Well, the Editor generously tells me that the column in the Christmas issue was crowded out, so my worst fears were not realized. Perhaps it would have been good for my soul if he had deliberately blue penciled it; but now I'm hoping to get the manuscript back for another try next Christmas. Of course, a column more or less is inconsequential. But the incident serves to illustrate how newspapers are forever torn between two interests; the commercial and what you might call the literary. Worldliness and wordliness are both essential, but a good deal like jealous wives tormenting a Mormon prophet. About the only way to maintain peace and harmony in the family is to divide attentions fairly equally.
Hamilton has an interesting conglomeration of stores. The grocers all seem to be on their toes, anxious to give their very best service to their customers; they seem to thrive on plenty of wholesome competition. Possibly that is why the chain stores never have got a foot hold here. The garages, filling stations and barber shops are in the same boat with the grocers. But the clothing merchants are just beginning to wake up. Some of them have large stocks of goods that should have been turned over ten years ago, and only a smattering of what the people demand today. Why has the tradition been built up to scriptural acceptance that business cannot thrive when so many people go to Quincy or Keokuk to do their shopping? For the simple reason that the merchants there have learned it pays to keep their stocks moving, at an occasional loss if necessary, in order to keep everlastingly in tune with the present needs of the buying public. What on earth is there to prevent local merchants from keeping all that perfectly good business at home? Absolutely nothing but their own apathy.
This same throwing-up-the-sponge attitude is manifest by many when discussing the possible effects of a free bridge. Naturally such discussions are rather academic right now, but they illustrate the point. Some merchants throw up their hands in horror at the very thought of it. Would not all business automatically move across the river, if and when that happened? I should say not. There are dozens of families living in Keokuk right now who would live over here were it not for that fifty cent obstruction. This side of the river is by far the choice location. And when population increases, business is bound to increase, unless somebody is sound asleep at the switch.
Have you ever been fascinated by the orderliness of the universe? I have never got over marveling at the decision of the Creator to cause water to reach its maximum density at about 39 degrees, Fahrenheit. In other words, it weights more at that point than it does at any other temperature, above or below. The chemist or physicist becomes familiar with thousands of such phenomena as applied to various substances, and call them laws of nature, but an occasional fact, such as this, can have great appeal to laymen. Let's apply this law to Old Man River. As winter approaches the water temperature goes down, but as long as it stays above 39 the warmer water, which is lighter, is on the surface. Then along comes a chilly day which sends the temperature below 39, but still not cold enough to freeze it at 32. In this short range of 7 degrees the colder water is lighter, hence on the surface; and since the colder water is the first to freeze, ice always starts to form on the surface. Now just suppose the Almighty had decided to cause the maximum density at say 29 degrees instead of 39. (And don't ask me why it didn't happen that way.) There would be no ice skating, no natural ice harvest; navigation could continue all winter; there would be no spring break-up; and we could drink ice tea without getting our noses bumped with ice cubes. Thank goodness the laws of nature are immutable, for very slight changes could cause astounding upheavals in our habits of existence.
Curious too, that this same Creator has left so many of the laws of human relationship in the hands of fallable humanity. Consoling though, that humanity has done so well with most of them, despite the botches.
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