wreck a beautiful job like this?”

“I don’t like getting complaints like this,” said the constable, waving our letter,

“Aw, some peevish old women, probably,’ said McArony.

“That’s what I thought myself,” agreed the cop.

And McArony got us the six-twenty, with one minute to spare.


Editor’s Notes: “In summer negligee” is an old term where negligee means “carelessly informal or incomplete attire”.

They also both use the slang term “grip” for a suitcase.

Accidents Will Happen

“His evil influence,” declared Jim, “goes all the way up this block.”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by Jim Frise, June 14, 1947.

“One man,” growled Jimmie Frise, “can ruin a whole neighborhood.”

“Meaning,” I murmured, “Mr. Fidler.”

We were sitting on Jim’s top step watching Jimmie’s next door neighbor, Fidler, hot at his task.

Fidler had just finished trimming a group of little ornamental bushes along the front edge of his terraced lawn.

“It is the hour,” pursued Jim; in a low voice,” “when every normal man should be sitting on his top step awaiting the call to supper.”

“Fidler,” I pointed out, “is mad about gardening. It’s his hobby.”

Fidler had just finished trimming…

“But does a man need to be so mad,” protested Jim, “as to come tearing home from work, change his clothes and rush madly out into the garden? Look: He even changes his clothes!”

Fidler was dressed in a white shirt and brown canvas pants.

“You don’t object to a golfer,” I submitted, “changing his clothes and adopting the uniform of his hobby?”

“Golfers,” said Jim, “are decent and discreet about their hobby. They have lockers out at the golf club, where they keep their golfing clothes. They don’t flaunt themselves in the face of the whole neighborhood. A golfer can quietly go golfing, and not a soul in the district will guess what he’s up to. In fact, many of the most ardent golfers wear formal business suits and go to a lot of trouble to conceal their intentions…”

Fidler was now down on his hands and knees, industriously grubbing at something along the edges of the shrubbery.

Across the street, Mrs. Anderson strolled out onto her verandah and gazed about. Her eyes settled on Fidler, and after a moment of thought, she stepped down off her verandah onto the lawn and began idly examining the borders against the house. It was the hour when the fried potatoes are quietly hissing on the top of the stove and the stuffed pork tenderloins are coming to the right brown in the oven.

“Oh, George!” we heard Mrs. Anderson call musically.

After a moment, George Anderson in his shirt sleeves, with the open newspaper by his side, came to their door. Mrs. Anderson beckoned him, and he came reluctantly down the steps.

“See that!” hissed Jimmie. “The whole pantomime, right before our eyes. She wandered out while the supper is cooking, saw Fidler; and now see what’s happening!”

Mrs. Anderson was pointing here and pointing there.

Her husband stood, the newspaper behind him, moodily following Mrs. Anderson’s gestures.

“Poor Anderson!” sighed Jim. “And all on account of Fidler.”

Fidler was now on his feet, with a big double handful of earthy junk, which he carried industriously to the side drive and we heard the garbage can lid rattle.

“Busybody!” muttered Jim, bitterly. “When I think of the number of man hours that guy has been responsible for in this one city block! I bet I’ve done 10 or 15 extra hours on my lawns and gardens on account of him…”

“Aw, well, you’re right next door to him,” I reminded. “His evil influence,” declared Jim, “goes all the way up this block and I bet you into the next block. Maybe women who live three or four blocks away have come walking by here, pushing their baby carriages. And have seen Fidler out there putting on one of his exhibitions…”

“After all,” I soothed, “every man, every householder, is obliged to do a certain amount of work around his house. For his own sake.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” exclaimed Jim. “I think every man should do a little work around the garden. Maybe two or three hours a week, during the start of the season. But this guy Fidler is at it from daylight to dark. From April to November. He’s consumed by an awful passion. He rakes and he digs. He plants and he sows. He changes and shifts. One year, it’s a perennial border along that far side of his place. This year, it’s this corner patch of evergreen and flowering shrubs. He never leaves well enough alone…”

“He’s what they call a horticulturalist, Jim,” I explained. “He’s just as important to the world as an agriculturalist – only on a smaller scale. Such men make the world beautiful. With the world gone nuts on science, isn’t it kind of beautiful to see a man like Fidler who, for the sheer love of beauty – beauty with no money angle! – toils and labors with joy…?”

