The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: Fishing

Money Trouble

The storekeeper picked up the new twenty-dollar bill and examined it closely … In every face, all of a sudden, suspicion. Cold undisguised suspicion.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, September 16, 1944

“What is it,” asked Jimmie Frise, “that makes us Canadians so desperately respectful of authority?”

“I don’t imagine,” I replied, “that we’re any more respectful of authority than other people. The English, for instance, or the Germans.”

“Ah,” argued Jimmie, “yes, but the Germans have to be respectful or have their fingers jammed in doors in internment camps. And as for the English, it’s only put on. Did you ever try to pull a little authority over an Englishman?”

“If I had the authority, I think the English would recognize it as readily as anybody else,” I informed him.

“If you were an Englishman and had the authority,” corrected Jim. “They have a sort of agreement among themselves, a working agreement. But you take Canada. Somebody up top says what’s what and we all submit. There are no outbreaks. It isn’t as if these authorities had any tough gendarmes or black shirt police to back them up. I’m beginning to think Canadians are the most docile people on earth.”

“Remember the Chinese,” I protested. “Or the Eskimos.”

“All I’m thinking of,” said Jim, “is that cop back there at that fork in the highway. The way he ran up alongside of us and arrogantly turned us into the side of the road with a flick of his head.”

“He was perfectly right,” I said, “you didn’t slow down at that fork. There was a sign distinctly saying ‘slow to 15 miles’.”

“I’ve passed that fork a hundred times,” said Jim, “and there never was a cop there before.”

“That isn’t the point,” I assured him. “The law is the law whether there are any cops looking or not.”

“I don’t mind how many laws we’ve got,” said Jim, “so long as I am not humiliated in the enforcement of them.”

“You’re not mad at the cop,” I jeered. “You’re only mad at yourself for being so humble.”

“I wasn’t humble,” stated Jim. “I was only sensible.”

“You squawk about Canadians being docile,” I laughed, “and if ever I saw a docile Canadian, it was you when that cop nodded you haughtily to the side of the road and then bawled the daylight out of you.”

“I stared him straight in the eye,” cried Jim.

“Yes,” I said, “with your eyes wide and alarmed and full of an expression of deepest respect and humility.”

“We’ll Have to Be Smart”

“Oh, I did not,” protested Jim heatedly. “I did nothing of the kind. And anyway, how could you see me when you were cringing down in your seat as if God had suddenly appeared at the car window.”

“You were servile,” I declared. “You even called him sir.”

“An old habit,” said Jim, “I contracted in the last war. It was his khaki uniform.”

“Well,” I agreed, “it does seem absurd to me the way we kowtow to a cop. The way they bawl us out, the tone they take, you would think they were magistrates instead of cops. I don’t think we should put up with it.”

“The next cop,” said Jim, “I’m going to put in his place, if he so much as uses a tone I don’t like. He’s an employee.”

“Now you’re talking,” I said, sitting up hopefully to watch for cops.

“There must be some guilty conscience in us, or something,” mused Jim. “We Canadians must be descendants of people who came to this country fleeing from the law. All servility is based on fear. We must have some inherited fear of cops.”

“I wouldn’t doubt it,” I said guardedly (because after all what do we really know about our great-great-grandfathers?).

“I wish,” sighed Jim, “I had inherited something else from my ancestors than a guilty conscience. Craftiness, for example. I had a great-uncle Zebulon who was the craftiest man in seven townships. If I was crafty, I’d know what luck we were going to have tonight in finding the best place to go fishing.”

“It won’t be hard to find out,” I said. “A few discreet inquiries around the village.”

“Listen,” said Jim, “there are only nine houses, one general store and a gasoline pump in this village. Every man in the place is a musky fisherman. Dyed in the wool. The muskies at this time of year have left the weed beds and the deeps and have come in shore, along by the rocks and boulders. They are easier to catch and fight harder than at any other time of year. It is the peak, the glorious climax of the fishing season. These villagers look upon this season of the year as their share of the fishing. All summer long even in wartime they have been working madly for the benefit of vacationists who were getting all the fishing. Now the vacationists are gone, and it’s the villagers turn. They will resent us even arriving.”

“We’ll worm it out of them,” I assured him.

“We’ll have to be pretty smart,” said Jim.

“We can watch where they fish,” I reminded him.

“Yes, and waste half the morning trying to locate them,” argued Jim. “They’ll all be out before daybreak.”

“Jim,” I said, “you’ve got a poor opinion of country people. All we need to do is the old trick. Buy a few things at the general store, ask a few questions. Buy some gasoline, ask a few questions. Rent a boat, ask a few questions. Put two and two together, and there we are.”

Full of Great Quietness

We floated deeper into the musky country where civilization and the rocks were coming to grips. The farms grew fewer and more curiously laid out in fields bordered with shoals of primitive rock. We saw the first maples, gone gold and red. The villagers are right. This is the best time of year to go fishing.

The villages began to be farther apart. We left cement for gravel and gravel for sand, and finally entered a lovely narrow road winding amidst rocks and tall hardwood forests which we knew, according to our written directions, was the road that led to our happy destination where, along the rocky shores of a twisted and many-bayed lake, the big muskies, sick of the rotting weed beds, lay in the pure shallow shore water, waiting for something to wiggle past them, such as a well-cast lure.

And towards evening, we came to the village, full of a great quietness amidst all the equipment it had for summer, its park, the brightness, its shuttered outlying cottages. We cruised slowly down its one street, planning our campaign of reconnaissance.

“The general store, first,” I suggested.

And in front of the general store we drew up. It was the regular general store, with its ceiling covered with galvanized pails, bundles of hats, baled socks, boots. One side groceries. Other side, drygoods. Back, hardware.

Three or four men lingered leaning on counters as if expecting nothing to happen anyway.

“Good evening,” we said cheerily, in that easy city fashion. Our entry seemed to break a spell that had been holding the general store in thrall.

Everybody muttered except the storekeeper, an elderly gray moustached man who eyed us over his spectacles and said nothing. He went ahead quietly parcelling something out of sight.

Jim and I wandered slowly down the store, looking at the merchandise to see what we could reasonably buy as an excuse for visiting the store. Something inexpensive but useful.

“I think I’ll get a pair of overalls,” I said quietly, whispering through my nose.

“Nice bandanas,” murmured Jim. “How about a couple of bandanas each? Handy fishing.”

“You get the bandanas,” I muttered, “and I’ll take a hank of that clothes line. Good stuff to have in our kit for an anchor.”

“O.K.,” agreed Jim, “and two or three cans of tomatoes. I don’t like drinking this weedy water; and canned tomatoes are swell.”

“O.K.” I muttered, as we turned and proceeded to the front of the store where everybody was covertly taking us in out of the corners of their eyes.

The storekeeper finally finished whatever he was doing and came and stood facing us, planting both palms on the counter.

“Good-evening,” said Jim, amiably. “How much are those bandanas?”

“Two for a quarter,” said he, handing down a sheaf of them.

We examined them carefully.

“Two of them,” said Jim pleasantly.

“How much is that clothesline?” I inquired with a winning smile.

The storekeeper looked at me expressionlessly and said: “Thirty cents.”

“I’ll love one,” I informed him enthusiastically.

But it seemed very difficult to rouse any response. Jim strolled back eyeing the shelves speculatively, and I followed.

“What did I tell you?” Jim murmured. “We’re suspected.”

“Ask about the fishing anyway,” I whispered.

“Not now,” said Jim shortly. “Hostile.”

Our murmured conversation was not lost upon the silent company in the store. The merchant was tying up our small purchases in paper.

“Three cans of tomatoes,” said Jim. “About a pound of cheese and a box of soda biscuits.”

A Faint, Cold Smile

The storekeeper slowly gathered these items and set them on the counter. He seemed to be waiting. So did all the others. A curious electrical feeling was in the dim air of this store.

“That will be all,” said Jim, reaching into his pocket.

“Here,” I said, “you bought the gasoline. I’ll attend to this.”

“No,” said Jim, “I want this changed.”

And he laid a crisp new $20 bill on the counter.

The storekeeper’s hands paused in the act of spreading a piece of wrapping paper. He stared at the bill. He picked it up gingerly and examined it closely. He held at up to the light. “I can’t change this,” he said.

“Can you get it changed handy?” asked Jim.

The storekeeper looked long and steadily at Jim. Then he shifted his gaze to me. There seemed to be a faint cold smile in his eyes.

“No,” he said.

“Can any of you gentlemen?” said Jim, turning to the others standing back in the store.

They stirred and looked away and shook their heads.

“Here,” I said diving into my pocket. But I had only 17 cents and a $10 bill, the expenses of the fishing trip, plus any sudden emergencies.

“Can you change the ten?” I said, tossing down the nice new Bank of Canada dix.

The storekeeper reached out cautiously and picked it up and examined it closely. He shot a quick look around at the men standing behind us.

“No,” he said. “Sorry.”

“Well, heh, heh,” I said, “I’ve only got 17 cents. How much have you got, Jim?”

“Just a dime,” said Jim.

“You can take two cans of tomatoes,” said the storekeeper, “or the two bandanas. Or the rope and one can of tomatoes. Or…”

“Maybe the gas-pump man can change it,” suggested Jimmie.

“Do You Mean to Insinuate?”

All eyes turned to one of the men standing back of us. He, it seems, was the service-station man.

“Sorry,” he said. “All I got is tens myself.”

In every face, all of a sudden, suspicion. Cold, undisguised suspicion.

“Gentlemen,” I said, “do you mean this money is no good?”

I picked up my 10 and examined it closely.

“It may be all right,” said the garage man, he was a heavy set and sulky type, “but there has been some phoney money spread around this country lately.”

“Do you mean to insinuate,” I demanded of the public at large, “that we are trying to pass bogus money? Are you accusing us at being criminals?”

Nobody replied, but the storekeeper turned his back and began replacing on the shelves the articles we had almost bought.

Jim and I looked anxiously around at the faces. They were mostly averted, and there was no friendliness on any of them.

“Could you tell us,” asked Jim, “If there is a boarding house in the village open or anywhere we can put up for a couple of nights?”

Everybody looked at us.

“We’re here for a couple of days’ fishing,” I put in.

“Fishing?” said the sulky garage man. “Well, my mother takes in a couple now and then.”

“Mrs. Tom is still open, I believe,” said the storekeeper.

His and everybody else’s face had come to life.

“I’ll slip over and see what mother says,” said the garage man, buttoning his windbreaker in a business-like way.

“Muskies you’re after, eh?” said the storekeeper, breaking into a friendly grin.

“Yes,” we said, “but er … ah…”

“Oh, that’s all right,” said the storekeeper. “If you want that stuff I can change your 20 easy enough.”

“How’s this?” demanded Jim. “A minute ago…”

“Sure, sure,” soothed the storekeeper. “But you acted so suspicious when you came in.”

“Suspicious?” I asked.

“Guilty as anything, the both of you,” laughed the storekeeper, starting to hand down the tomatoes and bandanas again “Didn’t they gents?”

Everybody smiled and nodded.

“I couldn’t figure out,” said the storekeeper, whose name proved to be McAndrews, and can he ever catch muskies? – “until you laid down that new 20, and naturally I thought there was something funny about it.”

“Well,” said Jim, “if we looked guilty it was only because our real purpose coming in here was to get some tips on where to go fishing tomorrow, but we were going to buy some odds and ends and ask you casually …”

“Ah,” said Mr. McAndrews, “a guilty conscience always shows.”

“All right,” said Jim, “here’s a straightforward question.”

And we got a straightforward answer, and five muskies, and we know the first name of the whole 14 men in the village and we hope to leave a lot of tens and twenties there in the future.


Editor’s Note: $20 in 1944 would be $301 in 2020, so 10s and 20s were quite valuable back then.

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.

The Complete Anglers

“His plug hit my hat, lifted it from my head and flung it 12 feet away.”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, August 6, 1938

Anyway, it was Greg’s own fault. He should have helped Jimmy catch frogs

“Will you help me,” inquired Jimmie Frise, “catch frogs?”

“I will not,” I informed him emphatically.

“You’re a lot closer to the ground than I am,” complained Jim. “I don’t see why you wouldn’t help a friend catch a frog or two.”

“I object to it,” I stated, “on all grounds. I can’t think of even one reason why I should help you catch those poor little devils that after all look more like human beings than even monkeys do.”

“We could go fishing sooner,” proposed Jim. “That’s one good reason for helping me catch them. It takes me an hour to catch 10 frogs.”

“Why don’t you give up bait fishing,” I asked, “and take up casting artificial lures, like plugs or spoons? It’s far more effective and 10 times the fun.”

“I do cast,” protested Jimmie indignantly.

“Yah,” I said, “Side-swiping. You don’t call that casting.”

“I get the line out,” declared Jim.

“You side-swipe,” I informed him. “You side-swipe. You grab the rod and take a swing any old way and hope for the best. You endanger the lives of everybody around you, in boat or on wharf. And no man living, much less you, can tell where the bait is going.”

“I’ve caught plenty of fish casting,” stated Jim.

“If you,” I said, “can catch plenty of fish side-swiping and flummoxing the plug around, how many more fish could you catch if you would only make an honest effort to learn how to cast properly, over your head?”

“I like fishing with a frog,” pleaded Jimmie. “It’s the old-fashioned way. Bass love frogs. I hate to fool a bass with a hunk of painted wood.”

“You hypocrite,” I hissed.

“Well, anyway,” said Jim, “I give him an even break. I toss him a frog. If he gets the frog off the hook, he at least has got something for his trouble. But what do you cast him? Just a hunk of painted wood or a little blade of brass or copper. And if he does succeed in taking that off you, what good is it to him?”

“You quibbler,” I grated.

“Fishing,” said Jim, “is like religion. If you don’t do it the way I do, you’re wrong. Why not let me fish my way and you fish your way and we’ll all have fun?”

“Fine,” I agreed. “But don’t expect me to go creeping and pouncing through the long grass, chasing poor little green frogs for you.”

“I only suggested that you help me, to save time,” said Jim. “And anyway, you’re good at catching frogs. Back in the old days, before you went high brow and started bait casting, you used to be able to catch more frogs than all the rest of us put together.”

“I have too many frogs on my conscience now,” I muttered. “I don’t want to add to the burden on my soul. Thousands of frogs. Baby frogs. I feel like King Herod.”

The Right Way Is So Easy

“Aw, a frog has no feelings,” said Jim. “Hardly any. Nature made frogs to feed herons, fish, snakes and people like that. If they were made for food, it stands to reason nature didn’t equip them with much feelings. The more rarely a creature is eaten, the higher are its sensibilities. That’s true, isn’t it?”

