The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1948

Dogs Are Only Human

By Greg Clark, June 26, 1948

Even a big and fighting Airedale can be licked by an irate lady, Jim and Greg find

“That dang Airedale!” barked Jimmie Frise.

“Fighting again?” I inquired.

“No: he jumped the fence,” growled Jim, “and scratched and kicked our zinnia bed all to pieces.”

“Aw, at this time of year, Jim,” I soothed, “all dogs are pretty frisky. Maybe it was some other…”

“No, no, the family saw him,” snorted Jim. “He just jumped the fence, glanced around the garden and saw the zinnia bed all nicely laid out. He jumped right into the middle of it and started scratching and kicking for all he was worth. Malicious damage, if ever you saw it!”

“What are you going to do? See McGillicuddy?” I asked.

“Something has got to be done,” declared Jim with finality. “That dog has become a public nuisance and a public menace.”

“McGillicuddy is very fond of that dog, Jim,” I submitted. “After all, like master, like dog. McGillicuddy is a big, rough, cheery, quarrelsome sort of guy.”

“I don’t care how big and rough he is,” snapped Jim. “I’m going up and have a showdown about that dog.”

“Look,” I reasoned. “All dogs are public nuisances and public menaces. If every dog was as tame and docile as Dolly here …”

I had Dolly on a leash out for an evening stroll. That is how I happened to walk around to Jim’s.

“Hi, Dolly!” greeted Jim.

Dolly, puffing, gave her tail a brief wag. She is a cocker spaniel, black and white. Veterinary science has condemned her to permanent spinsterhood. She used to have too much coat, so we clipped her. That made her coat grow into fur. Now she is as broad as she is long, round as a bolster and finds life pretty heavy going. But she is the gentlest, mildest, least playful little spinster in the world.

“Dolly is at least a lady,” said Jim. “I don’t suppose she ever did a mischievous thing in her life.”

“Oh, yes, when she was a pup, she chewed up slippers and things,” I admitted.

“I suppose,” said Jim, “she is the only dog for five blocks around here that hasn’t been chewed up by that dang Airedale!”

“Aw, even fighting dogs don’t fight with females,” I reminded him. “That’s one thing about dogs. They know enough to leave a lady dog alone. Lady dogs can be pretty spiteful.”

“That Airedale of McGillicuddy’s,” declared Jim, “has nearly killed every dog in the neighborhood.”

“I don’t think McGillicuddy would be bothered,” I reflected, “with a dog that wasn’t the boss of the street.”

“Terrier!” said Jim, caustically. “Airedale terrier, they call it! Why, that dog weighs 50 pounds, if It weighs an ounce.”

“It’s still a terrier,” I pointed out.

“Terriers,” countered Jim, “are small, handy dogs: not moose. I bet a true terrier doesn’t weigh 10 pounds.”

“Oh, yes,” I assured him. “A fox terrier can weigh as much as 18 pounds. Maybe an Irish terrier can go as much as 25 pounds. A good 45- or 50-pound Airedale isn’t out of the way…”

“But terriers,” complained Jim, “are supposed to be rat-killers, vermin-killers. What kind of vermin could a 50-pound Airedale find to kill?”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “Airedales are used out west for hunting grizzly bears and mountain lions. They’re mighty fighters.”

“I think I’ll suggest to McGillicuddy,” said Jim acidly, “that he send his dog out to the Rockies. I’ll suggest that if he admires pugnacity, he ought to give his dog a chance, instead of letting him tear up little spaniels and house pets…”

“Aha, has he been at your Rusty again?” I exclaimed seeing the light.

“No, no,” assured Jim. “While I object to his fighting, it’s this malicious damage to gardens that has got me roused up.”

“Why don’t you report it to the police ” I suggested.

“Aw, everybody in the district,” scoffed Jim, “has reported that dog one time or another in the past year. And what happens? The cops call on McGillicuddy. He invites the cops in, and they sit around talking about he-man dogs and sissy neighbors. And then the cops come out, laughing, and waving good-bye to McGillicuddy like birds of a feather.”

At this moment, we heard barking up the street. And down came Rusty. Jim’s Sinn Fein Irish water spaniel, like a brown streak, while behind him, bellowing like a lion, came McGillicuddy’s big Airedale, Pete.

