The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: Farming

Egged On

“It’s one way of making a living,” said the chicken farmer. “I clear $15 a week…”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, April 25, 1936

“Every man,” said Jimmie Frise, “should have a profitable side line.”

“For instance,” I suggested.

“Rich men,” said Jim, “have their successful business. But on the side, they invest their profits in stocks and bonds. Pretty soon, they are making as much money with their investments as they are in their business. In fact, after a while, they become so interested in the market, they regard their regular business as a side line.”

“But what kind of a side line,” I asked, “could plain people like you and me have?”

“Well, for example,” said Jim, “you’re a writer. You could raise pedigreed dogs as a side line.”

“I raise hounds now, for my own pleasure,” I retorted, “and they cost me a small fortune.”

“Hounds, yes,” said Jim. “But I mean profitable dogs, like Pekingese or dachshunds.”

“How about you?” I submitted. “You’re an artist. What could you do for a side line? Why don’t you start up a little factory for making some artistic article of common use like lamp shades?”

“It takes capital to start a factory,” said Jim. “My idea of a side line is something that takes no effort and no expense.”

“All you need,” I countered, “is a little one-room shop and two smart girls, to start with. You are full of artistic ideas. Your true self can’t express itself in cartoons only. Here you are a master of line and color, a man endowed with artistic talent of the highest order. But just because you made your first hit with a cartoon, you’ve spent your life cartooning.”

“I’ve often thought of taking up serious painting,” admitted Jim. “Landscapes, and so forth.”

“No money in it,” I assured him. “But you take this lamp shade idea. A little one-room factory. Start with only two girls. You design the shades. One girl to cut them out. The other to color them. I bet you Jim Frise lamp shades would be in a class with Baxter prints in no time. No fashionable home, no collector, could afford not to have a few Frise lamp shades.”

“What kind of lamp shades have you in mind?” asked Jim, interested.

“That’s for you to decide,” I pointed out. “You’re the artist. Do you realize the ordinary home in this city has an average of thirty lamp shades in it? Bridge lamps and wall brackets, ceiling fixtures and table lamps. And how dreadfully the same are they all? Silk or glass or parchment. I tell you, Jim, there is a very real need for something new and beautiful in lamp shades.”

“Have you any ideas?” Jim asked.

“If I had,” I snorted, “would I be a newspaper writer? My dear boy, it is ideas that count. Anybody with reasonable skill or training can carry out other people’s ideas. It is ideas that make the fortunes.”

“It keeps me busy thinking up ideas for cartoons,” said Jim.

Thinking Up a Side Line

“Listen,” I cried, “a man who can think up a new idea for a cartoon week after week, year after year, for twenty years, ought to be smart enough to think up about six ideas for lamp shades. Think, Jimmie. A lamp shade. Artistically, it has every advantage on its side. It has light behind it. Being lighted, it instinctively attracts the eye. We spend big money on rugs, pictures, furniture, to make an artistic room. And then we break our necks trying to discover a lamp shade that will attract no attention at all. It’s wrong. Jim. The lamp shade ought to be as much an artistic feature of the room as the painting over the mantel, or the curtains and drapes.”

“You’re right,” agreed Jim. “But what kind of a lamp shade do you suggest?”

“I don’t suggest any,” I snorted indignantly. “If anybody could suggest lamp shades, they would have made the money long ago. The only opportunity there is in this idea of mine lies with your power, as a creative artist, to think up some new ideas in lamp shades.”

“It’s funny,” said Jim. “I can’t think of any.”

“Very well,” I said, “let’s drop it. I was only trying to help you find a side line. But obviously we are barking up the wrong tree.”

“My idea of a side line,” said Jim, “is one that would practically run itself. Like chicken farming.”

“Chicken farming!” I exclaimed.

“It’s a great life,” said Jim. “Buy a bunch of chickens. Feed them a couple of times a day. You don’t even have to go to feed them, the way you have to go and feed cows. You just open the back door, call ‘chiiiich-chik-chik-chik’ and they come running. All that remains to be done is walk out once a day, along about sundown, and gather the eggs.”

“Now there,” I admitted, “is a side line.”

“Can you imagine,” said Jim, raptly, “a life more delightful than owning a nice little chicken ranch somewhere about fifteen or twenty miles outside the city? Say, four or five acres of pleasant land, with pine trees on a hill.”

“And a brook,” I offered, “running through it, full of little trout about eight inches.”

“Far enough outside the city,” said Jim, “to be free of the curse of city life. Yet near enough to the city that you can run in whenever you like to see a movie or to shop.”

“Not really a chicken rancher,” I added, “but a country gentleman.”

“That’s it,” agreed Jim. “Country gentlemen. We could have a nice little house, and fill it up with our sporting equipment, the walls covered with guns and creels and snowshoes. I can see it.”

“But where could we get such a place?” I demanded suddenly. “If chicken ranching is so lovely, we wouldn’t be able to buy a ranch for love or money.”

“As a matter of fact,” said Jim, there are any number of little chicken ranches for sale. It’s strange, but true. Hundreds of people get the same idea we have here. But they don’t make a go of it.”

A Marvellous Idea

“Ah,” said I, “why?”

“Because it is so lazy a life,” said Jim. “It gets them. A young couple, for instance, will suddenly get the idea of going back to the land. They are tired of the city. Tired of making a living like slaves. So they throw up their job, borrow a few hundred from their parents, and go chicken ranching.”

“They’re too young,” I explained. “We’re old enough to know our own mind.”

“It isn’t that, it’s the laziness,” said Jim. “I know about this. I have had dozens of friends try it. It’s the dreadful laziness. You see, there is nothing to do all day long but lie around listening to the low, comfortable clucking of the hens. They don’t have roosters on the modern ranches. So there is no triumphant yell of roosters to give the scene a more lively air. Just the day-long, slow, quaaaa, qua, qua, qua, of hens, scratching in the dust.”

“How peaceful it would be,” I sighed.

“For a while, yes,” agreed Jim. “And with nothing to do all day long but come and throw feed from the back step, and once a day to walk around the hen houses and collect the eggs. It begins to wear on the ranchers. The wife begins to neglect her hair. She starts, after a few weeks, to wear nothing but a print wrapper all day. The husband decides to shave only twice a week, and for such jobs as he has to do, he pulls his rubber boots on over his pajamas. Then he comes back and goes to sleep. It is that awful, day-long sleepy squaw-squawking of the hens.”