“It is true,” I admitted. “But I am not thinking so much of feelings as of life itself. Life is just as dear to that little frog as it is to us. We may have a little deeper feeling for life, but a frog is just as full of that feeling as we are, in proportion. I hate to take a frog’s life.”

“How about taking a fish’s life?” cried Jim.

“That’s different,” I guarded. “To take frog’s life in order to take a fish’s life, that seems to me doubly damned.”

“You have taken thousands of lives from fish,” said Jim. “Do you feel no compunction about that? Doesn’t it ever twinge your conscience?”

“Not in the least,” I defended. “In taking a fish’s life, I am relieving it from a very miserable, wet and slimy existence. Think of the life a fish must lead, forever down in that cold, dark chasm of the water. Beset by enemies of every kind, including his own kind. A fish lives in terror every hour of its life, from the minute it is hatched from the egg, a tiny helpless wriggler, until it ends at last the victim of my lure, deceitful, clever and skilled.”

“I imagine fish get used to living in the water,” said Jim. “Anybody can get used to his environment in time.”

“No, sir,” I said. “A frog, especially a bright green frog with gold markings on him lives a happy life in the shining grass alongside a lovely sandy beach. Amid sunlight and pretty flies iridescent in the sun, he dwells, and whenever he feels like it, he hops down and goes for a swim in the cool, lilied water. But a fish lives in shadow and gloom, in weeds and slime and cold. Beset with terrors, he slinks his way to maturity, and when he reaches maturity, what has he got? Does he escape from his lowly element? Like aquatic insects, does he emerge from the water, a slimy thing, and shed his skin, to become a light and airy dancer in the evening sunlight for a day? No. He grows old and scaly and scabby and mouldy and dies. Unless. …”

“Ah, unless,” said Jim.

“Unless I,” I said, “or some other humane soul comes along and rescues him from his unhappy lot.”

“With a painted plug,” said Jim.

“Or a good copper casting spoon,” I suggested, since I had decided to use a spoon fishing today.

“O.K.,” said Jim. “I’ll cast.”

“Not side-swiping?” I protested.

“You cast your way, I’ll cast my way,” said Jim.

“My dear boy,” I said, “it is so easy to learn to cast a plug overhead. The correct way. It is like throwing an apple off a pointed stick.”

“I never could get on to it,” said Jim.

“Look,” I said. “Rest your thumb firmly on the spooled line, see? That holds the plug dangling six inches from the tip of the rod. Point the rod in the direction you wish to cast. Then, with a short, smart upward movement, not forceful but swinging, cut an arc over your right shoulder, straight back to a little past the vertical.”

“I see it, so far,” agreed Jim. “Now what?”

“Not now what,” I protested vehemently. “It isn’t two motions. It is one continuous motion, back and forward.”

“That’s where I go wrong,” agreed Jim.

One Continuous Motion

“It is where nearly everybody goes wrong who can’t cast,” I informed him. “They make two distinct motions of the cast. They lay the rod back over their shoulder. They stop. Then they make a chuck forward. That isn’t it at all. It is one continuous motion, that throwing of the rod back and flinging it forward.”

“Let me see?” said Jim, taking my rod, with the spoon already on it for casting.

“You sort of bounce the plug forward,” I explained. “You use the spring of the rod. It is all very gentle and simple. No force. No chucking. You just swing the rod in an arc, over your shoulder, and instantly forward again, gently relaxing, but NOT releasing, the pressure of your thumb on the spooled line.”

“Ah, you don’t let go of the line?” cried Jim.

“Never,” I assured him. “That is what causes backlashes, or snarls. You just relax the pressure of your thumb enough to let the plug fly high and smooth through the air. You watch it sail out, feeling, gently, with your thumb the dwindling spool of line under it.”

“I think I’ve got it,” said Jim.

And standing forth and taking a deep breath, he swung the rod a few times back and forward and then, with a sudden effort, slashed forward with the rod. The spoon jerked wildly through the air for eight feet and then spanked ignominiously to earth. The reel was just a bird’s nest, just a great tumbled tangle of line.

“I must have let go my thumb,” muttered Jim.

“You didn’t,” I informed him. “You put enough energy into that forward cast to throw a cat over a barn. I tell you, make one continuous motion of the back and forward throw of the rod, and the plug bounces, without effort, really, straight and smooth through the air.”

“I’ll try again,” said Jim, picking at the backlash. He got it cleared up and rewound evenly on the spool. He tried a few more practice swings and then, the same as before, hurled all his muscles, from the balls of his feet to the back of his neck, into a violent forward shoot.

The spoon streaked forward in a blur of speed, curved back like a yo-yo ball, then dangled to a stop around the rod.

“Tch, tch,” I said. “You’ve done the same thing all over again!”

“Here,” rasped Jim. “Take your rod. I’ll do it my way. I can get it out as slick as syrup from a bottle my way. Your way is just fancy. Just a fishing refinement.”

“It is not a refinement,” I stated. “It is the only way to cast not only for the safety of others, but for accuracy. You don’t know where your lure is going if you chuck it sideways.”

“Fish are likely to be any place,” argued Jim. “Just as likely in the place my plug lands as in the place I try to land it.”

“We will go in separate boats,” I ordained.

“Let’s go together,” pleaded Jim. “so that I can watch you and perhaps profit by observation.”

“In that case,” I agreed. So we went together in the same punt, and proceeded with the pleasurable sport of bait casting. It is a comparatively new sport. It has the fascination of golf, in that there is the test of where you want them. But happily, unlike golf, you do not have to walk hopelessly after your shots, you merely reel them back into you, sitting. The art of bait casting from a multiplying reel and short rod was developed in Kentucky by the bass fishermen of the 90’s. At first, they cast their metal spoons, live minnows, frogs and other baits, weighting them to about three-quarters of an ounce, to make a nice weight to fling. About 1900, the wooden minnow or “plug” began to appear and today, there are hundreds of patterns, brilliantly painted creations, with three sets of treble gang hooks. They wobble in the water as they are being reeled in, and whether a fish takes them for food or merely out of curiosity, like the angler who bought them in the store, nobody knows, because I get most of my fish on the plugs that look the least like anything. The less it looks like something, the better it is.

I gave Jim the whole of the boat except the stern. I took the stern seat and huddled down in it, so that Jim, with his sideswiping, could have the whole world to himself.

“Now watch,” he said, rising to stand unsteadily in the punt.

And with a vicious looping side cut, he lashed his rod horizontally through the air, the plug flying savagely over the water to land, much to Jim’s astonishment, 30 feet to the left of where he intended it to go.

“Good,” he said. “That’s a better spot than the one I intended.”

And slowly he reeled the plug home, watching intently for the strike of the fish.

But no fish struck, as indeed, is usually the case, and rightly so. If fish came easy, who would fish except fish dealers? It is the casting that is the fun, saved from monotony now and then at long intervals by the sudden and wholly unexpected interruption of a fish. I suppose the average man casts 500 times for one fish landed. Perhaps a thousand.

Without ostentation, I did my overhead casting steadily and slowly and with intense pleasure. I laid my spoon precisely where I wanted it, or nearly so; along rock and ledge, stump and lily pad, as slick and trim as Ivanhoe ever laid his arrows, or nearly so. And with a whooshing sound and a fury of bodily effort, Jim swung and swiped and startled the great open spaces of water with the plunging arrival of his gaudy wooden plug. Once it snarled and the plug leaped back into the boat narrowly missing my leg.

“Let me out,” I said, “at the next point. I’ll be safer on land.”

But just then from a cottage veranda a young lad hailed us.

“There’s a nice bass hanging around our boat house,” he called. “See if you can catch it.”

And Jim, hastily reversing his stance, turned to face the boat house, side-swiped with power and his plug hit my hat and lifted it from my head and flung it 12 feet away in the water.

“Gee, I’m sorry,” said Jimmie.

“You’d be a funny one if you weren’t,” I said thinly.

“I never did that before,” said Jim, reeling my hat back into the boat.

“You never will again,” I informed him, “not the same person, anyway. Row ashore.”

“Listen, cast and get that bass,” begged Jim.

“Row ashore,” I commanded, in a Basil Rathbone sort of a voice.

So Jim rowed ashore, looking very flushed.

“Now, my friend,” I announced, as we stepped ashore, “take off one of your socks.”

“What for?” demanded Jim.

“For a frog bag,” I advised crisply.

So Jim removed one of his socks and we went frog hunting. It is not a knack. It is rather a comprehension. You see your little frog. You transfix it with a trance-like gaze. You stoop slowly to a squatting posture. All in the same lithe, effortless motion, your right arm is extended. It is a continuous motion. Your right hand reaches out in the air over the little creature, whose tiny intelligence seems to be paralyzed by the slow, rhythmic motions. In the same instant, your hand suddenly halts. The frog seems to tense. Then you dart your open hand straight down, not to where the frog was, but to where he is, in mid-air, about four inches straight ahead of where he was sitting when the manoeuvre began.

We got eight frogs between us. We returned to the boat and Jim rigged his rod with a sinker, to trail frogs over the side and I sat in reasonable security in the midst of the punt, casting.

And Jimmie caught one bass, four pike, one perch and nine rock bass with his frogs, and I got nothing with my spoon.

Which only goes to prove that it is every man to his own method.


Editor’s Notes: The colour illustration is from the cover of Greg Clark & Jimmie Frise Outdoors (1979), where this story also appears. The scanned image from the microfilm at the end shows a bit more of the artwork. I’ve also started to make some format changes. I will no longer include scanned title in the stories, as it is redundant since the title appears at the top. I’m also transliterating the captions that appear with the images. The idea is to focus more on the art, and not the text. As such, I will also be crediting both Greg and Jim with the date of publication. I’m also going to add new tags for common themes.

Basil Rathbone was an actor, best known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes at the time.

The Evening’s Fishing

By Greg Clark, July 3, 1937

“What is it,” asked Jimmie Frise, snuggling deeper behind the steering wheel, “that makes us so nuts about fishing?”

“It’s like having red hair,” I explained, “or being able to sing. It’s just born in us.”

“I’m not so sure,” said Jim. “Here we are, heading north at a high rate of speed for the opening of the bass season. We’ve spent every week-end in May and June trout fishing, to the neglect of our business and our families. We’ve spent far more money on it than any budget normally allows for pleasure.”

“Fishing only lasts,” I pointed out, “from May first to the middle of October. Five and a half measly months.”

“Most people,” stated Jim, “take two weeks’ holidays in the summer and let it go at that. Here we not only take two weeks but about twenty week-ends.”

“Everybody does something with their week-ends,” I countered. “Golfing, driving in the country. Lots of them take trips south.”

“Most of them,” corrected Jim, “just stay home.”

“Well,” I agreed, “it’s a free country. And if a man takes more pleasure staying home on week-ends and saving his money, that’s his pleasure. I would no more think of interfering with him staying home than I would permit him to interfere with me going away.”

“What I mean is,” said Jim, “those who stay home feel that they can’t really afford to go busting off on trips.”

“They’re welcome to feel anyway they like,” I admitted happily, “so long as by deed or word or facial expression they don’t attempt to interfere with my way of thinking. These people who stay home on week-ends are probably looking forward to a comfortable old age. That’s a form of amusement I have no use for. Comfortable old age! Imagine guys in good health sitting around all Saturday and Sunday greedily looking forward to a comfortable old age. Of all the disgusting habits.”

“I’d say it was mighty good sense. Farsighted.” said Jim.

“Short-sighted, you mean,” I insisted. “Can’t they see all around them that old age is hardly ever comfortable? It’s full of aches and pains. They’re so fat they can’t breathe or so thin they hurt all over even lying in bed. All the things that have happened to them in their lives seem to pile on top of them in the end. They’ve eaten too heartily or have got round-shouldered at sedentary jobs. What they thought all their lives was just being careful turns out in the end to be only mean and it shows in their faces. Unless you die when you’re about twenty-five life is always disappointing and the longer you live the more disappointed with it you grow. That is unless you go fishing or something.”

“You’ve got the worst philosophy I ever heard,” said Jim loudly and stepping on the gas.

“Well, show me something better than fishing,” I retorted.

“It’s the most selfish pleasure, on earth,” stated Jim. “A golfer only leaves his family for few hours and an occasional evening. But a fisherman runs away Friday night and never turns up until late Sunday night or early Monday morning, looking sunburned and guilty.”

“His family are glad to be rid of him,” I cut.

“Even week-end trips cost money,” said Jim. “A man runs away with a lot of money fishing.”

“I suppose it would be better,” I sneered, “if he were to save it little by little until the next depression. Surely nobody in the whole world believes in saving money any more.”

“Aw,” scoffed Jimmie.

“All right: all I say is, anybody is a fool to save,” I assured him. “And of all the ways of not saving, I think fishing is the best.”

“And,” questioned Jim, “when you are old and can’t go fishing any more and all your money is gone, how will you feel?”

“Far better than most of my generation,” I declared. “For I can say, ‘Here I am without any money, but I’ve had a hell of a good time.’ And the rest of the inmates of the poorhouse will be hunched up, their hands clasped between their boney knees, moaning. ‘Here I am without any money and look how I’ve suffered.’ I bet I’ll be the happiest old guy in the old men’s home. That’s something to look forward to.”

“I’m looking forward,” stated Jim. “to some swell fishing in about three hours. We’ll have the evening from at least six o’clock on. We ought to get our limit of six bass before dark in dear old Lake Skeebawa.”

“What a lake,” I agreed. “And to think we have it practically to ourselves.”

“What I like about Skeebawa,” said Jim, “is there are no motor boats on it. No engines humming and snorting and putting. No oil fouling the pure water. Just a little secret lake that seems to have escaped the march of progress.”

“What I hate about motor boats,” I said, “is that they allow wholly undeserving people, fat, cushion-sitting fish hogs, to race around the lake taking in only the very best fishing spots. Good fishing belongs to those who are willing to take the trouble to win it.”

“Of course, our guides’ do the paddling,” reminded Jim.

“Good old Simon and good old Sandy,” I cried. “Will they be glad to see us? I’ve brought Simon a couple of my old pipes and a pound of that cheap tobacco he likes.”

“I’ve brought Sandy that hunting knife I got for Christmas,” said Jim. “It’ll make a big hit with Sandy.”

“This makes ten years,” I mused, “that Simon and Sandy have paddled us the rounds of Skeebawa.”