When Dolly saw them, she promptly sat down a bared her little teeth.

The two raced past, as Rusty made for the shelter of Jim’s house. Pete, suddenly distracted by Jim’s shoulder and waving arms, gave up the chase and rather indignantly paused, stared at Jim and then retreated with dignity back up toward his own house.

“See what I mean?” growled Jim fiercely. There was a fight, if Rusty hadn’t run. Did you ever see such a sullen, impudent stare as an Airedale can give you? Why, they don’t look you in the face at all. They look at your calf or your thigh or some place on your anatomy, as if cogitating whether to make a grab or not.”

“Pete’s quite a dog,” I murmured.

Rusty came out, looking a little verminous, and glanced cautiously up the street. He trotted over to greet Dolly. But she bared her little white teeth and snarled. Rusty, respectful as all dogs are to ladies backed away and ignored her.

Up the street, there was a sudden squall and yammer of dogs fighting, and down came a small black dog running for his life, with Pete, the Airedale, in large bounding pursuit.

“Awfff!” cried Jimmie, suddenly. “I’m going to deal with this business RIGHT NOW! Come on!”

“Why not write him a letter, Jim?” I suggested.

But Jim was striding up the street. I hauled Dolly to her feet and we followed.

As we neared McGillicuddy’s house, we could see him kneeling on his front steps. He was painting them. In the cool of the evening.

When we drew close, I noted that he had just finished painting his verandah, a pretty Spanish tile red, and was now starting down the steps. He had the top one done.

Pete, the Airedale, was sitting on the lawn watching his lord and master. And as we drew level and paused, Pete stood up and barked at us loudly and vulgarly, as only an Airedale can. His button eyes studied us anatomically.

“Shut up,” commanded McGillicuddy, turning around. “Hey! Hullo!”

McGillicuddy is one of those big, brindled, freckled characters, jovial and hearty, the Airedale type himself. He will be friendly or quarrelsome with you at the drop of the hat. Whichever you like. He is one of those breezy obliging type. I am rather fond of McGillicuddy; but he isn’t my near neighbor, you understand.

“Mac,” said Jim, “I’ve got to complain about Pete.”

“Shut up. Get away. Sit down!” commanded McGillicuddy, and Pete obeyed. “What’s he done now?”

“He came into our garden,” enumerated Jim, “he jumped the fence, see? And after a brief look around, he leaped square into the zinnia bed and proceeded to scratch and kick it all the pieces.”

McGillicuddy looked long and steadily at Jim, with an Airedale expression in his eyes.

“No dog,” he said. “would do such a thing!”

“But I tell you,” cried Jim with sudden heat, “the family saw him. He just jumped the fence, stood looking around a minute. And then took one leap into the zinnia bed and started scratching and kicking for all he was worth. A straight case of malicious damage!”

McGillicuddy began to get a little red in the face. His freckles stood out.

“Look!” he said, “It doesn’t make sense! Why would dog do such a thing?”

“That isn’t for me to answer,” retorted Jim. “That’s for you to answer. That darn dog of yours is a public menace. He is fighting all the time. He upsets garbage pails. And he tears up gardens.”

McGillicuddy took a long, slow breath, and took a couple of strokes with his paint brush on the top step to cool himself off.

“Now, let’s be reasonable,” he said. “Dogs are only human. You can’t expect a big, vigorous dog like Pete to sit around like a bump on a log like that silly little spaniel there.”

He indicated Dolly, who was sitting rather like a bump. I pulled the leash and got her to her feet. She panted with the effort.

“Every man,” explained McGillicuddy heartily, “to his taste in dogs. I can’t see what you see in that flop-eared Irish water spaniel you’ve got.”

“I’ve got a golden retriever too,” declared Jim with dignity. “but a farmer keeps him out in the country.”

“Every man to his fancy,” agreed McGillicuddy. “But you see, I like Airedales. I like big Airedales, big, lively, spirited dogs. Sure, he fights a little; sure, he is a little rough and rowdy. But there you are!”

“I think,” said Jim levelly, “I’ll bring my golden in to town for a few days. He’s about the size of that Airedale. He might teach Pete a little lesson.”

“Oho, is that so?” scoffed McGillicuddy, suddenly roused. “Well, mister, any old time you like…”

He stepped down off the steps.