“It’s not a bad life,” I offered,

“It gets them,” said Jim. “It gets them. They start quarrelling. The dreadful monotony works on them. They both long for a little action, a little excitement. After a couple of quarrels, the wife comes into town to stay with her parents a few days. She comes back to find her husband with a six-day stubble on his face and he forgot to wash. The dishes aren’t done, and there is a general air of the Deep South about the ranch. That finishes it. Another chicken ranch is for sale.”

“How could we run such a place, as a side line?” I inquired

“Don’t you see?” asked Jim. “Day about. Neither of us needs to be at the office all day every day. We take turn about spending one day at work and the next day at the ranch. Only a half hour outside the city. Our families would not object. Not at our age. We could explain that we need the change in order to rest our spirits after the strain of creative work.”

“A marvellous idea, Jim,” I confessed.

“Taking it day about,” said Jim, “it would never pall on us. Neither of us could get slovenly. On our alternate day of peace, we could think of scores of ideas for our regular work. It would be a hundred per cent.”

Looking Things Over

“How much do you suppose we could make?” I asked.

“I know one chicken farmer,” said Jim, “who has survived the ordeal, and he says he makes clear about fifty dollars a week.”

“Twenty-five bucks apiece,” I cried, “Jim, think of the fishing tackle and guns we could buy with that! Think of the trips we could take! Nipigon, and down to Pelee Island for pheasants, and a real moose hunt.”

“Who’d run the ranch on all these holidays?” pointed out Jim.

“Don’t let that discourage us,” I hastened. “Jim, you’re a man of brains. Let’s make inquiries without delay.”

So Jim telephoned out to his friend in the country who is making a success of his chickens, and he arranged to show us over the ranch next day, to give us an idea.

His place was on a highway, and I timed it. It was just 23 minutes from the city limits until we turned down a lane and saw before us a nice little painted frame house and about six long, low chicken houses.

The entire area was as bare as a schoolyard, and all fenced in with high chicken wire. And inside this barren and lifeless compound were about a million white chickens.

The air was a din of low sound. As we drove up, nary a chicken so much as looked at us. They were not the fat, comfortable hens I had in mind. They were slim and pigeon-like pullets, snowy white, with bright scarlet combs. And all busier than wheels in a wrist watch. Busy scratching running, hurrying. Busy clucking and skwarping and muttering in low chicken voices. Busy as the deuce at one spot on the bleak and barren soil, and then darting quickly a few feet, busier than ever at another equally barren patch of hard dry earth.

Out of the low red houses they fluttered. Into the low red houses they fluttered. There was a sense of ceaseless anxiety, hurry and excitement. An excitement surrounded with a low muttering sound, as if all the hens were swearing desperately, at the fruitless and hopeless round of their lives.

I sat in the car while Jim walked up to the house to get his friend. Ceaselessly the hens moved in a dense throng like a sea of white feathers. Ceaselessly they squawed and muttered and yelped suddenly with sharp sideways jumps. Their din was confusing at first. And then it became distressing. I stood up and waved my arms wildly to change the tempo. But except for an automatic flutter on the part of a few of the nearer chickens, it never made so much as a pause in their dreadful murmuring.

Chickens, I said to myself, attempting to reason myself into a better mental attitude towards them, chickens are man’s best friend. Not dogs, not horses, but chickens. Long ages before man dared to try and captivate a well and train it into a dog, he doubtless had wheedled these silly birds out of the jungle and into the front porch of the cave. Countless centuries before man ever had the courage to try to lasso a horse and convert it patiently into a harmless slave, man had so weaned chickens away from nature that a chicken would not dare return to the jungle.

And what a friend the chicken has proved? If the two billion people in the world all eat an egg a day. . . let’s see? . . . in a year, that will be what?

And the faster the hens laid eggs, the healthier men got, and the more people there were to eat eggs, and the more hens were needed to lay eggs. Maybe, I mused, the chicken, that willing provider of man’s most tasty and nourishing food, was the real source of man’s evolution from a furred animal to a relative of the gods. Chickens, I decided, and not lions or eagles, should be the emblem of all intelligent nations.

Back came Jim with his friend, a short leathery man in canvas overalls. He liked like a rooster. His bright, beady eyes and sharp nose gave me the idea that he was about to rise on his toes and crow at any minute.

“Well, boys,” he cackled sharply. “what is it you’d like to see?”

“I Feel a Little Dizzy”

“We were thinking of taking up chicken ranching as a side line,” Jim explained. “And we just wanted an idea of the layout.”

“Well, that’s all there is to it,” he cackled. Some chicken houses, nesting boxes, an enclosure, and there you are.”

“What’s the routine?” asked Jim.

“I get up about half an hour before daybreak,” said our friend. “Patrol the property to see no owls have been in. Then I carry water to them, about fourteen pails, and next I mix the feed and feed them. That takes me to about 8 a.m., and then I eat breakfast.”

“Breakfast,” said I.

“Then,” said the rancher, “I spend the morning cleaning the houses. That’s a good morning’s job. You have to keep these houses spotless, or you’re up to your neck in vermin and disease. Some afternoons I spend driving to town for feed and other days I deliver the eggs to market. The rest of the time, I am grading eggs, packing them or doing special trapping in the nests. Other days I have to do killing. Usually I’m through by 10 p.m., and then I’m glad to go to bed.

“I should say,” I agreed.

“But,” he said, “it’s one way of making a living. I clear $15 a week…”

“Fifty?” I interrupted.

“Fifteen,” said the rancher. “If I was clearing 50, I wouldn’t call the king my nephew.”

“I thought you said 50,” said Jim.

“Fifty, mercy,” said the rancher. “What do you think I am, an artist or a writer? Now let’s go and see the houses.”

We entered the wire enclosure and waded through a vast white pool of chickens which fluttered and made way and closed again around us. As we approached the first low red house, 40 chickens launched themselves madly from within, fluttering wildly and uttering lamentable cries, and my hat was knocked off by them. As we entered the warm shanty, other chickens that had not escaped charged insanely about, banging themselves against wire partitions and scrambling frantically in all directions.

“Pay no attention,” said our host.

But a white hen in one of the little lidded boxes all along the wall fixed me with a glittering eye, suddenly leaped from the nest, and, frantically fluttering, passed over me and dropped a hot egg square on the top of my head. Naturally, it broke.

“Nervous,” said the rancher, scooping palmful of the egg off my hair. “These high bred chickens are all nerves.”

The startled sounds of our entry had silenced as suddenly as they had begun, but the world was full of that low, querulous din again, the scraping, droning, muttering sound of a vast throng of passionless creatures devoid of hope or rest.