“They’re grand old boys,” said Jim. “Let’s see: we’ll do the usual round. We’ll take to the left from the boathouse and cast all along that rush bed. Then cut across to Simon’s Point and fish the shoal for say half an hour. Then along those lily pads on the far side and so home by dark. We can do that in three hours.”

A Disturbing Sound

“Easy,” I agreed, turning to take stock of my various items of tackle, rods, boxes in the back seat. “What are you going to start with?”

“Red and white plug,” said Jim.

“I think I’ll start with that copper casting spoon,” I considered. “It’ll be a bright evening and after the hot spell the bass won’t be any too frisky.”

“Six bass apiece,” sang Jimmie; giving the gas to her. “And then in the dark walking up to Andy’s cottage for one of Mrs. Andy’s glorious fried bass dinners.”

“Then sitting out under the stars listening to the whippoorwills,” I joined in, “and talking slow and lazy with old Simon and Andy about last winter and how they worked in the lumber camps and what they trapped and the big lake trout they caught through the ice.”

“And,” sighed Jim, “going to bed knowing that tomorrow we have the whole glorious long day, from misty sunrise to moonlit dark, just casting, casting, casting.

We fell silent and watched the long road rolling under us and the bright summer fields and the farmers already in their hay. And, thinking the idle thoughts of the true angler, we watched the woods grow thicker and darker with the northering miles, and a tingle come into the air, and the smell of the lakes, the little lakes, come cool and secret through the summer.

We reached at last, both of us eager and sitting up fresh, the road that goes to Skeebawa, loveliest of the little lily-margined lakes. and wound down through familiar narrowing roads of cedar jungles and high stumpy barrens and aisled forests of maple and oak, seeing with joyous hearts the narrowing, the roughening that meant the ever nearer approach to the little lost water where Simon and Sandy would probably be waiting for us at the old broken rail fence at the turn down, as in all the happy past.

We reached the fence at last, both of us emitting ceremonial shouts and hurrahs. But neither Simon nor Sandy was waiting for us at the usual spot. Down the sandy ruts towards Sandy’s cabin we turned.

“Been a heavy car in here to-day,” said Jim briefly

“H’m,” said I. “Of course there are other guests always. But Simon will always save his canoe for me.”

“One thing is certain,” agreed Jim.

Over the knoll we rose and, as usual, stopped the car to feast our gaze on wrinkled blue Skeebawa spread below us. Jim turned off the engine and said,

“Aaaaahhhh.”

A curious and horrible sound came to our ears. It was the distant drone and whine of a powerful outboard motor engine.

“Jim,” I cried.

Jim snatched at the key and started the car.

“Sandy never,” Jim said, “never would have bought an engine. He couldn’t afford one, for one thing.”

“Let’s get there,” I said, and took hold for the bumps down the few hundred yards of sandy ruts to the cabin.

Mrs. Sandy came out as we drove in the yard, wiping her hands on her apron and waving to us.

“Mrs. Sandy,” I said, leaping out, “is that an engine?”

“It sure is,” said Mrs. Sandy delightedly. “An old gent arrived last night with a trailer and his own boat on it. See, there?”

Under the pines where our car usually rested was a big rich car and attached to it a trailer such as big skiffs are carried on. It was a rich man’s car.

“Where are the boys?” demanded Jim.

“Out with him,” said Mrs. Sandy. “What a time they’re having. That boat skims, so it does. Just skims. They’ve been all around the lake half a dozen times and got no end of bass, but he puts them all back over the six he’s allowed by the law.”

“Mrs. Sandy,” I said, “didn’t the boys know we’d be here?”

“Certainly they knew,” she cried. “Of course they did and come in and I’ll take you to your room.”

“But, Mrs. Sandy,” said Jim, “we were hoping to go right out. For the evening’s fishing.”

“The canoes are right where you’ll find them,” said Mrs. Sandy. “He’s paying the boys ten dollars a day to ride in that boat with him. Ten dollars a day. My, he’s a rich man.”

“Mrs. Sandy,” said Jim, “is there nobody to paddle us?”

“Simon tried all night nearly,” said she, “to get one of his nephews, but they were busy. The boys said you wouldn’t mind paddling yourself to-night and they’ll have some nephews for you in the morning.”

“In the morning?” said I. “Is the rich gentleman staying?”

“Staying?” cried Mrs. Sandy. “He’s crazy about the place. He says he’s been looking for it all his life. He’s telegraphed all his friends…”

“Ooooohhh,” moaned Jim, and I joined in and harmonized my groan.

“Why, gentlemen,” cried Mrs. Sandy, “the lake’s full of fish. He says he never saw such fishing. He’s hooked forty if he’s hooked one. And him and the boys, in that skimmer, has just been scooting from the one good spot to the next all day long, wasting no time…. He’s taking me for a spin in it after dinner tonight.”

“Indeed,” said Jim. “Let’s get on the water,” I muttered.

Hurriedly we carried our duffle to the house, where Mrs. Sandy showed us to the room next to our old one. Our old room was strangely packed with foreign duffle, scads of it, rod cases, big leather and canvas bags, expensive-looking tweed coats, rugs, tackle boxes flung about.

“Can’t we have our old room?” I demanded.

“He’s paying twenty dollars a day,” whispered Mrs. Sandy tremendously; “twenty dollars a day for this room and he says he won’t give a cent less.”

We dropped our bags in a little room with a slanting ceiling and stuffy smell, a room I had not even glanced into in all the years. We changed into old clothes, snatched up rods and boxes and walked down, in the evening to the ramshackle boathouse and got out Simon’s red canoe.

“I’ll paddle,” I growled so determinedly that Jim didn’t even haggle.

Silently I drove the canoe along toward the long-rush beds while Jim mounted his reel and tied on his favorite red and white bass plug. As we cast along, the drone and snarl of the engine resounded from the far end of the lake, starting and stopping, as we pictured just which best spots this old devil was fishing in turn. We fished the two hundred yards of rush beds without a single strike. Not a swirl. In past years we each always took two bass off this rush bed. Two and three pounders.

“Simon,” I said, “has probably had him along here.”

“Sandy, too,” said Jim shortly.

Far down the quieting lake we heard distant merry shouts and the familiar music of a man into a fish. It sounded like a big one.

I paddled Jim heavily across to the boulder point and set him just the right distance to cast over the shoals. Ten casts, not a bass. Twenty casts, not a bass.

“He’s probably been over this ground a dozen times to-day,” I suggested.

We heard the distant engine start up and around the far point came the smoothly skimming skiff. The water was still and like a creature of evil the skiff came boring and arrowing up the lake. I heard the loud calls as Simon and Sandy saw us, and the skiff turned and came for us, racketing the echoes of the quiet hills of Skeebawa and breaking the peaceful lake into waves and wash. In an instant the skiff curved alongside us and Simon, all grins like a child, turned the engine off.

In the middle, easy and quiet, sat a skinny little man. He was beyond seventy. He was wiry and bright eyed. In his hand he held the most expensive type of rod and it was mounted with one of those twenty-five-dollar reels.

“Good evening, gentlemen,” he said, as our craft touched sides gently. “The boys tell me this is your private little heaven. I hope you will welcome a new and unworthy angel?

And Jimmie and I, a little stiffly perhaps, welcomed him and denied it was any private heaven and that all lakes were public property and anybody who cared could come on them, and then we drifted off on the pretext of having just another couple of dozen casts at a special spot where some cedars hung out over…

“We done that,” cried Simon. “We done it twice this morning and three times this afternoon.”

And with a flourish he started the engine and away they snored for the cabin.

“Jim,” I said, “I can’t stay. I can’t even stay the night.”

“Me, too,” said Jim, reeling up.

And we slunk in and packed our stuff amid the lovely odor of frying bass while the stranger sat at feast. We told the boys and Mrs. Sandy we had just dropped in for old time’s sake, but that we had to meet a gang of friends at another lake forty miles up.

And into the night, directionless, not knowing whither, we drove, back out the old twisting road.

“The only thing a man can do,” said Jim, “is save his money and work like a fool when he’s young so as to be able to go fishing when he is old.”

“It’s the only way to compete nowadays,” I agreed.

“You never said a truer word,” said Jim, relapsing into the silence that befitted the dark and pine-girt night.


Editor’s Note: Lake Skeebawa is not real. If Greg and Jim did have a secret fishing spot, they would not reveal it in a story.

Synthetic Porkies

By Greg Clark, May 4, 1946

“Pull up here!” commanded Jimmie Frise, his leg already swung overboard from the open car.

“There’s much better fishing,” I protested, as I slowed, “about half a mile farther down.”

“Here’s the place,” announced Jim, excitedly, and he was grabbing for his fly rod to set it up.

“If we park here,” I muttered, “we’ll block the trail.”

“Last season, just about this time of year,” cried Jim, pointing up his rod, “I took five trout of over a pound each. And I must have lost 20. Twenty good ones.”

I backed and forwarded the little touring car until it was hinched well up against the side of the woods road.

Right below us, the beautiful river flowed in all its early May glory. The floods had long since passed, the river was getting down to normal. Its color was not too clear. It was just right.

Where Jimmie had ordered us to halt, an ideal trout-fishing stretch of water hastened and paused, boiled and simmered, for a length of maybe 300 yards. There were shallow, swift bouldery passages, where the water tumbled and raged amid boulders the size of a piano. Then there were pools, where the water rested and whirled, the white foam making that tactical shade under which big trout love to hide.

Jim jointed up his rod with trembling hands. He fastened on his reel. Threaded his fat fly line up through the guides. Linked on a nine-foot leader to which he had already tied a good big streamer fly, a badger streamer with crimson body.

And before I had my rod out of its case, Jim was sliding down the bank towards the stream.

Before I had my line threaded through the guides, he was hip deep in the bouldery section.

And just as I was tying on a Clark’s Ghost – a fly of my own design, a streamer made of silvery gray feathers and silver body – I heard a muffled shout above the low roar of the river. And there was Jim, leaning back picturesquely, his nine-foot rod bent in a gorgeous arc, and a big trout rolling and threshing in the fast shallow water 40 feet down stream from him alongside one of the foaming boulders.

I leaned my rod against the car, seized my landing net and skidded down the bank.

It is hard to any which is the more delightful experience in trout-fishing: to catch a trout yourself, or to sit in a grandstand seat on the river bank and watch a friend catch one.

At first thought, you are inclined to favor catching the trout yourself. There are not many experiences in life to equal it. But they are impossible to remember. You are too excited to remember. In my lifetime, I have caught more than my share of trout. But when I try to recapture the picture in memory of any of the greatest fights, the picture eludes me. It begins, all right, with me at the business end of the rod. But almost imperceptibly, the moving picture of my memory begins to slip and fade; and it is my wife or Jim or old Skipper Howard I see in memory, making one of the epic captures I have witnessed.

The First For 1946

Jim stood with feet braced, his rod arched high, his left hand drawing in line as the trout gave ground. You don’t wind your reel while fighting a trout with a fly rod. You draw the line in and give it out, the slack falling into the boiling water at your feet. The trout was a 16-incher – a good pound and a half. With the current helping it, it would take runs down stream that almost stripped off the 90 feet of line Jim had on his reel. Then it would rest; and Jim, with arched rod, would persuade it up through eddies and slack stretches.

But in the end, the trout’s greatest advantage, the swift current, becomes its deadly enemy.

I saw its orange-edged white belly flash more often, as it rolled in the slashing current. Finally, Jim was able to draw it a good 30 feet without much resistance. And in another minute, he had it within 20 feet of him. I waded into a quiet spot. Jim led it skilfully over towards me. I sank the landing net in the pool. Jim drew the trout over the net. I lifted.

And there was trout Number One for 1946 – pound and a half, sleek, fat, lithe, brightly colored, it’s tiny red spots margined with iridescent blue, its white snow-white, its orange margins smoked with black. Surely the most beautiful animal on earth.

I left Jim with his prize and clambered up the bank to get my tackle organized. In an instant I, too, was in the stream; and, working pretty well side by side, we fished that 300-yard rapids for two solid hours.

At this early season of the year, the trout are not as wary as they become later, when the water falls low and clear. After their long winter fast, the trout are hungry and on the make. The water is rough and not too clear. Anything attractive in the tumbling water is likely to induce even an adult trout to make a strike. They inhabit the wildest water, partly to capture the Insects and minnows washed down in the current, partly also because those small creatures are helpless and easy prey in the broken water. But I think a good-sired trout likes to glory in his strength in that swift current. What an ordeal of strength it must be for a trout to maintain his position in that bullet-fast water, full of a thousand twists and turns of current. Not for an instant can the trout relax his muscular effort. If he did, he would be swept down stream a hundred yards in a few seconds. Yet, hour after hour, a big trout will rise and slash at his feed in one raging area few feet square.

In two hours, Jim had seven trout, the best one the first one, the 16-incher, I had five, one of them almost the mate to Jim’s.

But to make up for my failure to beat him, I had at least LOST the biggest one. And Jim had been right there to see it. As we waded down, level with each other, I had cast a long throw into a black eddy beside one of the big boulders. The fly had dragged through one of those little foam puddings. Something half the size of a cocker spaniel had humped up. I struck to set the hook. The small pool exploded. Up in the air leaped a dark, glistening trout of at least two pounds. It went around the boulder. And my line and leader, minus fly, sprang back through the air.

If you can’t CATCH the biggest trout – at least LOSE the biggest!

“Let’s break off, Jim,” I said, as I waded ashore to put on a fresh streamer fly. “How about some sandwiches?”

So Jim wound up his line and came ashore, too, and sat down on the rocks beside me.

He emptied his creel on to a flat stone and lined his seven beautiful trout out, according to seniority. I handed him my creel; and the 12 made a beautiful display.

“After lunch,” I stated, “we’ll fish the rapids half a mile below here and catch another dozen.”

“We’ll eat six for supper tonight at the hotel,” decreed Jim, leaning down on his elbow to sniff the sweet, strange smell of trout.

“Tomorrow,” I outlined, “we’ll fish these same two stretches of the stream. I don’t think we can do any better anywhere in Ontario.”

“I wonder,” sighed Jim, as I busied myself with my fly box, “I wonder how many years these same rapids have produced trout for anglers?”

A Bit of History

“Well, Jim,” I informed him, “I’ve got an old book at home called the ‘Sportsman’s Gazetteer’ by Charles Hallock, an American. It was published in 1877 – that’s 70 years ago. At the back of the book, he gives details and routes of where to go fishing all over America, including Canada. And in the Ontario section, he mentions and describes this very river. Hallock probably shed this very rapids.”

“Seventy years isn’t so much,” suggested Jim.

