The advertisement that really grabs your eye on the front window of Woody's Cigar Shop is the blood-red poster touting the upcoming Greeley Tractor Pull. ("Witness the MUD-FLINGING EXCITEMENT of Man & Machine compete for points and money!!") Compared to that, the sedate black-and-white page of newsprint taped just below is pretty easy to ignore.
In fact, the people of this agricultural center have not been ignoring the quiet black-and-white sign, which points out that Woody's Cigar Shop is now an official outlet for the new English-language edition of Pravda, the daily newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
"Oh yes, we get all sorts of people buying Pravda," says Henriette Rhoads, the manager of Woody's, a tobacco and news emporium across 10th Street from the Weld County Courthouse. "Older people, kids, college professors, farmers in their overalls. For a while there, we couldn't keep it on hand, it sold so well."
As Greeley goes, so has gone the nation during the early months of publication of the world's first English-language edition of the Soviet party organ.
"We had originally thought all our sales would be subscriptions, you know, to libraries, universities, corporations," says Charles Cox, the St. Paul, Minn., publisher who is producing Pravda's English version with the decidely non-Marxist motivation of making a profit.
"But boy, were we surprised! We started getting calls from newsstands all over the place, and now it's selling to people who just walk in off the street and buy a copy of Pravda," Cox added.
The thin daily paper, which sells for five kopecks (about 7 1/2 cents) in Moscow but for around $2 a copy in the United States, is doing well in predictable spots such as Washington, D.C., and Cambridge, Mass.
But Pravda also plays in Peoria, in Pittsburgh, in Louisville, Laramie and Little Rock, according to Bill Abresch, a salesman for Cox's Associated Publishers Inc.
Some people buy the newspaper for its novelty value. "There's a doctor who keeps it in the waiting room," Cox says.
But others -- such as the tweed-suited banker who seemed somewhat embarrassed to be spotted buying Pravda in Denver's Footnote Book Store -- buy Pravda to read. "I'm curious about what the average person in Russia reads every day," he said.
Citing a thoroughly capitalistic concern -- "We don't want to help any potential competitors" -- Cox declines to reveal sales figures. But he says hundreds of libraries and about 450 newsstands carry the for-profit Pravda.
Cox, a longtime publisher, bought a $47.50 subscription to the Russian-language Pravda two years ago and decided that an English version would sell.
There is no legal arrangement with the Soviets. "We keep at arm's length with them, and they do with us," Cox said. Pravda has printed, with apparent approval, the news that Pravda is being published in English abroad.
Cox farms out each day's Russian paper to a corps of translators -- some American scholars, some Soviet emigres -- and then prints an English version that duplicates the layout and graphics of the original. There is a one- to two-month lag between publication of the Russian and English versions. He says he is "doing well" selling subscriptions: $630 per year for every issue, or $99.50 annually for one paper per week. But newsstand sales have been the unexpected success story.
News dealers across the country say the most striking thing about selling Pravda has been the ready acceptance it has found, even in regions where anti-Communist feeling is strongest.
"I was a little worried about it, but we haven't had a single criticism," said Nancy Dean, manager of City News in Cheyenne, Wyo. "No, wait -- we had one complaint, from a guy who had just moved here from California. He said, 'You sell papers from Moscow and you don't even carry the L.A. Times?' "
"We have some of these Navy people who think selling Pravda is sacrilegious or blasphemous," says Sue Smith, manager of Fireside News in Virginia Beach, Va. "But we also have people who come in who think it's so neat that we sell Pravda, that this is a symbol of what a free country is all about."
Here in Greeley, a farm and transportation hub with a population of 50,000 at the western end of the high plains, Henriette Rhoads thought "there might be some trouble" when Woody's Cigar Shop started stocking Pravda this spring.
"Greeley is a very conservative place, you know, and I thought, gee, maybe people are going to complain about this. But no, there's been nothing. Just people buying it," she said.
Copies of the Soviet Communist organ are stacked neatly on Woody's front counter between a local capitalist publication called the Colorado Auto Trader ("BUY! SELL! TRADE UP!") and the salt shaker used to flavor Woody's famous popcorn. Rhoads says the people of Greeley buy five to 25 copies per week.
Rhoads thinks Woody's could sell more Pravdas except for a humor column that ran recently in the Greeley Tribune, the newspaper founded by the famous New York editor Horace Greeley, who went west, young man, and ended up here.
"Pravda is a big yawn," wrote columnist Craig Farr. "Ninety percent of the 8-page paper is filled with tributes to the contributions to the glorious revolution by such stalwart comrades as lathe operator S. Shulekov."
Still, Rhoads thinks it says something important about America that the Soviets' official newspaper is available on her newsstand.
"If you have ever been to a country where they only let you read what the government has decreed you can read, then you realize how wonderful it is that we have Pravda right here in Mr. Woody's store."