“Joy!” scoffed Jim. “Do you realize how much trouble and nagging and quarrelling this guy Fidler has been responsible for – just in this one little city block? Wives nagging. Husbands growling. And, as I say, hundreds, maybe thousands of man hours of labor, hard, back-breaking labor… Pssstt! Look across the road!”

Mrs. Anderson had just suddenly remembered the stuffed pork tenderloins and was hurrying up the steps. Anderson stood gloomily looking around him. Then he slowly followed his wife, his shoulders humped, the newspaper dangling behind him.

At the top of the steps, he paused and looked back. He looked across the street, to where Fidler was coming from his side drive with a wheelbarrow. Anderson stared long and cold at Fidler. Then he happened to catch his eyes. He shrugged wearily and went indoors.

“Anderson will be out, right after supper,” prophesied Jim feelingly.

“What I can’t see,” I said, smelling the fried tomatoes and bacon that the Frises were having for supper, “is why you ruin your supper by sitting out here brooding like this. If you think Fidler is wasting his time, what about you ruining your digestion by sitting out here griping?”

“You remember helping me fertilize this lawn,” queried Jim, nodding to his front grass.

“And not a bad job we did,” I remarked. “It’s coming along very nicely, considering that we just about burned the stuffing out of it with commercial fertilizer.”

“I’ve got to roll it,” said Jim hollowly.

“Get some kids to roll it,” I suggested hastily, at the same time rising; for my supper too would be ready.

“Kids can’t do a proper job,” announced Jim, “Fidler says so. It’s Fidler’s roller we’re going to use.”

“Oh, you’ve got Fidler to help you?” I queried.

“No, I phoned your wife, as soon as I got home,” explained Jim, “and asked her if you were free tonight…”

“Jim, get Fidler,” I urged. “He KNOWS about gardening. And besides, he’s your next door neighbor. Think how he must suffer, seeing your neglected premises…”

“I’ll see you right after supper,” said Jim rising in response to a call from within. Supper was ready.

So I walked up the street and around the two blocks thinking how far the influence of a man like Fidler can reach in one small neighborhood. As I walked, I noticed the influence of Fidler very strong up to the corner. Once around the corner, I could see the Fidler influence waning steadily; until at the next block from the corner it was obviously a different regime entirely. There was no Fidler for two solid blocks. And I knew of no other for the two blocks beyond my place.

We had speckled trout, – a gift from a bachelor friend – asparagus, home fried potatoes and strawberries with cream. Then, with some old clothes I changed into, I sauntered back to Jim’s. After all, friendship is friendship: And trout and strawberries set very flattering on the stomach. I felt like befriending somebody and it might as well be Jim.

Fidler and Jim had just dragged the lawn roller out of Fidler’s side drive and were trying to haul it up the little terrace that divides Jim’s lawn from Fidler’s.

“Roll it,” explained Fidler, when we got the dang thing up on Jim’s level, “roll it first straight back and forth. Then change, and roll it crossways. You can tell if the rolling is sinking in. If not, then roll it kitacorner. See? Diagonally, from this corner to that. Then back again the other diagonal. See?”

“It’s been nice and damp the past week,” I enunciated. “I imagine one rolling will be ample.”

“Not at all, not at all!” cried Fidler, who now had large leather gauntlets on, and was obviously about do some trimming in his rambler roses out on his back fences and pergolas. “A little rolling is worse than none at all. Give it a good, sound rolling. It not only smooths the appearance. It breaks down all the worm casts, and all the solid chunks, beneath the turf and sod… No, no! A thorough rolling…”

So he went back to his roses, and Jim and I, after glancing across the street to see Anderson already squatted down unhappily underneath his living room window ledge, took hold of the roller and started to haul.

Fidler’s roller was solid concrete. A large drum of steel, filled with concrete. It was more practical, Fidler held, than one of those rollers you fill with water. It weighed a ton.

It was all Jim and I could do to get the thing moving. And once you had it moving, it was harder to stop. You had to brace yourself for the start. Then brace yourself for the stop.

Jim’s property slopes slightly towards the sidewalk. And on the Fidler side, marked off by a terribly neat little box hedge, there is a short, steep terrace, about two feet down – to Fidler’s impeccable lawn.

We did the straight up and down passages of the roller. And then the straight across passages. It is 10 passages the long way. And eight passages the cross way. Each time we arrived at the edge of the terrace down to Fidler’s, Jimmie and I both slowed carefully and brought the roller to a sound, sturdy stop a good foot from the verge of the little declivity. I cannot say what thoughts were in Jim’s mind, as we crossed and recrossed. But I imagine they were the same thoughts as in mine; for I could feel him slightly trembling, as, our arms pressed together on the roller handle – trembling slightly each time we heaved that mass of concrete to a cautious, over-careful stop.