“Jim,” I said, “I feel a little dizzy. It must be the warmth in here. Go ahead. I’ll wait for you outside.”

So I escaped from the enclosure, hurried out the lane and sat afar on a snake fence and watched a groundhog on a knoll until Jim, in due time for Jim, came along with the car and we drove home.

“How about it?” asked Jim, slipping into high.

“It’s out,” I said, shifting my hat so it would not get stuck to my hair.

Editor’s Notes: More Chickens! Following last week’s posting of a later 1941 story, this week’s was earlier when they thought bigger. Maybe they learned that they should think smaller in 1941, which resulted in more success (if it were not for the neighbours)?

“I wouldn’t call the king my nephew” and “I wouldn’t call the queen my aunt” were phrases that meant “I am happy with my situation.” The idea is that even becoming royalty could not improve your position.

No Crowing Before 7 A.M.

I went to the nests; and in the third one found an egg!

Any person with sense enough to come in out of the rain could run a chicken farm. That’s what they thought

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, April 19, 1941

“You and I lead a risky existence,” declared Jimmie Frise.

“Our dangerous days are over, Jim,” I said comfortably.

“I don’t mean risky in the sense of bullets and bombs and stuff,” said Jim. “But suppose this war goes on until nobody wants to look at cartoons any more.”

“You could always eke out an existence drawing war maps,” I submitted. “There is always room for artists there. War maps change every few days.”

“What about you?” inquired Jim. “Suppose this war goes on and on until you haven’t the heart to write any more nonsense.”

“I could peddle articles about how terrible the next war is going to be,” I stated. “Lots of men made a living predicting this war. Don’t you remember? They wrote sensational articles all about how the skies would be filled with bombers and whole cities blown to atoms. And how armies would fight only in tanks. And ships would be sunk from the air.”

“Now that I remember,” cried Jim, “they did a pretty good job of forecasting just what this war would be like.”

“Yep,” I said, “and they made enough to live on and see their predictions come true. It must be queer to be a London or a Berlin journalist and sit in your deep dugout, thumbing over your scrap book and studying all the big feature articles you wrote in 1930, with terrific illustrations of bombers blasting cities and tanks roaring over prostrate civilians…”

“We got so sick of those predictions,” interrupted Jim. “that we went into reverse. Instead of preparing us for the disaster, those articles just drove us to bury our heads in the sand. Maybe the government won’t let you peddle articles like that after this war. Maybe that will be defined as a form of indirect treason.”

“I’ll find something to write,” I assured him.

“Sometimes,” sighed Jimmie, “I get so weary of trying to find anything amusing in this sad world.”

“Laugh, clown, laugh,” I asserted. “It’s the old, old story. Jim. We who were framed by providence to be fools and clowns have to keep on, come hell or high water. The show must go on.”

Going Chicken Ranching

“I wish we had some side line,” muttered Jim.

“Such as?” I demanded.

“We have reached the age,” proposed Jim, “when we should look ahead to retiring. Naturally, we have been much too foolish to save any money. You can’t be a professional fool and a private wise guy at the same time.”

“Chicken ranching,” I submitted.

“That’s not so foolish,” ejaculated Jimmie, sitting up sharply. “I’ve often thought of it. But it is so common a way of escaping from the world, so many people have retired to chicken farming, that I was afraid you’d laugh at me if I suggested it.”

“If others have found an escape from the woes of this world by going chicken ranching,” I offered, “it probably indicates there is merits in the idea.”

“I know people,” said Jim. “who have decided to retire; who quit work and sold their homes in the city and went out and bought little places in the market garden belt; and who inside of two years were back in the city, cleaned to the bone and living on their relations.”

“They probably didn’t understand chickens,” I informed him. “But I should think anybody with enough sense to come in out of the rain could make a go of chickens. Why, out in the towns and villages, nearly everybody has a hen house at the foot of their back yard.”

“Chicken ranching is different,” said Jim. “Keeping a few chickens is one thing. Making a business of them is another.”

“Listen,” I said. “You were born and raised on the farm. You were 18 before you decided to come to the city and be a cartoonist. Surely there is enough of the farmer left in you to make a go of a chicken ranch.”

“I suppose if we went into chicken raising,” said Jim, “you’d leave all the hard work to me on those grounds?”

“I’d be the salesman, Jim,” I explained. “You be the production manager. I’ve got some swell ideas already. For instance: You know those white signs they have along the highways – ‘Cattle Crossing, 300 feet ahead’.”

“Yes,” said Jim, alertly.

“Well, sir, three hundred feet on either side of our little chicken ranch,” I said triumphantly, “I would have signs exactly the same only reading – ‘Chicken Crossing, 300 feet ahead.”

“Oh, boy,” said Jim.

“Can’t you just see them?” I cried. “And can you imagine the effect on the traffic going by? Why, hundreds of cars would stop, just for a laugh. And they’d come into our little place and buy our eggs and poultry. I could set up a little sort of glass shop in the front yard, with refrigerators and things, modern and white…”

Secret of Success

“I believe you’ve got something there,” exclaimed Jim. “Chicken Crossing, 300 feet ahead. Boy, that would stop them. The secret of success in any business is a new idea.”

“You said it, Jim.” I said enthusiastically. “Why maybe we’ve been wasting our lives in this newspaper business. I bet if we’d started in some business like chicken ranching 30 years ago, we’d be rich old geezers right now.”

Jim sat thinking in eager silence, his eyes dancing with the mental pictures he was seeing.

“Listen,” he said excitedly. “You know that little kennel run you have at the foot of your garden?”

“Yes,” I said, doubtfully.

“You don’t use it for anything but storing the lawnmower and the garden furniture,” said Jim. “It was built by some former tenant who kept pets of some kind…”

“Rabbits or pheasants,” I admitted.

“Why can’t we do a little preliminary experimenting,” demanded Jim. “I’d go in with you to get a few chickens. There is no use putting this idea off, the way we do all our other inspirations. Let’s start chicken raising right now. In a small way…”

“Not in the city, Jim,” I protested. “It’s against the law, for one thing.”

“Is it?” questioned Jim shrewdly. “Let’s find out.”

And while I sat filled with misgivings, Jimmie telephoned the city hall, and got the sanitation section in the department of public health and had a long chat with the gentleman there.

“See?” cried Jim, hanging up. “It is not illegal. There are no restrictions whatever against keeping chickens in the city.”

“It doesn’t sound possible, Jim,” I protested. “They’ve by-lawed everything else in the world.”

“The man said, definitely.” declared Jimmie, “that there were no restrictions. It was wholly a question of the neighbors. If the neighbors objected, then we could be summoned through the department of health.”

