The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1947

Disturbers of the Peace

By Greg Clark, November 29, 1947

“Just listen,” chuckled Jimmie Frise, “to that!”

In the quiet of the night, though all our doors and windows were shut, I could hear the faint sounds of singing. Hilarious singing.

“What time is it?” I demanded.

“Eleven ten,” replied Jim, consulting his watch.

“Isn’t it a little late,” I suggested, “for that kind of disturbance? In this neighborhood, I mean?”

“Aw,” protested Jim, scornfully, “I’d like to hear a little whoopee around here once in a while. I guess it’s those new people who moved in across the street last month. Nice-looking people.”

“Well, it’s obvious,” I submitted, “that they are not aware of the character and traditions of this neighborhood.”

“The character and traditions of this neighborhood,” laughed Jim bitterly, “are those of a cemetery. Do you know, now that I come to think of it, this is the first time, the very first time, I remember ever hearing anybody singing in this street?”

“It’s a decent, respectable district, Jim,” I reminded him.

“Even on Christmas, even on New Year’s,” ruminated Jim, startled, “I don’t ever recall hearing any sounds of revelry.”

“There are places for revelry,” I informed him,”other than in quiet residential streets. I bet all your neighbors are fuming.”

“It’ll do them good,” gloated Jim quietly, as he rose and went to the front window.

He opened the sash a little into the chilly night.

And from across the street, only moderately muffled by walls and doors, came the strains of “My Wild Irish Rose.” They were mostly men’s voices, with that curious shouting quality which men put into that particular song. On the word “wild,” they seem to open their mouths wide and use their lungs for bellows. “That’s bibulous singing, Jim,” I stated analytically. “That’s singing inspired by something more than the mere love of song.”

“Ssshhh!” ordered Jim, leaning down to the draught from the window to take in the full tone of the rowdy music from over the way.

At the long-drawn concluding harmonious “roooooosse!” there was a loud burst of cheers and jeers and much laughter. And apparently demands for more. Because immediately the sound of a piano struggled up through the din; and it was “Sweet Adeline.”

“Oh, boy!” applauded Jimmie.

“Jim, you might say,” I announced, returning to my chair, “you might say this little disturbance over the way marks the end of an epoch, the conclusion of an era. Oh, not an important epoch, maybe, from the point of view of the world or of human affairs on a large scale…”

“Let’s listen,” pleaded Jim, from the window.

“Aw, come and sit down,” I insisted. “You’ll be hearing plenty of that before the night’s out. They’re just warming up.”

Jim reluctantly closed the window and came and sat down.

“This,” I enunciated, “is the end of an era. For this street, for this little neighborhood, for the 10 or 20 families that have lived so long and so comfortably in these quiet homes, this is the tragic symbol of the close of an epoch.”

“I prefer,” said Jim, “to think of the birth of an epoch rather than the death. I like to look on this as the dawn of an era.”

“When changes come,” I asserted, “it is rather the death of an era.”

“When changes come,” countered Jim firmly, “it is the dawn of an era. These people around here have been in possession long enough. They’ve been in possession of quiet and what they call peace. They’ve had everything their own way for as long as I can remember.

The children have all grown up. Any new neighbors that have moved in have been exactly of the type as all the rest. There hasn’t been a disturbance of any kind in 20 years.”

“That,” I assured, “is as it should be. A neighborhood should have its distinctive character. Now, there are any number of neighborhoods in the city where the rumpus across the street would never be noticed. It would be the normal thing. Why, then, do people like these across the road not move into a neighborhood full of their own kind? Why do they have to invade a decent, quiet district like this, where they’ll never be happy, nor allow others to be happy?”

“It’s the housing shortage,” explained Jim. “A housing shortage is a great thing, from the point of view of social science. It forces people to invade various restricted areas. For instance, a housing shortage sent great numbers of very decent people to live in poor districts where they never would abide in normal times. That’s a good thing. The lump is leavened. It all forces new and energetic characters into stodgy and mouldy areas like this.”

A sudden burst of muffled song rose so loud that it interrupted Jimmie in the midst.

He leaped up with alacrity and looked out the window.

“Ah,” he cried, “the air’s getting stuffy. They opened the front door and the windows.”

