The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: March Page 1 of 3

Duty Calls!

March 26, 1932


“Do you believe,” asked Jimmie Frise, in ghosts?”

“Certainly,” I said. “Who doesn’t?”

“I don’t,” said Jim. “And millions more besides me.”

“I don’t mean with your daylight brains,” I explained. “I myself, right now, in broad daylight, in this office, don’t believe in ghosts as I believe in birds or airplanes. But I bet your body and your night brain, your secret, real brain, believe in ghosts.”

“What are you talking about?” laughed Jim.

“Haven’t you ever,” I demanded, “felt spooky at night? Haven’t you ever felt all creepy on your skin? Your hair sort of prickles? And you have a perfect horror that there is something in the dark, something creeping toward you or past you?”

“Of course,” admitted Jim. “I suppose everybody has felt that way when their nerves were tired.”

“Nerves,” I scoffed. “A nerve, my dear Frise, is just an organ. A physical organ like your finger, for feeling things with. Nerves don’t feel imaginary things. They can’t. That isn’t their function.”

“Do you mean?” gasped Jim.

“I mean,” I said, that when you feel creepy, crawly and horror-struck like that, you are really in the presence of a ghost.”

“Haw,” laughed Jim, but looking rather eagerly out the window at the bright sunshine. “Haw, Haw!”

“Don’t haw,” I assured him. “I am one who believes my senses. I don’t believe what my poor little shallow daylight brain tries to teach me, for its own comfort and ease. I believe my whole me.”

“Your whole what?” asked Jim, anxiously.

“My whole me,” I repeated. “There is a lot of me besides what I know or am conscious of. There is a lot to you that you are utterly unaware of. The professors say that our conscious mind is like the varnish on a chest of drawers. A thin, pathetic little coating. The real us is a chest of drawers, deep-filled drawers, some of them maybe secret drawers and locked forever. Drawers filled with ages and ages of the past, of our ancestors back millions of years, and all they loved and feared and hated.”

“Tch, tch,” said Jimmie.

“How else,” I asked, “can you explain all our differences, that you can draw and I can sing; and I love birds and you love horses? What makes me so Grit and you so Tory? Why do I talk a lot and you sit smiling a lot?”

“This has nothing to do with ghosts,” interrupted Jim.

“It has everything to do with ghosts,” I assured him. “Because we are scared of ghosts – and rightly so – our little hand-made brains, our little shallow daylight minds, have tried, for ages, to prove there are no ghosts. No spirits. No anything that will frighten us. It is the job of our daylight brains to try and wiggle us out of anything unpleasant or disturbing.”

Our Usses Know

“Pure theory,” said Jim.

“All right,” I said, “what is your theory, then, about you and everybody else in the world feeling creepy at times? Is there anybody in the whole wide world who hasn’t felt leery and crawly one time or another? Especially at times when ghosts might be expected to be around, such as to haunted houses, on windy and wild nights, or on dreary. and deserted moors? What’s your theory there?”

“Imagination,” said Jim. “Just imagination.”

“Imagination of what?” I asked

“Just imagination,” repeated Jim. “Imagination of nothing.”

“Don’t be silly,” I cried. In 1,000,000 years of there being nothing, we would have long ago got rid of it. Imagination is only seeing with the mind. Our deeper minds, our deep and subconscious minds, know there are ghosts. Our poor little superficial minds fight like fury to pretend there aren’t any. But every once in a while, we get that feeling. It is our true usses seeing, or feeling. Our true usses.”

“Your whole me, and our true usses,” mocked Jimmie. “A lot of new words coming along?”

“When you deal with the unknown,” I pointed out, you have to invent new words.”

“Did you ever see a ghost?” asked Jim. “I mean really see?”

“Yes, lots of times,” I assured him. “And I’ve been a ghost, too.”

“Been a ghost?” shouted Jim.

“Sure,” I said. “In the Battle of Vimy, a ghost came to me the second night, when I was lying in a shell hole down the front face of the Ridge, and told me not to fear, because I would go home to Toronto and use the front door key of my father’s house that I still kept in my pocket. Even in the trenches.”

“What did it look like?” asked Jim.

“It looked like a lady,” I said.

“What kind of a lady?” demanded Jim.

“I wouldn’t care to say, but she was very beautiful,” I assured him. “She knelt right down beside me in the shell hole. If I had asked her, she would have turned me back into a baby again and lifted me up in her arms.”

“What about you being a ghost?” demanded Jim, thinly.

“That was in Houdain,” I said. “France is full of ghosts, it is so old. One terrible rainy night in February, 1918, I was walking down that long, sloping street of Houdain, with the tall houses rising sheer from the cobbled pavement, and no sidewalk. All the troops were in billet and only the provost-sergeant and his picket were abroad. It was my last duty before going to bed myself, to see the provost and his picket and tell them where they could find me in case of need.”

“So?” asked Jim.

“There I was,” I said, “in my trench coat, swinging my cane down the street in the lashing sleet and rain, all alone. When suddenly, for an instant, as if my heart stood still, I felt wet long curls blowing against my face. I felt great wide-topped leather boots around my own knees, and out from beside me hung heavily a long sheathed rapier in a leather scabbard.”

“Imagination,” said Jim.

