Seventy thousand souls can now avail themselves of the "Teddy Bear Catalog," it has been learned from authors of that work, Peggy and Alan Bialosky.
"All for love," said Peggy. "It never occurred to us we'd make any money on the teddy bears."
"Well," said their interviewer, "you wouldn't expect to make any on a catalogue of teddy bears from 1903 to the present."
"Still," said Peggy, "there are now 70,000 copies of it around."
Teddy bears are stuffed animals, more or less bearlike, for small children. The first ones were made in 1903 and millions upon millions, manufactured by a number of companies, have been sold since then.
"I grew up in an apartment. Teddy bears don't bark or mess up the house," observed Peggy.
"And what's more," said her husband, "the grown-ups leave you alone to play with it. With an expensive doll, grown-ups are always saying go ahead and play, but don't play too much. But you can throw a teddy bear across the room and they won't say anything."
The Bialoskys were relatively normal until 16 years ago when Alan bought a teddy bear for his wife, whose childhood bear had vanished with the years.
"Teddy come home" had been her unspoken motto for quite some time, so her husband went out and bought a replacement.
"But it wasn't my teddy bear at all," said the wife. "So he bought another one, and it wasn't right either. Now we have 200 or so teddy bears. We got fascinated with them. We became serious collectors."
Their catalogue pictures about 200 models of teddy bears, but even this richness does not plumb the full spring. The writer's own teddy bear, for instance, does not appear anywhere in the catalogue.
He was a good bear. By God, he was a very good bear. He had brass wheels and if you pulled a ring he would growl, at least for the first few weeks. He was stuffed with straw. He was a satisfactory ride.
Peace be on him wherever he is. He --
"But it's not just the survey of teddy bears through the decades," said Peggy Bialosky. "There's information on how to repair teddy bears, replace a paw and that kind of thing, and how to wash them, and of course there is the historical section that deals with The Washington Post."
"The Post did not become trusted by writing about itself," she was reminded a bit firmly.
"Nobody paid any attention to The Post account, evidently," she said (with slight satisfaction, one might think), "even though The Post was the first paper to inspire the teddy bears to begin with. The Post ran a front-page account of Theodore Roosevelt's hunting trip in Mississippi in which a bear was tied to a tree and Roosevelt was summoned by a horn to come shoot it. Of course he refused, and The Post ran a cartoon called "Drawing the Line," which showed the bear on a leash and Roosevelt refusing to shoot it.
"The Post story clearly said it was a black bear, somewhat scrawny but weighing 275 pounds. But this was promptly interpreted to mean it was a cuddly little cub. The Post story also specifically pointed out the bear had been hit over the head and that Roosevelt ordered it put out of its misery. The Post said it was dispatched with a knife by a man who was present. This account did nothing, of course, to prevent all sorts of fabulous stories about what happened to the little bear cub that Roosevelt refused to shoot."
Facts, even when ascertained and even when faithfully reported, have never had the decisive role in what people choose to believe, perhaps.
"We have real animals, too," Peggy went on.
"We have six dogs," said Alan.
The two of them write a weekly pet column for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. They once had a blind coon that they taught to use a cat's litter box. They have and have had other animals.
"We have a miniature schnauzer that was found almost frozen by the side of the road," said Alan. "For days he slept standing up; he could not stand the pain of walking on his paws, all the skin came off. But he recovered and was fine."
Peggy once had a poodle who through no fault of her got loose and she ran after it and it was killed by a car before her eyes.
"I gave it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation," she said. "I was hysterical, as soon as I had leisure to be, but even at the time I knew there was something ludicrous about it. I had taken a course and knew you shut the nose and breathe into the mouth. Of course a poodle has such a long muzzle. When you breathe in, it all puffs right out the side. But when you love a dog, you do what you can."
"You have left your dogs," it was pointed out to them. "One pet authority says a dog never knows if you're ever coming back when you leave them for a weekend."
"That's nonsense," said Peggy. "Of course we told the dogs we were going and when we were coming back."
"Ah," said the devil's advocate. "But what if the dog doesn't understand you?"
"Oh, you've been talking to Barbara Woodhouse," said Peggy, with the tone used by a soprano speaking of another soprano. "She thinks dogs don't understand what you say to them.
A thousand birds in 10 days -- if all you're doing is looking at them, not catching them or anything -- sounds simple enough. After all, you can see a hundred a day at any downtown Washington square, and in 10 days you'd have seen a lot more than a thousand, even if you just count the ones with feathers.
But Jim Vardaman's scheme is a bit different. he proposes to see a thousand different species of birds within 10 consecutive days following Oct. 5, and it means travelilng. Within the 10 days he should see (he says) the following number of species in the following places:
Australia, 250; India, 5; Kenya, 350; West Germany, 50; and Peru, 475.
He has consulted, needless to say, with outstanding birders in those countries and they all but guarantee he will see these endless sorts of birds.
Vardaman is the Jackson, Miss., lumberman who has set various birdwatching records and who has written a book well known to bird persons, "Call Collect, Ask for Birdman."
The present record for the number of birds seen in a single day is 288, Vardaman says, and this record was set Dec. 6, 1975 in Zambia, which is positively alive with birds. But Vardaman hopes to see 300 copies species in one day in Kenya or in Peru.
Worldly skeptics have already settled back in their scoffs. All Vardaman's golden hopes for Kenya, for example, depend on good viewing weather Oct. 10 and 11, the only two days he will be there. What if it rains? The birds, at least, usually have sense enough to come in out of it, thus ending any hopes for seeing hundreds of species that day.
Vardaman is to dash about among the four continents by airplane, using commercial scheduled flights mainly.
As an international traveler might say:
Lotsa luck, good buddy.
As Vardaman himself says, in calm moments:
"We are not sure that our safety margin is adequate."