It was “Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here” they were singing now. And they were putting the usual emphasis on the “Hail.”

“Mm, mm, mm!” I groaned, as I got up to look. “That will finish it!”

Cars were parked closely on both sides of the street and there must have been 30 people in the house across the way.

“Let’s go on the verandah a minute,” said Jim enthusiastically.

We went and stood with our hats on, on Jim’s dark verandah and listened to the racket emerging into the frosty night.

When our eyes became accustomed to the dark, we noticed a movement on a verandah a couple of doors south of the party house; and there was old Mrs. Privet, with her shawl around her shoulders, staring and listening, too.

Mrs. Privet is probably the oldest inhabitant of our neighborhood and has always taken a very lively interest in the preservation of its character. When the children of the street were young, she took a personal interest in the behavior of them all. If you planted salvia along the front of the house, she would come over and suggest petunias, which were not so garish.

“She’s signalling!” I hissed to Jimmie. And then we heard Mrs. Privet’s sharp raspy voice, “Is that you, Mr. Frise?”

“Aw, heck!” growled Jim; and we slowly strolled down the walk and across the pavement amid the parked cars.

Mrs. Privet was practically in tears.

“This,” she said in a cracked, dramatic voice, “is impossible! I suspected those people the minute I saw them moving in. One look at their furniture, and I knew – I knew – what would happen!”

“It’s probably,” suggested Jim kindly, “just a house warming. They’ve only been in a few weeks.”

With a sudden explosion of sound, the house up the street fairly bulged with “Down By the Old Mill Stream.”

“Will you call the police, Mr. Frise,” inquired Mrs. Privet in a rasping voice, “or shall I?”

“Oh, no, no, no!” begged Jim. “Mrs. Privet, that would be unpardonable. These people would never forgive it. Let’s just forget it, and then, by friendship and example and so forth…”

“I know human nature a lot better than you do, Mr. Frise,” declared Mrs. Privet harshly. “I’ve lived a lot longer. People like these will ruin the whole neighborhood. They will attract their like. Inside of two years goodness knows who will be moving in here! Our property will start to go down in value. No, Mr. Frise, if you won’t call the police, I shall. These people are disturbing the peace!”

“Mrs. Privet,” said Jim earnestly, “give them a chance. Let me go and call at the door. I’ll tell them there is a sick person a few doors away, and would they please pipe down a little…”

“No use, no use!” declared Mrs. Privet shrilly. “The only thing that has any influence on people who will carry on in that fashion is the police. It’s the only thing they understand. They’re probably used to it.”

“Mrs. Privet, as a special favor,” begged Jim, “to an old neighbor, allow me to try my method. These may be very, very decent people, whose ways are perhaps a little different from ours.”

“Try if you must,” said Mrs. Privet sharply. “But I don’t intend to put up with things like this in a neighborhood in which I have lived 40 years.”

So, to the music of “There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding,” Jimmie and I walked the two doors up and onto the side walk of the house where the fun was in progress. The front door was wide open, as were most of the brightly lighted windows. And from them fairly gushed the warm and scented air of humanity having itself a time.

A din of sound of men and women laughing, talking and singing all at the same time burst out at us as we mounted the steps. Jim waited a moment and then mashed the bell.

“The bell! The door!” several voices, both male and female, yelled above the ruckus. “Hey, Bill, the bell!”

And around the hall door charged Bill, the new neighbor, a big, hearty of about 40, of the… uh… salesman type.

“Hi, who’s this!” he bellowed, as he bounded out to meet us, hand extended. “Come on in!”

Jim had automatically extended his hand to meet Bill’s. And the man hauled mightily, half-dragging Jim through the door.

“Welcome,” yelled Bill hoarsely. “Who is it? You, Sam?”

Jim’s holding back caused Bill to relax and he stepped out to us.

“Who is it? What’s up?” he inquired.

“Look,” said Jim quietly. “You’ll excuse us, won’t you? But we’re a couple of your neighbors…”

“Aw, come on in!” bellowed Bill in a stentorian voice. And because he was much bigger and younger than either of us, and since he had a strong pinching, rough hold on both our arms, he yanked us unceremoniously through the door and into the hallway before we knew what had happened.

