In all but four English counties, in every Welsh county, in 21 Scottish counties, rabbits are dying of myxomatosis?just as they have died in the past few years in Australia, France, Belgium, Spain, The Netherlands and Germany. Man, trifling with the balance of nature, has stirred up another fuss and he doesn't know what to do about it.
Myxomatosis was introduced into Australia in an effort to control that country's scourge of rabbits, which were introduced there for what must have seemed an adequate reason. The myxomatosis worked fine. Rabbits died by the millions, the grass grew greener, the sheep grew fat and produced more wool per sheep.
A couple of years ago an octogenarian French professor, Paul Armand-Delille, decided to get rid of rabbit pests in his garden. A Swiss scientist friend sent him some myxomatosis virus, the professor sickened a couple of rabbits with it and pretty soon Europe was going through a zoological version of the Black Death.
English farmers think of the rabbit as a pest, too, and pretty soon infected rabbits were being black-marketed in England for as much as five pounds per sick rabbit. Clergymen denounced the practice as un-Christian, because the rabbits die in agony, but their influence was not noticeably strong.
The rabbit is not a pest to everyone. Those who follow beagling admire the rabbit, and many shotgunners regard him as sporting quarry. Now the beaglers of America, particularly, are worried that myxomatosis may cross the Atlantic. A shotgunner can shoot almost anything, but a beagler needs his rabbit.
Myxomatosis need not be introduced to a country deliberately, as in Europe and Australia, the beaglers say. It would be a very simple matter, apparently, for some tourist to take his car to Europe, run over a diseased rabbit and bring back the virus on the tires. Or he could pick it up on his shoes.
So the beaglers watch, wait and pray. There is a ray of hope from Australia, however. Surviving rabbits appear to be breeding a strain resistant to the disease. If so, beaglers may relax. All they need do, should myxomatosis strike, is import a few resistant Australians and let the rabbit's natural proficiency take over.
The mechanical man
Last spring the University of Kansas hired a high school coach to guide its Big Seven football team. He was Chuck Mather, who has a prep school record of 111 victories against 18 defeats and five ties. He coached Washington High of Massillon, Ohio to 57 victories in 60 games, and six championships in the last six years.
Any helmsman with a record like that must have a "system." Mather's centers around two electronic gadgets?a closed-circuit television receiver on the bench and an IBM machine. The sideline TV set gives him and his staff a better look at the swirl of action than the bench position allows. But it's the garnishment of IBM index cards to rate his athletes and to determine who plays what position when that made Mather (often referred to as the Mechanical Man of Massillon) shape up as the most formidable figure to invade big-time football this season.