Jimmie and I slowed carefully and brought the roller to a sound, sturdy stop…

We rested. And there was Anderson across the street, staring at us.

He waved his trowel up street and down. “Quite a community out tonight,” he called. We looked up and down. There were about 10 of the neighbors out, in one pained attitude or another.

“A heavy job you got there,” called Anderson.

“And tricky,” I added.

“A lot of responsibility,” he said oddly, bending back to his task.

I looked at Jim and Jim looked sharply away.

We seized the wide grip of the roller and started the diagonal.

This diagonal rolling is harder than you would suppose. At the corners of the lawn, it is a very short roll. Back; then forward. At the middle of the lawn, it is a much longer pull. Longer, even, than the longest pull on the full length of the square.

The first centre diagonal passage was completed, forward, then back. The second centre diagonal was the longest of all. We started to push.

Now, maybe we were tiring.

Or possibly we were perspiring. Our hands may have been slippery with sweat. Or it is conceivable that Jimmie and I, being of decidedly unequal size, were not exerting a properly balanced pressure on the handle of that heavy roller.

But the fact of the matter is that, within about six feet of the end of that second long diagonal passage of the lawn, and precisely at the moment the roller was aimed at Mr. Fidler’s beautiful new triangular patch of perennial and ornamental bushes at the front of his lawn, that monstrous mass of cement suddenly went out of control.

Jimmie swears my hands let go of the handle bar sooner than his. I swear that it was the sudden weight of the mass, consequent on Jimmie letting go of it, that caused me to lose my grip.

With the smoothness of a roller skate, the roller sped for the small box hedge at the terrace.

With a sickening squash, it rolled the little hedge flat.

And suddenly gaining momentum from the terrace, it leaped, it fairly leaped, for Mr. Fidler’s triangular ornamental shrubbery bed.

Mr. Fidler had two such beds. One nearest Jim. The other  – which we cared little about – at the far side of the Fidler property, up against the other neighbor’s premises.

Given a sort of waggle, as it leaped down the terrace, the roller, after squashing the one ornamental bed terribly and writhing flat, seemed to skid up on one edge, and steer straight for the second triangular bed.

All this happened in a twinkling, and of course in deathly silence, save for a low rumbling and a queer malignant hissing as the roller passed over the delicate twiggery. But now, Jim’s and my shouts, and a kind of triumphant cheer from across the road at Anderson’s, was merged with a terrific crash as the roller pulled up against a low stone wall that decorated Fidler’s farther terrace.

It hung there, amid the dust and ruin, for only an instant. And then down it came, the full length of Fidler’s lawn, back over one of the triangular beds, out onto the sidewalk where it crushed a kiddy car belonging to a little boy called Eddy, and then smack up against the Jones’s motor car (that’s the third neighbor below Jim) which it pushed half way across the road, sideways.

And all came to a deathly stop.

Save for Mr. Fidler coming on the double out his side drive.

Well: There was $60 damage to the Jones’s left rear wheel. Eddy’s father settled for $12.

Fidler said $2 would fix the low stone wall.

But it wasn’t the intrinsic value of the ornamental bushes that mattered. It was the work, the labor, the toil.

Jim said he would help re-plant the triangular beds as well as provide all the necessary bushes.

But after all the wreckage was cleared away and the garage men gone and little Eddy put to bed and Fidler turned his back bedroom light out, there was quite a gathering in Jim’s – Anderson and Jones, and Eddy’s father, and the old man three doors north – in fact the whole neighborhood seemed to come shyly in at Jim’s open door; even as late as eleven.

And there was more hand-shaking, and chuckling, and even snickering…

Mind the Neighbors

Resolutely, she marched across the streaming pavement and Jim turned the hose away as she came close.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by Jim Frise, May 10, 1947.

“Public opinion? Pffft!” declared Jimmie Frise.

“Do you suppose,” I scoffed, “that we’d be out here scattering fertilizer on your lawn if it weren’t for public opinion?”

“I resent that!” stated Jim, pausing in the task of strewing greyish chemical fertilizer from the big paper bag. “I like flowers. I like a well-kept lawn. I like a place tidy and attractive. And you say it’s all on account of the neighbors.”