“But Muskoka was by then,” I cried, “a thoroughly opened up and exploited tourist region. Hallock speaks of Muskoka as a most popular sportsman’s region. He describes what he calls the Northern Lakes. Simcoe, Cochochong – that’s the way he spelled Couchiching – Muskoka and Rosseau. He gives the routes for getting there by train and boat and gives the names of the sporting good dealers and outfitters in Gravenhurst and Bracebridge.”

“We’ve been hoicking trout of here,” mused Jim, “a long time.”

“Hallock,” I said, “speaks of fishing the Nipigon. He describes how to get there and he calls Port Arthur ‘Prince Arthur’s Landing.'”

“The Nipigon!” cried Jim. Do you mean to say the Americans were going to the Nipigon in 1877! Why, I haven’t been there yet.”

“Aw, listen,” I protested. “I’ve got another old book at home by Charles Lanman, the private secretary of Daniel Webster. In 1842, a hundred and four years ago, Lanman made a tour of Lake Superior in a birch bark canoe and fished the Nipigon and wrote it up just about the way the railway tourist departments write it up today.”

“That,” said Jim, “sort of takes away from the adventure of being here. I hate to think of a whole century of sportsmen fishing this stream ahead of me. I like to feel like an adventurer…”

“Well, I like to marvel,” I submitted, “at the eternal bounty of wild nature. To think of this Muskoka river giving us a catch of trout like that…”

And we both centred our gaze on the broad white stone on which reposed, in artistic array, our 12 beautiful trout.

“I hear,” said Jim, “that the tourist invasion of Canada this season is going to be the biggest ever.”

“Canada, in pre-war years,” I advised, “used to average $300,000,000 a year from the American tourists. This year, I hear they expect $500,000,000.”

“That’s a lot of dough,” murmured Jim.

“Why,” I exclaimed, “it’s possibly our richest industry. I mean, it brings in all that cash. The cash is left here. And nothing is taken out of the country but a few snapshots!”

“And a few fish,” corrected Jim, lovingly smiling at the trout.

“The Yanks,” I pursued, “bring in $500,000,000 cash. They leave it here. Unlike the manufacturing industry, or the agricultural industry, nothing leaves the country. That is nothing of importance.”

“But,” pointed out Jim, “a lot of fish leave the water – for keeps!”

“Mmmmmm,” I mmmed.

“If $500,000,000 worth of Americans come up here this summer,” demanded Jim, “how much are the fish worth that these Americans take out of our waters?”

“They don’t all fish,” I pointed out.

“Okay, then say $250,000,000 worth of them do,” proposed Jimmie. “Now, what does that make our fish worth – to us?”

I looked at the white stone with the 12 trout.

“Would the Americans come up here,” demanded Jim, if we ran out of fish? Suppose we fished so hard ourselves and let the Americans fish so hard that we all got ahead of the fish and ran out of them?”

“Do you think that’s possible?” I asked, “when this one little river, described by Hallock 70 years ago, can still produce for us a catch like this?”

“Well, I think we Canadians should all worry about it,” submitted Jim.

“Nature is to prolific,” I assured him. “Nature can stage such a wonderful come back. I bet if an atomic bomb were to eliminate the human race at one fell swoop, nature would have this country back on a paying basis as far as nature is concerned – in 10 years. Boy, what a trout stream this would be in 10 years, if we could only eliminate the human factor!”

“That’s an idea,” breathed Jim slyly, again feasting his eyes on our trout.

“Here we are,” I expounded, “seated beside a beautiful trout stream. It has yielded us a lovely catch, despite all the years it has been fished. A few yards away, up the hill there, is our motor car, in which we can travel, almost as swift as thought, from the great city to this paradise. True, the wild creatures have mostly gone. The deer are gone. The ruffed grouse, the beaver, the otter. All the original Inhabitants of this country have been subdued and driven off by mankind. But what we want- the trout – are still here.”

“What lords of creation we humans are!” cried Jim.

A Trick of Nature

“The earth, and the fulness thereof, is ours!” I quoted. “We have learned how to rid the world of the things we don’t want, and to keep and maintain the things we do want. I think Canada’s $500,000,000 a year tourist business is safe. If the worst comes to the worst, we have learned how to grow fish in hatcheries. If, by any chance, we let too many tourists into the country, why, all we’ve got to do is spend a few millions of that annual $500,000,000 on new hatcheries, grow trout by the billion, pour them back into the streams, and there we are! Good for $500,000,000 a year indefinitely …!”

Jim gazed out over the lovely leaping water. He gazed at the trout on the stone.

“I don’t know,” he reflected slowly, “sometimes I think nature is bigger and more astonishing than we imagine. I think nature can and will play tricks on us that we don’t know she has in her bag of tricks. Just about the time we think we’ve got nature eating out of our hands, boom, she will…”

We both heard a loud report. Above the roar of the stream, it sounded like a shot. Up the hill. We both harked.

And, above the swish and rear of the stream, we heard another loud bang.

“Jim,” I scrambled to my feet, “that’s up by the car!”

“Hey!” cried Jim.

So we hastily gathered our gear and scrambled up the bank and along the bush road to the little car.

“What scoundrel…” I roared, “would do a thing like that!” Both our front tires were burst!

Both our beautiful new synthetic tires were not only flat, they had large holes ripped out of them.

I got down and examined them.

“Why, Jim,” I shouted, straightening up and looking angrily up and down the road and into the brush, “somebody has deliberately torn these tires… they’re chewed …”

Something stirred in the trees and we both looked up startled.

There sat two porcupines in neighboring trees, gazing down at us in that shoe-button, sap-headed, smirky expression porcupines use.

They looked pleased and a little startled.

“Jim,” I gasped, “the porkies chewed our tires …”

“What a depraved taste,” said Jim, reaching for a rock.

“But…but …” I cried outraged, “we’re miles from any help!”

Jim shook the trees and the porkies climbed as high as they could and then fell out and scuffled away into the underbrush.

“Imagine porkies,” I raged, “chewing tires…”

“Porkies,” said Jim, “will try anything once. Axe handles, privy seats, cardboard cartons, anything. I suppose these two porkies were a committee designated by the tribe to investigate the eating properties of our latest addition to Man’s conveniences.”

“Maybe it was the salt, off that dusty piece of road back near Bracebridge,” I suggested. “The highway department puts salt on the dusty roads…”

“Well…” smiled Jim, far away. “I was just saying nature has a few tricks up her sleeve…”

Now, it’s not easy to leave a touring car alone on a lonely bush road. You can’t lock it up. We had to cache all our tackle and other valuables in the woods, hoping the porkies wouldn’t find them and chew them up. Then we started to walk the six miles back to the nearest farm on the bush road.

There was nobody home at the farm but a couple of fierce dogs. We had to walk another two miles. We got the nearest village service station on the phone to try and get us two new tires. They said they would do their best as soon as they could leave the gasoline pump, which was very busy today. Maybe towards evening.

“You can contribute the cost of the two new tires,” explained Jim, “towards that $500,000,000 tourist income.”

So we walked the eight miles back, arriving late in the afternoon. And we fished the same rapids over again, with only three small trout that we threw back.

“I guess we’ve cleaned them out for the next 70 years,” said Jim, very gloomy.

And it grew cooler. And we went and sat in the car for fear of porkies eating our other tires. And the relief party arrived about an hour after dark.


Editor’s Notes: I actually have a colour image of this illustration, as seen at the top of the page. Most images were in colour after 1935, but my primary source (microfilm) does not show this. The microfilmed version is shown at the end.

Greg loved fly fishing, as can be seen in his descriptions in this story. He and Jim seem a little unconcerned about disappearing nature, but I suspect that is likely not true. Sportsmen (hunters and fishers) like them were some of the first conservationists as they realized that their sporting activities could not continue if all of the animals were killed or all of the fish caught. This brought about some of the first conservation organizations, like Ducks Unlimited.

A creel, is a type of basket used in fishing. The author Charles Hallock would go on to found the magazine Forest and Stream. Charles Lanman wrote many books about his exploration of America.

Blackout

By Greg Clark, April 3, 1943

“Certainly we go sucker fishing,” cried Jimmie Frise.

“Aw,” I begrudged, “what happens? We catch cold. We get wet. We strain our aging muscles. And, if we are lucky, we hoist out two, or maybe three, measly pink suckers.”

“Measly!” protested Jimmie indignantly. “Pink! I tell you, in the spring, just after the ice goes out, suckers are the most delicious fish you can eat.”

“Puh,” I said. “Bones, millions of Y-shaped bones to catch in your gullet.”

“A chicken has bones,” retorted Jim, “but you don’t get chicken bones stuck in your throat; why? Because you take care to eat the chicken in a gentlemanly fashion. You don’t wolf a chicken the way you do a fish. Eat fish as intelligently and genteelly as you eat a chicken, and there won’t be any bone problem.”

“Pooh,” I determined. “Suckers. The very name is nasty.”

“Back in the old days,” said Jim, “when men were going around giving things names, they were just plain common men who named things in the beginning. And if a thing looked like a sucker, they called it a sucker. The scholars and gentlemen came along later and gave everything a much prettier name. But nobody uses those pretty names. They named the sucker Catostomus. Pretty, isn’t it? Catostomus. But we don’t call a sucker catostomus. We call it a sucker.”

“A catostomus by any other name,” I said, “would be as bony.”

“Listen,” protested Jimmie. “I tell you, in the early days, the settlers around here used to put down barrels full of suckers in brine for their spring and summer food, before the harvest gave them all the food they wanted in pork and eggs and vegetables. The spring of the year was a pretty hungry time of it, for the pioneers. This annual swarm of suckers up every creek and river was a godsend.”

“We do things better now,” I pointed out. “We maintain an all-year-round food supply. I can understand the early settlers doing down a barrel full of suckers in brine. But that is no reason why a couple of respectable and comfortable citizens like us have to go wading in the icy rivers.”

“Listen, Shorty,” uttered Jim grimly, “let was never get into the habit of thinking of ourselves as respectable and comfortable. Let us never forget the things our early settlers knew. Because there might come a day when a good many citizens, as respectable and comfortable as we, would go mighty hungry if they had forgotten what their grandfathers knew about sucker fishing.”

“Can you see our wives doing down a barrel full of suckers in brine?” I scoffed. “Why, the smell of fish in brine would cause the neighbors to telephone the health department.”

“Probably the pioneer home,” admitted Jim, “didn’t smell as sweet as the modern band-box we call home does. But the pioneer home was a lot more substantial than the band-boxes we dwell in today. All I say is, we ought to go sucker fishing this year, if only for sentiment’s sake.”

“I never feel very sentimental,” I submitted, “when a gulp of muddy ice water goes over the top of my hip waders.”

“By sentiment,” stated Jim, “I mean – here we are at war. Our food supply is becoming more and more rationed. A faint suspicion is dawning in all our minds that we really are at war. Isn’t it about time that those of us who can’t fight were planning to look out for ourselves? Suppose the government got really involved in the war, so that they had no more time to devote to rationing and controlling and petting the civilian populace. Suppose they had to give all their time and attention to war. Where would the mass of us get off then, my fine feathered friend?”

“We’d manage,” I assured him.

Courses In Woodcraft

At Cornell University, in the States, informed Jim, “and in Buffalo, at the Museum of Natural History, they are conducting public courses in woodcraft. Specialists, sportsmen, mining men and others who have lived part of their lives in the open, with nothing more than they could carry on their backs, are teaching classes of hundreds of city slickers how to live without cities, towns or even villages. How to carry a pack, how to make a camp out of brushwood, how to use an axe, how to cook, how to live off the country …”

“My dear man,” I snorted, “you don’t expect we’ll ever be refugees …!”

“The Russians never expected to be refugees,” said Jim. “The French never expected to be; and I bet there are millions of Frenchmen now who wish they had known how to camp out. It was because they were helpless denizens of cities and towns that they had to surrender when the Germans took their cities and towns. Free men should know how to be free, even in the wilderness.”

“Are you trying to scare me?” I inquired. “I was in France. I saw what happened. I didn’t leave France until the day France fell, mister.”

“Then,” declared Jim hotly, “you above all men should be going up and down the land, teaching people how to live in the bush, how to make a packsack, how to sleep dry in a brush lean-to in the rain …”

“Do you think the Germans,” I scoffed, “or the Japs, are going to attempt to conquer Canada?”

“If it was a question of trying to conquer us,” said Jim, “it wouldn’t be so bad. We know that is a big, tough job they could hardly tackle now.”

“Ah,” I said, resting easy.

“But,” said Jim, “the danger of their making an attack of desperation on us, a bad, violent, inspired raid on some part of North America, grows with every month that they realize they are in danger of losing.”

“But,” I cried, “to what purpose?”

“To grab a base,” said Jim, “to make a bridge-head, however temporary, from which they could bomb our great power plants, our industrial centres, our key factories, the nerve centres of our vast war production.”

“Oh, they couldn’t!” I declared.

“Just a minute,” stated Jim. “What has German aircraft production been doing, this past year, besides producing one new model of the Fokke-Wulfe? What have they been up to? They haven’t raided Britain much. They haven’t used much aircraft elsewhere. They quit trying to smother the Russians with aircraft over a year ago now. They have eased off on Malta. What are they up to?”

“Okay, what?” I demanded.

“Might they,” inquired Jim softly, “have been concentrating on the production of some novel, unforeseen giant new long-range troop carriers and long-range fighter-bombers? Something new-as new and surprising as the tank units they smashed France with?”

“H’m,” I muttered.

“If the Germans can build a 300-foot submarine,” went on Jim, “that can stay months at sea, thousands of miles from a base, they can easily build 600-foot submarines easily capable of each transporting a whole regiment of specialized and light armored troops to America.”

“Oh, yeah,” I cried. “To land where?”

“To land,” submitted Jim, “anywhere along hundreds and hundreds of miles of uninhabited Atlantic coastline, where German submarines, for over two years, have been coasting to our certain knowledge. Look: if we think nothing of landing army and navy reconnaissance officers along the coast of Norway and Africa, why do we imagine the Germans won’t do the same?”

“Do you mean to say,” I grumbled, “that there have been German soldiers ashore in Canada?”

“Why not?” demanded Jim. “Then don’t forget the long range air transports full of paratroopers. Those Germans have had two winters of experience in Russia, of fighting in wild and rugged terrain. Who can tell what new and ingenious machines and devices they have thought up in Russia for use in the wildernesses of North America, from Baffin Land to Florida or Mexico?”

“You’re an alarmist,” I accused.

“Every living Canadian,” stated Jim, “man, woman and child, should have thought these things over months and months ago. It is our common duty to foresee every contingency.”