“Hey everybody!” roared Bill, sliding us on the hardwood floor into the view of the assembled gathering. “A couple of our good neighbors! Give the boys a welcome! They’ve come to our house warming…whaddaya know!”

And in an instant our hats were snatched away and jovial arms were flung around our shoulders and we were propelled into the midst. At the piano, “My Wild Irish Rose” was once again rising like a gale.

I caught Jim’s eye but he made a warning signal. He fought his way over to me and said quietly:

“I’ll get him aside in a minute.”

But it was maybe 15 minutes later that a sudden silence fell, as sharp as a thunderclap, over the whole place.

In the hallway stood two policemen.

“There’s complaints,” said the front cop, “from the neighborhood that you are disturbing the peace. Can you make it a little less noisy?”

Bill shoved his way powerfully through the guests.

“Look, boys,” he said, very friendly. “It isn’t us. It’s these two characters that just gate-crashed our little party. They came in here and began kicking up no end of a row.”

“Which two?” inquired the cop with bright eyes.

The other guests fell away from us.

The cop signalled with his thumb.

“Don’t you know these two?” the cop asked Bill.

“Never saw them,” declared Bill indignantly, “in my life before!”

The cops took us by the slack of the coat collars and propelled us out the door and down the steps.

“Git!” commanded the cops.

“Look, officer…” I began hotly.

“If we see you,” warned the cop, getting into the scout car, “in this neighborhood the next time around. we’ll run you in. See? Now git!”

We got.

Juniper Junction – 11/19/47

November 19, 1947

Juniper Junction – 10/1/47

October 1, 1947

Juniper Junction – 8/13/47

August 13, 1947

No More Tricks

By Greg Clark, August 2, 1947

“Train travel,” announced Jimmie Frise, “has become very dull.”

“It’s for the underprivileged,” I submitted.

We were seated side by side in a crowded day coach. Our baggage teetered overhead in the narrow racks. Our feet were encumbered with additional baggage underfoot. We were hot, bothered, crowded.

“Let’s see,” said Jim. “It must be 15 years since I’ve been in a day coach.”

“Same here,” I calculated. “Any short trips I’ve had to make, such as you would travel in a day coach, I’ve always done by motor car. Any long trips, overnight, have been in a sleeping car. And during the day, in the sleeper, you’re travelling Pullman anyway.”

“There must be millions of people,” mused Jim, “who are in the same situation as we’re in. You could say that the number of motor car owners in the country – plus their families – are the number of people who haven’t been in a day coach for years and years.”

“The motor car,” I pointed out, “has brought a lot of joy into the world. But it has also taken a lot of joy out of the world, too. Why, when I was young, a train trip was the most exciting and interesting adventure conceivable.”

“And look around you now!” chuckled Jim.

Our fellow travellers were certainly a melancholy and lack-lustre crowd. Though it was midday, more than 50 per cent of them were either asleep or in the attitude of sleep, sprawled and perspiring. From our train windows could be seen such summer beauty as hundreds of thousands of tourists come myriad man miles to behold. But if any of our fellow travellers had their faces to the windows, their eyes were shut.

Half a dozen children meowed and wailed wearily. A few commercial men, in pairs, carried on Imposing conversations above the giddley-bump, giddley-click of the train wheels. But if anybody was enjoying the adventure of the train ride, they were concealing it.

“Where’s the glamor gone?” demanded Jim. “Why, even after I was a child, even when I was a mature man, and before I owned a motor car, I can recollect there was glamor in train travel. I looked forward to a journey by train as the better part of the holiday I was bent on.”

“The motor car,” I suggested, “has altered all values. It has personalized travel. Individualized it. You travel with chosen and selected companions, for one thing.”

“Yes, I suppose,” said Jim guardedly, taking a slow look around our immediate vicinity. “The motor car has removed from train traffic a great proportion of the interesting people who used to travel this way. I don’t mean to be snobbish. But after all, probably most of these people here WOULD travel by car IF they could afford a car.”

“In other words,” I ventured, a certain class distinction has arisen in the world of travel.”

“You could put it that way,” agreed Jim cautiously. “It stands to reason that the brightest and most alert people are the people who have money. And if they have money, they own motor cars.”