“It doesn’t sound natural, Jim,” I cautioned. “It doesn’t sound like Toronto.”

A Perfect Example

“The man said,” assured Jim, “that the grounds on which neighbors usually complained was that the chickens were unsanitary, or they were kept too near other people’s premises, or they created a nuisance by escaping into other people’s gardens. Or the rooster crowed too early in the morning … any of these reasons could be advanced by the neighbors and you could be forced to quit keeping chickens.”

“What is too early for a rooster to crow?” I inquired narrowly.

“The gentleman said,” advised Jim, “that in the court, it was usually the opinion of the bench that a rooster should not be permitted to crow before seven a.m. After that, it is all right.”

“What a perfect example,” I pronounced, “of pure democracy. There is no law regarding chickens. But if the neighbors object, you’re out. I didn’t think there was such a case of pure democracy left anywhere on earth. And we find it right here in Toronto.”

“It shows you the value,” declared Jim, “of keeping in with your neighbors. If you are the type that is eternally quarreling with you next door neighbors, objecting to their children, to their dogs, to their shaking mops out windows and so forth, then it is hopeless to try to keep chickens. But if you love your neighbors and they love you, then you have earned not the right but the privilege of keeping chickens. One sour neighbor, and you’re out!”

“Jim” I confessed, “not as an experiment in chickens, but as an experiment in citizenship, I am almost persuaded to agree to your proposition. How many chickens would we buy?”

“Six,” said Jim, after a moment’s calculation. “Five hens and a rooster. I’ll buy three, you buy three.”

“I’ll buy the rooster,” I said.

“And we’ll divide the cost of buying chicken feed,” said Jim, “and we’ll divide the eggs. Oh, boy, oh, boy, do I ever love a pure fresh egg, still warm from the nest, poached and sitting on top of a slice of lovely golden toast…”

“Shirred eggs for me,” I cut in. “Take a little dish and butter it. Break two lovely fresh eggs and put in a hot oven. Bake them until they are just set. Don’t let them bake too long…”

So we went down to the Market that very afternoon, and amidst a glorious music of roosters crowing and hens cackling and squawking that resounded in the big empty market like a symphony rehearsal in an empty auditorium, we walked up and down aisles of cages full of poultry and sought the advice of the white coated lads in charge.

But in the company of the chickens, Jimmie’s latent memories of the farm began to waken, and he began to show an increasing knowledge of the chicken world. The big fluffy Plymouth Rocks intrigued me: but Jim said eggs were our chief interest and he plumped for the White Leghorn. The young fellow who had us in tow praised the Rhode Island Red. He said he had a strain of them that were simply prodigious at eggs. They couldn’t be pried off the nest. He suspected most of them of laying two eggs a day.

Buying White Leghorns

So we ended up by buying a White Leghorn rooster and a combination of White Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds. The idea being that we could experiment with them and so decide what to raise when the great day came for us to go ranching. The young fellow put them in sacks and we took them home in Jim’s car.

In no time at all, we had the pet house at the foot of my garden in shape for the chickens. All we had to do was move out the swing and the lawnmower and some canvas chairs, patch a couple of holes in the wire netting where some previous tenant had kept some sort of pets; and there we were. A large gathering of children of the neighborhood and both our families were present at the launching of the chickens from the sacks.

They took at once to their new quarters. Each ran about four steps out of the sack before starting to peck. And the big rooster got up on the door edge and let go such a trumpet that windows for half a block in both directions were opened and heads came popping out.

“We’ll have to keep that rooster locked up until seven a.m.,” said Jimmie.

“By the way,” I inquired, “how will we arrange about whose turn it will be to come and let them out each morning? You take one week and I’ll take the next?”

We went up to the Junction and found the last flour and feed store in the district. We bought a 20-pound bag of feed and a water trough and half a dozen china eggs to put in the nests. And before dark, we had the whole enterprise ship shape. Jim built three box nests and I nailed up two perches inside the little house. From a new house we saw under construction on our way to the flour and feed, we got a big carton full of sawdust and shavings. We went to bed that night in the knowledge of something well done and a new era dawning in our lives.

I was waked by sounds in my garden. And there was Jimmie in his old clothes at the chicken house, throwing feed. I dressed hastily and joined him. He lives only five doors south but he had promised to set his alarm clock for seven. It was only ten to seven.

However, I didn’t raise any quarrel. I examined the nests. There were only the china eggs. I renewed the water in the can.

“Mmmff,” said Jim, warmly. “It already smells chickeny.”

We watched them for about an hour and then had to go and get ready for the office. We left the office early and spent the evening around the birds, making friends with them and indicating in our dumb way that they were welcome in all respects and that we would not be distressed if they laid an egg.

Up At Six-Thirty

The next morning, I set my clock for 6.30 a.m. and caught Jimmie just as he came down the side drive. We entered together. I opened the door. Jim grabbed the feed bag and started throwing the feed. I went to the nests; and in the third one found an egg!

It was still warm. And Jimmie and I, after the excitement had died down and the rooster had been chased into silence from his perch on the door, handed it to each other several times while we praised its beauty of form, its transparency, its delicate shell … Then we tossed and Jim won it for breakfast. However, I claimed the right to borrow it long enough to take it inside and wake each member of my family and show it to them.

We latched the door and left repeated instructions to our family as to anybody disturbing the fowls during our absence, and we got back home around 5 p.m.

There were no more eggs. This distressed me, because I was figuring on a shirred egg for supper. But we broomed out the house and renewed the water and Jim made some changes in the sawdust and shavings in the nests. And it was about seven p.m., after a hasty supper, that Jimmie and I were sitting inside the chicken run watching the birds slowly going to bed when the party of neighbors came in the drive. They were a deputation. There were seven gentlemen and one lady. Some of them came from as far as ten doors north.

“Aha,” I said, when I saw their formal expressions, “democracy, huh?”

The spokesman was a man I have often lent my lawnmower to. I have even loaned him a lawn mower that I had borrowed. His children play with mine without ever a rift.

He explained that a wholly spontaneous delegation had been formed, by telephone. There were in the neighborhood several sick people. There was one new-born baby, whose parents got little sleep anyway. That the rooster crowed all day long. But even without the rooster, the hens made a slow, drawling, complaining sound that was most irritating.

“The weather has been very still,” I pleaded. “On ordinary days, you would not notice …”

But he said he had requested to be permitted to be the spokesman as he was an old friend of mine and he wanted to keep the delegation on the pleasantest footing possible.

“We’ve only had one egg,” I pleaded.