“Or,” I said, “since my ancestors were mercenary soldiers in the old wars, coming out of Ireland and Scotland to fight for any king that had the money, I think the ghost of one of them knew me as I walked that lonely street, down which he, too, had walked in his time. And that for that one blazing, credible instant, he had entered me. Entered me through those same channels down which he had given me the color of his eyes, the roughness of his hair, his way of loving and his way of singing. Through those same mystic channels that he had come down in flesh to me, he came in spirit.”

“Gosh,” said Jimmie. Such thoughts!”

“If this life,” I assured him, “had only in it what we can see, it wouldn’t be worth bothering with for five minutes.”

“You mean you like ghosts?” begged Jim.

“Sure,” I said. “Any I’ve seen were all right. I have the feeling they’d like to be friends.”

“Do you believe in haunted houses?” asked Jim

“Yes, and I believe any house is a haunted house, if you try to believe it,” I explained. “This office is likely haunted.”

“Like to see a Ghost?”

Jimmie smiled around the office, looking at its bright walls, its cheery sunlit gleam.

“I bet,” said Jim, “you couldn’t show me a ghost in any house. Even an old tumbledown empty house out in the middle of a deserted field in the middle of the night.”

“Would you really like to see a ghost?” I asked earnestly.

“I sure would,” scoffed Jim.

“Of course,” I informed him, “If you try not to see one, it is going to be hard to show you one. You understand that, don’t you?”

“Haw, haw,” said Jim.

“I’ll do what I can,” I said. “I’m what they call a sensitive. I can usually feel where ghosts are likely to be. Often, when I’m driving through the country, I can feel where a ghost is in the old houses along the way. I’ll go and see where there is an easy ghost nearby.”

“An easy ghost?” asked Jim.

“Yes, one that shows itself without much shyness,” I pointed out. “You see, the reception ghosts generally get makes them kind of shy. But there are some tougher than others. Some old ghosts.”

“Take your time,” laughed Jim.

A few miles from the city there is a dear old tumbledown and long-abandoned farm that has been the apple of my eye for 20 years. I would love to own it and restore its battered old frame house and clean out the deserted well, with its splendid stonework untouched by the passing years. I recalled that on the near side of the front lot, as you came in from the road, there were three rough old tombstones, home-made, that commemorate the last resting place of some of the pioneers who first staked the land. I figured this would be a good place for ghost-calling for Jimmie.

An Attack of Chills

It was three nights, however, until there came a real nasty night with a howling wind, and shutters going bang, windows rattling and things going bump in the night.

“Jimmie,” I said, over the telephone, “put on your warm hunting togs. It will be a cold job.”

“Why not pick a decent night?” asked Jim. “I hate going out on a night like this, even to the movies.”

“Ghosts are often bewildered by high winds,” I explained. “They come easier on nights like this.”

“Er …” said Jim.

“I’ll be over for you in 10 minutes,” I warned.

I picked Jim up and we drove into the wild wind and the drizzle. Jimmie was gay. He wanted to talk about ghosts. He laughed loud and clear. But I sat silent. And after 10 minutes, I asked him to please be silent, as you could not expect to be in the mood if you acted like a couple of truck drivers.

So Jim grew silent and leaned forward and watched the road in the car lights as we left the highway and took a lonely country road rutted with mud and patches of dirty snow.

In silence, we came to the lane with its aged and rotting fences leading up to the ruined farm. Here I stopped and got out. And turned off the lights.

“How far is it?” asked Jim, getting out slowly.

“Only a little way.” I assured him, in a low voice. “About a quarter of a mile.”

“It’s an abandoned farm, is it?” asked Jim, slowly shutting the car door. “You’re sure you can find it in the dark?”

“I have a flashlight in case of emergency,” I whispered.

“What are you whispering for yet?” asked Jim, irritated.

“We don’t want to scare them all away by loud shouting,” I whispered.

I led. Jim coughed loudly and followed. At the place where the three old home-made tombstones are, I stopped reverently, and turned on the flashlight to show them to Jimmie. He coughed loudly again.

“Don’t cough,” I warned him in a hushed voice.

Then past bare hawthorn bushes that hissed and sighed in the wind, and tall bare mullein stalks that bowed and rattled, we marched in the wild night. The bare elms waved their arms and the wind moaned through them.

Jimmie took my arm.

“Tough going,” he said pleasantly and hoarsely.

“Shhhh,” I said.

We came to the ruins huddled in the dark. The old frame house was all that was really left, its veranda sagging drunkenly, and little root houses and cellars making deep shadows in the night. But over the old stone wall a gallows of tall timbers rose, on which the pioneers had a pulley for hauling water. The gallows starked against the wild night sky.

I took Jim’s arm to lead him, and he was shivering violently.

“Cold?” I whispered.

“Yes,” he replied. “This is silly.”

“Are you really cold?” I asked in a guarded voice. “Where do you feel the chills? Are they in your spine or not? Do you feel chilliest up along the back of your hair?”

“What are you getting at?” hissed Jim halting.

“It will help me,” I said gently, “if you will tell me just what kind of chills you have got? Are they ordinary, plain cold chills, or are they the other kind?”

“What other kind?” snarled Jim.

“What I mean,” I whispered, “is, are they chills, from the cold or from a psychic presence? The way you act, I would say there is Something-very-near.”