Pete, sensing his master’s ire, leaped up and jumped toward us.

Dolly, like a flash, jerked the leash out of my hands and with a small fierce feminine snarl and her lady teeth bared viciously, made a dive for the big dog.

Without a yelp, Pete turned like lightning and bounded past McGillicuddy’s legs.

He bounded up the steps. On the wet top step he skidded. On his side and rump, he slid across the full depth of the freshly painted tile red verandah and came up with a bump against the wall. Little Dolly, fairly fizzing with rage, was right after him.

Around and around in a mad, slithering scramble, the two raced and snarled and fought, the big dog desperately trying to avoid the nasty nips the bulgy little cocker was inflicting on him. McGillicuddy bounded on to the verandah and booted them both off, I caught the leash as Dolly yipped past, and Pete, all red with paint, fled down the side drive.

“Okay,” wuffed McGillicuddy from the wrecked verandah. “Okay! You win, boys. Any dog that would run from a little wee whiffet like that thing…”

“All dogs are scared of irate ladies,” I apologized for Pete.

“To heck with it!” panted McGillicuddy. “Look at my verandah! The clumsy big oaf! Chased by a rabbit, by gosh! Okay: I’ll send him out to my brother in the country. He raises rabbits.”

“Sorry, McGillicuddy,” said Jim, with stiff lips.

“To heck with it,” growled McGillicuddy, turning to stare at the mess.

We walked back down the street, Dolly fairly staggering with exhaustion.

“Dear,” breathed Jim, when we got a few doors down, “dear little Dolly!”

And with my permission, paint and all, he picked her up and carried her.

This is Jimmie Frise’s last contribution to the Magazine. The beloved cartoonist, who brought humor to hundreds of thousands of Canadian homes, died suddenly June 13.


Editor’s Notes: As indicated by the last note in the story, this was the last published Greg-Jim story. His obituary was written by Greg in the previous week’s issue. After a week off, he returned with a story called “The Young Volunteer”, about a boy volunteering to be his new partner. Greg speaks with him suggesting that it is not that easy to find a partner.

“What kind,” he asked, as we fell in step, “of adventure do you think we could have?”

“My rule is,” I informed him, “just walk along and adventure will befall you.”

The next few weeks had stories illustrated by different artists until Duncan Macpherson became the regular artist on August 7, 1948. The new stories included fictional relatives and neighbours, and continued weekly until June 3, 1950, and then became infrequent, with Greg sometimes writing stories, and other times straight up reporting. Macpherson would eventually become a celebrated editorial cartoonist in Canada. The magazine and newspaper industry was undergoing rapid change due to changing consumer tastes and competition from television. The Montreal Standard ceased publication on August 18, 1951, and became “Weekend Picture Magazine” on September 8, 1951, and shortly after changed to “Weekend Magazine”. Greg’s stories in these publications were usually not illustrated, and were the basis for many of his books published in the 1950s and 1960s.

Weekend Magazine was distributed free of charge with 9 daily newspapers across the country in 1951. Weekend offered high-quality colour reproduction to advertisers, good photographs, feature stories and recipes to readers, and a profit-making supplement that boosted circulation for the newspaper publishers. By the 1960s Weekend Magazine was carried in 41 newspapers with a circulation over 2 million, and it was the most popular advertising vehicle in the nation. Colour television and the turn away from general-interest periodicals hurt the magazine, and it got thinner each year. By 1979 it had been merged with The Canadian, and in 1982 Today, the successor supplement, ceased publication.

Juniper Junction -05/26/48

May 26 1948

Here you can see a Juniper Junction in colour, as they are meant to be seen. The black-and-white scans I normally have can be seen below.

May 26, 1948

To the Victor

By Greg Clark, March 13, 1948

Jim and Greg discover that the wily crow is getting wise to the tricks of the hunter

“Hist! A crow!” exulted Jimmie Frise.

We ran to the office window. And there, on a roof across the street, perched a crow, his back humped, his beak extended as he yelled derision down to the swarming traffic below.

Like a ragged old black hat, he leaped into the air and flapped away onward on his journey north.

“Man! The first harbinger of spring!” gloated Jim. “In a week, we can go crow-shooting. The bush lots out in the country will be alive with them.”