“Jim, you are,” I declared, “a snob! Some of our best and most delightful friends haven’t the money to buy a car.”

“I think it’s about time,” retorted Jim, “that we put a spike in this snob stuff. Here on this very train is the answer to the whole problem. In the old days, when everybody, rich and poor, travelled on trains, there was a sense of alertness, of fun, of adventure, of amused excitement, about train travel. Now, with a certain element removed from the population of trains, train travel has become dull and uninteresting, sleepy, impatient; something to be gotten over with. And that certain element, my friend, which has been removed – is the motor car owners, the people with money enough to own a car.”

“In other words,” I accused, “If a person can’t afford a motor car, he’s dull!”

Jim just waved his hand around at the day coach.

Certainly, nowhere else I can think of in our civilisation, could you find gathering of people so completely bored with their present condition. Not in a big department store waiting room. Not on the streets. Not in movies. Not in public parks.

A bevy of five young people, from a car ahead, came boisterously through the door of our car; two boys and three girls. They were merely prowling through the train looking for excitement, I suppose. Their laughing passage had no effect on our car, except to rouse a few burghers from their slumber, who cast indignant glances after the disturbers; and to excite a couple of the children to further outcries, so that damp mothers had to smack them to quiet them again. “See!” explained Jim, after the gay ones had passed.

“Well, they’re happy enough,” I countered, “and they haven’t got motor cars.”

“But they will have,” retorted Jim, “in a couple of years. Or I miss my guess.”

“Thank heavens,” I concluded, “we’ve got parlor car chairs from Fort William on.”

“We were lucky to get them,” said Jim. “When I tried to get chair car seats, the ticket agent just laughed. He said they had been sold out for a month.”

“Right there,” I offered, “is more than half the secret of the dullness of train travel, Jim. The railroads, during the big depression and then the long war, got years and years behind in their equipment. These trains should all be equipped with any amount of chair car space. The day coaches should be all streamlined, modern, with soft adjustable seats. There should be club cars and observation cars. The minute the motor car really started to take on, the railroads should have started competing, then and there. They let the motor car get miles ahead of them.”

“I still think,” declared Jim, “that the whole secret is – the bright, alert, merry, mischievous, money-making type of people have ceased using the trains.”

“Aw, you’re right!” I exclaimed suddenly, remembering my Uncle Tom Jackson and his brother, Uncle Bill.

“These two uncles of mine, Jim,” I related, “were characteristic of the sort of people who travelled on trains back in the good old days. They owned a clothing factory in a small town about 150 miles from the big city. And they travelled to and fro a lot. Man, there was no lack of excitement on any train they were on!”

“They always travelled parlor car, of course. Now, Uncle Tom was tall and thin and bald as an egg, with a sage aquiline nose. His brother, Uncle Bill, was short and stout and pudgy.

“The first thing they did, on boarding the parlor car, was stage a fight. Just as the train was pulling out of the station, Uncle Bill would walk in and take his chair. He would open a newspaper and start to read. Along would come Uncle Tom. On seeing Uncle Bill seated, he would draw his ticket stub from his pocket and examine it.

‘Excuse me, sir,’ he would say, ‘but you are sitting my chair.’

‘Not at all!’ Uncle Bill would reply.

‘Let me see your ticket,’ Uncle Tom would demand a loud voice that would attract the attention of the entire parlor car.

‘Why should I?’ little Uncle Bill would retort.

Then Uncle Tom would make a grab. And up would jump Uncle Bill, and the two of them would start shoving and punching and wrestling furiously, while the old ladies screamed and pushed the bell for the porter, and the gentlemen passengers would come and try to separate the fighters. By the time the old familiar porter came running, grinning from ear to ear, the two brothers would separate and sit down side by side, as if nothing at all had happened.”

Jim gazed into space with a dreamy look. “Ah, those were the days,” he confessed. “There used to be more of the boy in men, in those days. I don’t know! It seems to me, men bare become very stuffy and dull in recent years. Too proper. Too self-conscious. If anybody did that sort of thing nowadays, they’d call in a psychiatrist.”

