Abruptly, Mr. McDonough asked me the question that was the real reason for his call.
"Tell me frankly out of what you have observed," he said. "Will the Irish in Ireland work?"
I asked him to hold the phone. I got up and closed the office door. Returning to my desk, I picked up the phone and said:
" Mr. McDonough, that is a question I would not care to discuss over the long distance wire. It is a very delicate question. Let me say simply that there is a lot of Guinness Stout brewed in Ireland, for one thing, and somebody must I have to work to brew it."
Mr. McDonough agreed that the question could not be answered offhand. We came to a decision: on Mr. McDonough's next visit to New York, we would have lunch and confer further. Or if, by chance, I was ever in the vicinity of Parkersburg, I would call him.
Events moved swiftly. Not long after my first talk with Mr. McDonough, a fortuitous circumstance sent me to West Virginia, and I found myself being ushered into Mr. McDonough's office. As I entered, he was talking through a box on his desk to a ship's captain who was in the Gulf of Mexico bound for Venezuela, where Mr. McDonough has a marine business. As I waited for the conversation to be concluded, I observed Mr. McDonough out of the corner of my eye and judged him (correctly) to be in his early 50s, a man of average height, with thinning, but still brown hair, the suspicion of an Irish twinkle in his eyes, a habit of raising his eyebrows and tightening his lips when he was listening and half smiling when he was speaking. When the ship-to-shore talk ended, Mr. McDonough jumped up, shook hands and announced that he was taking the rest of the day off to show me around.
Where shovels rule
It was a great day. We toured a number of plants, but the most astonishing was the O. Ames Company, the shovel factory. In my city man's ignorance, I had believed the shovel to be obsolete. Now, standing on the floor of the Ames main plant, I had the feeling that shovels rule the world. There were shovels everywhere amid the din and clatter of the machinery; there was every kind of shovel imaginable: shovels to dig holes for telephone poles; wide shovels, narrow shovels, long-handled and short-handled shovels, even a shovel to shovel fish. Shovels were being molded, hammered, pounded, stamped, shined; everything that can be done to a shovel was being done.
I stopped at one assembly line to watch a man whose job it was to stand before a parade of shovels, and as each one reached him to take a nail in his left hand and hit it a single blow with the hammer he held in his right. He had one chance and one blow before the shovel moved on. If he missed, the whole operation would be thrown off. In secret dismay, I thought of a cousin of mine over in Ireland and how he might, given just such a job, exclaim at precisely the wrong instant: "Now wait till I spit on me hands!" Chaos would surely result.
I moved along and watched another man. He faced a battery of machines arranged in a semicircle. One machine delivered a molten shovel which the man took and, whirling and posturing like Jos� Greco, the Spanish dancer, he thrust it in the other machines, one after the other, to stamp and shape it. His final act was to fling the shovel from him in a gesture as graceful as a ballet figure; then, without pause, he started all over again. I could hear my Irish cousin as he went through this procedure just once: "Ah, life's too short! T'hell with it!"