“So it is,” I insisted. “Your lawn is kind of run down. You see all the neighbors’ lawns nice and green. Every time you look out the front window your lawn reproaches you. Your wife reproaches you. Your neighbors, in the evening, as you stand on your verandah, call across to you about your lawn being kind of skimpy…”

“So,” said Jim bitterly, “instead of giving me credit for being out here working, you give it to the neighbors?”

“Certainly,” I agreed.

“You’ve got a pretty low opinion of mankind,” submitted Jim. “At that rate, everybody in this block is just keeping up with the Joneses.”

“That’s it,” I admitted.

“Jim stood and gazed with some resentment around at the neighboring houses. Then he started flicking handfuls of the powdered fertilizer onto the grass again; and I with my bag of it followed suit.

It was just about to rain. It was one of those soft May days when it threatens rain for hours and then begins; the rain dropping softly as feathers. A perfect day for fertilizing a lawn. Jim had called me an hour before to run over in my old clothes and give him a hand at revitalizing his front lawn.

“Not too much,” warned Jim, as we passed each other, carefully flinging the chemical powder. “Too much will burn it. We’ve got to spread these two 20-pound bags evenly over the whole lawn…”

“It’s coming out even,” I assured.

Jimmie looked up at the lowering clouds and held out his hand.

“If it’ll just hold off another 15 minutes,” he said, “while I scuffle it with the rake, it will be perfect.”

“Nice timing,” I agreed. “And in a couple of weeks, you’ll have a lawn here that will admit you back into full citizenship with your neighbors.”

“Look,” said Jimmie firmly. “If I lived away out in the backwoods, somewhere, I’d still have a tidy and attractive home. I’d have a nicely painted shanty, even If it were only a shanty. I’d have nice grounds. around it, and flower beds…”

“In all your life,” I interrupted, “did you ever see a nice tidy place in the backwoods? No. They’re all the same. With old junk leaning up against the walls. With tools and implements dropped just where they happened to fall. Jim, the nature of man is to be as untidy as he can get away with.”

“Listen, I’ve seen lonely farm houses,” declared Jim, “away off the beaten track, that were simply beautiful, with flower gardens, and lawns, and everything beautifully painted.

“That isn’t the general rule, Jim,” I countered. “The farther off the beaten track you go, the more run-down the farms are. The more you come into farming communities, the better are the chances that some one farmer has got a little style to him. And he infects the whole neighborhood. And everybody starts keeping up with the Joneses.”

“In other words,” exclaimed Jim a little angrily, “we’ve all got to be led. We aren’t equals. We don’t stand on our own feet. We don’t do good of our own free will. We have to be wheedled or prodded or SHAMED…”

“That seems to be it, Jim,” I philosophized. “Our whole social system is based on the mutual respect of neighbors. Now, you take a big city like this. There are districts full of dirty, slummy streets where every house is equally run-down and dilapidated. Not one house in a block will show the slightest sign of care or attention. Do you suppose that among the hundreds of men and women living in that street there isn’t ONE good housekeeper? Not one good man who would like to improve the appearance of his home? There must be. But they respect their neighbors. They respect everybody else’s poverty. They fall in line.”

“Hah!” exulted Jimmie. “Now you’ve disproved your own theory!”

“Not at all,” I assured, walking along the last edge of the lawn and sprinkling the chemical evenly. “The thing that keeps this street you live in all at about the same general style and condition is that you all fall in line. And if you people fall in line, you must expect the slum districts to fall in line. We are led up. Or we are led down. But we hate to be conspicuous. So we all do as our immediate neighbors do.”

“In the slums,” insisted Jimmie, “I HAVE seen the odd nice, tidy, painted home…”

“Yes, and a very unhappy man you’ll find in that house,” I explained. “It’s the same with streets like this one you live in. Now and again you’ll come across a neglected, run-down home sticking out like a sore thumb amid all the neat and tidy neighborhood. Somebody very unhappy lives there too. In the case of that neat little house in the slums, that man will keep on struggling until he can move away into a better district. In the case of the run-down place in the nice district, the guy will continue to muddle and struggle until he is able to move down into some neighborhood where he is more at home. To be happy in this world, Jim you have got to conform.”

“To YOUR neighbors?” demanded Jim, glaring around at the circle of pleasant homes surrounding his.