“What a thought!” I expostulated. “See your first messenger of spring, and immediately decide to shoot him.”

“They’re rascals,” declared Jim. “They’re murderers. They are the enemies of everything from mankind down to the smallest little infant song bird. Crows are the pariahs of the bird kingdom.”

“They are also,” I stated firmly, “the first glad heralds of spring. Hardy, bold, cunning, undefeated, they beat their way back to us weeks ahead of the robins and the bluebirds. Not like little soft birds do they wait for the balmy winds of spring to ride on. No: the crow braves the sleet and the …”

“Don’t let them fool you,” cut in Jim, grimly. “The reason they get back here early isn’t to squawk the good news to us. It’s so they can spy on the farmer and see where he plants his corn. It’s to get their nests made and their eggs hatched in good time so that their horrible infants can be fed birds’ eggs. They come early, so they can hide in the pines and watch the tender little birds building their nests.”

“Nonetheless, the farmer’s heart lifts when he hears the first crow,” I soliloquized, as we stood gazing out the office window. “The crow may have a harsh and discordant voice, but it’s music in the empty air of March. It has the note of a trumpet in it; a note of ardent and excited signal. It sounds as though the crow, from above, can spy something coming, far to the south. It’s spring!”

“Look!” interrupted Jim. “We’ve got this afternoon off. Why not let’s go crow-shooting this afternoon? We haven’t been out in the country for months. We…”

“I could do more…” I cried.

“Look!” insisted Jim. “I’ve got Doc Secord’s stuffed owl down in my cellar right now! The one on a pole, you know? We just take it out to some woodlot outside the city and set it up.”

“What a welcome,” I grated, “to a joyous creature homing from exile! To set up a stuffed enemy. And when the poor crow comes shouting, we, hiding like cowards, blast him from the skies.”

“We’ll leave,” announced Jim, returning to his drawing board, “right after lunch. We’ll get away by 1 o’clock. We’ll pick up our shotguns and old clothes and that stuffed owl.”

“The roads,” I protested, “the back roads will be in an awful mess a day like this, Jim. There’s a thaw.”

“We’ll stick,” advised Jim, “to the paved roads. Lots of good crow-shooting right along the highways.”

Thus you see how the noblest sentiment is brushed aside by the brutal authority of material considerations. Such as an afternoon’s sport.

In the first place, I must confess that this sport of crow-shooting around a decoy stuffed owl is something out of this world. Doe Secord’s stuffed owl is the handiest contraption I ever saw. The owl is fastened to the top of a pole, about an inch thick and four feet long. Three other four-foot lengths of pole, each fitted with a ferrule of galvanized tin, allow the sportsman to joint the pole together, like a fishing rod. And thus the stuffed owl is set up, on a 16-foot pole, cleverly hidden in a cedar or spruce tree in a nice open glade or swamp. The owl appears to be sitting perched on the top of the tree.

The sportsmen then conceal themselves in the underbrush nearby, and the most musically gifted member of the party starts cawing on his crow call, a sort of squawker that very closely imitates the excited yelling of a crow.

If there is crow within a mile, he immediately, and silently, comes hot-winging it over to see what all the excitement is about.

And when he sees the owl on the cedar, he just about goes crazy. His wild calling rings far and wide over the fields; and crows for miles, taking up the hue and call, come flying at top speed to mob the owl.

Of course, March is too early for the best crow-shooting. The first week of June, when the young crows are out of the nests and the parents are busy teaching the young’uns all the tricks and perils of their trade, is the peak of the crow-shooting season. Scores, sometimes hundreds of crows can be attracted by skillful calls. They circle and dive at the owl, oblivious of the barking from the concealment of the bushes. Teaching a young crow what an owl is appears to drive the normally suspicious and crafty crow right off his rocker.

“There’s a crow!” cried Jim, slackening the speed the car. “Over there …”

Against the skyline, above a distant woodlot, I could see the ragged figure of a crow flying slowly and aimlessly. A tired crow, I thought, home from a long journey south.

“Too far off the highway, Jim,” I assured. “We don’t want to risk driving in that far. And it’s too far to walk, carrying the guns and the owl.”

“They’re back!” gloated Jim. “There’ll be more.”