“Nnnnkkk,” said Jim.

“Do your fingers twitch?” I whispered. “Is your hair prickling? Is your heart beating faster than usual?”

“Did You See It?”

“I’m getting out of here,” said Jim, pulling away.

I held him. I led him toward the dreary ruin, with its walls sagging all awry.

With a quick flirt of my flashlight, I picked the way inside the open doorway. The roof was partly gone, and the inside was drifted with snow and frozen mud. I picked a bare beam and we sat down on it.

“Ssshhh,” I hissed minutely, when Jim leaned over to speak to me.

We sat.

The wind outside rushed by. Some loose thing on the aged walls faintly rubbed and rattled. Jim put his mouth to my ear.

“I’m freezing,” he said. “Let’s go. We’re fools.”

I set my mouth to his ear.

“Give it,” I said, “10 minutes.”

We sat. Far off a hound bayed. Through the rush and sigh of the wind, a dozen other dogs answered dismally. The loose thing, whatever it was, rattled louder. Something fluttered. Something went thud.

We sat very, very still.

Then I snatched Jim’s wrist.

I felt him half rise and freeze.

“By the door,” I said, my face against his cold ear. “By–the–door.”

Jim started to shiver like a dog on a porch.

“By–the–door,” I whispered, low and slow. See it. The lower–left-hand–corner.”


“It’s–coming–in,” I murmured, “The left side.”

Jim leaped up with a frightful yell.

I shot the flashlight to show him his footing. But he just went through that ruined door with one gigantic leap.

By the time I got to my feet and out the door, Jim was vanishing down the muddy lane, his arms and legs flailing in his ecstasy of departure.

“Jimmie,” I bellowed.

But he never paused. He went down that witchthorn lane and past those gaunt elms waving in the night, and I after him. I got to the car and he was not there. I stood and shouted and roared, but he did not answer. I grew nervous and turned on lights. Still no Jimmie. I drove, as a matter of fact, a half mile down the road before I overtook him, and he walking like a champion, straight and strong, for Toronto.

He got in. He fell in his corner. He heaved a great sigh.

“Well,” I said, “did you see it?”

He just raised both hands and let them fall again.

“What did it look like?” I asked eagerly.

“Didn’t you see it?” said Jim weakly.

“No,” I said, “But I’m glad you did. It proves what I’ve been telling you, don’t it? Just because I couldn’t see it shows you how difficult …”

But it took us the rest of the night to go and get farmers with teams to come and pull my car out of the muddy ditch.

Editor’s Notes: Houdain is a town in France near the battlefields of World War One.

A provost sergeant is a non-commissioned officer associated with military police.

The Bonds of Alimony

March 26, 1932

Jim illustrated this story about alimony, and New York, where you could go to prison at the time for not paying it. There was a lot of sympathy for the men in this article, which implied that prison was too harsh.

March 26, 1932

The Old Master

March 22, 1930

Playing marbles would be a kid’s game, so an older person playing (and being good at it), is the joke. Agate is a mineral that some marbles were made of. “Dibs” was slang for marbles, from the ancient game of dibstones. Calling out “Dibs” was an exclamation used to declare one’s right to marbles knocked outside the circle of play, and is used now to generally claim rights to something. “Playing for keeps”, meant that you got to keep the marbles you won, rather than returning them to the original owner after the end of game. Now the term commonly refers to “a serious situation”. It would be serious for a child if you potentially “lost your marbles,” which now can mean “going insane“. Now, the phrase can be shortened to “losing it”.

Sap’s Runnin’!

By Greg Clark, March 22, 1941

“Men from the country,” asserted Jimmie Frise, “make better soldiers than city men.”

“As a city man.” I replied, “it is my duty to deny that. And I think it ought to be self-evident. This is a war of machines. Machine-guns, tanks, airplanes. It is a city man’s war.”

“The average farmer,” declared Jimmie, “knows at least 10 times as much about machines as the average city man. A city man lives amongst machines. But he doesn’t know anything about them. The most he knows about them is to push a button. He pushes a button and an elevator comes and carries him upstairs. He stands at a white post, and a car stops and picks him up. He puts a nickel in a slot and something comes out. A city man is served, hand and foot, by machines. But it is all buttons to push and switches to turn and white posts to stand at.”

“Why, Jim, that’s ridiculous …” I protested.

“If a city man’s car starts to act up,” went on Jim, “he runs it into the first garage. He wouldn’t dream of trying to fix it himself. If his radio goes bad, he yells for a repair man. There is nothing so comic in the world as a city man whose telephone is out of order. He is rendered absolutely helpless.”

“So,” I said bitterly, “after living all these years in the city, you turn and bite the hand that feeds you!”

“A farmer,” continued Jim imperturbably, “knows 10 times as much about machines as a city man. He lives by machines. He can take his tractor or his car apart and put it together again. His daily job has to do with engines, churns, chopping mills. He understands and can fix pumps, harness, tools and implements, all of which come under the heading of machines. His electric light, telephone and all the things which to us city men are mysteries beyond our ken, he can mend because he understands them. This is the machine age. But the city man is its only victim.”

“How do you mean victim?” I demanded hotly.