“Okay,” I said, “suppose they do make some foolhardy landing in the uninhabited wilderness?”

“They seize an airfield,” Jim said insidiously. “It isn’t to conquer America they have come. It is just, in desperation and fury at the way they are losing the war abroad, to come for a few fierce days and destroy and disrupt our war industry, to smash our great power centres, to wreck our nerve centres of war production, our essential factories, and to exploit the panic potential of Canada and the United States.”

“And then what?” I begged.

“And then start talking of a negotiated peace,” rounded up Jim.

“Why, it could happen!” I exclaimed.

“Anything can happen,” declared Jim, “once the Germans and Japs get really aware that they have lost the war. They will attempt anything. And do you think the big German industrialists, who have a lot to do with planning their war, like to sit home at night, in their deep dugouts, thinking of America and all its great cities and mighty industries, all undamaged …?”

“You make my flesh creep,” I stated.

“Good,” said Jim. “Your flesh creeps at the thought of a jugful of muddy ice water slopping over the tops of your hip waders, as you dipnet suckers out of the Humber. Your flesh creeps at the thought of the enemy doing what we might naturally expect them to do. Your flesh creeps easy, doesn’t it?”

“Jim,” I announced anxiously, “I’ll go sucker fishing with you. Not merely to catch suckers. Not merely to add even a few pounds to the food supply of the country, but for the sake of hardness, for the sake of doing something to remind me that I come of pioneer stock, and that like my ancestors before me I can be counted upon, in an emergency, to get tough again and tackle anything, in the wilderness, in the cold, in the discomfort …”

Jim, who has done a great deal more sucker fishing than I, was able to borrow a good big sound dip net. The Humber river runs through the suburbs of the city, and in past years, when we were younger and looking for idle amusement, we have often gone down to the river, in the first flush of spring, after the ice goes out, to dip a few suckers out and distribute them among any of our humbler friends who liked fish; even suckers.

Jim also decided that night was the best time to dip for suckers.

“When I was a kid, back in the country,” he said, “we never dreamed of going sucker fishing in daylight. The big swarms of suckers move upstream from the lake at night. When I was a kid, we used to make torches and stand in the riffles and shallows, and spear the suckers by the light of the torches with pitchforks. We’d get potato sacks full.”

“Besides,” I suggested, “if we light a good big bonfire, we can wade out of the water whenever we like and warm ourselves.”

“Let’s do this in the good old pioneer tradition,” agreed Jim. “We’ll go to that pool we used to fish in, you know the one …?”

So just before dark, we scrambled down the Humber banks, high banks they are and uninhabited, even in the outskirts of the city, and found a couple of lone sucker netters just packing up, at our favorite pool, to quit for the night. We did not advise them of our plans. They were city dwellers, who did not know that the best way to net suckers is by the light of a fire.

When all was quiet, save for the soft rush and chatter of the swollen river, in its full spring spate, Jim and I gathered driftwood and sticks for a rousing big fire.

Long Night Before Us

We got the fire going in a modest way, and enjoyed sitting beside it, in no hurry, since we had the long night before us. In the dancing rays of the fire, we sat with that happy feeling of campers, even though, a couple of hundred yards away, the great city roared about its nightly business.

Along about 9 p.m., we heaped the fire up big and hearty and got the net unrolled and strung on its hoop. And into the river we waded cautiously for our first dip.

Down we sank the net and waited. Up we hoisted. Down we pressed. Up we hoisted. But neither on the first nor the tenth nor the twentieth dip did we raise a sucker.

“Maybe,” said Jim, “the run starts a little later.”

And we waded ashore from time to time, to replenish the bonfire with fresh driftwood and stumps and logs. And a fine leaping fire we had; and the river sang its song into the night.

About 10 p.m., as we stood in the pool triumphantly hoisting out our very first sucker into the air, we heard shouts above the noise of the river and turned to see two men coming out of the brush beside our fire.

“Put this fire out,” shouted the foremost, “instantly!”

We waded in.

On their arms, the men were wearing air raid warden armbands.

“Come on, you,” cried the leader hotly. “Get this fire out!”

“What’s up?” inquired Jim, depositing our fish on the stones flopping.

“Surprise air raid warning,” said the warden crisply. “Come on now, make it snappy, get this fire out as fast as you know how.”

He and his partner were already hauling out the larger chunks and flinging them into the river.

“Jimmie,” I hissed, “maybe–!”

Embers Of Fire Gone

We exchanged a glance in the already dying light of our fire, and set to with a will to kicking and flinging the burning sticks into the darkening stream. With our hats, we dipped up water and poured it on the coals. In less than 30 seconds, our fire was all but out.

“It was only by chance,” said the warden, “that we happened along the crest, there, and saw the glow of the fire. A fine thing that would be, for our section, if this fire was reported. We’d look like fools. Why, you cast a glare all over the country. You could see the river, the banks, and even a faint outline of some of the houses above …”

“It’s dark enough now,” I said hollowly.

Because, with the glare of the fire still in our eyes, an excessive darkness engulfed us, there by the hissing and tumbling river.

With the last embers of the fire gone, we stood in complete and stony blackness.

Gone were the twinkling street lights from along the high banks. Gone, even, were the faint shadows and outlines of the steep cliffs and declivities of the Humber.

“We’ve got to get back up,” said the warden, “to our beat. Do you know the path up?”

“We’ve been here dozens of times,” assured Jim. “Just wait a few seconds until our eyes get used …”

We stood for a few minutes.

“Okay, come on,” said the warden impatiently. “Lead on.”

Jim, a shadowy and ghostly figure, the net over his shoulder, started into the brush.

I got right behind him. The wardens came on my heels. But it was dark, oh so dark. Jim stumbled and cussed. He announced he was leaving the net until morning, when he could return for it.

But with the street lights on the hills gone, with the bridge, a few hundred yards south, also gone, with its kindly lights, with the whole friendly familiar world suddenly blotted out, it was an eerie and alarming world we found ourselves in. Not a landmark remained.

We followed Jim a little way, with many a stumble. When outside the range of the river’s sound, we stood and listened. All was a ghastly silence. Not a car, not a street car, not a voice. Faintly now, we could make out the shape of the hills, but they looked strange. They did not seem at all familiar.

“I think it’s this way,” I suggested.

“Don’t be crazy; we bear right,” asserted Jim.

“We came down over that way,” said the wardens anxiously.

We stumbled on a few yards through brush, over stones, brambles scratched us. We reached the foot of a high bank. It was as steep as a wall.

We wandered along it, finally finding a slope we thought we could climb. But after a few tries, in which all four of us failed to get 10 feet up, and all of us very muddy and scratched, we gave up.

“You’ll hear about this,” warned the head warden angrily. “Taking us down here into this wilderness …”

But by heading southward, to where we knew the bridge was, and after much climbing over boulders and falling over sticks and thrusting through tangled brushwood, we saw, at last, ahead the unmistakable and dear outline of the bridge just as the silent heavens were filled with the baleful yell of the all-clear signal, and the kindly lights leaped on all over the world.

But it just goes to show you. Even right near home.


Editor’s Notes: Sucker fishing seemed to be a common practice in the spring in the country. Jim would often have it featured in Birdseye Center. A dip-net was a long pole with a net on one end that could be used as a lever to dip into the water and raise up with migrating suckers.

Jim referred to “modern” houses as band-boxes, a term used for very flimsy cardboard boxes, often for holding hats.

Focke-Wulf was the name of the German manufacturer of the most common German fighter plane, the Fw-190. It was only around this point, in early 1943, did allied countries feel more confident that the war would be won.

All’s Fish to the Net

By Greg Clark, October 10, 1942

“Here’s a letter from Skipper,” cried Jimmie Frise, “inviting us to see them spawning the trout.”

“It might be fun,” I admitted. “If the weather isn’t too cold.”

“Besides,” announced Jim, studying the letter, “he wants us to help him catch some poachers.”

“Poachers?” I protested. “At this time of year?”

“He says,” read Jimmie, “that despite the Airedales they’ve got, despite watch kept by the hatchery employees, and despite trip wires that he has jigged up attached to a rocket that goes off with an awful bang, not merely as an alarm, but to scare the heck out of the poachers if they tripped it, there were poachers three nights last week.”

“But Jim,” I argued, “nobody would poach trout at this season of the year. October? Why, they’re full of spawn. Even the dirtiest poacher in the province wouldn’t kill trout now.”

“They’re doing it,” insisted Jim. “Skipper wants us to come up after lunch, some day this week, see the spawning set-up and have supper with him. And then join in a poacher hunt. He says he has got some of the loveliest trout netted into the spawning pond he has ever seen. Beauties.”

“It’s too early for spawning, Jim.” I said. “They don’t spawn until November, sometimes  as late as December.”

“Even so,” said Jim, “Skipper’s very proud of his arrangements, and even if we only see the set-up he’s got, we can have a lovely afternoon and then we can have some fun trying to catch poachers.”

“I don’t want to get mixed up,” I said, “with any tough big poachers, in the dark. Especially the kind of birds that would kill trout at this time of year. They must be pretty low.”

“Don’t fret,” assured Jim. “Old Skipper will do it by remote control, anyway. He’s probably got some comic trick rigged up. He wouldn’t just walk up and grab a poacher. He never does anything the dull, ordinary way. He likes fun.”

“Those Airedales,” I submitted. “He’s got three of the meanest, biggest Airedales I ever saw. I’m scared every time I go up there that one of them will be loose.”

“They’re tied up,” soothed Jim, and usually only let loose at dusk.”

“Boy,” I said, “if he is using them, I don’t want to help in any poacher hunt. I’d hate them to mistake me …”

A Trout Rancher

Listen,” said Jim, “if the Airedales could catch these poachers why would he send for us? There’s something funny about this case.”

“There sure is,” I agreed. “Those dogs can smell a stranger a mile off. And they don’t even bark. They would just close on him and bite the pants off him…”

“You like mysteries, don’t you?” said Jim. “Okay. Here’s a mystery.”

So we telephoned Skipper long distance and said we would be up about mid-afternoon. Old Skipper is one of our most interesting friends. He retired from business some years ago and then devoted himself to fun. There is one thing he loves above all else, and that is feeling a trout, a good trout, on the end of a line. So he went and bought a farm with good springs on it, dammed up the springs to make a series of delightful ponds, deep amidst cedar groves. And then erected a very costly and complicated modern trout hatchery, where, in the fall of the year, he, like a rancher, corrals the choicest big trout in his ponds, takes their spawn from them and raises some hundreds of thousands of infant trout. He rears them to one and two-year-old trout in special ponds and sells them, at a handy price, to other sporting and fishing clubs all over the country. Skipper is, you might say, a trout rancher.

He took in three partners from among his well-to-do acquaintances. Neither Jimmie nor I had enough money to horn in on such a delightful enterprise. But we get invited up often enough.

But old Skipper, apart from his war activities, his winter job in the civilian defence corps and similar interests, devotes his summers to maintaining that precious little creature, Salvelinus fontinalis, the speckled trout, one of Canada’s most valuable assets. which brings millions of tourist dollars into the country every year. Without such men as Skipper, nature alone could never preserve the supply against the ravages of sportsmen.

When we arrived at the farm, Skipper was a high state of excitement.

“Boys,” he said, “I’ve got a real mystery on my hands. And tonight, I think I’m going to solve it, with your help.”

“Do you mean to say,” I demanded, “that those three wolves you keep can’t …”

“That’s the weirdest part of it,” declared Skipper. “I was sure I heard the poacher last night. The Airedales were loose. I called them, and they came straight from the spot I thought the poacher was.”

“Is it only one poacher?” I inquired.

“Only the one,” said Skipper grimly. “And what a beggar he is. Every night, he poaches in a different spot on the ponds. Last night he was on the pond I have got all my choicest spawners in. I can trace his footsteps so far and then I lose him out on the road. He even wears different boots every night.”

“I’ve got it,” I announced. “He carries a couple of pounds of raw hamburger to feed the dogs.”

“Never,” said Skipper. “I’ve trained them never to accept food from strangers. The why I did that was to put cayenne pepper and other stuff in meat and have strangers give it to them. They won’t accept any food from anybody but the kennel boy who looks after them.”

“Hmmmm,” said Jimmie and I both.

“Look,” said Skipper. “He usually fishes from one of the rustic piers we have built out in the ponds. I’ve even sawed planks part way through in the piers to trap him. And do you know who is the only guy to step on a sawed plank?”

“You?” we asked.

“Me,” said Skipper bitterly. “I nearly broke my leg.”

“Why don’t you put a bear trap for him?” I inquired.

“I have,” said Skipper. “And in the morning. I found a ham sandwich in it, sprung.”

“Why don’t you put spring guns?” said Jim.

“I have,” said Skipper. “And in the morning, I find the gun uncocked, with a fine big trout hung on the muzzle, with a sprig of water cress in its mouth, all ready for the frying pan.”

“This is Sherlock Holmes stuff,” declared Jim.

“He knows the paths,” declared skipper, as well as I do. He knows all the approaches. He is somebody who was born and raised around here. And I’m going to get him, if it costs a thousand dollars in electric wires and dynamite and bird lime.”

“Bird lime?” I inquired.

“It’s a sticky concoction,” explained Skipper “that they used to use in the old days to smear on branches of trees and catch wild pigeons and things. It’s the stickiest stuff in the world, and I have used about $30 worth of it trying to catch this guy. But he avoids it as if he had spread it there himself.”

“Maybe,” I said, darkly, you’re the poacher, Skipper? Maybe it’s a sort of Jekyll and Hyde business. You love trout fishing so much, your evil self departs from your body, after dark, and goes poaching…”

Skipper gave me an anxious look.

“I’ve even thought of that,” he confessed. “But I’ve had the farmer and the boy watch me. No, sir. It is some native of these parts. I’ve hunted the countryside, trying to put the finger on the likely man. But all in vain. Tonight, with your help, I think I can catch him.”

What was left of the afternoon we spent in looking over Skipper’s arrangements for the spawning of the trout which would take place late in October, early in November, or even as late as December, depending on the weather and the season. When the hen fish were ripe in spawn, they would be netted out, and their eggs, by the hundreds and thousands, removed from them by a gentle pressure of the hand, into big white pans. When a sufficient number of eggs was gathered, the male fish selected from the nets by their distinctive color and shape, with undershot jaw, would be relieved of their milt, by pressure of the hand. And then a big wing quill feather from a goose is used to stir the milt among the eggs. Instantly, a miraculous change occurs in the eggs. And then the eggs are spread flatly on trays to be immersed in cold, running water. You can watch the growth of the eggs day by day, but it is not until February that the young trout hatch out. And then, from trough to trough of running icy spring water, to little pond and larger pond, they are nursed to fingerlings and then to yearlings. It is like chicken ranching.