“To your neighbors,” I sermonized. “Public opinion is everything in this world. Not public opinion in the broad sense. But in the narrow sense. Some people think public opinion as being a vast vague body, like the ocean or the air we breathe. Public opinion is no such thing. It is in compartments. It’s like water in a bucket. Or air in a sealed room. It starts in small compartments like this immediate neighborhood in which you live. The public opinion you are most concerned with is the opinion of your immediate neighbors here. Then comes the public opinion of this district at large. Then, adding the various districts together, you get the public opinion of your city. Then, of your province. And so on. But it all starts right here on this lawn.”

“You mean…?” cried Jim indignantly.

“That we are throwing this fertilizer here on this lawn,” I triumphed, “because you are submitting and conforming to public opinion!”

“I hate the whole idea,” muttered Jim, casting his eye over the finished job.

We had got the grey powder very nicely and evenly distributed by hand all over the expanse of the lawn. Here and there were little patches where it was too thick, but Jim was getting the rake to scuffle it evenly.

Any minute, the rain would start to fall: Soft May rain that would first dampen, then moisten, and finally wet the fertilizer and, according to the directions on the bag, seep the revitalizing chemicals sweetly and harmlessly into the soil around the tender spring grass-roots.

Jimmie got the rake and swiftly scuffled the top dressing. And I went and sat on the verandah.

“There!” cried Jim, as he finished the raking to his satisfaction. “And just in the nick of time.”

I saw the first gentle drops falling through the air. And Jim came up and joined me on the verandah to lean back in our chairs and smoke and view with satisfaction a job well done.

“How long,” I inquired, “will it take for this stuff to show results?”

“The directions on the bag,” said Jim, “say that an emerald green will be apparent within a few days. If the stuff is properly applied.”

I picked up the empty fertilizer bag off the verandah floor and found the directions. I read them with the pleasure intended by the writer. I could fairly feel the little grass-roots out there tingling. I read down to the bottom, where it said “Warning!”

“Warning”

“As this fertilizer is a concentrated plant food, do not exceed the prescribed amounts or serious burning of the vegetation will result. Be specially careful of lawn grass. Ten pounds per 1,000 square feet is the maximum and less is recommended rather than more.”

“Ten pounds,” I said to Jim sharply. “Per 1,000 square feet! Why, Jim, that lawn isn’t much more than 1,000 square feet…”

“I figure it’s 4,000 square feet,” said Jim. “Forty foot frontage by…”

He sat forward abruptly.

The rain was increasing. Soft, but thick.

“Holy…” gasped Jimmie.

“Jim,” I cried. “We’ve put 40 pounds of fertilizer on there…!”

“Forty foot frontage by…” whispered Jim in agitation. “Forty by 10 is 400 square feet…. Oh, my gosh!”

“Jim, it’s ruined!” I shouted, leaping up.

“The hose! The hose!” wailed Jim, floundering to his feet.

“What’ll the hose…?” I cried following.

“We’ll wash off all we can, before the rain seeps it in!” shouted Jimmie, leading into the house.

He grabbed his raincoat and threw me a spare slicker. It was much too big for me, but it would do. That rain outside was increasing to a lovely warm deluge. And every second, that poor grass was being burned worse.

Down the back steps we galloped like firemen, seized the coiled hose and raced out the side drive with it. Jim slammed the connection up to the garden tap and started screwing while I took the nozzle end and dragged for the lawn.

The rain was now pelting. It beat on my slicker and bounced in a warm spray.

I felt the hose stiffen and the cool stream shot forth. Jim came and seized it from me.

“You get the broom,” he panted, “and the rake. I’ll hose as hard as I can, and you try to sweep…”

I dashed around to the back kitchen and got the broom. And on rejoining Jim, I stood forth and swished for all my might. I swished as Jim hosed.

And the rain came down all the harder.

I happened to look across the street, and a lady, one of Jim’s neighbors, was standing on her verandah in an attitude of astonishment.

When she saw me look at her, she suddenly shrank back and disappeared indoors.

“I guess the neighbors will think we’re crazy,” I cried to Jim.

I happened to glance up again in a minute, and I saw several ladies standing on their verandahs. Also a couple of old gentlemen of the kind who have retired.

They were all watching us.

The ladies began skipping, in the rain, with their coats over their heads, from porch to porch, and gathered in little knots and groups.

And the rain increased. And Jim advanced with the hose, step by step, shooting the powerful stream in its work of mercy, while I danced ahead, swishing with the broom.

“We’re creating a little excitement,” admitted Jim, as he saw the gallery increasing.

“I wish this slicker fitted me better,” I said. “I must look kind of silly….”

