CROCUS AT THE CORONATION
A JAKE AND THE KID STORY especially written for Maclean’s by W. O. MITCHELL
The best-known little town on the prairies, practically steaming with loyalty, decided on a draw to send a representative to see the Queen. And the blind finger of fate tapped the shoulder of — well, it wasn't Mayor MacTaggart
MOST THE TIME people take Crocus natural like breathing. You would too till the morning you’re listening to your radio kind of husky and hoarse and all wavy the way if, is from coming across from the Old Country. You’d be listening to all those people with their titles yelling and her getting her crown and him beside her and everybody swallowing and blinking the way Jake was doing because you don’t pick up a Queen for an Empire every day of the week. Then bang!
You wouldn’t take her so natural any more not after Crocus, Saskatchewan, was on the map - the whole world map with a bang.
On the Royal Bank corner, in MacTaggart’s
Trading Company, Maple Leaf Beer Parlor, most the Crocus district people talk about crops. Not last summer. They talked about the crops all right, but they always came back to the same thing the real important thing. The Coronation.
Like when the straw stacks were burning and we were stacking green feed and it was one of those yellow days you get on prairie at harvest time. Mr. Gatenby was helping us and Stevie Kiziw that sits ahead of me at Rabbit Hill and Old Steve. Ma brought us out lunch and a pitcher of lemonade and we were sitting in the stubble alongside Steve’s loaded rack. Mr. Kiziw has a very wide mustache —spiky if it isn’t raining; at first it makes him very fierce-looking, but he has a deep gentle voice and laughs a lot:
Old Steve had just taken a drink of lemonade and he wipe his mustache with the back of his hand. “Over dere,” he said, “next spring she’ll be hummin’, eh?”
“Where?” That was Old Man Gatenby. He puts you in mind of a banty rooster little -always on the fight talks sort of suspicious like he expected an argument all the time.
“Anglich,” said Mr. Kiziw. “Dukes and Dukesses that Anglich party for the Queen.”
“Oh,” said Old Man Gatenby. “Yeah coronation.”
“That’s right,” said Jake. “Gittin’ their crowns all polished up buffin’ ’em shinin’ ’em. Hear they’re addin’ a new wing ontuh the Abbey. Weasel pelts.” “What’s that got to do with the coronation, Jake?” 1 said.
Jake he turned to Stevie. “You runnin’ your trap line agin this winter, Stevie?”
“Uh-huh,” said Stevie.
“I seen weasel pelts seU as low as ten cents a hide.” Jake bit into his
ham sandwich. “They'll go high this year— higher’n a cat’s back.”
“Wouldn’t be surprised to see ’em hit seven dollars a hide. Coronation year. Snow white them black tips to their taifs. Ermine. Yes. sir, when they strike up GOD SAVE THE QIJEEN over there next spring they’ll all be decked out in prime ermine weasel pelts in Westminster Abbey at seven dollars a hide.”
Now there’s not many people would think of that, like Jake did. Jake he’s wise and that’s something you’re born
with; Jake’s our hired man helps Ma and me farm our place out of Crocus. Just me and Ma and Jake; my Dad didn’t come back with the rest of the South Saskatchewans last war.
By the time curling season rolled round, like Mr. Kiziw said, she was really hummin’ over there Crocus too. Mrs. Allerdyce bought the first ticket to go, then Mr. and Mrs. Abercrombie, the Shackertons. Mayor MacTaggart and the town council sent coronation year greetings over to the mayor and town council of London. Louis Riel Chapter IODE took their Preservation
Prairie Historical Sites Fund, turned it over lock, stock and peep sights to the town council to use the best way they saw fit to help the Coronation along.
ALONG about the middle February XjLJake and me took the cream can into town, dropped in on Way-freight Brown runs the depot in Crocus. Mr. Brown looked up with the green eyeshade on and the telegraph going ticky-tick-ticky-tick away.
“Banner year,” Way-freight said. “She’s shapin’ up’for a banner year for this railroad right now.”
“Freight rates goin’ up agin, Wayfreight?”