We went in at dusk and sat down to one of Skipper’s famous dinners. Corned beef, which he handles himself, from the butcher right to the guest’s plate. And a farm salad he mixes himself, from the raw beet and cabbage to the dressing. And then, about 8 p.m., he sent word to the kennel boy to let the Airedales loose.

“Much as I distrust these Airedales, said Skipper, “I feel this poacher has got some hold of them. They’ve all bitten me. They’ve all bitten the kennel boy. They are chosen for their job. No dog will do a job better than an Airedale, whether it is to mind a baby, guard a house or be the milk of human kindness to an old lady. Also, bite the pants off poachers. But this guy has got some hold on them…”

We went out on the veranda, which overhangs the ponds like the hanging gardens of Babylon. The October cedars wafted their fragrance to us, the stars fairly dripped and the planes of young gentlemen in training droned amid the stars.

For an hour, we sat, in the chill, listening to the eerie sounds of night. Only once did the Airedales make their presence known, by galloping, like menacing ghosts, across the lawns of the farm, noses out, rugged shoulders driving, as they went in search of what they were taught to seek.

Then came a small bump of sound from No. 2 pond, the pond Skipper keeps his chosen breeders in, just to the right of where we sat.

Skipper tip-toed in the house and got the kennel boy.

The kennel boy came out in the veranda and let go a short, commanding whistle.

And in less than half a minute, up on the veranda raced the three Airedales, in a pack, to be snaffled and leashed by the kennel boy immediately and hauled into the house.

“You saw where they came from?” whispered Skipper harshly. “The pier on No. 2 pond. That’s where the poacher is. Okay. The kennel boy will be back in a minute with a coil of rope about 200 feet long. He and you will go down to a path he’ll show you, which is the escape from the No. 2 pond, the only escape. He will weave the rope in amongst the trees, knee high, waist high ankle high. Your job is to help him, by tightening the rope as he weaves it. Haul it taut as a fiddle string.”

Jimmie and I were up ready.

“When the kennel boy has the rope strung,” whispered Skipper, “to its full length, crisscrossed from tree to tree across the path and all approaches to pond 2, he will bark like an Airedale. That is the signal to me to come down from the front here, with my flashlight, yelling ‘turn on your lights so I can see where to shoot’.”

“You won’t shoot?” I inquired.

“Heck, no,” said Skipper. “But that will cause him to start to run and he’ll trip over the ropes …”

“Got it,” we said.

And the kennel boy came out on the dark veranda with a big coil of rope over his shoulder and we followed him. He led us rapidly through paths in the night to the rear of pond No. 2, and then tied one end of his rope to a tree and wove it back and forward between trees until he had a maze of rope, ankle high, waist high, tightened by Jim and me until it was like a fiddle string.

Then the kennel boy led us to a vantage point to one side and barked sharply like an Airedale.

In a moment, we saw Skipper’s flashlight bobbing amidst the cedars on the far side of pond No. 2. And Skipper’s angry voice rang out:

“Turn on your lights, so I can see where to shoot!”

A Surprising Captive

We heard a terrific commotion in the dark and loud grunts and bellows. In a minute, Skipper came raging around the end of the pond and raced past us to the place in the ropes where apparently a hippopotamus had been enmeshed in the ropes we had strung. For It leaped up and fell down, leaped again and threshed madly, emitting terrific snorts with every crash of its body to the earth.

Skipper went by us full steam, his powerful light stabbing the night.

And there, in the bull’s-eye of his light, lay a large, elderly gentleman, with cheap telescope rod and a worm on the hook and a fine clutch of big spawner trout on a string hopelessly tangled in the ropes.

“A dirty trick, Skipper,” yelled the victim angrily. “A dirty, low-down trick.”

And Skipper, his eyes popping out of his head like pickled silver onions, was staring speechless at his captured poacher.

Jimmie and I leaped, with the kennel boy, to his aid.

But Skipper was tenderly and speechlessly assisting his captive to his feet.

“Boys,” he said brokenly, “let me present Bill McCoomb, W. T. McCoomb, one of my partners in this place …”

So we went up to the house and got the corned beef out of the ice box and while we sat around the kitchen table Mr. McCoomb explained:

“Sure I’m a member,” he said. “Sure I fish with flies, all summer. Sure I do. I even helped old Skipper lay out the program for checking poachers. But I also made friends with the Airedales. And then I…”

And a strange, willful expression flittered across his strong, tough old face.

“Heck,” he said, “there is nothing to fishing!”


Editor’s Notes: Airedales are a type of terrier. Milt is a term for fish sperm.

Skipper is a real friend of Greg and Jim, who would play a bigger role in Greg’s stories of the 1950s and 1960s after Jim’s death.

Food for Thought

By Greg Clark, May 28, 1938

“Heigh-ho, heigh-ho,” sang Jimmie Frise, “it’s off to eat we go!”

And he came swinging in the early evening along the water side, a stick with five nice trout on it dangling from his hand.

“Quitting already?” I called from midstream.

“This is all I can eat,” he replied, holding up the trout. They were about the size to fit neatly across a frying pan.

“Why, the evening rise is just about to begin,” I protested, waving my rod and flicking a net cast along the far bank.

“How many have you got?” called Jim.

“I too have five,” I informed him proudly.

“Well, then, let’s go out to the car and eat,” suggested Jim. “Before it gets dark. And we can be back at the cabin before midnight.”

“And miss the best of the evening rise?” I demanded.

“Look,” said Jim. “it’s a warm evening. These trout won’t keep and we’ve got all day tomorrow to catch trout to take home. Let’s go out to the car and have a feed on these.”

I waded ashore in order to consider the question without prejudice. Standing waist deep in a beautiful trout stream is no condition in which to be dispassionate.

“Jim,” I said, propping the fly rod and sinking down on the soft bank, “a man can eat any time. But only once in a while, and for only a little period of his life, can a man go fishing.”

“We’ve had a swell day,” countered Jim, also sagging down on the pleasant bank, “and I’d like to top it off with a nice mess of fried trout.”

“Until he is 30,” I stated, “a man is too young to fish for trout. After 50, a man is too old.”

“To old?” scoffed Jim.

“Yes,” I explained. “Until a man is 30, he has no real appreciation of the finer things of life. He is just a bundle of prime beef and energy. He goes, like a young bull, rampaging at life, with nary a moment’s pause to taste, to savor; to reflect upon the charm and beauty of life. About 30, man starts to be conscious of faint thrills and quivers within him, which are the first premonitions of the increasing beauty and the increasing sadness of life. All during his 30’s and 40’s a man lives in a kind of symphony of feeling, a sort of grand orchestral suite of sensation, with largos and adagios and scherzos …”

“English?” inquired Jim sweetly.

“What I mean,” I corrected, “in his 30’s and 40’s a man balances his energies with his powers of appreciation and gets a feeling of the fullness of life. Around 50, he begins to slow up and get working on a simple formula of life. He starts at 50, to cut his life down to some simple routine that he knows, from experience, will give him the most pleasure for the least effort – because he is beginning to fade.”

An Instant of Beauty

“Look at that river,” interrupted Jim.

And the little river was, indeed some thing more than a picture. It was a mood. An instant of beauty. A sort of living combination of earth rock, water and sky, of time and air and hour, of some subtle combination of all the forces of nature to make an instant of beauty, as though a bell had rung, a magic and mellow bell; and we sat, entranced, looking, hearing, feeling its swift and passing vibration.

“There you are, Jim,” I said quietly, when the mood that touched us both had passed. “When you were 30 you wouldn’t have noticed that instant of beauty. You would merely have seen a river, and charged into it, rod rampant, to bang at the fish.”

“O.K., then,” said Jim, “let us go now out to the car and have supper.”

“I would like merely to add.” I said, defeated, though the plops of trout in the smooth flowing little river were becoming more frequent as the evening rise began. “I would merely like to say that at 50 men reduce their appreciation of life the way great singers reduce their repertoire. Women who have sung the greatest operas, the greatest roles, Isolde, Mimi, who have stood in massive halls before uncounted thousands of ravished listeners, presently feel their powers declining, and at the last, they appear on farewell tours and sing Annie Laurie. It is the same with fishing. In a few years, Jimmie, you and I will not come away out here to fish. We will join fishing clubs and fish in puddles.”

“Let’s eat,” said Jim drily. He is a trifle nearer 50 than I am.

We stood for a little while, gratefully and reverently looking at the stream, its queer quiet purpose, its air of infinity, as though it had always run and always would run forever. And the trees and shrubs seemed to stand guard over it and lean down to embrace it, and the sky appeared to be coloring itself only to be mirrored in the dancing secret water.

“Come on,” said Jim; and we started out.

“As a matter of fact, Jim,” I said, batting mosquitoes, this is the poorest part of a fishing trip, this eating, this coming to the end of a perfect day with canned beans in a frying pan.

“Fried trout, you mean,” amended Jim, swinging up his catch to show me. They had dried somewhat, losing their bluish and jewelled lustre. They had lost their shape, too; lost that dynamic plumpness that so entrances the trout fisherman’s eye. “Ah, Jim.” I sighed. “even fried trout. We have dramatized fried trout, we anglers. It is in memory and in prospect that tried trout taste good. But as a matter of fact, the way we cook them, they either stick to the pan or are as dry as corrugated paper or else half raw.”

“Aw,” said Jim, walking abend on the trail. “Spoil everything, go ahead.”

“I’m sorry, Jim, but face the facts,” I pursued, hurrying to keep up with him. “These trout we’ve got, inside of an hour will be nothing but a brown, burned, crisp, tasteless …”

“Shut up,” said Jim fiercely over his shoulder, and he strode furiously ahead along the trail so that I didn’t bother trying to catch up. Trails are not for arguing, anyway, for at this hour of the day, the hermit thrushes are starting their arpeggios, and maybe if a man is lucky, a rose-breasted grosbeak will sing his baritone robin-song from a tree top in the evening sunlight. When we came out of the trail into the old abandoned field across which we could see our car by the road, Jim was standing waiting for me.

“What’s up?” he asked, pointing.

From beside our car, the smoke of a campfire was curling faint and blue. And beside our car moved the figure of a man, busy with the fire.

“That’s funny,” I said “No other car there.”

We walked together across the field and as we came nearer, we saw that the man beside our car was a most unprepossessing individual.

“A regular hobo,” muttered Jim.

The gent did not see us approaching, but was busily shifting stones, making some sort of a fireplace, and he had gathered quite a pile of dry wood.

“What’s all this?” said Jim, as we came within earshot.

“Ah,” cried the hobo, dramatically. “Here you are.”

“Yes, here we are,” I admitted sourly.

“You got some trout, I hope?” said the hobo, whose voice and manner seemed elaborately polite for such a dilapidated exterior.

“Yes, we got some trout,” agreed Jim, as if to inquire what business it was of his.

“I regret,” said the hobo ceremoniously, that I could not get into your car to extract the luncheon and the cooking utensils.”

He smiled so engagingly from his plump and stubbled face that, to tell the truth, we didn’t know what to say.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “this is nothing new to me but I fear it is new to you. I … am a chef.”

“Hmm,” said I looking at his hands, which were, I am happy to report, clean and trim.

“Yes, sir, a chef,” said the hobo, pulling at his jacket a little elegantly. “And it is my habit, in the summer, to travel roads where sportsmen are likely to be found. And whenever I come upon a car, such as yours, and realizing how hungry the sportsmen are likely to be when they come out, and so weary…”

He paused, lifting his eyebrows dramatically but with a slightly bizarre effect of elegance.

“Well, gentlemen, at any rate with your kind permission, may I prepare your supper? And in return, may I partake of a small portion of what is left?”

Jim nudged me. I nudged back.

“So you’re a chef?” said Jim.

“I have cooked for royalty,” said the hobo.

“I have held the highest rank in some of the greatest hotels in the world, both Europe and America. You may call me Pierre, if you wish.”

“Well, er, ah,” said Jimmie. “I’m afraid we haven’t much for you to go on here in the car…”

“Tttt, ttt, tttt,” cried Pierre, “you have some trout. What more is needed?”

“We’ve got a large can of beans,” said Jim, starting to unlock the car door, “and some bread and a small pickle bottle full of butter, if it hasn’t melted…”

“Ttttt, tttt,” cried Pierre, pinching his thumb and finger together in the ancient and approved gesture of chefs, “please, gentlemen, just give me the freedom of the car and leave all to me. I am accustomed to what is to be found in sportsmen’s cars.”

Jim started to hand out the carton and the packages and parcels, but Pierre politely elbowed Jim aside.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “may I suggest that there is a small brook crossing the road down about 50 yards. If you stroll down there, for a wash and a splash, and take your time …”

So we laid our rods aside and started off. I observing with some rising of the heart, that the fireplace Pierre had constructed with a few rocks, was a very workmanlike job, an improvement, as a matter of fact, on the classic campfire invented and detailed by the famous Nessmuk in his book “Woodcraft.” The stones were skilfully spaced, a large stone for a backlog had been rolled into place and between the sides a hot small fire of solid glowing embers hummed redly.

Golden and Blue

“Jim,” I said low, as we walked down the road, “I kind of like that guy.”

“Did you ever hear of such a trick to get free meal?” asked Jim.

“There’s nothing for him to go on,” I pointed out. “That can of beans, a loaf of bread, some sour pickles, tea, and sugar.”

“And a lemon,” added Jim, “for the tea.”

“Oh, well,” I pointed out, “he can’t cook them any worse than we would.”

With which thought, we reached the little brook passing under a small log bridge, and there in the gin-clear water we washed and splashed our faces, and Jim found a piece of comb in his pocket, which we shared.

“Give him time,” said Jim, as we started back up the road. So instead of turning in by the car, we paced side by side on up the road, while Pierre signalled us eagerly and appreciatively.

“That’s it, gentlemen,” he called, “Walk up and down that delightful road and I will call you when all is prepared.”

“I’ll be jiggered,” breathed Jim. “If this isn’t the strangest thing.”

We strolled slowly up the evening road, amid the tall trees, like two gentlemen strolling on the terrace outside some palace of the Riviera, though our ragged fishing clothes were hardly formal, and no stringed instruments beguiled us but only the reeds and woodwinds of the bush, the birds, the spring peepers and the tree toads. Three times we passed the car, and each time, bent above the fire in a fury, Pierre glanced anxiously up and shook a warning hand at us not to approach.