And sure enough, only a mile or so farther, we saw another crow. He was feeding on a bare patch of earth extruded from the frowsy March snow. As we slackened the car, he jumped and flapped away.

“How about it?” demanded Jim. “Let’s set the owl up in the next woodlot we come to. There’s enough crows right in the district to start on.”

“I kind of …” I muttered, gazing back at the figure of the crow hastening away toward a distant clump of bush.

“You’ll feel different,” assured Jim, “once the shooting starts!”

So Jim drove on another mile or so until we came to a good gravel side-road. It was one of those first-class second-class roads, if you know what I mean, that the county authorities keep in good shape even at this time of year. About half a mile down this side-road stood a fine bush with cedars and pines among its woods – a perfect spot for crows.

Jim turned the car and we followed the good gravel into the woodlot, where we selected a nice wide spot to park the car. Filled with the usual exaltation that comes over a man when he steps out of a car with a shotgun, we loaded up with the stuffed owl and the jointed pole and our guns, and walked 300 yards farther down the road to a meadow with cedars of the right height clustered around it.

Working quietly, and in the hope that no prowling crow would come by and see us, we jointed the poles together and hoisted the owl on high. Then we set the pole, well concealed, deep into the foliage of a cedar. The stuffed owl, with his glaring yellow glass eyes, perched beautifully just on the tip of the tree.

We retreated a few yards and took refuge, kneeling under other cedars. And Jimmie unlimbered his crow call.

Four, five short, sharp barks on the crow call, as if a crow had just suddenly stumbled right on top of an owl.

Then two or three long-drawn caws of alarm, followed immediately by another series of the short, yelping notes of excitement

But no crow answered; no crow came.

“Maybe …” I murmured.

“Sshh!” hissed Jimmie, going into the second movement of the symphony.

Suddenly, off to one side, a black shape hurtled past, ragged as an old umbrella, flurried as though blown on a gale. It was the first crow. He landed, teetering, on the tip of an elm 100 yards away, and gave a few hoarse caws.

Jim redoubled his clamor. He put an agony of excitement into it; and a few low, cursing sounds, as though a crow were just about to dive.

The crow, with a sharp bark, lifted and flew away west.

“Well!” gasped Jim, pausing to puff for his wind.

In the distance, we heard the crow start to call. Jim answered. The crow increased his tempo. Jim joined. Presently, we heard another crow join in. Then another, and another.

But they didn’t come any nearer. They must have been a good quarter of a mile away.

“Maybe,” whuffed Jim, resting from his labors, “maybe they got ANOTHER Owl; a real one…”

He tried again, throwing real volume into his calls. But all that happened was that the clamor in the distance seemed to multiply and increase.

“By gum, that’s it!” cried Jim, coming out of concealment. “We’ll go on down and see.”

So we disjointed our owl off his pole and hurried out to the gravel road and back to the car. Driving very slowly, with both our heads stuck out of the windows we cautiously advanced down the side road. Ahead, slightly to the south, we saw another woodlot.

“They’ve got it in there,” diagnosed Jim excitedly. “An owl, by the sound of them. We’ll sneak as close as we can in the car.”

The new woodlot stood a few hundred yards down a really bad side road running off the gravel. And as we drew near it, suddenly out of the bush nine or 10 crows exploded. And uttering wild cries, flew a couple of hundred yards farther south.

“Jim!” I protested.

But Jim had turned the car, and we were jouncing and slithering into the side-road.

“It’s only a lane…” I warned, “a mud road…”

But the call of the wild was on Jimmie. He hunched over the wheel. In second gear, he plunged the car 100 yards through mud and slush and rib-jagging ruts and pitch holes before we went into the ditch for the first time.

“Jim, not another yard,” I shouted, as he gave the engine the gun and, by a miracle, lurched us back onto the narrow miry crown.

He stopped the car, and we got out and harkened.

Three hundred yards away, not nine or 10 but 20 or 30 crows were screaming their heads off, at the bottom end of the woodlot.

“They’ve got an owl, all right!” gasped Jim. “A great horned owl!”

We scrambled back into the car. Jim-put her in low; and we scrunched 50 yards before we slewed off the road for the second ditching. He was not so lucky this time, and we both had to get out and wade through mud to get fence rails, pine branches and other debris with which to set a footing under the back wheels of the mired car. Meanwhile, the tumult down the road gathered fury and frenzy.