“No . . .”
“Outa the red are you?”
“Oh we been outa the red for number of years now, Jake. No —coronation year, Jake—this railroad from Atlantic to Pacific piercing our wild land of rocks an’ rills, evergreens an’ lakes an’ rushin’ rivers . . .” “Yeah yeah, Way-freight . . .”
“. . . with its termini at the Great Lakes—lifeline to the mighty industries minin’, pulp an’ paper, gold an’ copper, coal—girdlin’ the continent by rail an’ the world by water an’ stratosphere. Gonna carry a new an’ greater cargo to the old land—first an’ second an’ third class they’ll go to the Old Land —visitin’ friends an’ relatives on the other side watchin’ the breath-takin’ splendor an’ pomp an’ awe of the Coronation —
“’That’s nice,” Jake said when Mr. Brown stopped for a breath.
“Plan now to make your dream come true, Jake.”
“Make your reservation now . . .” “Hell, 1 ain’t intendin’ . . .” “They’re all goin’ over—Mrs. Beeton Allardyce Shackerton — bedroom - compartment stateroom—fly high above the blue Atlantic with comfort to keynote your trans-Atlantic flight. . .” “Not today, Way-freight.”
“World beneath your feet with hot full-course meals, bar service, champagne suppers foam-rubber seats soft as a royal bed . . .”
“Way-freight—that’s a little outa my line . . .”
“Everybody’s goin’, Jake. It’s an exodus.”
“Yeah,” Jake said. “I guess it will. But I don’t think you’ll be makin’ out schedules fer an aitch of a lot of hired men. You know, Way-freight, lookin’ over the list folks takin’ off from Crocus district, I’m a little worried.” “How’s that?”
“Look at ’em—wrong folks is goin’. Over there in England they’re gonna git the wrong idea us.”
“I don’t see that, Jake.”
“Yep. She’s the crust you might say. Ones that’s got wheat in the bin.” “Nothing wrong with that,” said Way-freight. “Like we’re puttin’ our best foot forward.”
“That’s right,” Jake said.
“Well . .
“What they need to sort of lighten her—tone down all that purple blood of the Allerdyces an’ the Abercrombies an’ the Shackertons an’ the CliftonWells — I’d say — they oughta have a handful section han’s — couple St. George waiters—sprinklin’ hired girls —mebbe Malleable Brown outa his blacksmith shop an’ Pipe-fittin’ Brown an’ Aunt Fan.” Jake turned away from Way-freight’s wicket. “Some of those folks goin’ over to the Coronation, I’d say Crocus’d be real well—ah—represented.”
Jake and me dropped into MacTaggart’s Trading Company, and after Jake gave Mac our grocery order, he told us what the council was doing for the Coronation.
“Council’s matching Louis Riel Chapter dollar for dollar, Jake. Last meeting we figured out fine way to use the money—at least the committee did.”
“What committee?” Jake said.
“Special coronation committee under Repeat Godfrey—Committee for Ways and Means Stimulating and Expressing Sentiment of Patriotism Binding Men Women and Children Round the Throne and Empire. Same committee gave the pictures to district schools last year.”
Mr. MacTaggart was talking about the ones we got out at Rabbit Hill School: CANADA’S ANSWER TO
THE MOTHER COUNTRY. Right at the front we got the one where these soldiers got blood-stained bandages around their heads and their hats over top and there’s this wounded horse lying on his side. That one’s called: SOMEWHERE WITH A VETERINARY UNIT IN FRANCE. Then all around the room there’s pictures of Kitchener of Khartoum and Clive of India and Louis St. Laurent of Canada.
“. . . decided last meeting,” Mr. MacTaggart was saying. “Use that money to send some deserving person over to the Coronation.”
“That’s real nice,” Jake said.
“Yeah. Of course we haven’t got all the wrinkles ironed out of it yet, but that’s what the council’s doing. All the way to England—all expenses —with the finest available seat ...”
“Bought and paid for. Right on the royal procession route.” Mr. MacTaggart put both his hands on the counter and leaned over to Jake. “That item alone, Jake, is going to cost us —one—hundred—dollars!”