Then, just as we found a bittern down by that log bridge over the brook, and were listening with perennial astonishment to the “bittern with his bump,” that sound like a squeaky pump, we heard a far hail from Pierre, and all aglow we strode back up the road.

“Forty minutes,” said Jim. “That’s what he’s taken.”

But oh, my friends and oh, my foes, what else had he taken but our very hearts? From a piece of newspaper, Pierre had constructed himself a chef’s hat, or a passable replica thereof. All around him, as he stood proudly beaming, were spread dishes, our frying pan, a covered pot which Pierre had produced from his own dilapidated packsack; a birchbark platter of crisp water cress from the brook.

“Be seated, gentlemen,” said Pierre bowing to the running board of the car. “Or have you, perhaps a toast you wish to name before you sit.”

“Here,” said Jim, “is to … to everything!”

We sat. Pierre handed us each one of our own tin plates. From the frying pan, in which lay our trout, not crisp, not brown, but golden and blue, their native glory showing, all simmering in a sharp brown sauce … rose with an aroma that fairly made his gasp.

From the pot, he ladled out round white objects…

“Potatoes?” I remarked.

“No, sir,” cried Pierre, “the root of the common arrow-head that grows in shallow water along all our ponds and creeks. I make it my habit to gather such delicacies as the wild wood affords, in my travels.”

With glittering eyes, the eyes of the artist, Pierre watched us as we lifted the first bite.

Even his stubble seemed to vanish when we lifted our amazed eyes after that bite.

“Eh?” he asked, breathless. “That little tang is crinkle-root, that I picked right here by the road, and a faint dash of Indian turnip, that you call jack-in-the-pulpit. A little water cress was cooked in that sauce … eh?… and a dash of your lemon. It gives it a…”

“My Greatest Joy”

But even Pierre grew silent as he watched us. This was no occasion for haste. Each lift of the fork, each opening of the mouth, each closing of the jaws had to be done slowly, rhythmically, with rolling eyeballs and deep inhales.

“The last time,” I finally breathed, “was at the coronation, Pierre, at Scott’s, in Piccadilly, and it was Sole a la Scott.”

“This,” said Pierre, “is trout a la Pierre.”

“My dear man,” said Jim, huskily. “I know hotel managers, I know proprietors of summer hotels where I could get you a good job.”

“Tttt, tttt,” cried Pierre, “no, no, gentlemen, do not make that mistake. I was a chef for 30 years. I have been cribbed, cabined and confined most of my life; a happy life, too. But some years ago, deep in the copper-lined bowels of a great hotel, as I stood amidst my masterpieces, I suddenly thought, as Saul must have thought on the road to Damascus … ‘What am I doing here?’ So I just packed a small bag and walked away.”

“We could get you…” I began.

“Nobody,” said Pierre, “can get me anything. That is my greatest joy in the world. Nobody can get me anything. And I can get something for others.”

We resumed our eating. Pierre heaped bunches of crisp cress on our plates and laid fresh trout on top, and poured that indescribable sauce from the pan over them.

“Where will you be,” asked Jim. “a week from to-day, Pierre?”

“Please God,” said Pierre, “five hundred miles from here.”

“We’ll be back here,” I pleaded, “to-morrow.”

“Ah,” smiled Pierre, “to-morrow, a hundred miles from here. No, gentlemen, that is the essence of freedom. To make no plans nor enter into any agreements. It is my delight to walk the roads and find the cars of sportsmen and have a fire ready and their food laid out when they return from the woods. No men are hungrier. No men are more appreciative. What an artist craves is appreciation. You cannot know, gentlemen, what happiness you have given me by eating this food.”

He ladled out another lily root for each of us, and bathed it in the sauce, which he had mysteriously augmented with more butter and a squirt of lemon and tiny dash of mashed herb.

Instead of tea, he had made us coffee out of his own packsack. Coffee that was pure liquid aroma.

“Now, while I eat,” he said, “I suggest you go for another walk on the road.”

It was a command not a request, so we went, and hands behind, and minds bewildered with thoughts of freedom, and bodies all aglow from the power of beautiful food, we paced up and down the twilight road, until the whip-poor-wills began and we heard Pierre cleaning up the pans.

“Let us drive you,” we pleaded, “part of the way you’re going.”

“You can’t go,” said Pierre, gently, “the way I’m going.”

And we all shook hands and he went one way and we went the other.


Editor’s Notes: This story is reprinted in “Greg Clark & Jimmie Frise Outdoors” (1979).

Given that this was the Great Depression, hoboes were a common sight.

Some of the birds mentioned in the story are the Rose-breasted grosbeak, the Hermit thrush, and the Bittern.

“Nessmuk” is the pen name of George W. Sears, an early outdoors writer. He wrote “Woodcraft”, a book on camping in 1884.

Some of the wild plants used in the recipe include Watercress, Indian turnip (jack-in-the-pulpit), and Crinkle-root.

For Better and Worse

By Greg Clark, May 11, 1935

“A h-hum,” sighed Jimmie Frise, as we bowled southward and homeward from our first real trout fishing trip, “things never turn out as good as we think they will.”

“Somebody,” I muttered, “has been fishing our stream on the sly.”

“We shouldn’t feel bad,” said Jimmie. “We ought to know, at our age, that things never turn out the way we hope they will. What I mean is, by the time a man is forty, he should be incapable of feeling disappointed.”

“The weather was rotten,” I said. “A nasty wind. We couldn’t cast right. What we need is a nice soft southerly wind.”

“No, you’re wrong,” corrected Jim. “Don’t waste your time thinking up reasons for this trip being a failure. Of course it was a failure. All trips are failures. It wasn’t the weather that was wrong. It wasn’t that there were no fish. It wasn’t that somebody has been poaching. It was simply that we built up hopes far in excess of what we have any right to expect.”

“Do you want me to go fishing,” I cried, “in a pessimistic frame of mind? Do you expect me to start out on a fishing trip in a sour, cynical mood, filled with doubts, expecting nothing?”

“Not at all,” allowed Jim. “Be as full of expectations as ever. But don’t be disappointed when it is over. It is the expectancy that is the best part of a fishing trip. It is the whole week, from Monday morning to Saturday noon that is the real fishing trip. The plans, the dreams, the imagination, the hopes. When you leave the city Saturday noon you might say the fishing trip is over. The minute you leave the city limits.”

“That’s absurd,” I stated.

“Sure it is,” said Jim. “What isn’t? Isn’t it absurd to see us bowling down this highway with our car full of mud? Isn’t it absurd to hear us talking hoarsely together, both of us with bad colds? Wasn’t it absurd to see us yesterday evening standing there in a raging muddy crick, the ugly bare woods on either side filled with icy bog, no beauty anywhere in the world to attract us? Wasn’t it absurd when you tripped over that hidden log and fell on your face? Wasn’t it absurd to see you on the bank, struggling out of your waders and holding them up to drain water out of them?”

“I hardly think it was absurd,” I protested. “If it had been you, I wouldn’t have laughed. I would have come out of the stream and helped you.”

“The whole thing is absurd,” went on Jim. “But will we be out again next Saturday?”

“We’ll go to Martie’s Mill next week,” I said. “There’s where we’ll get the trout, Jimmie. We should have gone there this time. That’s where the trout are. If you had taken my advice…”

“Right you are,” said Jim. “Next week we’ll go to Martie’s Mill. It ought to be a swell week-end, according to the law of averages. A nice soft day, just a little cloudy and a faint breeze to ruffle the surface of the water. You fish from the mill up and I’ll fish from the mill down.”

No Way To Enjoy Fishing

“It’ll probably be sleeting,” I growled.

“Tut, tut,” protested Jimmie. “That’s no way to enjoy your fishing.”

“Look at this car,” I muttered. “Mud from headlights to tail lamp, inside and out. Your back axle strained by that pitch-hole we got stuck in. Racing your engine the way you did has strained it, too, I’ll bet.”

“And not one fish to account for it,” laughed Jim. “However, I’ll have her all washed up. I’ll have the boys at the garage tune up the engine. Next Saturday, the roads will be dried out. The sun will be shining softly, as only it does in May. We’ll go to Martie’s Mill, and the birches will be showing their first faint veil of green. The trout will be rising to the fly. The water will be clear and low. Oh, boy!”

“And yet,” I said, “all the time you are saying this, you know in your heart it won’t be like that.”

“As I said a mile or two back,” said Jim, “nothing pans out as good as we expect it to.”

Through the cold rain we drove. Jim’s engine rasped a little. Something in it ticked loudly. The poor old car had been through a lot in the past twenty-four hours.

“You’ve strained her,” I said.

“She’s all right,” assured Jim. “She’s a tough old boat. I’ve had her through worse roads than those yesterday. She protests a little, maybe, but she never lets me down.”

And with those words, the engine stopped.

“Ah,” said I.

Jimmie stepped on the starter, pulled and pushed the choke rod. He waggled the switches and gadgets. Then he ran her over to the shoulder of the road.

“Maybe we’re out of gas,” he said.

But we were not out of gas. So Jim stood out in the rain and lifted the hood and stared at the rusty insides.

“I guess,” he said, coming to the door, “I’ll have to hail a lift down to the village and get a mechanic.”

“I wish you hadn’t said it never let you down,” I argued.

“We’ll be all right in a few minutes,” said Jim, buttoning up his collar and shutting the door. He stood out and hailed the passing cars and the fifth one stopped and he got in.

In half an hour, he came back in a truck, and a mechanic and Jim stood looking in at the engine for another ten minutes. Then the truck man backed up and hitched a rope on to us. And on the slithery pavement, we were towed five miles into a dismal little village, and to the door of a reformed blacksmith shop which was a garage.

“We’ll be on our way in five minutes,” said Jim, cheerily.

“Nothing turns out as good as you expect it to,” I warned him. “Let’s start imagining we’ll be here all night.”

Jim left me sitting in the car while he and the mechanic went out and did some more staring down under the hood.

An hour passed. Not a kick did they get out of her. They took things off and carried them inside the blacksmith shop, then carried them out again and screwed them back on. They got under it. They got on top of it. They got behind it. They towed it half a mile down the road with Jim frantically stepping on this and pulling at that. Then they towed us half a mile back.

Walking To the Nearest Pump

“We’ll be here all night,” I said.

“Keep your shirt on,” said Jim, just a trifle less cheery.

A farmer pulled up for gas in an incredible old car all rags and tatters.

“If he can make that go,” I whispered to Jim, “maybe he can make this go.”

So Jim and the mechanic and the farmer stood staring into the hood for another while, and then the farmer got a hammer out of his car and came and gave Jim’s engine one loud thump.

“Now try her,” he called to me.

I tried her and she went like a charm.

“Hooray,” we all yelled, paid our bill and drove on.

“Ha, ha,” laughed Jim. “My dear, temperamental old car. All she needs is a good swift kick in the pants.”

And down the dismal highway we sportsmen sped.

“We’ll be home and warm and cosy in less than two hours,” said Jim. And he gave her the gun and we hummed into the gray evening.

We hummed until, on a particularly desolate and lonely stretch of the highway between Shelburne and Orangeville the engine coughed loudly, sputtered and coughed again.

“Gas,” said Jim. “Gas, by golly.”

And by golly it was gas. There the little finger on the dashboard pointed to empty, where it had been half full the last time we had looked at it at the village blacksmith shop.

Over to the shoulder of the highway she rolled and came to a coughing stop. The tank cap was missing. The open hole stared darkly upward.

“We must have left the top off at the garage,” said Jim, “and she has splashed out at the speed we were going.”

“And the jerky way you drive,” I added.

“Well,” said Jim, “there’s nothing for it. I’ll just get another lift down to the nearest pump.”

So he stood in the rain by the road side and signalled all cars south until the seventh one stopped. More dreary sportsmen. And there I sat looking out at the homely fields and waited forty minutes until another truck drew up and Jim dismounted carrying a can of gas.

I heard the gas gurgling in.

“Keep the rain out of it,” I shouted.

He tied a handkerchief over the gas hole.

“Well, well,” he said, leaping with character and determination into the driver’s seat. “What a time we are having!”

“I doubt if we will ever get home,” I hastened to say. “I bet we don’t get home until some time to-morrow.”

“Wouldn’t be surprised,” admitted Jim, changing his jaunty manner to one of dejection. “We’ll probably have a blowout or two, maybe there is water in the gas, and possibly we’ll end up in the ditch down by Caledon mountain.”

“Now you’re talking,” I cried. “You’ve got the right idea at last. For heaven’s sake, don’t smile again until we get to my side drive.”

“Okay,” said Jim, setting his jaw and sneering into the windshield.

And in silence we ran another fifteen miles.

“Ah,” said Jim. “even in the rain, I always like this view from the hill above Orangeville.”

“Shut up.” I ordered. “Look sour. Sneer. Expect somebody to side-swipe us.”

Bang! Wheeeeeee!

Jim was very busy for a few seconds, keeping the silly great car from slewing right off the road. It skidded, bumped, swayed and skidded again.

“Blow-out.” said Jim.

Jim Makes an Amendment

“What did you think I thought it was?” I inquired.

“How about getting out and helping me with it this time?” he asked.

“What would be the use?” I asked. “What’s the use of either of us getting out? Why not let us just sit here and give up.”

“Come on,” said Jim, getting out.

So we got out and dug right down through all our fishing tackle and bags full of sporting clothes and rain coats, and empty creels and thermos bottles equally empty, until we got the tools. And in the mud, we jacked her up.

“I wouldn’t wonder,” I said, “if the spare tire was flat.”

Jím prodded it.

“It is,” he said whitely.

“Have you a pump?” I demanded.

“No modern motorist has a pump,” retorted Jim.

“Then?” I inquired.

“Maybe we could borrow one from passing motorists,” thought he.

“Maybe they’re all modern,” I surmised.

Five cars, no pumps. Five irritated drivers pausing and driving snortily on.

“I’ll take the spare down to Caledon,” said Jim.

So he took the spare down to Caledon on a truck that came by, and in fifty minutes he came back and we detached the old one and put on the new one.

“About the only thing now,” I said as we drove off, “is to be pinched and to end up in the ditch.”

“Of course,” said Jim, “we might get into a collision, and both be killed. Maybe the car will turn over and pin us down, while the engine catches fire and cooks us. That would be something.”

Out the rainy window pane I saw something moving.

“A speed cop there, Jim!” I hissed.

Jim looked out into the murk and there, undoubtedly, was a speed cop dimly in the night, keeping right abreast of us, turning his face to us, and signalling.

“Heck,” said Jim, stamping on his brakes and steering for the shoulder.