“Well, here’s another,” I recounted. “Don’t think my two uncles let it rest with a mere tussle in the parlor car. No, sir. As soon as they got a little bored with their companions in the parlor car, they’d start a little excitement in the day coaches. Uncle Bill, the short, fat one would go into the first day coach, select an empty seat better than half way up, and start reading the paper. Then Uncle Tom, the tall thin one, would come along, handkerchief in hand, and carefully scrutinize every passenger in each and every seat. He would pause by each seat and stare intently at the noses of all occupants. By the time he had reached Uncle Bill, everybody in the coach was up and staring. ‘What the Sam Hill,’ they’d say, ‘is the silly old goat up to?’

Then he’d arrive at Uncle Bill. With a triumphant expression, he would shake out the hanky, bunch it up comfortably and hold it to Uncle Bill’s nose. Uncle Bill never removing his eyes from the newspaper, would blow mightily. He had one of those trumpet nose-blows. He’d blow and trumpet, and Uncle Tom would wipe and rub for all he was worth, doing a good and workmanlike job. He would lean down and polish Uncle Bill’s proboscis with the greatest attention, all the while Uncle Bill ignoring the whole business.

Then, with a coach load of travellers on tiptoe to see this wonder, Uncle Tom would finish examining the rest of the car most expectantly. When he reached the vestibule, Uncle Bill would get up and join him. And they’d repeat the nonsense in the next car ahead.”

Jim shook his head sadly. All the people,” he sighed, with that much fun and sense in them today are riding in motor cars.

looked at him indignantly.

“How about us?” I inquired. “We’re motor car owners, but we happen to have to travel by train. Is there anything to prevent us from indulging our sense of humor and entertaining these fellow-travellers?”

Jim looked at them anxiously. They had a forbidding look.

“Let’s wait,” he said, “until we get to Fort William and get our parlor car seats. Then, we can try the fight, eh?”

So we looked out the window at the glorious scenery; and fell adozing instead. And by the time we reached Fort William, we were pretty well sprawled out too, with cinders on our tongues.

But we got a refreshing pot of tea at Fort William and exited our parlor car and our chairs. And an obliging porter stowed our stuff in the vestibules and made all comfortable. We went in separately to “case” the joint, so to speak.

It was the usual parlor car galaxy. Much tidier and gentler-looking than the day coach throngs. Middle aged couples, with their chairs swung face to face. Numbers of solo passengers, their chairs swung back to back, deep in magazines; or else gracefully asleep, their mouth shut.

Jim and I met in the vestibule and exchanged winks, “A nice drowsy bunch,” I muttered, “to shake up.”

“I bet they’ve travelled 500 miles,” chuckled Jimmie, “with no more excitement than the hiss of the air brakes.”

“Will I go in and sit?” I asked.

“Yes, I’ll be the accuser,” agreed Jim.

So when the train started, I went in and sat down in my chair, taking out a magazine and making myself comfortable in the characteristic parlor car style – that is, giving a brief and inhospitable glance at my neighbors, all of whom were pointedly ignoring my new arrival.

Then Jim came walking down the aisle.

He paused and looked uncertainly about. This got several of the nearer passengers aware of him.

“Oh, pardon me,” he said lightly but firmly. “I think you’re in my chair.”

“I think not,” I replied shortly, resuming my magazine.

Jim studied his ticket. “May I see your ticket?” he inquired.

“Are you the conductor?” I retorted.

“Let me see your ticket!” commanded Jim in a loud and threatening voice.

“Certainly not,” I replied.

Whereupon Jim reached down and took hold of the shoulders of my coat and hoisted me.

I swung a powerful punch that missed, and, Jim demanding “which pocket is it in?”, lifted me in the air and began scuffling at my pockets.

The nearer ladies were exclaiming shrilly. A couple of the middle-aged men were calling “Now, now!” in scandalized tones.

All of a sudden, the entire parlor car seemed to go into action. From my side, a tall, rangy gentleman, obviously a westerner, came plunging and poked Jimmie square on the nose.

From Jim’s side, another younger man lunged and poked my champion on his nose,

“I saw the big bully,” shouted my champion, “pick this little fellow right up…!!”