REPEAT GODFREY’S shop is
right next to Barney’s Vulcanizing and on the other side you got Len’s Harness. Jake headed for there, and I had mine first whilst Jake sat in one of the chairs along the wall. Repeat started right in before he even pumped me up.
“Too hot for us to handle, Jake,” he said. “Person takes a clear cool look at it, he realizes that—just hold her there, Kid—too hot to handle, I told ’em when the matter first came up.”
“How’s that, Repeat?” I could see Jake getting out a plug—in the mirror where Repeat has all his bottles hair tonic and instrument shelf. The clock over Jake’s head had all her numbers backwards.
Repeat started up the clippers. “Too hot to handle. Can’t send everybody —everybody wants to go over to the Coronation. Whoever you pick there’s gonna be a hundred -be a thousand —thousand people—every soul in Crocus. Bad feelin’s.”
“Uh-huh.” Jake was chewing and staring down at the tufts of hair all over the floor; every once in a while they’d lift and sort of breath along then settle down again.
“My committee got the idea,” Repeat said. “Our idea in the first place. Good idea. Had a meeting at my place last night. Just last night. Tilt her a little to the south, Kid. First we thought might be a good idea to send a dignitary—official person—official. Spittoon right by your left heel, Jake. Official. Somebody elected by the town-people. Elected representative.”
Repeat turned off the clippers. He went to the shelf and stood there a minute with the comb and scissors. “Member the council—mayor maybe.” “Might he all right,” Jake said.
“We thought so—we thought so.” Repeat lifted his elbows, snipped a couple times at the air with the scissors, blew on the comb, then he lowered his knees and started on the back of my neck. “Couldn’t agree—which one. Human nature. T say human nature reared her ugly head. Exception me and Milt Abercrombie they all wanted to be the delegate—coronation delegate.”
“How come you two . . .” Jake started.
“Can’t get away, Jake—couldn’t leave the shop that long—and Milt —he and Mrs. Abercrombie already made their arrangements—they’re already goin’.”
“I see.” Jake spit.
“Spittoon right by your left heel, Jake.” Repeat spun the chair around and looked at the mirror a minute. “We got her licked—we think.” “That’s nice.”
“We think it’ll work out better’n we figured. Hold a draw. Going to hold a draw. Then nobody can kick. Lucky person goes. Nobody’s feelin’s are hurt. Sell tickets.”
“Wait a minute.” Jake sat up. “You already got the money for the . . .” “Folks expect to pay for draw tickets, Jake. No reason we shouldn’t charge for ’em. Raise more money. Good cause.”
“You mean the coronation trip . . .” “Oh—we got another cause as well —another cause.” Repeat cleared his throat. “Need a new roof on the curlin’ rink.”
“Well.” Jake said it that surprised way a person has when he finds a dime on the street when he’s walking along not even looking for a dime. “That ought to tickle the curlers—ah—.” He leaned forward to spit.
“Right by your heel, Jake.”
Jake settled back without spitting. “All you fellahs curl on the council, don’t you?”
Repeat whipped the cloth from around my neck, brushed off my shoulders. “That’s right, Jake. That’s right. But—ah—there—couldn’t say there was any selfish undercurrents —none of that. Self-interest played no part in our decision. New roof on the curlin’ rink—good cause. Whole town uses the curlin’ rink—Activians hold their carnival there every year. Women’s Atheniums hold their flower show. Sort of a community centre.” Jake got up and reached in his pocket for the price of my haircut. “I don’t know, Repeat. Don’t seem right.”
“How’s that, Jake? How’s that?” “Lot of folks get to talkin’. I can just hear. ’em. Wrong fer the finger chance to pick the person have the honor goin’ over to the Coronation.” “May be. That may be. Lesser of two evils. Only fair way, Jake. Just. Justice is blind. She’s blind.”
“Is she?” said Jake.
“And that’s the way she’s gonna be,” Repeat said real firm. “Two dollars seventy-five cents.”
“Hey wait a minute—a kid’s haircut . .