The car skidded, slid, sleazed. I felt it hit the shoulder. I saw Jim heave up on the wheel mightily. Then the car lurched.

“In the ditch,” gasped Jim.

I wasted no time on words. I got out. The ditch was knee deep in water and mud. And things floating. The cop had pulled up ahead and was now walking back in the headlights.

“I just wanted to tell you,” he said indignantly, “that your tail lights are out.”

“Well,” said Jim.

“How about arresting us and taking us in your side car?” I suggested. “Arrest us for murder or embezzlement or something.”

The cop looked at me.

“What’s eating you?” he asked.

“Oh, nothing,” I said. “We’ve been fishing.”

So Jim got another lift into Brampton and got a truck with a derrick and thirty-five minutes later, we were hoisted out of the mud and set on the road.

“Don’t let us speak at all.” I suggested. “From now on we will sit here perfectly speechless.”

“Well, just before we go,” said Jim. “I’d like to make one amendment to what I was saying away back there some time this afternoon when we were so happy over our fishing trip.”

“I’d prefer if you said nothing at all,” I submitted.

“It’s just this,” said Jim. “Not only does nothing ever turn out as well as you hope it will. Everything always turns out worse than you fear it will.”

“All right,” I said, tightening my lips

So we did the last of the journey in total and imminently expectant silence.


Editor’s Notes: Old cars were not like cars today, where you can just turn the key (or press a button) and go. You had to pull out the choke rod (via a knob on the dashboard) to close a valve on the carburetor to limit the air intake. Then you can turn the key, while pressing on the gas pedal. After the engine starts, you have to push the choke rod in to smooth the engine running.

Another common occurrence in the early days of driving, was the flat tire. Having a spare tire or two and the ability to change them was a necessary skill. This became less common by the 1930s with improved tire technology. As Jim mentions, it would be uncommon for a 1935 motorist to carry a pump for blowing up tires, whereas ten years earlier, they would have had more luck.

They mention the local blacksmith being a mechanic. As cars became popular in the 1910s and 1920s, many blacksmiths converted their business to garages and became mechanics. The smaller the town or village, the more likely he would have to keep the blacksmith portion of the business going as rural people were slower to by cars.

A Simple Question of Law

By Greg Clark, March 8, 1941

“My conscience,” said Jimmie Frise, at the wheel of his car, “is not hurting me.”

“Why should it?” I consoled. “Ice fishing is not a crime against the state.”

“No, but it’s a waste of time,” said Jim. “The time is coming when we will all have to measure each hour of our day and see to it that it is well spent in the service of our country. War is the harshest employer in the history of labor.”

“Recreation,” I reminded him, “is simply re-creation. The re-creation of our energies.”

“In Germany,” said Jimmie, “we could be pinched and charged with high treason for going fishing through the ice. Wasting the nation’s time and energy.”

“But what could we do, Jim?” I protested. “Come down to earth. Be practical. What could you and I do this Saturday afternoon that would promote the war effort, in place of going fishing through the ice?”

“Every hour of work,” enunciated Jimmie, “produces wealth in some small measure. That wealth is a tiny drop in the ocean of the nation’s wealth. And wealth is power.”

“So,” I concluded, “we turn around and go home, and you draw a cartoon and I write an article …”

“It might be,” countered Jim, that the cartoon I would draw this afternoon and the article you might write this afternoon would be the one in a million to strike the true note of inspiration and inspire millions of our fellow-Canadians to more hours of labor, to making more money, to invest in more war savings …”

“On the other hand,” I stated, “we are salary workers. We don’t get paid by the piece. Whatever we write or draw this afternoon, we would get paid just the same; so that nothing is added to the nation’s wealth.”

“So,” I concluded, “we turn around and go home, and you draw a cartoon and I write an article …”

“It might be,” countered Jim. “that the cartoon I would draw this afternoon and the article you might write this afternoon would be the one in a million to strike the true note of inspiration and inspire millions of our fellow-Canadians to more hours of labor, to making more money, to invest in more war savings …”

“On the other hand.” I stated, “we are salary workers. We don’t get paid by the piece. Whatever we write or draw this afternoon, we would get paid just the same; so that nothing is added to the nation’s wealth.”

“Except the inspiration,” submitted Jim.

“How do you know,” I inquired shrewdly, that we might not get the makings of an inspirational story and cartoon this very afternoon, out on the ice fishing?”

“Well, that’s true,” admitted Jimmie, stepping a little on the gas.

And in no time at all, we saw Lake Simcoe’s white expanse shimmering in the March sun. March is the month for ice fishing. The herring are on the move. In their arrowy silver hordes, they are sweeping up from the great depths of the lakes to explore the shallows. And squatted on the ice over the shallows out from shore, over those areas which generations of Lake Simconians have proven to be the favorite water-paths of the herrings, are the little fishing houses of the ice fishers.

Just Village Gentlemen

Some are sportsmen purely. Some are commercial-minded purely, who fill an eight-quart fruit basket with the little silver herring and get a good price for them from the dealers in the villages on shore. But mostly, the ice fishers are just ordinary village gentlemen of mature years and sundry occupations who find in the silence and comfort of the little fishing shack a pleasant escape from the cares of domesticity and a chance to sit and think.

Most of the fishing houses are home-made. They are mere boxes, and a big sleigh is made on which to haul the fish shack from place to place on the ice as fancy guides. The fish house is cosy and has a floor. In the floor a square hole about the size of a suitcase has been cut. This hole in the floor is the exact size of the hole in the ice the fisherman cuts with a long-handled ice chisel. The shack is then slid over the hole in the ice. The angler enters the little house, lights a fire with sticks in the tiny stove made of a square gasoline can. Closes the door of the shack, and there, in a kind of luminous dim green light striking up through the hole in the ice and the floor, proceeds to dangle his line into the motionless and mysterious depths.

For bait, he uses as a rule a tiny dead minnow of the kind you see in shoals along the shore in summer. These the fisher has caught in a minnow trap let through the ice near shore. Probably it is these tiny inch and two-inch long fishlets the herring have come in search of.

The great American divine, Dr. Henry Van Dyke, said: “There is nothing that attracts human nature more powerfully than the sport of tempting the unknown with a fishing line.”

This is specially true of ice fishing. Because, as you sit there on your little bench in the fishing hut, bending over the hole and dibbling your line, watching the tiny bait dancing dimly below, you are liable to tremendous shocks when some giant lake trout, following the herring hordes, comes like a monstrous shadow out of the green gloom to veer disdainfully past your tiny bait. Sometimes a huge pike will visit your little horizon. Sometimes, even, that pike will rush like a fury from nowhere and grab from your lure a herring you have just hooked.

However–it’s a sport. A cosy, lazy, sit-down sport that appeals mightily to those men who are fond of a little isolation now and then from the cares of the world.

Disputing Possession

In the village Jim and I inquired at the gas station if there was anybody around with a fishing house to rent for the afternoon. And right in the gas station was the man we sought.

“It’s out there on the ice,” he informed us. “I’ve been trying all day to get out to it, but it don’t look as if I can make it today, so I’ll gladly rent it to you.”

“How much?”

“A dollar,” he said. “It’s the best fish house on the lake. And right now it is over one of the best channels in the lake. I got three baskets of herring there the day before yesterday.”

The gentleman escorted us down to the shore and pointed out the colony of little shacks clustered on the ice a mile out.

“You can’t miss it,” he said. “It’s the largest of the shacks. It will hold the two of you comfortably. It has a bright red roof. You can’t miss it. Just ask for Sam’s house.”

So we locked up the car on the edge of the lake and walked out to the little fishing village on the ice. A deserted village it seemed to be. From each little chimney thin smoke curled. Not a living soul was in sight. But when we stilled our crisp footfalls on the snow, and listened, we could hear a small, faint traffic, thuds and muffled coughs, and now and then a voice muttering or yawning. And in one shack, a fine deep snore.

As we explored the ragged little village of huts, a door opened and a man’s head and shoulders appeared as he threw out on to the ice a little pailful of slush dipped from his fishing hole within.

“Which is Sam’s house?” we inquired.

“That one there with the red roof,” replied the angler, eyeing us drowsily.

So we went up and tried the door of the red-roofed shack.

“It’s locked,” said Jim.

“Give it a little kick,” I suggested.

Jim gave it a little kick, and instantly a tremendous bellow answered us from within the shack, the door burst open and a most furious-faced individual glared and blinked indignantly up at us.

“What the heck do you want?” he roared. “Do you know what you done? You scared away the biggest pike I ever hope to see!”

“We rented this fish house,” said Jim.

“Get away,” shouted the occupant. “What kind of … coming kicking in doors … the biggest pike I ever hope to see.”

At this row, several neighboring fish houses opened their doors and inquiring heads peered out. Addressing these neighbors rather than us, the gentleman in our fish house cried:

“Swum right around my bait three times, coming nearer and nearer, and me jigging the minnow so dainty. And then … wham … these guys come hollering and kicking in my door!”

“Isn’t this Sam’s fishing shack?” inquired Jim.

“What if it is?” bellowed the stranger hotly.

“We rented it for a dollar,” said Jim. “We paid a dollar.”

“Possession is nine points of the law,” retorted the stranger. “I always use Sam’s house if he ain’t here. I’ll pay him a dollar. If I can only catch that pike. The biggest pike …”

He tried to close the door but Jim stuck his foot in.

“This is our house,” he stated evenly. “In law, it is ours in fact. We have leased it.”

“Use my house, over there,” pleaded the occupant in a heartfelt voice.

“No,” said Jim, judicially. This is our house. We leased it.”

“Oh,” said the man furiously, and grabbed together his lines and sticks and scrambled out into the sunlight. And in no time, Jim and I were inside, with Sam’s lines dangling enticingly into the limpid green depths, and Sam’s little stove humming and we were very set.

We had hardly got settled before we heard thuds and chopping and we looked out to see the late tenant of our house busy with ice chisel and dipper cutting a hole in the ice not 10 feet from our location. He had drawn his shack over on its sleigh and he was about to set up right alongside of us.

“I guess there is no law against it,” said Jimmie.

And presently silence fell, and we sat in that muffled stillness, dibbling our lines down, making the tiny minnows dance on our hooks.

No herring came. Nothing came. Sleep tried to come but Jimmie and I both fought it back. We opened the door from time to time. There, a few feet away, was the silent house of our evicted friend, a thin smoke coming from his chimney while he sat within, concentrating.

“Psst,” hissed Jim, after we had been sitting some time. And there, off to one side, a monstrous shadow glided.

It was the pike. Dark green amidst the lighter green of the icy water, the huge fish drifted with imperceptible movement of fin or tail. Like a shadow, it floated. Then it slowly vanished out of the orbit of our view.

Jim and I found our hair standing on end and our hearts thudding like drums on parade.

“Jig your bait!” whispered Jim. And we furiously danced our minnows.

A long moment later, again that soundless, effortless shadow, big as a log of wood, drifted across the far edge of our view. Still a third time it appeared, and suddenly, with a wrench of its body that seemed to be the effort of absolute fury, the pike launched itself.

Upward and past us it flung itself in a leap so sudden, so swift and dreadful, both Jim and I leaped back from the hole in the ice and yanked our lines clean out of the water.

But the pike had not attacked us. It had gone obliquely past our baits, headed straight for the lure of the gentleman next door. And no further proof was needed than the muffled bellows and roars that we could hear.

“He’s got him!” shouted Jimmie, kicking open the door.

“Shut the door,” I commanded. “Look, look.”

For through the hole in our floor we could see part of the battle as the hooked pike, its yellow spotted sides making it gleam like burnished metal, writhed and fought furiously, crossing and recrossing our view.

“Boy,” breathed Jim. “what a box seat we’ve got!”

“Yeah?” I said, lowering my baited line. “And what else?”

For our lines were sturdy and strong and new.

Time after time the fighting, plunging pike dragged the other line against mine; time after time I jerked viciously as the pike itself passed over my hook.

“That tiny hook will never hold,” protested Jim.

“Anyway,” I panted, jerking.

And suddenly I had him.

By the tail. And for three or four minutes that little fishing house was as full of excitement and flying slush as a March dog fight.

I pulled one way and our neighbor pulled the other until the pike, regardless of its size and strength, caught by head and tail, gave up the struggle entirely.

Law of Probabilities

We could hear our neighbor bellowing, “Leggo leggo,” but all I said was “Hook the door, Jim.” And then I took a double-wrapped hold on Sam’s stout green cuttyhunk, braced my feet and hauled.

And it was the neighbor’s line that parted. For I had the little hook solidly embedded in the powerful tail muscles of the pike. And tail first, the pike was hauled up through the hole in the ice and Jimmie fell upon it and held it fast.

“Open up. open up,” roared a voice outside, with loud thumping on the door.

“Open or I’ll kick it open.”

“Go away.” I shouted. “Don’t disturb us. We’re fishing.”

By this time several of the neighbors had gathered outside to learn the excitement, and we could hear our neighbor most indignantly recounting how he had hooked the monstrous pike and how, while he was playing it, we had foully sniggled it and then bust his line on him.

“Open up, open up,” he repeated, kicking at our door.

“Hey, you, listen,” I yelled through the door. “We’ll have the law on you for trespass, assault and battery and damages. Don’t you wreck this house or you’ll have the police on you.”

“Gimme my fish,” he bellowed.

“It’s not your fish,” I shouted hotly. “Your line broke. You lost the fish. It fouled my line. I caught it. The law says it is my fish and you know it.”

I could hear corroborative discussion outside and there followed several minutes of conversation, occasionally rising to loud and menacing yells as our neighbor felt his grief come over him. Little by little it died away but our neighbor lingered long, making loud and lonely remarks about thieves and gangsters coming from the city to rob honest men.

He thumped and banged around, rendering any hope of fishing vain. But as darkness grew, we heard the others of the colony depart and finally silence fell and we emerged and carried our pike across the ice a mile to shore, where we found our car with all the tires flat. The air had been let out of them all, including the spare.

“Let’s have him pinched,” I yelled.

“It couldn’t be proved who did it,” mollified Jim. “It might have been mischievous boys.”

“Mischievous…” I snorted.

“We evicted the poor guy out of the fish house,” said Jim.

“We were within our legal rights,” I stated.

“We snaggled his pike,” said Jim, “which we don’t want, now that we’ve got it. We’ll only give it away to somebody.”

“The fish fouled my tackle,” I retorted.

“Now our tires are flat,” said Jim. “And only the law of probabilities to suggest who did it.”

“The law, the law,” I said.

“Aren’t human beings funny,” mused Jimmie.

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