Amid the pandemonium, bells ringing, voices protesting, ladies crying “Oh, oh!” Jim’s champion shouted back:

“Aw, the little guy wouldn’t have even the decency to show his ticket! I know his type! I spotted him the minute he came in! The measly little …”

Jim was sitting on the parlor car floor holding his handkerchief to his nose.

I, under the protection of my large western champion, was so far undamaged.

And then the porter and the Pullman conductor both arrived, the two strangers stated the two conflicting points of view, I assisted Jim to his feet and out to the washroom off the smoking compartment.

Where we decided to remain for some time, until the humorous novelty had worn itself out.

With ice from the ice water tank, the porter and I got Jim’s nose stopped.

The big westerner came and looked in the smoking room door solicitously.

“Everything under control?” he inquired. “Can you handle him all right?”

“Okay,” I assured him, holding ice on the nape of Jim’s neck.

“Well, now,” said Jim, bitterly, through his handkerchief, “how about the next trick? How about me going along with this handkerchief, through the day coaches?”

“No more tricks!” I asserted devoutly.

Editor’s Note: A day coach is a train car specifically for people who are travelling less than a day. This is different than a sleeping car, for overnight or longer trips. Pullman cars were the common name for sleeping cars. A parlour car was a more expensive day coach, like “business class” today.

Juniper Junction – 6/25/47

June 25, 1947

Leave it to the Ladies

By Greg Clark, March 22, 1947

“Hey, get out of here!” yelled Jimmie Frise:

He was speaking to his so-called Irish water spaniel, Rusty, who had just romped into the living room.

“Aw,” moaned Jim loudly, “just look at that MUD!”

Rusty’s sprawled paws were soppy with liquid mud. He left large loose footprints on the rug and on the hardwood floor as he tucked in his tail and retreated to the kitchen.

“At this season of the year, Jim,” I announced with sweet reasonableness, “you have to put up with a certain amount of dirt tracked in…”

Jim was up, swiping up the muddy footprints with his handkerchief. He followed Rusty to the kitchen and let out a wail.

“Just look here!” He shouted for me. “Just look at this linoleum.”

I went to the kitchen and it certainly was a mess. Rusty had apparently succeeded in pawing the kitchen door open and had brought in about a pint of lovely liquid goo from the melting back yard. He had tracked it all over the kitchen, as though trying to leave no square foot undecorated.

“Here, you!” commanded Jim angrily jerking the back door open. “Git!”

And Rusty, all abject, hustled out into the mucky garden.

“He’ll only pick up more,” I pointed out cheerily.

“What do other people, do?” enquired Jim helplessly, as he took the mop from the broom closet and started to mop up. “Nearly every home in the nation has a dog. What do they do when the spring break-up comes? Is every home in Canada mucked up like this?”

“I suppose so,” I agreed. “From late March until well into May, the average back yard or garden in this country is more or less liquid mud. Dogs will be dogs. You can’t keep a dog shut up for two solid months…”

“Well, if you can train a dog to sit up and beg,” demanded Jim grimly, “why can’t you train a dog to wipe its feet before it comes in the house!”

“I suppose some people have,” I supposed.

“That Rusty,” muttered Jim, looking out the kitchen window. “The most intelligent dog I ever owned. Understands every word I utter. Sits with me in the duck blind, in the autumn, and comprehends the whole game of duck shooting as well as I do. Lies like a rock until I shoot and give the command to retrieve. Up like a shot, into the water and locates the duck with almost human intelligence. And then … does a thing like this!”

He resumed his mopping fretfully.

“Jim,” I philosophized mildly, “this just gives you some idea of what the womenfolk of this country are up against, year in, year out. Just because your wife and family happen to be out this afternoon, you’re getting a little insight into what goes on here in your kitchen every day from now until the summer comes. Mopping, mopping, mopping.”

“I suppose,” said Jim reflectively resting on his mop.

“It stands to reason,” I pointed out. “Rusty goes out every day, doesn’t he? Several times a day? Yes? And every time he goes out, he romps around the muddy streets or the muddy garden, and tracks in…”

“I guess,” said Jim, “we don’t realize just what our wives really do. We’re so used to them busy about the house, vacuuming, sweeping, dusting – we never notice what it is that makes all the dirt until we happen to see Rusty, there, come bounding in onto the living room rug–“

“Heading straight for the chesterfield,” I reminded.