“That’s right — seventy - five cents and . . .” Repeat held out two tickets. “Got ’em printed this morning at the Crocus Breeze office. One fer you an’ one for the Kid’s Ma. Royal draw tickets. Dollar each. Cost a dollar apiece. Going like hot cakes, Jake. Two dollars an’ seventy-five unless you want one for the kid here as well —three dollars an’ seventy-five cents.” Jake looked down at me. “Better make her the three, Repeat.”
WHEN the summer fallow starts to steam and they find the first gopher of spring or the first crocus or a butterfly out on Gladys Ridge, a funny thing happens to folks—like a fever— seeding fever. Jake says it’s the same thing hits them at an auction so they buy table lamps for their parlor before they stop to figure they haven’t got the power line in. This year a sort of double fever hit Crocus folks from two sides at once: spring seeding and the Royal Coronation Trip Draw.
They sold out the first printing of tickets within a week; end of the next week they had enough money to build the curling rink roof, and the end of the month they had enough to build a new curling rink and send the town council over to England to boot. Mr. MacTaggart sold three hundred by himself to grocery and hardware and dry-goods travelers coming through. Crocus Breeze couldn’t print them fast enough so there’d be a supply handy at the cash register of the Sanitary Cafe or the General Delivery Wicket at the Post Office let alone to send out to Macoun and Tiger Lily and Conception where they were yelling for them. Everybody wanted them.
Take old Daddy Johnston that lives with Mrs. Southey. He’s the oldest man in Canada—hundred and seven, he claims. Every Saturday he puts a shawl over his shoulders, takes his cane and goes downtown with careful slow steps. Every Saturday. He always gets a shave from Repeat. That was where he bought his first ticket, and afterwards Repeat said he didn’t know whether he ought to sold the old man a ticket, him being so old and shaky he’d never be able to make it to the Coronation if he did win. But old Daddy is stubborn and he’d heard about the draw; Repeat said it was one of his good days. Daddy has his good days and he has his bad days—clear as a bell Monday, and Tuesday he’s way back in the Fenian raids or marching with Middleton to the Riel Rebellion. If a person could get himself inside Daddy’s hide and head I guess it would be like on the prairie when the sky is clouded and melting shadows over the grass — light then dark then light again. Daddy bought another one in the Sanitary Cafe when he picked up his House of Senate cigar he smokes every Saturday, and Taffy sold him another when he dangled over to the Maple Leaf.
But it was Stevie Kiziw really went overboard. He ran his trap line all right that winter never missed an after-four and the weasels were running good. Two the Saturday I went out with him and a badger and a skunk and one of Tincher’s chickens. 1 asked him what he was going to do with all his money and he just looked at me and he slipped off his mitt and he reached into his pocket and then he reached into his other pocket. When Stevie wants something he really goes after it.
“I didn’t buy ’em all in one batch,” he said.
“Gee, Stevie how many you . . . ”
“Eighty-nine so far. They’re all spread out -every other day.” He stuck them back in his pocket. “All my hide money’s gone into them tickets.” He snuffed and he leaned down and he picked the weasels by their tails and the badger he’d just taken out of the trap. “ ’nothr r month yet an’ when the trap line isn’t payin’ off I’m sellin’ the twenty-two to Willis —I figger I’ll have nearly two hundred.”
After that I didn’t even bother to take out the ticket Jake bought me wasn’t much point in looking at it when Stevie had two hundred of them! She’d have to be a miracle for them to draw my ticket and she’d have to be another miracle if they didn’t pick one of Stevie’s two hundred.
I FIGURE it was smart of them to hold the draw the twenty-fourth of May and patriotic the way it’s Queen Victoria’s birthday. Getting a lump in your throat is patriotic and that happened to me four times, first when the Crocus Millionaires beat the Conception Beavers, then when they played the Maple Leaf Forever and later on during the harness races with those drivers’ silks brighter than poppies and them holding their heads sideways out of the way of the horses’ tails and their feet flipping out fancy and delicate and prancy and tilting whilst they rounded the corners. Jake says horse racing is the royal sport and all the royalty go in for it -only not harness racing so much as staple chasing.