“Because,” said Jim, “the city man has sold out to the machines. He has left himself no retreat. If our power were shut off for a week, we would be thrown into complete confusion. All our work would stop. We would live in darkness. We couldn’t cook; our oil furnaces would go out; we would huddle like cavemen freezing to death. But the farmer would carry on his life much as usual. Without lights, he’d just go to bed earlier. Without coal, he’d use wood or straw.”

Magic Hour in the Country

“Our gas engines and cars and trucks would save us,” I countered.

“Purely temporary,” said Jim. “Without power, without machines, we would be helpless. Our telephones wouldn’t work, our radio would be shut off, there would be no movies. Why, we poor city folk would find life hardly worth living. But the farmer has not sold out to the machine. His machines are still his servants, not his lords. We may have saved a little money. But the farmer has saved hay. He plants his grain and feeds his stock. His hens go right on laying, his hogs go right on growing.”

“Yah,” I cried, “but he has to have the cities for his market.”

“If he wants a market,” agreed Jim. “But suppose he merely wants to live? He has got all the means wherewith to live right in his own hand. He has his food. His fires he feeds with wood from his own woodlot. He has lamps, and if the oil gives out, he can still remember how to make tallow candles. If all the highways are bombed so that no traffic can move, the farmer lives in perfect comfort and security, while the cities slowly starve and go mad.”

“That’s an awful picture, Jim.” I accused.

“No,” said Jimmie, “I was just pointing out that we should not put too much reliance on machines and we should not permit ourselves to be carried away with our pride in them. A farmer’s land will stand by him long after the machines have let the cities go to hell.”

“You said men from the country make better soldiers than city men,” I accused.

“I’m inclined to think they do,” repeated Jim, “and we mustn’t forget that among city men are tens of thousands of men from the country who have come into the cities. Whereas, among the men from the country are mighty few who have come from the cities.”

“You’ certainly have a one-way mind,” I snorted.

“I was just thinking,” said Jim, “of all the boys from the farm who are in the army now, in Britain and Iceland and Gibraltar and all over the world. And how they are feeling just about now. With March nearly over and April on the rim.”

“I guess city boys are feeling the same,” I asserted.

“No,” corrected Jim, “to city men March and April are just the dead end of the year; a memory of rain and mud and slush and dreariness, with all the clothes shabby before the spring clothes come out, and all the cars dirty and the streets gray and slimy. But to a country boy, this is the magic hour. The calves and the lambs are coming. The stock are being let out into the fields. The hens are starting to lay and the sap’s runnin’.”

“Of course,” I cried. “The sugar bush.”

When Spring Exults

“The last log is being hauled out of the woodlot,” sang Jimmie, “and the last cordwood being drawn. The meadowlarks and the song sparrows are in every field and the crows are making marriage in the bush.”

“And spouts are being hammered into all the maples in the sugar bush,” I reminded.

“All over the world today,” said Jimmie, “the soldiers from the farms are exiles indeed. This is the time of year when the farmer feels his own sap rising; when he looks out to see where he left the hay rake last fall; in what corner of what field did he drop the plow. You will see him plodding over the fields, planning his crops. At this very hour spring exults on the farms.”

“Jim,” I interjected, “maple syrup and maple sugar. Let’s stop and think about them. To me, there is no flavor in the world so inspiring as the flavor of genuine maple syrup boiled in the bush.”

“And you got mighty little of it,” stated Jim. “Mostly you get ordinary cane syrup flavored with an artificial maple essence made from maple bark and sap wood. There are thriving factories in this world devoted entirely to the making of artificial maple flavor. And I’ve even heard of imitating the flavor with potato peelings and brown sugar. There was a farmer’s wife who could make it that way and even her husband couldn’t tell it from the real thing.”

“No,” I said aghast. “There ought to be a law against it. That’s a crime against the state. The maple leaf is Canada’s emblem.”

“All I say is,” said Jim. “if you want maple syrup, go out in the country and buy it from the farmer.”

“Why,” I cried scandalized, “the government ought to forbid the manufacture or import of maple flavoring. It’s unpatriotic. It’s subversive.”

“I agree with you,” said Jim. “But there are plenty of politicians who wouldn’t. If there are dollars in anything artificial, then that thing is here to stay. That’s a sort of general rule we can bear in mind.”

“We ought to start a battle,” I declared

“Listen,” said Jim. “I bet that half the maple syrup you have gloated over was fake. And I also bet that there are tens of thousands of people who have never yet tasted genuine maple syrup, made and sealed in the bush.”

“And it is one of the unforgettable flavors of this world,” I sighed. “Which we owe to the Indian.”

“The Indians,” enunciated Jim, “had no kettles big enough to boil the sap. They used to get their sugar by freezing.”

“How?” I inquired.

“They collected the sap,” explained Jim, “in bark pails. They had to collect it real early in March, at the very start of the run, so as to take advantage of what frost remained. They set the pails of sap out to freeze. Then they skimmed off the ice and threw it away, By alternately freezing, and thawing, they reduced the sap to a kind of sugar. When the white man came, he introduced big kettles.”

Enormous Possibilities

“Does it take much sap to render down to syrup?” I inquired.

“It all depends,” said Jim. “Some sap is richer than others. But as a rule, it takes about 30 to 35 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup.”

“Holy Moses,” I said. “And how much sap does one tree give?”

