Correspondents, advisers, scouts -- every columnist depends on them. But they get restive if you don't relay their insights. And in a great column, of course, it is impossible to relay everything they send in.
All the same, I value them immensely, and (according to custom) pass along some of their contributions not hitherto printed:
Fluorine Arp (her specialty is Mughal gardens plus a master's degree in the field of hybrid corn): "We must pay more attention to growth industries. There are only two growth industries in America. One is the instruction of the nation; this field is wide open with no competition to speak of, but then without much future, either.
"The other, and fantastic, industry is ripping off the gullible. And although you might think this particular industry had reached its limits, the truth is there are no bounds to the profit that can be made here.
"The tremendous excitement in this field of milking the stupid is that you don't need to be a P.T. Barnum to do it. Anybody can. The chief discovery of the '80s is that any little fool can hang out a shingle and call himself psychic or an adviser or a seer. There are two big groups you can get rich off of: One is older ladies without much on their hands. They will commonly buy anything, especially if there's a cosmic kick of sorts. Since they no longer go to church as they used to, they're fair game for anybody in touch with a spirit world.
"But to cash in, you have to be specific, and you might think this would end your chances, since (you suppose) the minute they try some specific advice you give them, everybody will see you are a bunch of baloney.
"But have no fear. There was a woman who asked a psychic how to cure her kid of nightmares and of jumping out of windows. The psychic said turn on a blue light and get a silver dollar. Presto, the kid was cured.
"The kid probably got tired of breaking bones. But in any humane society, it would occur to somebody that the kid was, as we say, disturbed, and probably needed more help than a blue light and a silver dollar.
"Never mind. The woman got her advice (and the beauty is that they will pay for it and actually thank you.)
"The other big class to cash in on is the poor, and others who never got to school and know nothing of science or of anything else. The world is a mystery to them, and they'll swallow anything if you tell them you're in touch with Mars or black holes or something like that. The first time they pay you 50 bucks for whatever pops into your head you won't believe it. But in a few weeks you'll start thinking, hey, maybe I am indeed a seer, and this will build confidence in yourself. In no time you'll be as stupid as your clients, with this nice difference: You're making money at it."
Letitia Brockleigh (London correspondent and authority on civil rights, cuisine, labor relations): "A scandal has come to my attention through Private Eye, a London publication, in which I learn there is something called the Catholic Kiddies Crucifixion Kit.
"Naturally, a great storm of protest has been aroused. Efforts are afoot to force a change of name for this 'toy' (which comes with a cross, a figure, liquid coloring, etc.) to Christian Kiddies Salvation Kit.
"It is argued that all Christian tots are heirs of Gethsemane and equal inheritors of the Crucifixion, and limiting this kit to Catholic children is seen as an insufferable affront to pluralism."
Dunstable Fretley (critic of preMonteverdi music, atomic waste disposal and the lepidoptera of Brazil): "The nation's chief problem is the failure of its public schools to produce citizens competent to vote even their own interests. This is because public school teachers cannot tell King Kong from King Lear any more. Anything that's ever been printed is equally valuable. Teachers are themselves candidates for sheltered workshops, and are largely unable to cope with life themselves. In former decades they would have been waitresses at the City Cafe, which is where they should be now, except that they have lifted themselves up by their bootstraps and insinuated themselves into the high profession of teaching the young.
"Well, the young are not deceived by teachers who do not know a quadratic equation from an equinox or Cervantes from Doonesbury. Kids do not trust their teachers, a major indication of their intelligence, and they rebel.
"To correct this, we should abolish the public schools until a nucleus of teachers is again achieved that is well-informed and has something to teach.
"All they know now is where to buy hair bleach on sale."
Col. Sumner Winter (Ret.) (expert on engineering, tribal traditions of Central Asia, and home repair projects): "What the nation requires urgently is an upgrading of dogs. Too long we have ignored the Family Watchdog. I myself have bred my poor bitches well past the limits of prudence, yet it is clear I cannot provide an appropriate number of bouviers de Flandres (the best dogs for a family) all by myself. Others must join in and share this burden. It is bigger than local efforts can cope with."
Fawleigh Sunstrobe (mathematics, subalpine ferns, Montana sheepbreeding and author of "Regional Biases in Barbecue"): "What the country needs now is love. Go kiss somebody. It would be a beginning. As President Kennedy used to say. And he truly knew."
T. de Bourbon Chan (Sicilian history, rocket development and scented geraniums): "We need a frontier. A place to vanish to."