But the main thing was the draw just before dark and the fireworks. Mr. MacTaggart got up on the platform and he grabbed the microphone they had for speaking over. He said a lot of folks didn’t approve of drawing for the Coronation because it was gambling, but he said it was the only democratic way and fair way to do it, and the Queen wouldn’t mind seeing she ran horses herself. He said the Coronation was a solemn spectacle and they would be putting the crown on a queen and a thousand years of history. He said they would crown triumphs and defeats on that June day.
He ended up, “She’s a human same
as anybody else but she’s something else besides. She’s symbol—livin’ symbol joinin’ all the future the British Commonwealth with its history. When they crown her it’ll be the self-same way they crowned kings and queens ever since there been kings and queens. That coronation hasn’t been changed one iota in a thousand years just so’s it can remind us of our hopes an’ prides an’ our ideals we had in common for a thousand years an’ are gonna have for another thousand years!”
Me, I was watching the sun setting over toward Hig Wheeler’s lumber yards and just touching the top of the grain elevators beyond. What Mr. MacTaggart was saying made a person feel real noble; 1 felt so noble all I wanted was for Stevie to win that draw and not me, because I knew right then Stevie Kiziw didn’t have to have Mr. MacTaggart tell him what a coronation meant. He knew when he put all his hide money into draw tickets!
Mr. MacTaggart was saying that Crocus and surrounding districts had supported them so well they not only had enough money to send the lucky person over to England but they were going to be able to pay for a room in the hospital forever if anyone needed it. He didn’t say anything about the new roof for the curling rink.
“The fireworks display you are about to see after the draw for the Coronation and Return Air Trip—has been paid for by part of the money as well. And after you have seen them I think you’ll agree with me they’re the finest outside maybe what you’d see at the Toronto Exhibition.”
He turned away toward this big drum they had all decorated with tissue paper. Ma riel Abercrombie was standing there all dressed in red, white and blue and after Mr. MacTaggart turned the drum like you would a butter churn she stuck in her arm and pulled out a ticket. Mr. MacTaggart looked at it a long time. 1 could see Stevie ahead of us and he was holding his tickets all fanned out like playing cards; next to him Old Stevie had a bunch and Stevie’s mother and Mr. and Mrs. Tincher and Old Man Gatenby that had brought them into town. They were all tickets Stevie had bought.
Mr. MacTaggart stepped up to the microphone. “The winner—is number —He looked down at the ticket again. “ - number two thousand nine hundred and seventeen. Two nine one seven.” He waited a minute. “Will the holder of ticket number two nine one seven please come up to the platform?”
It was like everybody was holding their breath. A kid cried; a dog barked; somewhere somebody in a parked car leaned on the horn by mistake. I could see Stevie and his Dad rind his Ma and Mr. and Mrs. Tincher and Old Man Gatenby looking over Stevie’s tickets.
Then she cut loose—to the south and down near the front —long and shrill and curdly.
“Hah - YAH-HAH-YIPEEEEEE EEEEEEEEE! Hold her, boys! The fife an’ drum is out!”
Everybody’s head turned and their jaws dropped open.
“When you hear the bugle blow assembly -come a runnin’!”
Even in the dusk you could tell it was Daddy Johnston dangling across the tracks. I never saw him move so spry — cane and shawl flying, waving his ticket and then doing a sort of a jig on the platform.
When he spoke over the loudspeaker MacTaggart’s voice sounded kind of numb. “Mr. —ah—the winner—.” He looked down at the ticket Daddy held out to him. He shook his head and brushed at his face like he had a spider web tickling across it. “I’m afraid—ah —the holder of the winnin’ ticket is — — Daddy — Mr. Johnston —• would ...”
But Daddy had grabbed the microphone so it sputtered like a lynk with the heart burn. He cleared his throat into her and she whistled wheezy and hoarse like the Brokenshell going out in the spring.