“Well, neighbors are neighbors,” muttered Jim. “Even if we do look silly, they don’t need to spread the word…”

“They’re not laughing,” I pointed out.

“By golly…” said Jim, seeing the same shocked expression on them all…

Then from one of the verandah gallery groups a figure detached itself. It was old Mrs. Crisp, one of Jim’s favorite neighbors. A dear old lady under an umbrella, who often came and sat in the evenings on the Frise porch.

Resolutely, she marched across the streaming pavement and Jim turned the hose away as she came close. Under her umbrella, she came right close to us. “Boys!” she said, in a shocked voice. “Boys, for your wives’ sakes, for your families’ sakes, won’t you be good boys and go indoors!”

“Why, Mrs. Crisp…!” cried Jim, staring.

“Boys!” hissed Mrs. Crisp commandingly. “It’s raining. It’s pouring rain. Now, do, like good boys, go in the house. Please! You are making a spectacle of yourselves before the whole neighborhood…”

“But Mrs. Crisp!” gasped Jimmie, turning off the nozzle so he could talk more freely.

“Now, now,” soothed Mrs. Crisp firmly. “I don’t object to a little jollification for you boys. But not with the whole district out observing…”

“Mrs. Crisp,” said Jim, stepping close and bending down so the old lady could see his honest sober gaze and smell his breath if necessary. “Mrs. Crisp, you are quite mistaken. We’ve just discovered we’ve put far too much fertilizer on the lawn, and we’re trying to wash it off, before it burns the…”

“Oh!” squeaked Mrs. Crisp, in consternation. “We thought… we all thought… oh, dear!… I must go and tell them…”

And she hustled across the street under her umbrella and hurried from verandah to verandah, calling out the explanation to the gallery, which, in response to the news, vanished indoors immediately.

“Yah!” grated Jimmie, resuming the hosing, “so there’s public opinion for you! There’s neighbors! Always putting the worst possible interpretation on everything…!”

“Thank heavens,” I gasped, sweeping, “for dear old Mrs. Crisp!”


Editor’s Note: There was one other illustration that came with this story, but it was in the seam of the microfilm scan and was completely illegible.

Juniper Junction – 04/16/47

April 16, 1947

Always Prepared! That’s Us

I sawed. And Jim leaned down to peer for the ensuing whisps of smoke.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by Jim Frise, March 15, 1947.

“I’m,” declared Jimmie Frise, “really worried!”

“Aw,” I explained, “it’s just progress. Human progress.”

“Look,” cried Jim. “If you want light, you push a button. If you want to have a fire to cook a meal, you turn a tap on the gas stove and it lights its self. You don’t even have to strike a match.”

“Well, I can’t see,” I submitted, “how that is making sissies out of us.”

“Or,” went on Jim, “you turn a knob on the electric range. And you get a fire you never even see. Yet it is hot enough to cook a roast of beef!”

“So what?” I demanded.

“I tell you,” hissed Jimmie, “we are paving the way for our own destruction. We are placing ourselves the mercy of gadgets. In a few more years, the natural, ancient wisdom by which we have survived all the ages will have disappeared from among us.”

“It’s in books,” I reassured him. “We can always read up on how to cook on a wood stove.”

“That’s my point!” cried Jim. “Suppose we lost the books too? What I mean is, suppose there was an earthquake or a tidal wave that swept away all our power plants, our gas works, our means of communication and supply, AND our books! How many of us would survive?”

“How many of us,” I retorted, “would WANT to survive?”

“In a very few years,” stated Jim firmly, “at the rate we’re now going, nobody is going to know how to do anything except push a button or turn a knob. I got thinking about this whole business last night, when I happened to say to my boy something about sifting ashes.”

“Oh, yeah!” I exclaimed delighted. “Sifting ashes! I remember.”

“Do you suppose,” enquired Jim darkly, “that there is an ash sifter left anywhere on earth today? In this age of oil burning furnaces and blowers and self feeders? When we were kids, sifting the ashes was part of every boy’s life. You carried the ashes from the furnace out to the back yard. Then you shovelled the ashes out of the ash cans into the sifter. And you sifted the ashes, to remove all the unburned coal. Then you hand-picked the good coal from among the clinkers.”

“That,” I agreed, “was economy.”

“Today,” pursued Jim, “you don’t even see your furnace from one year’s end to the other. You simply push a little needle over, on the thermostat on the living room wall, and the furnace goes on or off, as you wish.”

“A great and gratifying improvement,” I submitted.

