Stanton Delaplane, known by friends as Del, wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle for more than fifty years. I grew up reading his syndicated column which reached millions. His books were national best sellers. Yet despite his success, including winning the Pulitzer Prize for reporting, he is hardly recognized today. He should be ranked with Thurber and Twain. Read this column and feel better. He made my life better.
Postcards from Delaplane
For the Love of Mike (1953)
I don’t know how you spent your vacation, but I went in for the quiet life. Moved into a house in Carmel, unhooked the telephone, and unpacked all my clothes. Turned the boxer and the young lady of eight years out of doors and told them not to come back until it was important. Did a good deal of daydreaming about the future, too. This is my idea of vacationing.
Once in a while I opened a book. Read a book by a man who said: “Forget about the past. Have no regrets. Let the future take care of itself. The present is all that counts.”
Well, begging your pardon, sir, I will take care of the future myself. My futures are very brilliant. It is the only part of my life over which I have complete control, and I make it that way. I do not care much about living in the present. It has been my experience that a good deal of the present is unpleasant. As for the past, the past is often the night before, when you offered the host a candid opinion of his personality and business operations. And how to improve both. Such things I do not care to contemplate. I think it is better to slip off into the cozy future.
I took a future book on my vacation. In the rosy glow of evening on the Carmel coast I contemplated my book. When people asked me what I was doing in Carmel I did not say: “I am lying about slothfully on my vacation.” No, sir, I said: “I am writing a book.”
People looked at me with respect and said, “There is a man who is writing a book.”
Afternoons I went swimming up the Carmel Valley and frowned and looked into space like an author.
I never laid a hand on a typewriter the whole time. It was one of the most successful books I ever put off writing.
I allowed myself to be dragged into the present only briefly. Each time it only proved that life is better in the future. One time the young lady of seven and one half came in and announced that she was now eight years old. The other time the boxer acquired an itch and also attached himself to a number of ticks in the underbrush.
I gave the young lady a birthday party and took care of the dog. These things sound simple. But they are not. I do not allow ticks and rash and birthday parties in my future any more than I allow mounting debt or rattlesnakes. In my future, boxers do not scratch, nor do they rise to greet the day at dawn, insisting that I arise with them. They sleep until ten o’clock.
Small children do not attain age in jerks like a car meshing into higher gear. They grow up smoothly until they are eighteen and beautiful and talented. Then they go in the movies and their poor old work worn father manages their incomes, grows a sporty mustache, and flings cocktail parties for their beautiful starlet friends.
In my future, small children do not suddenly become eight, making their poor father feel older and making him poorer by dishing out his scratch for birthday presents. Scratch that he had been saving for an absolutely sure thing at Del Mar.
I must say that when the present dragged me out of the future it was all at once. The young lady was in tears.
“The tick will kill Carmichael,” she said. “Do something.”
Well, you cannot sit around and admit you do not know what to do. Not when young ladies become eight and already are beginning to doubt that you know everything, as you have always claimed in a modest way. As near as I could remember, ticks were highly discouraged by kerosene. I had no kerosene, but I shook a little lighter fluid on the animal and sat down to wait for results. I did not sit long. Nor did Carmichael. Apparently it burned like a branding iron. The dog took off around the house, and the child got up on the roof, where she sat screaming.
A good many neighbors came out in the street to watch.
The dog circled the house at high speed, letting out short, discouraged yells. Finally, I got the child off the roof and began throwing water on the dog. I had the young lady in the kitchen passing out bowls of water like a bucket brigade. Each time the dog passed I wet down the fire. It seemed to do some good, because he finally lay down in the mud. After a while he rose and shook himself.
That took care of the birthday-party clothes.
In my rosy future, dogs and small children have great respect and regard for the master of the house. They do not go about muttering in corners and casting looks at him as though he were a heart- less gangster who did it all on purpose.
Nor do the neighbors shudder as he passes by and drag their children off the streets into the house. In my brave new world, people are kindly and understanding and realize that a man may be out of kerosene and use lighter fluid with the best intentions in the world.
Anyway, in my future, I do not remove ticks from ungrateful boxers. I perform delicate emergency operations on beautiful and grateful ladies and I am the toast of the scientific world. In fact, my future is so successful that come next vacation I think I will put off writing a book about it.
(Delaplane ornament by David McKay)