“Well,” said Jim. “that, too, is a problem. If you get a good tree with a big top, and it is situated near a cold spring, and it is a real hard sugar maple, you would get an average of two gallons of sap in 24 hours.”

“So 15 trees would give you a gallon of syrup a day,” I suggested.

“Plus a lot of hard work,” smiled Jim. “driving a sleigh around the sugar bush collecting the sap from the buckets and taking care of it so it doesn’t sour.”

“Isn’t the sap sweet?” I demanded.

“Yes, but if it is neglected, or gets warm, it sours,” said Jim. “You can get sap from any kind of maple, and they all make syrup and sugar. But the best trees are the sugar maple. And they run good for only about three weeks. Sometimes the run starts early in March, sometimes later. Sometimes the run will go great for four weeks and sometimes only for two. It’s tricky, like everything else around a farm. But if you want to go for a drive in the country one of these days, we can pick up a few gallons of the real McKay.”

But I was looking speculatively out the window. For there in Jim’s back yard were three thriving maple trees. And out in front were two more. And in the neighbors’ yards I could see half a dozen other fine maples. And I was calculating just how many there were in and around my own front and back yard.

“Jim,” I said, “did it ever occur to you how many maple trees there are in Canada? How many billions? Did it ever occur to you that if we Canadians went at the problem in a business-like way, we could take possession of the sugar market of the world?”

“Don’t suggest anything business-like in connection with maple syrup,” said Jimmie, “or you lose the wild, smoky tang that distinguishes the real thing.”

“Do you realize,” I demanded that there are 15 maple trees within sight of where we sit? Do you realize that those 15 trees would give us enough sap, at two gallons per tree per day, to make a gallon of maple syrup right in our own kitchen?”

“Hm,” said Jim reflectively.

An Exciting Experiment

So we went out and made a survey of the situation and found five trees on our own premises, seven more on the premises of what might be called friendly neighbors, and another 12 in the immediate vicinity which might be brought into the scheme if we approached the owners in the proper fashion.

It was a matter of less than an hour to round up, in our own cellars, enough empty pails, lard tins and other receptacles suitable to collecting the sap. From the stationery shop we got half a dozen pea shooters of tin which would make, Jim thought, ideal sap spouts to drive into the trees. A chisel for making the notch in the bark and a brace and bit for making the little holes into which to stick the spouts was, with a handful of nails, all that a couple of maple enthusiasts required.

We agreed to tap only Jim’s trees to start with. From them we figured on collecting about 10 gallons of sap which would give us a boiling down of better than a quart of syrup, which, as Jimmie explained, would indicate whether the experiment was worthy of larger development.

“We may,” pointed out Jim, “get the whole city making maple syrup.”

So, with daylight saving to help us, we tapped our five trees, on the front lawn and in the yard, and found no trouble inserting the spouts and suspending the pails on nails. The colorless, water-like sap began to run almost instantly. First a dribble and then a trickle rewarded our gaze as each tree was notched and spouted. And when darkness fell, there was already a nice wetness covering the bottom of each pail.

The next morning being Saturday, we telephoned the office that we had important work to do; which was fortunate, because with all the children of the district home from school, we had to keep a sharp eye on our pails of sweet sap. Overnight, some of the smaller pails had actually filled and overflowed. It is astonishing how maple sap flows. With the day, the sap flow increased. In a big preserving kettle down in Jim’s cellar, on the laundry gas stove, we collected the sap from the pails.

“We should be boiling by 6 o’clock tonight, at this rate,” said Jim, looking at the good six inches of sap already in the kettle.

The children of the neighborhood took a most lively interest in the enterprise, and Jim and I both took time, seeing there was nothing else to do, to instruct these ignorant little city children in the mysteries of maple sugar making.

“To celebrate our first boiling,” suggested Jim. “we might invite all these kids in to watch and let them sit around the kettle and dip sticks in the syrup, the way they do in the country at a sugaring-off. They dip switches in and then cool the syrup in the snow and it turns to candy.”

“It might be nice,” I agreed, “because after all, this is a patriotic enterprise and the kids ought to be in it.”

The First – and Last – Boiling

So we got quite friendly with the children clustered around and I allowed some of them to taste the sap, even though it was precious. I had tasted it. It had a sweetish, queer flavor. Rather nice. I tasted quite a lot of it. I got a spoon and dipped some out for each youngster. They all had two or three helpings of the sap. I had about 10 or 15. And then an old lady passing by spoiled the fun.

“Mercy sakes,” she said, “you are not giving those children that maple sap!”

“It won’t hurt them,” I reassured her.

“Won’t hurt them?” she cried. “It’ll give them the worst gripes they ever had. My goodness, don’t let them have any more.”

“My dear lady,” I said, “I bet I’ve had a pint of it.”

“Well,” she laughed, “if you have, you’ll soon know it. Why, when I was a girl back on the farm the best joke in the world was to invite your town cousins out and give them sap to drink and then…”

But at that instant I felt the first gripes. It was just as the lady said.

I had to leave the experiment to Jimmie. He had drunk only a little of the sap and was more or less able to carry on. I came and went, as the gripes came and went. I was feeling some better along about 6 o’clock, when Jimmie announced the first boiling to be ready.

