Monday, July 23, 2018

From the Top of the Hill # 4: November 13, 1947

Here's the fourth installment of John D MacDonald's Clinton, New York, newspaper column, From the Top of the Hill. It contains an animal story left out of The House Guests.

I've a very busy next couple of weeks ahead of me, so I'll probably be posting several of these columns in a row until things settle down.


The other day we were at a very fine wedding reception, and, noting a good many Clintonians present, we went on the prowl, sliding up to each and asking in a tense voice what they thought of the column so far and what they would suggest to improve it.

A few people said, "What column?" but we smiled bravely.

One gentleman said, "What are you trying to do in that column, anyway?"

We were prepared for him. We have two aims. The first is to entertain. The second is to develop in Clinton a feeling of pride and unity, so that we can all be conscious that we are living in the prettiest part of the best country the world has yet produced.

On second thought, we believe that gentleman walked away before we had quite finished with our statement of aims and objectives.

* * *

At the reception we saw a Clinton lass named J. Sinnott and, in our one track manner, asked her what she thought the column ought to say. She said, "You ought to complain about the fifteen cent toll charge to Utica, but you won't get in in the paper."

We were intrigued.

Dear Telephone Company: On the first of the month when we pay our telephone bill, fifteen cents per Utica call seems like an awful amount of money. Please look and see if you could cover your costs and standard rate of profit for a little less.

Once upon a time we used to look at huge corporations and think of them as a sort of prehistoric beast, lumbering across the financial pages, staring out of beady little eyes and thinking deeply with sharp little brains that would never forget, never forgive, never relent.

Thus it was somewhat of a shock to find that these huge corporations seem to be collections of very average citizens, people who worry about Russia, about their kids reading too many comic books, about their wives acquiring that "new look," about any dilution of that little guarantee of freedom of speech tucked away in the Bill of Rights. We don't think that those American citizens who happen to set policy for the Bell Telephone Company are going to put ponderous machinery in motion to squash us because we question their fifteen cent toll charge.

Jane, you can pay us off on that little wager any time.

* * *
Last week we met a Beagle. He is a relatively new resident of Clinton and his name is Kelly. It is, of course, immaterial as to who pays his annual license, because dogs like Kelly belong, not to one family, but to the human race.

Even Evans of Huckster fame told us that good advertising is based on repetition. Love that Soap! Kelly can't read. But Kelly can think.

He has one item to sell -- a massive appetite.

Other dogs merely sit and beg -- paws held limply.

Not Kelly. He understands the psychological basis for repetition in advertising. No limp paws for him. He touches his two front paws together and waves them up and down. Not for balance. For effect. He does this with all the mechanical fervor of a metronome.

It works!

But if Kelly used this discovery of his merely to eat frequently, he could be classified as a smart and greedy dog.

Kelly is more than that. When anyone in the house is feeling low and blue, Kelly comes over, sits up and makes like an account executive.

Kelly figures that if the metronome act usually makes him feel good, it can also cheer up other people who need it.

So Kelly is the logical result of a few hundred thousand generations of proximity to these queer creatures called "people".

He can diagnose a mood and cure it. Kelly is the only Beagle so far who has become a practicing psychiatrist.

* * *

We have heard one argument so far concerning the two way traffic around the Square. The argument was -- Quote -- It's always been that way -- End Quote.

We have given the argument due consideration and, meaning no disrespect, we can not find much merit in it.

In a surprising number of cases, the statement, "It's always been that way" has certain merit. Traditional methods lead to a sense of security.

In this case, traditional methods lead to a sense of insecurity -- a feeling that you're about to lose a fender.

Somebody must have a better argument than the only one we've heard so far.

* * *

See you next week.

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