“But how about our kids!” protested Jim angrily. “Suppose something happened, suppose a catastrophe occurred so we couldn’t get oil or electricity? And our children, knowing nothing save that needle on the thermostat – what would they do?”

“Well, despite recent human progress,” I reasoned, “I imagine most kids know how to make a bonfire.”

“And a fine job of heating and cooking they’d do with a bonfire,” snorted Jim. “No, the more I think of it, the more I am alarmed by our increasing helplessness and dependence on mechanical gadgets of all kinds. Why, half the people today don’t know how to light a match! How long would your lighter be of use if suddenly, a catastrophe struck us and threw us on our own resources without all modern aids?”

“Oh, I’m not one of those who trusts lighters,” I admitted happily. “I always carry a bunch of good old-fashioned kitchen matches. Never without them.”

And I drew from my pants pocket a fistful of the big old-fashioned matches mixed up with my keyring, pen knife and folding nail file.

“Well, you’re one in a million,” said Jim. “If the whole country were suddenly thrown into wreck and ruin by a tidal wave, for instance, those few matches of yours would make you one of the mightiest men in the country! If you kept them dry.”

“Oh, I’d keep them dry,” I assured, thinking a little uneasily of the possibilities Jim was picturing.

“Look at Britain, during the recent snow storms and coal shortage!” exclaimed Jim. “Think of the millions of people with no lights, no stoves, no radios– just suddenly faced with the problem of cooking their supper out in the garden over a bonfire. IF they could get any dry wood!”

“Aw, the British,” I calmed, “have been through a lot more than a blizzard and a coal shortage.”

“Have they!” snorted Jim. “War hits here and there. But blizzards and coal shortages strike all over at the same time. I tell you, that if those conditions had lasted much longer, thousands would have died of exposure and starvation…”

“Why, the German cities…” I cut in.

“The German cities that were blitzed,” declared Jim, “always had parts that weren’t blitzed. Or else neighboring towns and cities that weren’t blitzed. What I’m talking about is a situation that throws us ALL upon our own basic resources. About the only people who would survive would be the farmers. And even they’d have to go back to oil lamps – if they could get any oil.

“Well, what are you going to do about it?” I smiled. “You can’t stop progress.”

“But IS it progress,” demanded Jim, “to place ourselves at the mercy of mechanical devices upon which our very lives depend?”

“The power often goes off,” I pointed out, “and we don’t suffer much inconvenience.”

“If the power went off for a week,” rejoined Jim, “your oil furnace would be pretty cold. There aren’t enough candles in Canada to last a week. Nor coal oil. Not a surgical instrument or an anaesthetic dispenser any hospital in the country would work. Not a bakery would produce a loaf. Not a quart of milk would be pasteurized. Not a battery for truck or car could be recharged. In one week, chaos complete would descend upon our noble civilization, and we’d all be headed for our cousins’ on the farm.”

“Aw, well,” I comforted, “no such calamity on a wide scale is likely to occur…”

“Pardon me,” interrupted Jim, “at no time in the world’s history has such a calamity been so definitely in sight. Don’t you read the newspapers? Do you think all these politicians are just TALKING about the atom bomb?”

“Hey!” I said very startled.

“The gadget,” explained Jim, “to end all gadgets.”

“Jim,” I pleaded, “there are more people in the world in a better position to fend for themselves than ever. Think of all the millions who are interested in the out-of-doors, who go camping and touring in summer. Why, there are no end of people who PREFER to cook a steak on a charcoal camp grate out in their gardens… with all the gadgets right there in the kitchen ignored…”

“It’s time they began to practise camping out,” said Jim grimly. “It’s time everybody started practising living in their back yards. Everybody in the world.”

“Why, I bet you,” I asserted, “there are more tents and camping equipment in the attics of Canada than at any time in her history. Look at all those tourist camps with little shacks. Look at the wilderness, full of perfectly competent outdoor livers…”

“Curious isn’t it,” mused Jim, “that recreation should now be teaching us how to live primitively at the same time the politicians of the earth are starting to run at the mouth about the atom.”

“From now on,” I said reflectively drawing my fistful of matches out of my pocket again, “I think I’ll keep one of those little waterproof match boxes in my pocket. All the time. As a regular habit. You never know at what minute…”

“How long,” asked Jim derisively “would a LITTLE box of matches last you?

“Then,” I said, “I can make fire with a stick.”