Unquestionably, as we boiled, there was a delicious maple aroma in that cellar laundry. Unquestionably, the sap slowly boiled to a darker and darker shade. Unquestionably the slowly forming syrup, as the hours went by, did taste like maple syrup. But also unquestionably it seemed to taste of other things, such as a faint suspicion of gasoline, and a faint tinge of lubricating oil and other things which undoubtedly seep down into the soil from which city trees draw their sustenance.

It may have been the sap I had drunk earlier in the day that threw me off my taste, but by the time the syrup had begun to take on the consistency of syrup, I had no taste for it at all; and I was ready to go out into the fresh air and breathe the cold. What we had left at the end of the boiling both Jimmie and I agreed to pour out in a quiet corner of Jimmie’s garden. Altogether, it was a failure as an experiment. And a lot of work and trouble.

But the worst feature of the experiment was that all day all the mothers in the neighborhood telephoned in high, sharp voices to ask what on earth we had been giving their children to drink?

Editor’s Notes: This story gives a good description of making maple syrup. I suspect that at the time of writing, it was more common to encounter artificial syrup in Canada, but this in no longer the case. To anyone in the right climate, making maple syrup by hobbyists is not uncommon, so long as you have enough trees to work with, and preferably do the boiling outside. One shouldn’t let Greg and Jim’s failed experiment discourage you.

Jim uses the phrase “the real McKay“. This is from an advertising slogan of the MacKay whisky distillery: “A drappie o’ the real MacKay”. This would eventually transform to “the real McCoy“, to indicate something was “the real thing” or “the genuine article”.

"What's the Market?"

March 16, 1929

These illustrations were made by Jim for a story by Caesar Smith, a regular contributor to the Star Weekly in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The story outlined the public interest in investing and making money in the stock market. However, we in the future know that this did not end well with the stock market crash seven months later that heralded the Great Depression.

March 16, 1929

Every Cent Counts

March 17, 1945

Here, Herman is giving up his haircut money to the Red Cross, and the volunteer is willing to give him one in return.

To the Victor

By Greg Clark, March 13, 1948

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

“Hist! A crow!” exulted Jimmie Frise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I could do more…” I cried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But no crow answered; no crow came.

“Maybe …” I murmured.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jim!” I protested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There!” I declared hotly.

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

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

“Well…!” said Jim.

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

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

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

“So can we,” said Jimmie and I both.

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

Corporal Simson is Promoted

By Greg Clark, March 13, 1926

“How would Simson do?” asked the company sergeant major.

“Nothing doing,” replied Lieutenant Cinders.

Promotions caused more trouble in the army than you would think. The selection of cabinet ministers is small business compared with the selection of a sergeant for a platoon. Cinders’ platoon had lost its senior sergeant, Irwin, through measles; the Junior sergeant Attick became platoon sergeant, and which of the corporals would step up to three stripes was the mighty question confronting the allied armies, the cause of Britain and Number Sixteen platoon in particular.

“Simson a good man,” said the sergeant major.

“He’s too good,” said Cinders, reaching up and scratching match on his tin hat. That’s his trouble. He don’t take his rum issue, he don’t swear.” Cinders paused in thought. As matter of fact,” continued Cinders, rather awed by the thought, “he can’t swear. I don’t believe he knows the words. The point is, the platoon doesn’t respect him. He is too soft, too friendly, too wishy washy.”

“He’s the best corporal in the company.”

“On guard mounting, you mean. Or as corporal of the escort at a court martial. But as a trench man, major, now think of it, as a trench man, he’s a pipsqueak. I don’t want Simson.”

The sergeant-major spat over the paradox.

“I don’t know what the hell you want, Mr. Cinders.”

“I want a rough guy, a noisy guy, a man with crime sheet far back in his past. This platoon has been too darn lucky in guard mounting contests to suit me. Too frequently complimented by the colonel, too often mentioned in orders for its beautiful billets. I feel as if something is going to happen.”

Lieutenant Cinders stabbed the chalk wall of the trench with an impatient stick.

“Well, then,” said the sergeant major, “let’s ask the captain to hold the vacancy open to the end of this tour before you promote your sergeant. Perhaps something will happen to make the decision for us.”

“I feel it in my bones,” said Cinders, gloomily.

In the late evening dusk, he walked up the trench and, after looking at his wrist watch, shouted down the dugout mouth –

“Stand to, sixteen platoon.”

And obediently the men of his platoon began filing out of the dugouts, silent, cheerful, clean, fresh. They fixed their bayonets and leaned their rifles nicely against the parapet. The section leaders went smartly to the bomb stores and carried the little black boxes to their proper places along the fire-step. There was no bunching, no crowding. Each man went to his proper stand, watching the sergeant for the sign to climb up on to the fire step.

His Platoon Was Too Good

“Had a nice sleepy-bye?” asked Lieut. Cinders of the three lads nearest him.

“Yes, sir,” they replied, smiling.

“Nursey dress you all up pitty?” said the officer.

“We got one swell little dugout,” said the nearest man earnestly. “Driest I have been in for months.”

“Huh!” said Cinders, walking on. The sight of these smart, obedient, well-trained boys of his filled the lieutenant with a great restlessness. To him, there was something uncanny about it. He had a firm belief that soldiers in good health should be dissatisfied, grousing, growling he-bears, not any smarter than they had to be. For over a month his platoon had been suffering from this epidemic of smartness. It had been difficult for him to find anything to say on inspection. Not a dull razor in the outfit. Not a man held the toe of the butt too far forward or too far back of his toe. Every man had spare pair of shoelaces in his pack. Not a single top to a mess tin was missing.

