Short Reviews – “Bull Dog” Smith, by James McCormick

Friday , 25, August 2017 2 Comments

“Bull Dog” Smith by James McCormick appeared in the June 1944 issue of The Wide World.

Okay, so I swear I’ve seen this story before. Maybe it played out in some mystery drama or cartoon or something, and I’m tearing my hair out because I can’t place it, but this seems so familiar!

James McCormick recounts some of his time on a merchant steamer, the Queen Bee, particularly one humorous set of events revolving around a bully of the crew, his target, and the captain’s bull dog. William Pale is your typical hard-ass sailor, angry and itching for a fight. The captain’s bull dog gets loose on deck, and starts tearing at Pale’s pants; the dog hates the guy. On the other hand, new recruit from port, one scrawny guy by the name of Smith, comes aboard and the dog takes a real shine to him; weird, too, because the dog doesn’t like most folks besides the captain. So it earns him the name “Bull Dog” Smith.

Pale hates Smith from get-go and finds damn near every excuse to pick on the guy. A few times, things almost come to a head, but the situation gets diffused before fists can fly. Meantime, the unthinkable happens on the ship: according to the steward, the captain’s dog got loose again and into the tobacco supply. This puts everyone in the crew on edge.

Anyway, Pale and Smith are finally coming to blows; the latter bumps into the former, and the former begins laying a beatdown. Once again, the captain’s dog has gotten out; it tears into Pale, saving Smith from his wrath. Everyone was on deck watching the fight, including the steward; the crew manages to get the dog off Pale just long enough for it to break free and start chasing the steward back to his bunk. What should they find but the pouches of tobacco the dog had been accused of getting into!

Pale and the steward get to spend the rest of the trip down in the stokehold until they can be ditched for replacements, Smith gets promoted to fill the vacant steward’s position, and James sells his story to the Wide World.

Okay, so we’re not quite in “Tales of Blood and Empire” territory, but amusing “true story” anecdotes from Brits throughout the empire can cover a broad range of subject and tone. The upcoming piece about the guy in the American north dealing with a giant white, mountain lion or something looks to be a bit more “action and adventure” oriented.

One thing about a story like this one is that you could easily take it, set it on a space-ship, move it from “true story” to “blue-collar-scifi”, and the resulting story would be the kind you’d see in the pulps. But Wide World is not a pulp, it’s a . But the story seems “pulpy”. It’s worth remembering that what we think of as “pulpy” often has more to do with the feel of a story rather than whether it’s actually pulp (hence arguments of Asimov not being pulpy despite being published in the pulps).

  • gwood says:

    The wrongly accused bulldog is perhaps inspired by Saint Guinefort, the only Catholic saint who is a dog.

  • Nicholas Archer says:

    I personally like Asimov’s work even if some of his stories are strongly Anti-Theist.

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