“He’d have been on the chesterfield in a second,” agreed Jim, “if I hadn’t yelled at him.”

Jim looked out of the window again.

“Just look at that fat-head!” cried Jim. “Look at him deliberately stamping in that liquid mud!”

“Listen,” I pleaded. “If you were a dog, wouldn’t you delight in the first signs of spring? That mud along that flower bed, Jim, is the first touch of spring for Rusty. After running around on the snow and ice all winter, in his bare feet, I bet that nice soft mud feels heavenly to him.”

“Well, he’s certainly not going to get back here in this house!” declared Jim indignantly, as he gave the kitchen linoleum a final flourish with the mop. “When I think of all the years I’ve let that darn dog, and all his predecessors, ladle mud all over the place …”

“Aw, the womenfolk are used to it,” I reasoned.

“Used to it!” cried Jim hotly. “Why, I blush all over the way I’ve behaved towards my wife and daughters. Never giving them a thought. Allowing that mutt Rusty to slather mud all over the place … Do you know what I’m going to do?”

“Send Rusty away to the country for March and April?” I suggested.

“No, sir,” asserted Jim, slamming the mop back into the broom closet. “No, sir! I’m going to TRAIN that dog to wipe his feet.”

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, Jim,” I warned.

“Rusty,” stated Jim, “has got almost as much intelligence as you or I have. I’m going to start training him right now. I’m going to set a little baking pan of clean water out there on the back steps, I’m going to teach him to dip his paws, one after the other, in the water. Then — just inside the kitchen door — I’m going to lay some newspapers on the floor. And I’ll teach him to stand with his freshly dipped paws, onto the newspaper, scrape them on the paper to dry them…”

“Aw, Jim,” I protested, “poor old Rusty could never do that.”

“Haven’t you seen him,” interrupted Jimmie, last summer, scratching his feet energetically on the ground. Making the dirt fly? Every dog does that. Well, all I’m going to do is teach him to scratch like that on newspapers when he comes into the house.”

“I’ve got a far simpler idea, Jim,” supposed I, leading back into the living room. “An idea that has been staring us all in the face for centuries. An idea in fact, that has already occurred to plenty of dog owners — though not for cleanliness.”

“What’s that?” enquired Jim.

“Boots,” I said.

“Boots?” exclaimed Jim. “Dog boots?”

“Certainly,” I assured him. “Dog boots. I’ve often seen them in sporting goods stores. Little leather boots that lace up like a figure-skating boot do. Hunters use them on setters, pointers and hounds, when the dog’s feet get tender after too much running.”

“Well, I’ll be …!” said Jim.

“You’ve seen them?” I said. “Sure! They’re an every day thing for gun dogs. And why all the rest of us dog lovers, who have to keep dogs in city houses, haven’t tumbled to these dog boots long ago, I can’t figure out.”

“Why, how simple!” cried Jim.” Before you let your dog out on a muddy day, you just slip these little leather boots on him. He’ll soon get used to them. He’ll soon learn that he has to have his mud boots on certain kinds of muddy days. Why, it’s a brain wave. Where do you suppose we could get a set of them?”

I got up and went straight to the phone. I called two or three sporting goods stores. Yes. They had heard of dog boots. Oh, yes, in fact, a few years ago, they had had a few sets in stock. But they hadn’t seen any for some years, not since the start of the war, in fact.

“Order some, order some!” called Jim.

So I ordered a set, whenever they came on the market again, the right size for a dog its owner believed to be an Irish water spaniel.

“Well, well, well,” I said, resuming my easy chair. “Think of that!”

“Think,” protested Jim, “of all the women of this country, and what a saving it would be if every dog was trained to stop, before going out on a wet or muddy day, to have its boots put on!”

“From what I know of women,” I remarked, “I think they would prefer to do a little mopping than to have to be stooping down, every little while, to adjust four boots on a dog.”

“Greg,” said Jim seriously, “it’s about time we men began doing a little thinking about how our womenfolk have to slave and toil, over these trifling LITTLE things…”

“Personally,” I submitted, “I think it is safer for men to leave the domestic problems where they belong. It’s usually fatal to interfere.”