However, as the other members of the delegation began to swell up and get red, especially the one lady, we agreed to do something about the matter. The spokesman herded the delegation out before it burst.

So we sat down and watched the last of the fowls retire into the house. It was the rooster. With soft, masculine chuckles and mutters, he reassured his five ladies that all was well and he was coming in from his sentry duty.

I felt something tiny crawling on the back of my neck. I pursued it. It eluded me. I felt something on my wrist. I felt two things on the back of my neck, in the short hair.

“Jim,” I said, bending over, “can you see anything on the back of my neck there?”

“You should keep out of the chicken house,” said Jim. “We’ll have to get some fine sand so they can dust themselves.”

“Is it …?” I inquired.

“Yep,” said Jim.

And the following morning, there being still no more eggs in the nests, I held the bag and Jimmie cornered the birds and we took them down to the market and sold them back to the man for $1 less than we paid.

Which is cheap experience.

Editor’s Notes: Keeping chickens in Toronto was banned in 1983. However, starting in 2018, a pilot project is under ways to allow chickens in select wards.

Fake eggs are placed in nests to encourage chickens to lay in a particular spot. This is were the term “nest egg” comes from, as it was felt that it would encourage more eggs, and therefore bigger profits.

Greg was probably referring to mites or lice being on him, which can come from chicken farming.

And The Fish Were Biting!

And licketty bang, we went thundering and bouncing over the field in a hay rick …

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, August 22, 1942.

“I’m glad,” stated Jimmie Frise, “that you I are wearing your business clothes.”

“As a matter of fact,” I confessed, “it is getting a little harder all the time to put on my fishing togs. At least, in public.”

“To tell the truth,” said Jim, “the reason I suggested we leave as early as this was to avoid the neighbors seeing me pack up the car with fishing tackle and the outboard engine.”

“I noticed you drove up to my house very quietly,” I informed him, “not tooting your horn as usual, but just rolling up into my side drive.”

“Well, I didn’t know what you might be wearing,” explained Jim. “I’m glad to see you put your fishing clothes and tackle in an ordinary suit-case this time, instead that old canvas bag you generally use.”

“I guess we both feel the same about going fishing,” I submitted, “We are both trying to conceal the fact that we are taking a holiday.”

“Well, for all our brave talk,” said Jim, “this is the first time we’ve gone fishing since the opening of the season, away back in the end of June.”

“And now the summer’s nearly over,” I sighed.

“If people knew how we measure our lives,” said Jim, “not by years, but by days spent in the open, they mightn’t think ill of us.”

“Well, I hope we have some luck,” I stated. “This is our last fishing trip for 1942. With the end of this trip, another year has gone out of our lives.”

“We should kick,” said Jim. “Think of the boys in the army who have been three years away.”

“They’re young,” I reminded him. “They can catch up.”

“If,” said Jimmie.

Be Ashamed of Others

Which brief remark gave us a few minutes of silence as we drove out of the city and got on to the highway leading north. We were both in our regular business clothes. Our bags and fishing rods were carefully stowed out of sight in the car. We might have been mistaken for a couple of gentlemen of the War Prices Board heading out to some neighboring city to investigate a scandal.

“I guess,” said Jimmie, after we had both pondered that wicked little “if” for a while. “I guess when people begin being ashamed of themselves, the war may be said to have arrived in our midst.”

“The best way to avoid being ashamed of ourselves,” I agreed, “is to be ashamed of others. When you are busy being ashamed of the government or your neighbors or relatives, you have no time to think up things to be ashamed of in yourself.”

“And the louder the critics talk about others,” pointed out Jim, “the nearer, probably, they are to realizing their own faults. The awful day dawns sooner or later.”

“Of course, there are some people,” I recollected, “who are physically incapable of being ashamed. They haven’t got the necessary mental organ to feel shame with.”

“That’s called conscience,” said Jim.

“No, it’s different from conscience,” I declared. “Conscience is the moral sense of right and wrong. And right and wrong are like the stock market; you’ve got to have the latest quotations. But I know lots of people who do the most dreadful things without the least sense of shame. To be able to be ashamed, you’ve got to be a little soft. The harder you are, the less shame you can feel.”

“Then where does that let us off?” demanded Jimmie. “Because it certainly isn’t softness we need now. The war demands hardness from us in every possible respect. Hardness in our soldiers and fighters. Hardness in us at home here, to quit our selfish, creeping ways and get into the chain-gang of war. If being ashamed is a sign of softness, then we should not feel ashamed.”

Old Man Wilson’s Oats

And as we rolled up hill and down dale, we noted the farms and how thoroughly gleaned they all looked; all the fields stubbly brown; all the barns full; threshing going on at some; and only here and there a few farmers still toiling in the fields.

“Oats,” said Jim, “and wheat.”

Ahead of us on the side of the gravel road, a man was sitting who as we drew near, rose to his feet with every indication that he intended to hail us; a hitch-hiker, no doubt.

He waved his arm with more authority than most hitch-hikers and signalled us to halt.

He put his head in Jim’s window.

“Good-day, gents,” he said. “Are you from hereabouts?”

“No, we’re from the city,” I replied with dignity. There was something breezy and commanding about this man in his shirt sleeves that caused me to regard him with suspicion.

“H’m,” he said, casting his eye over our baggage. “Are you bent on business? Urgent business?”

“Yes,” I said shortly.

“Could it wait for a few hours?” he inquired. He had a cold, hard eye, with a slight glint in it.

“How do you mean?” demanded Jim a little sharply. “What are you getting at?”

“Well, gents,” said the stranger, “the probabilities are rain tomorrow. The farmer who lives in here is an elderly man. His oats are still in the shock. We have organized this township the past three weeks better than any other township in the province, but we still haven’t got Old Man Wilson’s oats in.”

“So?” I said firmly.

“I’m out here, on the road,” said the stranger, “commandeering anybody I can find to come in and help us get those oats in.”

“I’m afraid,” I stated, “we wouldn’t be much use to you. City men are hardly the type you are seeking.”

“Listen,” said the commando stranger, “anybody can pitch sheaves of oats.”

“I was born and raised on the farm,” said Jimmie proudly, leaning back.

“Hey, then, will you come?” cried the high-jacker, delighted.

“I thought,” I stated loudly, “that you had all these farm commandos worked out within your own township. Why stop people who…”

“We did have it organized,” explained the stranger, giving me a hostile look. “Even the boys in the army from the farms around here came and spent their leaves pitching oats and wheat. All the old men, all the girls and women …”

“Wouldn’t you be better employed,” I inquired pleasantly, “in there pitching sheaves than standing out here on the road?”

