Of late there has been a hue and cry about the loss of privacy in American life. Many people seem to sense a threat in the fact that both government and private agencies systematically collect this information about us.

Those who are so profoundly disturbed obviously have never met Mamie, our local postmaster. (Once when I called her “postmistress,” trying my best to be correct, she nearly threw me out of the post office for using suggestive language on government property.)

Mamie knows everything and never forgets a thing—except once in a while to have the mail delivered. When the February issue of one of four magazines came, Mamie apparently remembered that she was still reading the January issue. Both issues arrived at our house the same day with the January issue neatly dogeared where Mamie had marked her place in the continued fiction piece.

The comprehensiveness of her information was brought home to us a few months after we arrived in town. My wife dashed off a postcard to her mother signing it “M.B.” She was interrupted while addressing it and absent-mindedly mailed it with only her mother’s name on the address side.

The following day when she was in the post office Mamie handed her the card saying, “Here’s your card to your mother. You forgot to address it.” Some of our best friends don’t know my wife’s maiden name, but Mamie does.

Where the FBI collects material, Mamie assimilates it and forms a judgment about the character and personality of the individual involved. By carefully studying what various members of the community are reading, she has put together a mental dossier on each that would put the FBI to shame.

Jim Hicks is the “seed catalogue man.” The fact that he earns his living as a ...

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