At the far end of his trench, the lieutenant found Corporal Simson, whom Cinders believed to be largely responsible for the condition of his platoon. The tall, bashful corporal snapped to attention when he saw his lieutenant.

“Evening, corporal! No need for saluting in the front line, you know.”

“Yes, sir.” The luminous eyed corporal had deep, bass voice, reverent with respect.

“Cut your chin again, corporal? Why in hell to you shave to often in the line? I’d a darn sight rather see a few whiskers on my men in the line than have their faces all cut to pieces. You’re liable to get blood poisoning, if you aren’t careful.”

“Very good sir,” said the dark, eager man in his vibrant voice.

“Aw, what the…” growled Cinders as he turned away.

Sergeant Attick, full of his responsibility as senior sergeant, bustled along the trench giving the signal for the men to mount the fire-step for the evening stand-to-arms. Twilight had fallen.



“Everything pretty?”

“Smart as a drum, sir.”

“Tonight I want a working party to scrub these here bathmats”

“Very good, sir! Five men, ten men?”

“Oh, sergeant,” groaned Cinders, suddenly feeling very lonely, “go and chase yourself.”

“Yessir!” replied the sergeant soberly.

Cinders rushed down the trench, past his own flank, past Thirteen platoon which was holding next to him, down to Fourteen platoon where, in the dusk, he found his big fat friend, Lieutenant Thooms. Thooms was standing wide-legged in the trench, wailing: –

“Come on here, come on! I gave the order twenty minutes ago, and half the platoon is still in the dugouts! Sergeant! Corporal! Hey!”

Weary, disgruntled shadows were dragging about the trench. Cinders feasted his eyes on them. An untidy sergeant hurried by, cursing.

“Thooms, I’ll trade you platoons.”

“I’ll take you, doggone it!” cried Thooms, leaning wearily and heavily against the trench wall. “I never saw such a collection of half-witted, half-dead, lousy, weary, half-baked…”

“That’s the stuff!” cried Cinders, swaggering his shoulders with pleasure.

He watched with childish interest and delight the long-drawn-out, wrangling, grumbling process of getting Number Fourteen on to the fire-step.

“Now, if I had this bunch,” he said to Thooms.

“I’ll trade.”

“The captain wouldn’t hear of it,” said Cinders. “He wants me to bring up the rear of the company for my soul’s sake.”

He returned slowly to his own trench.

It was dark. From the right came the message, passed from man to man…

“From O. C. Don company, stand down.”

The shadowy figures stepped down into the trench.

“Who’s in Lulu Sap?” asked Cinders

“Corporal Simson and two men, sir,” replied Sergeant Attick.

“Let’s go and see them.”

They came to the narrow little trench leading forward into No Man’s Land. It twisted intricately and ran out about forty yards to a little hillock on which had once stood a small out-house of stone. From this little eminence a watchful listening post could keep track of the ground for many yards to right and left, the whole of the platoon section, in fact. Cinders had hardly set foot in the crowded little cockpit amidst the ruined stones of the sap-end before there came a shuffling, snuffling. whuffling sound which caused him and the four other men in the place to crouch down with closed eyes and open mouth.

With an unbelievable crash, a trench-mortar shell hit the ground half way between the sap-end and the main trench.

“Wow!” said Cinders, breathlessly. swallowing to remove the concussion from his ears. “If they are going to shell this sap, you come out Simson!”

“Very good, sir,” said Simson, straightening up and listening. “Here comes another!”

A Little Private Battle

A tiny, intermittent spark was arching high in the sky over the German lines. It curved up, up, paused and disappeared. All five pairs of eyes in the sap were turned upwards. Then to their chumping ears came the faint whuff-whuff-whuff of the shell. It came very slowly. Its swushing sound grew to a rush. The five men were cringed down to the very ground. They felt the ground shake with the fall of the huge shell. They gritted their teeth. Then the most awful blast of sound stunned them. Dirt pattered on their bent backs. The shell had fallen ten yards to the right of the sap.

“Get out of here!” gasped Cinders. “Attick, lead on and you two men follow.”

“Another one coming, sir,” said Simson, in his deep quiet voice.

“Run!” cried Cinders. The sergeant and two men plunged into the narrow sap towards the main trench. Cinders and Simson bowed themselves into the bottom of the sap end. They heard the rush and thud of the great shell. The gigantic, rending crash followed. The patter of earth and fragments passed. Cinders popped up and stared back. The shell had fallen clear of the narrow sap.

“We’re all right,” called Sergeant Attick from the darkness.

As he turned, Cinders was aware for a fleeting instant of a couple of rushing figures in the gloom ahead. Then he felt a numbing blow from behind. A throbbing darkness engulfed him.

But complete unconsciousness does not fall easily on a man of Cinders’ vital and thick-skinned nature. As in nightmare, he felt himself being clutched and grasped and hauled out of the listening post. He discovered himself being carried by his arm-pits and heels. He heard heavy breathing close to his ear. Even though it was like a fearful dream, and with a shocking ache on the back of his neck, Cinders knew he was captured. The most ignominious fate that can overtake a proud soldier had befallen him. He groaned and tried to shout for help. The sound he made emerged as a scream. He felt himself suddenly laid down.