“Well, I’m a city man myself,” said the stranger, “and I’ve been up since 4 o’clock this morning. And I could see we would never get the job done before dark if we didn’t have at least eight more forks working…”

“We’re on,” said Jim, grabbing the steering wheel. “Hop on the running board and show us in.”

“No, drive right in,” said the stranger. “I’ve got to get two more…”

Just Opposite Types

So we left him on the road and drove up a few rods to the lane and drove in.

In the distance, we saw four wagons on the fields, some loaded and headed for the barn, some empty or half laden, out in the fields. And at least eight men were working on the wagons or with forks in the fields.

“Old Man Wilson’s got a lot of oats,” I remarked.

“And the country needs them all,” said Jim.

“I don’t think I like our friend out on the road,” I stated, as we drew up at the barn.

“I don’t think he likes you either,” smiled Jim. “You’re just opposite types, that’s all.”

“I think he is one of those busybodies,” I said. “There is at least one in every service club. One on every church board of managers. Always going about, doing good; in loud voice and with a commanding manner.”

“He seemed a good guy to me,” said Jim.

“What do we do?” I demanded grimly, getting out of the car.

“First put on our fishing clothes,” said Jim, “and come on out in the fields and I’ll show you how to pitch oats.”

And while we changed, the stranger arrived in the barnyard on the running board of another car with three men in it.

He greeted us in our fishing clothes with hearty enthusiasm.

“Hah,” he said “you even have the clothes. Gents, my name is Wilson, I’m nephew of the Old Man who owns this farm. These gentlemen were just heading into town to sign some property deeds so they figured that could wait.”

The three newcomers were farmers; the six of us marched in a body into the field where, at the back of the barn, Old Man Wilson was sitting amidst a collection of hay forks, pails of lemonade and other accoutrements of the harvest. Old Man Wilson was an extremely old man in his 80’s by the look of him. He was long past work himself.

“I’ll pay you regular wages,” he quavered at us grinning, as the whole platoon of us swarmed around him. “Regular wages, by jimminy. Now wade in there, boys.”

An empty hay rick came clattering out from the barnyard and Mr. Commando Wilson hailed it and signaled to Jim and me to climb aboard.

“There’ll be two others down there to help you pitch on this one,” he yelled, giving the horses a spank.

And licketty bang we went, thundering and bouncing over the field in the hay rick, headed for the long row of stooked oats.

I tried to yell to Jim that this was quite a fishing trip, but the words came out all jiggled. All the end of a half pitched row, the rick drew up and almost before Jim and I got off, the sheaves were flying from below the as the two farmers already on the job began pitching.

From everything I have seen of farm life, it’s a leisurely profession. You never, for example, see a farmer actually plowing. He is either resting from plowing; just going to plow; just finished plowing; or else is stopped down by the fence talking to somebody passing on the road.

But this was different. This oats pitching. It takes more skill than strength. But it takes strength too. Jim, after a few minutes, was almost as good as the two farmers on the far side of the rick. But after about 10 minutes, one of the farmers from the far side came around and traded places with Jim.

“I’ll just team up with you,” he said to me amiably, “until you get the knack of it.”

Getting the Knack of It

They said, at supper, that I did get the knack of it, more or less, before the day was done. I may have. But I had knacks in my neck, and knacks in my waist, kidneys and tenderloins; knacks in my legs, arms and shoulders. I was one large knack.

The wagon keeps slowly moving ahead, in short starts and stops, as the sheaves are pitched. The more you pitch on, the higher and harder you have to pitch. By the time the rick is loaded, you are heaving those apparently flimsy bundles of straw right over the moon, it seems.

By resting the handle the fork over my hip, I could get a fair heave. But to tell the truth, it was the farmer who came around to my side who really did most of the pitching. He would pretend, as he caught one I fumbled in midair, and pitched aloft for me, that that was a great improvement on the ordinary way of pitching oats. He said I had probably stumbled on a new idea of great importance to agriculture, to have a little man and a big man on one side of the rick so that the little man could pitch it halfway, and the big man catch it and pitch it the rest of the way.

He was a swell guy.

We had the whole field done well before supper time, and Old Man Wilson’s grand-daughter had prepared a magnificent spread for us.

Before we sat down, Old Man Wilson came in and staged a regular ceremony. He had an old purse, and from it he counted out our wages. We each got a dollar thirty.

“These high wages,” said the Old Man, “will be the ruin of farming.”

Mr. Commando Wilson took each of our dollar-thirties off the whole party to send to the boys of the township overseas in cigarettes from “the Oats Pitchers”.

“I came up here,” declared Mr. Commando Wilson, “on a holiday. I came up here to fish. And I got let into more work than I’ve done in 30 years…”

“Where were you intending to fish?” I inquired.

“In the lake here, back of the farm,” said he. “There’s a little lake back here, about 40 rod, that has more big bass, by big bass. I mean five, five and a half…”

Well, of course, it was too late for anything but a few casts before dark. We got two each, Wilson, Jim and I.

But we had the whole of the next day.

Editor’s Notes: Greg and Jim probably feel guilty enjoying themselves during this period of the war, when everything was still uncertain.

A rod, is an old unit of measure, about 5 metres in length.

A hay rick is a wagon, stooked oats means uncut oats, and a stook, is the stack they are in.

Painless Cure

By Greg Clark, August 14, 1943 (and August 15, 1936).

While Greg was away as a war correspondent in World War Two, it was not uncommon for the Star Weekly to reprint an earlier story, with a new title and new drawing by Jim. The text would be edited (usually shortened), and perhaps a reference to the war would be added. This story appeared under the title “Cure for Lumbago” in 1936 (illustration at the end). The text that was removed in the 1943 version is underlined below. The text added is in bold italics.

“My uncle,” said Jimmie Frise, “has got the lumbago.”

“They say it’s very painful,” I said, “if you really have it.”

“How do you mean?” asked Jim.

“Well, of course,” I explained, “lumbago is one of the swellest fake ailments in the world. It is one of those diseases that are hard to diagnose. A man can pretend he has lumbago periodically for 30 years and escape an awful lot of hard work. And nobody can catch him at it. Even doctors are fooled.”

“H’m,” said Jim.

“There is only one way to tell if a man really has lumbago,” I informed him. “A medical officer showed me, in the army. We had a dreadful outbreak of lumbago in our regiment one time. Somebody knew that lumbago was hard to diagnose. So he passed the word around among the real lead-swingers of the regiment, and we had as high as 30 very serious cases of it.