When Jim had keel-hauled the car back on the road, I said:

“We can walk from here, Jim. It’s only a couple of hundred yards.”

“We can drive nearer,” commanded Jim. “In their excitement, they’ll notice a car far less than us on foot.”

One hundred yards farther the car did a couple of slews, a slide and a dive, and went down to her running boards in a solid mass of porridge mud.

“There!” I declared hotly.

“Come on!” hissed Jim, seizing his musket and leading out the door.

But we had not gone 100 yards on foot through the muck and slush until a sudden silence fell on the community of crows. One instant they were all yelling. The next, not one! And, furtively, we could see their black shapes diving and ducking and vanishing into the woodlot, across the fields and over the hills. In a moment, a great hush settled on the countryside; all you could hear was our heavy breathing.

“Well…!” said Jim.

Well, we walked back to the car. And it did not take much of a glance to see that this was a job for a strong farmer with a stronger team of horses.

It was quite a walk and quite a long time on the party line telephone before we found a farmer able and willing to come to our aid. In fact, it was dusk by the time he got us hauled back out onto the gravel.

“Crows?” he said, as we handed him $5 for his hire. “Ah, crows are wily! They’re getting educated. Sometimes, I figure crows are developing an almost human Intelligence. Why, I could tell you tricks crows have played on me…”

“So can we,” said Jimmie and I both.


Editor’s Note: A ferrule can be any of a number of types of objects, generally used for fastening.

Juniper Junction – 01/07/48

January 7, 1948

Hitler Found Out

By Greg Clark, March 20, 1948

“Spring house cleaning,” announced Jimmie Frise, gaily, “starts within a month!”

I looked at him with horror.

“Why the air of good cheer?” I inquired bitterly.

“Because,” declared Jim, with the enthusiasm of a Sunday school superintendent, “this year, I am going to participate in it. In fact, I am starting tonight.”

“You’re worse than a Communist,” I accused. “The Commies attack the social system; but even they don’t tamper with the age-old social system of the home. The man is the wage-earner. The woman looks after the house. Men should have NOTHING to do with spring cleaning.”

“But suppose,” Jim urged, “suppose a man gets a kick out of it?”

“He should have his head read,” I affirmed. It’s the thin edge of the wedge. It’s the beginning of the end. We men should stand together. Let one man surrender his ancient rights and privileges, and no one can foresee where it will end. The man is the wage-earner. The woman looks after the house. That’s our ancient charter. And we’ve got to stand on it.”

“But surely,” said Jim engagingly, “a man can takes off and carry down the storm windows. Surely a man, during spring cleaning, can do a little painting and touching up …”

“Ah, if he has a liking for painting,” I admitted. “But we have to be awfully careful. In this age of change and decay, goodness knows what can happen to the social traditions of the home. Let forms of government alter. Let social systems pass away. But none of these things touches the sacred customs and traditions of the home. A man’s home is his castle. Never forget that.”

“All I am going to do,” said Jim modestly, “is a little painting. And fill up a few cracks in the plaster.”

“That’s different,” I conceded. “What I feared was that you were going to wash windows, polish floors, scrub basements. First thing you know, the neighbors’ wives will find out about it. And even if only one or two of your neighbors’ husbands get caught in the toils, the insidious thing is that it spreads. Your wife can’t help but brag over the telephone to her friends and relations about how Jimmie has sailed in and washed l the upstairs windows outside, and sanded and waxed the whole living room and dining room …”

“No,” assured Jimmie, “It’s just one of the small upstairs bedrooms. The walls and ceiling aren’t papered. They’re painted with that water paint. Right on the plaster. Very pretty. Well, a few cracks have appeared in the walls and ceiling. So tonight I’m going to have a lot of fun. I’m going to fill up the cracks with that patent plaster you can buy in small packages and mix yourself. Then with one of those patent paint rollers, I’m going to decorate the whole room. A soft yellow.”

“Roller, eh?” I queried. “I’ve seen those things in the hardware store windows.”

“They’re simplicity itself, especially with these water paints,” explained Jim. “You just wet a pad with paint, dab the roller on it like a rubber stamp, then roll on the paint.”

