Athletes at Atlantic City
In their annual rummage for the well-rounded girl the Miss-America people introduced in the '30s what their euphemistic press agentry optimistically call "the talent judging." Since then the pageant has come a far piece from ukulele renditions of "That's where my money goes/To buy my baby clothes."
This week in Atlantic City, for instance, Miss Michigan will give an archery demonstration. This is not the first time that a Miss has done a sports turn on the Convention Hall stage. In 1949 Miss Kansas rode a misbehaving horse. In 1957 Miss Tennessee fretfully bounced on her trampolin. In 1958 Miss Georgia flubbed an archery exhibition. But it will undoubtedly be the finest sports bit in contest history, for Miss Michigan is Ann Marston (35-23-35), the 1958 National Field Archery champion.
Although Miss Michigan is the pageant's most celebrated sportswoman, the Miss-America vital statisticians have done some earnest and momentous tabulating and discovered that their 54 contestants participate, more or less, in 19 sports. These are: fencing, tumbling, badminton, field hockey, rifle shooting, golf, tennis, swimming, water and snow skiing, skating, boating, fishing, basketball, archery, volleyball, bowling, horseback riding and sports car rallying.
The flacks reserve comment on the level of athletic proficiency but proudly point out that Miss Pennsylvania (37-24-36) "was center halfback in the U.S. Mid-East Field Hockey Tournament in '58"; that Miss South Dakota (35-24-36), "one of the 12 beauties who are swimmers, is a lifeguard at the city pool in Yankton during summers"; that Miss Maine (35-25-35) is "the rifle shooting bug"; and that there are six tennis players, five contest water skiers, four golfers, one basketball player, who besides being 37-23-36 is 5 feet 8, and one sports car rally enthusiast. The flacks admit that they don't know for sure what "enthusiast" means but assure us she has a lot of fun at it.
The judges can be relied upon to pick Miss America and her court by the ancient values, but as sympathetic historians of the sporting change which has come over American life since the early days when Miss America contestants wore bathing suits but weren't expected to know how to swim, we have promised to pass on the heartening news.
A Law for Wild Horses
Ten years ago Mrs. Velma Johnston, the secretary of a Reno insurance agent, saw a truckload of bleeding and battered horses on a Nevada road. Investigating, she learned that many such truckloads traveled western highways. Their cargoes, destined for commercialized slaughter, were some of the wild, unbranded horses of the West's open ranges. As potential dog food, wild horses brought a few pennies a pound at the slaughterhouse. Their herds were easily hunted from airplanes, which first spotted them and then buzzed them across the prairies to exhaustion. One Reno rancher was credited with rounding up 40,000 that way.
Velma Johnston, the wife of a rancher and the daughter of Nevada pioneers, was shocked at the cruelty of the practice. She appealed to the Federal Government's land management bureau and was told to forget it. She then went after the commissioners of Storey County, and in 1952, after three years of campaigning, won her first victory when Storey County outlawed hunting wild horses by plane. Her boss let her use office stamps and stationery to answer her mail. After one national article about her she received 5,000 personal letters of support. But she was now meeting the fate of crusaders and was being ridiculed as Wild Horse Annie. In Reno, says a friend of Velma Johnston, crusaders are considered fanatical, "and five will get you ten they are nuts."
But by 1955 the Nevada legislature passed a measure protecting wild horses, and other western states followed. The truckloads bound for the slaughterhouse continued to pass, however: 80% of Nevada is government land; so federal legislation was needed. To impress Congressmen, Velma Johnston collected graphic proof of atrocious hunting methods: she personally took photographs of the exhausted, battered animals. Nevada's Representative Walter Baring took up her case. He introduced a bill in the House outlawing mechanized roundups and other inhumane practices (including polluting of water holes), and Montana's Mansfield introduced a parallel bill in the Senate. At the hearings on the bill before a House judiciary subcommittee in Washington this summer Mrs. Johnston had a crusader's triumph: for almost two hours she held the lawmakers spellbound with her quiet, soft-voiced account of her campaign. Now has come full victory; both the House and the Senate have just passed legislation prohibiting the use of planes in hunting wild horses.