“The medical officer was nearly crazy. The only thing he could do for lumbago was excuse the lead-swingers all parades and working parties; and the whole 30 of them lay around the billets playing red dog and penny ante. Suddenly, he had an idea. He had all the lumbago cases paraded before him, one by one. As each man, with drawn face and cautious step, came in front of him, the medical officer dropped a sheet of paper and asked the sufferer to pick it up. Each sufferer, very suspicious, slowly and with agony bent over and picked up the paper; then quickly straightened.

“Now in lumbago, it doesn’t hurt to bend down. But it hurts like blazes to straighten up. The whole 30 all made the same mistake. So the M.O. gave each of them two number nines and a dose of castor oil and they were all on duty parade the next morning.”

“We ought to tip off everybody to this diagnosis,” said Jim. “I wouldn’t wonder if there were thousands of guys faking lumbago all over the country. Especially when there is any heavy lifting to do.”

“Oh, it’s useful for lots of other things.” I said. “It isn’t only hard work. I know plenty of men who suffer from lumbago terribly every Sunday morning, and it is worst just about time to dress for church. Others get a pang of it when their wife wants them to accompany them over to Sister Emily’s or some other such place where you sit around all evening listening to a lot of family complaints.”

“We’ll do a lot of good,” agreed Jim. “revealing this trick about bending down. In real lumbago it is easy to bend down and hard to straighten up. Fake lumbago, they bend down in agony and straighten up quickly. Is that it?”

Uncle Horace’s Attacks

“Then there is cupping,” I said, “You get a good thick glass, the kind peanut butter comes in. You set fire to a little bit of paper in the glass and then pop it against the small of the back of the sufferer. The instant you slap the cup against the hide, the lighted paper goes out. But a vacuum has already been created in the glass sufficient to suck up the flesh under the cup like half a golf ball. You go all over the lumbago area, overlapping each cupping until you have applied suction to the whole area. This is an old-fashioned cure and a dandy. Anybody can do it.”

“But what has it to do with fake lumbago?” asked Jim.

“Well,” I showed him, “all you have to do is be a little clumsy and let the burning paper fall on the small of his back. And he lets out a yell, leaps to his feet and all his lumbago vanishes without the need of any treatment.”

“My uncle,” said Jim, “is a very fine man. A pillar of the church. A county councillor. But he does get the lumbago around haying time. And harvest generally.”

“H’m,” said I.

“His wife, Aunt Minnie,” said Jim, “wrote and asked if I wanted any clover honey. In the same letter she mentioned Uncle Horace had the lumbago very bad. I don’t suggest there is any connection. But I’m awfully fond of clover honey. She’d give us each a couple of big pails of it if we went down.”

“We?” I said suspiciously.

“Anyway,” said Jim, as a patriotic duty we should give Uncle Horace a hand with his harvest, lumbago or no lumbago.”

“The only thing we might have to do,” said Jim, “would be to lend a hand for an afternoon with the barley, probably. Or maybe oats.”

“Agricultural labor,” I stated, is what drove my family into the city three generations ago.”

“I don’t suggest you do any work,” said Jim. “But it might be fun to try out these tests on Uncle Horace.”

“You don’t suspect a county councillor of deceit,” I demanded.

“The only fault I have to find with Uncle Horace,” replied Jim, “is a certain nighness. He’s a little nigh. He reverences a dollar bill with devotion that is touching.”

“I can think of worse ways of spending a summer afternoon,” I said, “than sitting under a shady elm on a farm with a pitcher of iced tea beside me, watching you forking sheaves on to a wagon. Count me in.”

Our arrival at Aunt Minnie’s was timed exactly right. Lunch was just ready when we drove up to the kitchen door. There was cold pickled ham and lettuce; potato salad with little green onions in it; hot biscuits and clover honey; hot tea or iced tea; and Aunt Minnie had a plate of mint sprays to crush around the lip of the iced tea glasses, which were the old-fashioned kind that hold a pint.

We went in and saw Uncle Horace laid out in his bed. He is a lean and weather-beaten gentleman. His hands crossed peacefully on his chest, are big, capable hands. But there was a look of patient suffering in his eyes.

Applying the Test

“Jim,” he said, “it was mighty kind of you to come down at a time like this. And bringing a friend, too.”

“Ah, Aunt Minnie knows the trick,” said Jim. “Clover honey.”

“What would you like me to tackle, Uncle Horace? The barley, is it?” asked Jim.

“Well, the way I look at it,” said Uncle Horace, pushing his moustache back as if he were going to address the county council, or close a deal, “a hired man costs so much. And a pail of clover honey is worth so much. It all works out even.” “you can’t get a man around these parts for love or honey, let alone money, and I don’t know what I would have done if you two hadn’t shown up.”

“It’s a small field of barley,” said Uncle Horace. “By dark, you could mow the whole thing. Then I have your Cousin James and his family coming down for the week-end. They are hearty eaters, but I figure they can get the whole crop into the barn for me. It’s a wonderful thing, Mr. Clark, to have relatives like mine. Especially when I am such a martyr.”

Aunt Minnie showed us the wash bench, basin and soft water pail.

“What do you think?” murmured Jim.

“We’ll try him out, after lunch,” I replied guardedly. Both systems. I didn’t like the sound of that word martyr.”

And after a wonderful two-helpings lunch, with three of clover honey and six tea biscuits, we walked into Uncle Horace’s bedroom on the ground floor.

“We’ll just help you up,” I said, “to sit here at the window and see us off.”

I then dropped a dollar bill on the floor, folded up.

“Careful, lads,” said Uncle Horace, extending his long legs out of the bed and moving very, very cautiously. He had two or three twinges in the process of getting his back off the bed and his heels on the floor. But with Jim and me on either side, slowly taking the weight, he got into a standing position and gasped heavily.

“I can manage now,” he said. But I knew he had his eye on the dollar bill.

Jim stepped over to the chair at the window, and I moved back and shook the bed quilt aside.

And Uncle Horace, bending very quickly picked up the dollar; and then, with every symptom of intense agony, slowly and with fierce groans, straightened up

“Did either,” he gasped, his face white and his eyes bulging, “of you lose a certain sum of money?”

Jim and I felt in our pockets and shook our heads.

“Well,” said Uncle Horace, painfully hitching himself towards the chair, it must have fallen out of one of my pockets.” Though I can’t imagine me losing my faculties to that extent just yet.”

He eased himself into the chair. Jim and I saw him comfortable in front of the window, and left him.

“The real thing?” asked Jim as we went around toward the barn.