“Well,” I grudged, “in my opinion, then this isn’t really taking part in the spring house cleaning after all. It comes under the heading of painting and decorating. I feel a lot better.”

“Come on over,” urged Jim, “after supper, and give me counsel and advice. It’s fun to watch another man painting.”

So after supper, I strolled around the block to Jim’s, bringing with me an old set of overalls that I bought some years ago when I had experienced a fleeting fancy for painting and decorating myself. I thought I might lend Jimmie a hand, if he wanted it.

As I strolled, I thought again of this domestic struggle in which men are now so desperately involved. After all, there are certain seasons of the year in which a man, as the wage-earner, has to pitch in and do double duty. There is the annual or semi-annual stock taking. There are crisis in business which demand of the wage-earner a special effort, overtime and all else. Does the wage-earner expect his wife to come down to the office or factory and help him in these times of crisis? Then, why do women expect men to share in the labors of the annual stock-taking which is called spring cleaning?

Yet all around, you will see men guiltily engaged in all sorts of domestic tasks at this coming season of the year. That’s the way the Communists work. They seek out the soft spots, the sentimental spots. They search for the henpecks in industry.

When I got to Jimmie’s, he came downstairs himself to let me in. The family were all out, at church meetings and club gatherings of the Lenten season. He was garbed in overalls and had his sleeves rolled up.

“Just starting!” he cried hospitably.

“I brought my overalls,” I showed him.

“Good; I thought you would,” said Jim. “There’s a fascination about painting. Especially low down, around the base board. In fact, I was going to ask you over if you hadn’t volunteered.”

Upstairs, Jimmie was in process of moving all the bedroom furniture out into the hall. With this I helped him. To prepare a room for decorating, it is astonishing how much stuff there is to move. Pictures, dressers, bed – and that’s an awful job, because a bed seems to get set in a certain way and you have to use brutal force to take it apart. Mattresses, springs, shelves off the wall brackets, gadgets.

By the time we had everything out in the hall, the room certainly gave the appearance of needing decoration in bad way. When I first entered the room, I privately thought what a pity it was to disturb so pretty a setup. But with everything bare, the room looked positively decrepit. Where the dresser had stood was large pallid spot the size and shape of the dresser mirror. Each picture off the wall had left a ghastly square of greenish blue. And the cracks in the plaster which I had not even noticed, now straggled across ceilings and down walls in spidery designs,

“It’s queer how the furniture of a room,” remarked Jim, “steals the show. Take the furniture out, and you think you have been living in a slum.”

“With a lick of paint,” I reassured, “and those cracks puttied up, this place will be transfigured.”

“By 11 o’clock,” agreed Jim. “I told the kids not to come home before 11. We’ll have everything back in place by then.”

From the hallway he brought in the big pail of water paint and a brand-new roller, with its pad. He also had a very professional-looking old square of canvas to put on the floor. And in another tin, he had the patent plaster or putty for filling up the cracks.

“Now, Jim,” I announced, right at the start, “one thing you want to know about that patent plaster. It swells. You’ve got to be awfully …”

“It says here,” interrupted Jim, reading the label, “that it shrinks. It says to put in a good, well-tamped down quantity of crack-filler and allow for shrinkage.”

“I’ve used buckets of that stuff on boats and canoes,” I insisted, “and I know it bulges.”

“Yes, on boats and canoes, in water,” Jim pointed out.

“Well, anyway,” I urged, “you want to clean up those cracks in the plaster. Don’t, whatever you do, stuff that crack-filler into the cracks the way they are.”

“Why not?” demanded Jimmie, prying the lid off the can of plaster.

“Because,” I informed him, “every one of those cracks has soft, crumbly edges. They’re also full of plaster dust. I bet it says all this on the can.”

We studied the fine print on the can.

“Yes, there it is,” I exclaimed. “‘Warning,’ it says. ‘Be sure to have cracks to be filled clean and trimmed. Plaster will not hold if edges are dusty or infirm.'”

“You never read the fine print on a can,” muttered Jim.

He laid the can down and went and examined the largest of the cracks in the wall. I picked delicately at the edge, and found, just as I said, that it was all crumbly. Jim got off a piece of plaster as big as a quarter.

“Hm,” he said. “Hm, hm, hm?”