“Can you indeed?” laughed Jim. “I’ve often heard of the business of making a fire with dry sticks. First you get two boy scouts and rub them together, or something like that. But as a matter of fact, in all my life, have never seen it done.”

“Why, Jim, every boy scout,” I scoffed, “knows how to make fire, with sticks. It’s in every camping book. It’s the simplest thing in the world.”

“Have you ever done it?” demanded Jim.

“No,” I admitted, “but it’s one of those things you have to have done in order to know how to do it.”

“You take two dry sticks…” said Jim.

“No, no,” I protested. “That’s the cave man style. The way the boy scouts do it is much better. You use a bow. You can, in extremity, make the bow out of a stick picked up in the bush, with your shoelace for a string.”

“Suppose,” queried Jim, “this calamity strikes when haven’t got your boots on? What then?”

“Okay,” I said, “from now on, I’m not only going to keep a waterproof match box all the time, but also a piece of good stout string. Be prepared: that’s me!”

“Well, go on,” said Jim. “What about the little bow?”

“It’s absurdly simple,” I informed him. “You know that friction makes heat. And that intense friction will cause fire? Okay. You get a piece of wood – a bit of board – for a base. In it you gouge a small hole with your penknife.”

“Don’t forget,” interrupted Jim, “always to carry a penknife.”

“I’ll get a small one to wear in my pyjama pocket,” I agreed. “Always prepared! Now, with the board for a base, you get a stick and make a short point on it. This stick you take one loop of the little bow-string around. See? Then, with still another small bit of wood to hold in your left hand, so the stick can twirl freely, you put the point of the stick in the little hole in the board. You hold the top of the stick-vertical-down snug with the small block in your left hand. And then you begin sawing back and forth with the bow.”

“Thus causing the pointed stick to revolve,” followed Jimmie, “at high speed in the little hole down on the board.”

“Exactly,” I said. “Now, after a short period of sawing, you notice a wisp of smoke starting to appear in the hole in the board. From the friction. It is then you start to place – loosely around the tip of that spinning pointed stick – little bits of dry punk, dry tinder of any kind. And in a moment, it smoulders. You blow gently; and lo, it bursts into a tiny blaze! Then you pop on your carefully prepared kindling.”

“It certainly sounds simple,” admired Jim. “But now suppose this calamity occurs on a wet day, after hours of pouring rain?”

“By golly,” I exclaimed, “I’m going to carry a little oil silk envelope in my pocket, all the time, with some good dry tinder…

“And in your pyjama pocket too?” asked Jim. “That’s going to be quite a pair of pyjamas. But tell me, you say you’ve never made fire this way. Did you ever SEE it done?”

“Well, uh…” I explained, “practically. I mean, everybody says it can be done.”

“Personally,” said Jim, standing up, “I’d like to see it done…”

So he went down cellar and got a bit of board for the base, a small block to hold in the left hand, a slender stick of dowel, good and dry, and a piece of stout string.

These he handed to me.

“Well… uh…” I explained.

So I took off my coat and vest. And I sharpened the dowel to a nice sharp short point. And I dug a little cone-shaped hole in the board, about the exact size for the pointed dowel to fit into neatly. And from a branch off the lilac bush that Jim got from the back door, I made a sturdy little bow.

“Tinder?” I commanded.

“These little slivers of newspaper will do,” said Jim, relaxing in the easy chair.

I set the board on the living room floor.

I took a half hitch of the bow-string around the pointed dowel. I squatted down and inserted the point into the hole of the board. I set my left hand, with the little block in my palm, on top of the dowel.

“There,” I said, “that’s all there is to it!” And skilfully, I started to saw.

I sawed. And I sawed. And Jim leaned down to peer for the ensuing wisps of smoke.

None came.

I straightened up, and took a long breath.

“Hard on the back,” I gusted.

Then I squatted again, and sawed again.

And I straightened. And I squatted.

And then I yelled “Ouch!”

For a stabbing pain like a red hot hat pin stabbed my left rear.

And as I leaped high, Jim vaulted from his easy chair. “Fire!” he barked, and hurled a vase of daffodils, water and all, onto my left rear.

For my old fashioned matches, ignited no doubt by my bending and straightening, and in contact with my keys or pen knife, had set fire to my pocket.

It made a hole about the size of my hand, and a blister about the size of a walnut. And Jim loaned me a pair of his pants, which I turned up well at the cuff.

“But you see,” I explained, as I started for home, “you see how it works?”

“Fire!” he barked, and hurled a vase of daffodils, water and all.

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