“He sure has the real thing,” I agreed. “”He bent down as quick as lightning. But he straightened with intense agony. I never saw a man suffer more for a dollar bill.”

“I wouldn’t be too sure,” mused Jim. “A dollar bill would make Uncle Horace forget anything. Suppose he grabbed for the dollar bill. And then remembered suddenly he had the lumbago and groaned coming up.”

“He’s a marvellous actor,” I said, “if he hasn’t got lumbago. I hadn’t the heart to suggest the cupping cure, after seeing his face.”

“Then,” said Jim, “it is an act of charity we are doing, helping him with his barley.”

Purely As An Observer

I know nothing about the agricultural life.

My ancestors before me must have exhausted themselves so completely trying to wrest a living out of the soil that they used up even the instincts which normally might have been passed on to me. So it was purely as an observer that I accompanied Jim into the stable, saw him lead out three fine heavy horses, their sides shining like fresh peeled chestnuts. …their bellies and limbs fat and full of flesh. Jim stood them in the shade and bridled and harnessed them. Drove them cleverly to the lane where the big binder was standing ready. Expertly backed them on to the trees and fastened the traces. Walking slowly around them to see where every collar and every strap lay not too loose and not too snug. Slipped his hand under the bands. Slapped and patted the friendly beasts.

“What gorgeous horses, Jim,” said, from the rail fence where I perched.

“Uncle Horace knows his horses,” agreed Jim.

“They’re like lambs,” I admired.

“They are bred to be like lambs,” said Jim. “Nowadays, there are really no bad horses any more. The first principle of breeding is to eliminate all vice. In the past 40 or 50 years Canadian farmers have been breeding to an ideal horse, so they choose only the horse free of vice to breed from. It is as if, in human breeding, we only allowed good-tempered and quiet people to have children.

“That would be a swell idea,” I said, “for some of us. But why did we have such wicked horses in the army?”

“Ah,” said Jim, “those were riding horses you mean? They breed riding horses for style and courage, not for gentleness.”

“I have never really got over my experience with horses in the army,” I told Jim, as I walked along beside him to the mower. “What horses did to me in the war I have never quite eliminated from my character. My self-esteem is only about half what it would be normally, if it hadn’t been for the way horses threw me and bucked me and stepped on me.”

“You’d be a tough egg, then,” said Jim, “if it hadn’t been for horses.”

I watched Jim mount the seat of the big binder. I walked along as the huge machine, its paddles thrown out of gear so they did not operate during the drive down the lane, clattered and banged and rattled. Jim was like a Roman charioteer, reining the three magnificent rippling horses. They bent into the harness so willingly. They plodded so knowingly down the lane. They wheeled, almost without any directions of Jim’s voice or reins, into the barley field through the gate.

“Yee,” called Jim, sitting proudly on the binder seat, lifting the reins high, and gazing with the pride of a landowner across the glistening harvest.

Behind, I walked in the fresh springing stubble of the barley. Ahead, the great paddles whirled and the sheaves rolled out. We came to the end of the first swath. Jim yeed the beautiful beasts around on a five-cent piece, as it were, their chins across the fence, making the turn.

“Stook it up,” Jim shouted gaily to me pointing back along the swath of the sheaves.

“I never stook barley,” I shouted back. “I promised my old great-grandfather.”

Jim whoaed the three-horse team. They seemed actually to smile with a kind of harvest joy, those horses.

“How would you like to drive?” asked Jim,

“Are you a mind reader?” I replied. “Jim, if I could drive those horses even for two or three turns of the field it would restore the self-esteem I lost in France 20 years ago.”

Jim swung down off the seat.

“These horses,” said Jim, “could mow this field without anybody driving them.”

“Upsadaisy,” I said, springing into the high seat.

“Just hold the reins,” said Jim, “and let them do it.”

“Yee,” I said, “giddap.”

And without even a lurch, the three beauties curved and rippled their magnificent rumps before me and their heads bobbed, their black manes rose and fell, their ears flopped and twitched and signalled, and beside me the great paddles whirled and the wheels bumped and the seat swayed on its soft springs; and I was, after four generations, a husbandman again, a reaper of harvests, a bringer-in of sheaves.

Barley Field Jigsawed

But I hardly had time to feel the full bloom of age-long and forgotten sentiments. Some day I would like to mow a field, just to see if my instincts are really dead. About one third down the field, when I was just beginning to feel that thrill of achievement which comes to us even when we first ride a bicycle, the team stepped, I am reliably informed by Mr. Frise, into a bees’ nest. The same curious creatures who topped off for us our delectable lunch also served as a cure for lumbago.

With a couple of snorts, the gentle but massive ton and a half of glossy horseflesh writhing and rippling before me, suddenly backed, swerved and reared.

“Whoa,” I roared, seeing Jim out of the corner of my eye bending over sheaves some distance back of us.

But even the best-bred horses do not go for bees. The next thing agricultural science should develop are stingless bees. Paddle wheel whirling madly, wheels bumping and clanking, bars jerking, seat leaping perilously, we tore down the field, curving this way and that; losing all sense of geometry, coming to a fence and turning only when we had to.

I could hear Jim shouting directions, but above the noise of the binder I could not hear whether he was saying to pull on the reins or let them use their own good sense. But since a few bees zoomed around me, I thought he was saying to let them run. Anyway, I do not believe it would be humane to force poor dumb animals to submit to bee stings. Frankly, we did four diagonal and otherwise various swaths with the binder before Uncle Horace leaped the fence and caught the off-horse by the head strap and brought us to a stop.

“Get off that,” he roared at me

I got off it, quite willingly.

He climbed without lumbago into the seat He stood up and surveyed the barley field, all jig-sawed. His beautiful horses were standing as quiet as lambs.

“I’m very sorry, sir,” I said.

“Stch, stch, giddap,” said Uncle Horace.

“It was a bees’ nest,” said Jim, who had arrived.

“Yee,” said Uncle Horace, leaning forward to grasp the reins better and straightening back without even a grimace.

So Jim and I went to the side of the field and watched him once around; and as he did not notice us when he went by, we proceeded back up to the house and sat in rocking-chairs with Aunt Minnie in the kitchen. And she made us iced tea again; and after due consideration we decided to leave before supper. Aunt Minnie gave us each not two but three pails of clover honey; and in deference to my feeling for her tea biscuits, she did me up a dozen in a bag to take home, too.

Editor’s Notes: Lumbago is lower back pain, and was a more common term in the past.

Red Dog is a gambling card game, Penny-ante refers to very low sum bets.

A Stook is a stack of grain to keep the grain off of the ground.

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