Right then over behind the platform they lit off the first of the fireworks— the cannon ones. Daddy leapt three feet, lifted his cane like it was a saber. “Hold her! Hold her, boys! If they come—they come! She’s no use whangin’ at ’em till they’re in range!”
“Just a minute, Daddy,” Mr. MacTaggart’s voice came over the microphone, but Daddy slashed him back with his cane just as a sky rocket cracked and went trailing its fire tail to blossom out against the sky.
“Fire away, boys!” Daddy yelled. “Don’t matter if you don’t see ’em! Let ’em have it! She’s the York an’ Simcoe Rangers every time!”
The excitement of winning and those fireworks had rammed Daddy right into one of his bad days right there in front of the whole town of Crocus.
AFTER they got over the surprise of Lit, Crocus folks were kind of upset about Old Daddy Johnston winning. Mrs. Abercrombie said it was a shame. Even if he could make it, she said, he was hardly the one they’d pick to represent Crocus at the Coronation. Jake he told Ma lve’d pick Daddy a damn sight sooner than Mrs. Abercrombie. Ma she said Mrs. Abercrombie was right; even if Daddy made it over there, they couldn’t tell what would happen to him if he hit one of his bad days. Then Jake said if Mr. and Mrs. Abercrombie were going then maybe they could look after Daddy and Ma said don’t be ridiculous.
I wasn’t so fussy how the draw turned out. Like I said to Jake: “Stevie feels bad, Jake.”
“Over two hunderd tickets.”
“Can’t win every time, Kid.”
“Yeah but—with all those tickets, Jake! You’d think he’d—you’d think Mariel would of picked out one of his.” Jake just sort of shrugged.
“Every bit of his hide money and seven dollars he got off Willis for his twenty-two.”
“Yeah—yeah,” said Jake.
“Lot of weasel pelts, Jake.”
“Uh-huh,” Jake spit. “I guess he jist about done the works of ’em.” “Huh?”
“Them pelts. I guess Stevie dressed damn near a hunderd percent the House of Lords this Coronation.”
BUT IT was Mayor MacTaggart and Repeat Godfrey were the most upset. We hit MacTaggart’s store afternoon after the twenty-fourth. Mr. MacTaggart was just on his way out.
“Come with me, Jake. Got a nasty— got a ticklish job to do.”
“What’s that?” Jake said.
“Headed for Daddy Johnston’s ...” “Why, sure,” Jake said. “Me an’ the Kid got nothin’ pressin’. ”
“ . . . an’ hopin’ it’s one of his good days,” Mr. MacTaggart said as he went through the door. “I’m gonna need your help, Jake. You got a way with him.”
Daddy was sitting in his black walnut rocker on the porch. Mr. MacTaggart pitched right in.
“Mr. Johnston, I’ve come as a—a spokesman for—I been sent as a—by the Royal Coronation Draw Committee to ... ”
“Out with her—out with her—tie her off and be done with it!” Daddy’s eyes were sparkling in that caved and wrinkled old face; his voice was
breathy like a husky whisper but she was strong all the same.
“You won the draw on the coronation trip ...”
“That’s right!” Daddy just cracked her out.
“We—we didn’t plan—it’s rather embarrassing—I’ve been sent to ask if you’d—uh—care to—ah—have the trip put up to the draw again!”
“What fer!” Daddy was starting to breathe hard so it whistled through his nose.
“So we can—so that somebody else—.”
“So’s you’ll have more money fer yer curlin’ rink!”
Mr. MacTaggart had his handkerchief out and he was wiping his face. “No—no—it’s just that—why it’s obvious to anyone that you’re too— that you—at your age—uh—you can’t fly.” Right then I guess he was wondering if it was a good thing he’d hit Daddy on one of his good days. “—you won’t be making a long—hard —tiring trip to the Old Country.” “That so! That so!” Daddy’s hand was trembling while it reached behind him for his cane. “Wouldn’t miss her fer the world. Not fer the world!”
“But ...” Mr. MacTaggart’s voice cracked, “—you’re a hundred and —you can’t ...”