“I tell you,” I suggested cheerily. “We’ll trim those cracks with our pocket knives. Go and get your stepladder. You work on the ceiling cracks, and I’ll work on the wall cracks.”

“If I’d known there was going to be all this to do,” complained Jim quietly, “I wouldn’t have told the kids to be in at 11.”

“It won’t take half an hour, concentrated work,” I urged him. “Get the stepladder.”

While Jim was down cellar, I changed into my overalls. I got my pocket knife out and felt its edge. I pride myself on always having a good sharp knife.

By the time Jim got back with the ladder, I had done a small surgical job with the knife, and showed it to him.

“See?” I explained. “Each of these cracks has a decayed sort of margin to it. Take the knife like this -you’ve got a good sharp blade? – and carefully scrape and chisel along the edge like this – oops!”

A chunk of plaster about the size of a 50-cent piece broke loose and fell to the floor. Brown, hairy plaster.

“For heaven’s sake,” cried Jimmie, “look out! I’ve only got this one small can of crack-filler.”

“Sorry,” I said, “but you see what I mean?”

“I do,” said Jim, grimly, “and I think I ought to just stuff the plaster into the cracks.”

“It’ll be a mess,” I assured him.

“Maybe I could skip the cracks and just slap on the yellow paint,” calculated Jim. “It’s the prettiest pale yellow …”

“Jim, it would look awful!” I protested.

“Well…” he heaved.

More cautiously, I went at the wall crack with my knife, and pared off the really crumbly edges. Jim watched intently.

“Don’t widen them too much!” he warned.

I got about a foot of it done, and then stood buck, to demonstrate to him what a nice clean crack it made into which to stuff the plaster.

“Okay,” he said, opening his pocket knife and mounting the stepladder. The ceiling cracks were not as wide or as bad as the wall cracks. With his knife tip, Jim timidly scratched and poked along the cracks, bringing down a little rain of dried crumbles.

“Go to it!” I urged from below. “You’ve at least got to widen them enough to stick a little putty in.

He scratched a little harder. Some small change, nickel, dime and quarter size, rained suddenly down.

Jim spread his fingers upward and started to press and push lightly on the plaster around the crack.

“Why,” he cried, “this plaster is all ready to ..!”

Which it did; at exactly that instant. A large section of the ceiling simply let go, as if it had been pie crust. In a smothering cloud of plaster dust, than which there is none more dusty, about eight square feet of the ceiling dropped, dryly, flatly and with a brief and shattering crash, onto the floor.
And the creeping clouds rose and began their instant wandering.

We did not have the bedroom door closed, of course. And the dust went out the hall, all over the stacked furniture and the pictures and chairs and knick-knacks. Downstairs it rolled, into the living room, into the dining room, a white, Hasting ghost of a cloud.

First: we closed doors – too late, we admit. Then we got shovel and ash cans and bushel baskets, and shovelled plaster off the floor.

Then we got cloths and damp cloths and the chamois Jim uses on his car, and mops. And we scuttled from room to room, downstairs and up, taking off the worst. By 11 o’clock we had things reasonably shipshape, although the electric light bulbs all seemed dim.

As Jimmie let me out the side door, he said:

“You don’t mind I put the blame on you, do you? I’d do the same for you.”

“Okay,” I agreed hastily. “But there’s one thing I’ve been thinking. Hitler found it out. Hitler found out that there are certain things that should be left to the painters and decorators.”

“Okay, okay!” hastened Jim, closing the door on me. And just as I rounded the corner, I saw the family car turn in Jimmie’s side drive.


Editor’s Note: I really don’t understand the title of this piece. Even the reference at the end doesn’t make sense to me.

Post-war animosity to the Soviet Union and Communism is evident in Greg’s use of the term “commies”.

Paint rollers were invented in 1938, but did not become common until after World War Two, which is why it is being implied as something new to them both.

This is also the first story published on this site from the Montreal Standard instead of the Toronto Star Weekly.

Juniper Junction – 1/28/48

January 28, 1948

Editor’s Note: Juniper Junction was published in colour the Montreal Standard and in black and white in the Family Herald. The Family Herald was released on a Wednesday, while the Herald was released on Saturday. The microfilm versions of the Standard are mostly unreadable, so I am using the versions from the Family Herald, so the dates reflect this. The dates they appeared in the Standard would be three days later.

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