Consciousness returned to him, and the fearful buzzing pain in his head was unbearable. His eyes, opened in the night, saw stars and rings swimming before him. Then be made out five kneeling figures. Two were crouched over him. And just a little forward, towards the German lines, he saw three other figures kneeling on top of what probably was Corporal Simson. And Simson was struggling on his face, his heels kicking impotently in the air.

A Lewis gun opened from behind them. All figures dropped prone on the ground. The man at his head shouted something in a hoarse muffled voice.

Cinders, groaning, moved, and passed his hand in a stealthy gesture, over his holster to find it empty, as he feared. A big rough band grasped his wrist and held it.

His cheek crushed against the damp earth. He stared in pain and hopeless abandonment at the group a few feet away. The Germans were lying across Simson. Simson, groaning, gave convulsive heave and collapsed very still. From the group came a short, gruff comment.

“Dead,” whispered Cinders.

The Lewis gun opened again. He heard the bullets hissing very close. Another gun opened from further down. It cracked high overhead and then swished past them, low.

“Thirteen platoon,” said Cinders to himself.

Mr. Cinders’ Problem Solved

The man at his head spoke gruffly. He was lifted and felt them lurching and swaying as they ran a few yards. Then dropped him, heavily, clumsily, falling on him, pinning him. He lay limp.

Behind came the other party, still carrying the sagging great frame of Corporal Simson. They too ran and dropped beside them, but they did not fall on top of their burden. The two Lewis guns continued to chugger and sweep, hissing and dying away as their stream of fire passed, and repassed.

The German at his head had his arm around Cinders’ neck, haft stiffling him. He head was pressed close to Cinders’ head. He spoke again, gruffly, commanding. Cinders had one eye clear of the great grey arm covering his mouth. He saw two figures kneel up, two at Simson’s feet and one at his head. A swish of Lewis fire swept close. The figure at Simpson’s head jerked to its feet, staggered backwards and fell, without a sound. He saw Simson’s two huge feet rear up and strike savagely, one at the head and the other at the small of the back of the bowed figures. In a flash, Simson was crouched over them. The man at Cinders head cried out, let go of Cinders, and after a fumble, fired with a pistol. But the figure that was looming towards him the night was not Simson but the rear end of one of the two Germans, whom Simson was holding up limply as a shield. The pistol bullet whacked into him with the sound of carpet beater.

Cinders felt a warm flood of wetness gush all over his face and head. The Lewises had stopped instantly. All he could hear was furious grunting and heaving while a great heavy weight collapsed on top of him. His ankles were tramped on. Suddenly he heard a clear, punctuated, low, vibrant series of the most famous oaths, cusswords and imprecations known to the English language. Cinders gave a great shove. The weight rolled from him. Above him, he beheld a shadow as two huge figures twisted and fought, body to body, in the sort of wrestling that comes under no known rules and regulations of the sport. Cinders, sick and dizzy, staggered up. The struggling shadow fell to earth. Cinders panting and whimpering, bent over the heaving forms and felt the top body. His hand encountered a strange leather strap, a strap unknown to him as part of Canadian equipment. Cinders drew back and with his heavy issue boot kicked into the soft side of that upper figure with all his weight, with every ounce of strength he had in him, the punting kick, the leaping kick that he had used at college. He felt something snap against his toe.

He swayed and felt himself caught once again in huge arms. But these arms didn’t stifle him. He was slightly sick. He coughed nosily.

“Hold my shoulder, sir!” whispered Corporal Simson, breathlessly.

He found himself being haft dragged. The world was rocking and rolling. He felt himself fall into a hole. It was the sap end. Sergeant Attick was there, seized him, dragged him down the narrow trench. Thooms was there, the captain was there, the sergeant-major was there, lifting him, carrying him. He was laid out blissfully on the fire-step.

“Where’s Sergeant Simson,” he heard himself asking, thinly.

“Where’s Sergeant Simson?” called the captain, sharply.

There was confused noise. The sound of German machine guns broke into the excitement and shuffling.

Sergeant Attick spoke breathlessly, “Corporal Simson bas just returned into the sap with two prisoners!”

“Sergeant Simson, if you please!” snapped Cinders from the fire-step.

“Yes sir!” said the senior sergeant.

“That’s the easiest promotion I have ever had to make,” said Cinders reaching out and pinching the sergeant-major’s leg.

Editor’s Notes: A Fire-step was built into each trench in World War One, cut into the wall some two or three feet from the trench floor. During the pre-dawn and dusk procedure of “Stand-To” each occupant of the trench would be expected to man the fire-step with rifle loaded and bayonet fixed. The floor of the trench was lower than the fire-step in order that men could pass along the trench without exposing their heads to enemy fire.

Bathmats was the term used for small trench floor coverings.

A Sap was a trench dug at a 90 degree angle of the main trench that would jut out into no-man’s-land for the purpose of monitoring enemy movement.

A Lewis Gun was a generic term used in World War One for machine guns, as it was the most common type used by Britain.

The Holocaust!

March 9, 1935

This comic was titled when the term “holocaust” referred to any particular disaster, often by fire, and before it took on new meaning during World War Two.

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