“This isn’t interfering,” exploded Jim. “It’s offering to the womenfolk of the world the benefit of the manly imagination, the masculine purpose and drive…”

“Mmm-mmm!” I disagreed.

Jim sat thinking. He suddenly clapped his hands.

“I’ve got it!” he explained. “I’ve got a sheet of light leather up in my den. I was going to use it for a patch on the bottom of my pack sack. Now, look!

I’m going to cut four little squares of this leather. It’s nice and light, but tough. Then, I’ll get four good elastic bands, and –”

He was off and up the stairs. He returned in a few minutes with four small patches of light leather, about five inches square, and a collection of assorted elastic bands.

“Now, see,” he exulted. “I place Rusty’s foot in the middle of this patch. I fold it up around his ankle and secure it with a rubber band. Presto!”

“Well, by golly,” I chuckled “it just might do!”

So we called Rusty to the back door. We spread a good pad of newspapers on the back steps. And then, while I held Rusty steady. Jim started to attach the new footgear.

Rusty didn’t like it much. He struggled quite a bit and protested vocally. He got twisted around so he could look at what Jim was doing.

“See, old boy?” cried Jim, patting Rusty’s noggin and holding up the first booted foot for Rusty to examine and sniff.

So Rusty, accustomed as he is to the oddities of human beings and resigned, largely, to the superior will, if not the wisdom, of his master, relaxed while Jim skilfully placed each paw in the centre of a leather patch, folded it up around the ankle and secured it firmly but not too tightly, with an elastic band.

“There,” declared Jim. “That will have to do until we get his new proper boots. It’s no trick at all to fix them on. The womenfolk will do it in a jiffy.”

I let Rusty go.

He stood for a moment, awkwardly. He raised one hind leg in the air and shook it sharply. He took a step. And as he lifted each foot, he would give it a quick, automatic kick.

He stepped cautiously down the steps, and at the bottom, turned and bit at his front paw.

“No, no, no!” warned Jimmie sharply.

Rusty stood uncertainly, gazing at the lovely mud of the lawn and garden beds.

“Go ahead, boy,” urged Jim softly.

Rusty took a couple more steps, giving each hind leg an automatic shake or kick as he lifted it.

Then he started to run.

“Hurray,” cried Jim, “he’s onto them already …”

But Rusty was running in wild circles. He was twisting and snapping and tearing at his paws. He fell over in his frenzy and rolled in the mud

“Hey,” roared Jim. “Hey!”

“Jim,” I cried, “he’s frightened. He’s going into a panic.”

Rusty was now rolling and biting and fighting madly in the thickest of the mud, the loose, soupy mud over by the lilac bushes. Rolling and kicking and tearing, a regular blur of mud.

Jim and I reached him simultaneously. To get to him, we had to do a little mud-wading ourselves. And to lay hands on him, we had to get a lot of mud in the face, and all over our hands, arms and knees.

“Steady, boy!” roared Jim, pinning him in the mud. And he started to unloose one of the boots.

But Rusty had had enough of our ideas. With a violent wriggle, he slipped from our clutches, and raced for the house.

The back door was open.

“Oh, OH, OH!” yowled Jim, as we sprinted.

But it was too late. We did not waste time trying to scrape our own feet. Nor even to shake any off our pant legs. We dashed through the kitchen, past the hall, into the living room.

And there, on the chesterfield, fought Rusty still game with his new footgear.

Well, Jim locked Rusty in the cellar. And we both peeled off, and got the mop, and the scrubbing pail AND the vacuum AND the broom.

AND some patent stuff for cleaning upholstery that we found in the cupboard.

And I am bound to say, we had at least the rough off before the womenfolk got home. At least, they wouldn’t have too much to do. No scraping, anyway.

“Now,” said Jim, at last, “I’ll go down and put that mutt in the laundry tub. And it’ll be lucky if I don’t DROWN him.”

“Aw, don’t blame the dog, Jim,” I submitted heavily. “Let’s just remember to leave domestic problems to the ladies.”

Editor’s Note: Jim’s dog Rusty appears in many stories. It might have been the same dog, or perhaps they all were turned into Rusty for the sake of stories.

Juniper Junction – 3/5/47

March 5, 1947

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