“Hell I can’t!” Daddy had his cane and he was standing now. He faded back and his voice got real tight. “Fenian Raids I helped save—kep’ the colony from the U. S. didn’t I?” He lifted the cane so she was sloped over one shoulder. “An’ agin in ’85—fi’ dollars a day an’ rum an’ feed fer my horse—service of the Queen! I won her fair! I won her fair!”
“Hold on, Daddy,” Jake said gentle. He put his hand on Daddy’s shoulder. “Set. Set. Take her easy.”
Daddy sank back into his rocker. “Nobody’s tryin’ to take her from you. She’s yours. It’s jist that folks are a little worried. You can’t go all the way over there—alone.”
“Alone! I ain’t goin’ alone! I’ll fin’ somebody go along with me ...” “Mrs. Southey,” Jake said.
“She ain’t—she can’t. I ain’t askin’ charity. I kin pay. I’ll fin’ somebody.” “You ain’t yet?” Jake said and he was looking down at Daddy real thoughtful.
“You ain’t go much time left.”
“I know it. I know it. That’s why I wanta go. Hunderd an’ seven . . .”
“All right.” Jake turned to Mr. MacTaggart. “Mac. I think you an’ your committee can fergit about Daddy puttin’ that ticket up to another draw.” “But—Jake—he ...”
“Can’t see any reason Daddy can’t make it—them airliners is comfortable —no drafts—all he needs is somebody to kind of look after him.” Jake kept looking down at Daddy. “An’ I got a good notion of the fellah for the job. Jist the fellah.”
SO THERE is how Crocus got on all the papers and the CBC and the English BBC and the world map. Every time you looked you saw pictures of Old Daddy Johnston and Stevie Kiziw. “Colorful Visitors To The Coronation,” it said underneath—and then the one where they were shaking hands with Churchill: “The Oldest and The Youngest From the Farthest Meet Prime Minister.”
But she was the day the Coronation whilst we were listening to our radio that it happened. First there was this announcer talking to people and then he said he had an old man and a boy and then he said their names and they were from Crocus, Saskatchewan, Canada. He asked Daddy what he thought of being over in England and Daddy said fine fine and then he mumbled a bit and that was bad, because when Daddy mumbles that’s a sign he’s not having one of his good days but the announcer didn’t know that. He went right on and asked Daddy for some of his impressions. Daddy mumbled some more and the announcer asked him would he please speak up, could he tell the folks back home what he thought about the Queen. That did it.
“The Queen—the Queen,” you could hear Daddy in almost a whisper. Then he ripped her out. “The Queen—yes, Sir! Hunderd an’ seven . . .”
“But, Mr. Johnston ...” the announcer started.
“1 fought fer her in the Fenian Raids —shouldered a musket fer her in sixty-nine an’ agin in eighty-five. Long live Qu-EEEEEEEEEN VICK-TORIAAAAAAAAAAH!”
TT WAS Jake really tied her all up for J_me. “Kid,” he said later, “you’ll hear a lotta different ideas on Old Daddy Johnston and Stevie goin’ over to that Coronation, but I figger we did all right.”
“What you mean, Jake?”
“We done her deliberate we couldn’t sent over two better fellahs.” For a minute Jake stared at the Winedot picked along by the windmill, her legs going jerky the way they do like they got an elastic stretched between them. “Queen she’s a symbol an’ the Coronation. We sent our own symbols over there. Take Daddy—hunderd an’ seven—why when we sent him over there with Stevie we sent ’em Confederation. We sent ’em the Riel
Rebellion—we sent the history the Dominion Canada all wrapped in his old hide.”
“Where does Stevie ...”
“Stevie—you might say he was the other end of the stick. Canada’s new | too, Kid. Pollocks an’ G’llicians,
EUchre-anians, Dook-a-boors, Checks —Mennonites an’ Hooterites—they’re the new ones, Kid. With them two we sent the hist’ry an’ the new blood.”
“Yeah but ...”
“An’ St. Laurent was there too. Kid.
He was there. The old of it and the young of it, Kid. Oughta tickle aitch outa the Queen, don’t you think?” if