One of the truly pleasant things about sports is the way they stimulate the telling and retelling of experiences. You can always strike up a sports conversation, and you usually get a respectful audience because the other fellow knows that you'll listen to his story when you're through. It's a land of mutual understanding and responsiveness.
That's why we are not surprised—although we are delighted—to receive weekly a volume of mail which compares favorably with that of magazines considerably larger in circulation than SI. But more than just quantity, our writing readers communicate the feeling of friendliness, even when they scold, cajole or prod us. And they usually add something out of their own backgrounds to what they have read in the magazine. For example, in last week's issue a Housatonic duck hunter confirmed our report with his own on conditions in the Stratford marshes; a Phoenix reader reminded us how points are counted on Western antlers; and an Eastern Air Lines captain responded vigorously to Bill Mauldin's pieces on amateur flying.
One result of all this, as you have seen, is that THE 19TH HOLE has grown in size and, rather than just being a "letters to the editor column," has actually become a forum where, as its subtitle says, "the readers take over."
Some of the letters you don't see, however, are the inquiries SI also receives from readers everywhere who have turned to this magazine as an authoritative source for all manner of sports information. These go to the Reader Service section of the Letters Department, and I thought you might be interested in a few examples of the diversity of the requests.
From a far-flung reader in Fairbanks, Alaska:
I have a sincere desire to attend the 1956 Olympics. Can you offer me some assistance on the estimated costs and transportation for the trip to Australia?
From a director of physical education at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas:
I would appreciate addresses of boomerang makers, since I am considering the addition of "boomeranging" to my intramural sports program.
From a career-minded girl in Marion, Iowa:
Can you tell me with whom to get in touch about girls' professional baseball, softball and basketball? I would like to get started in one of these sports.
An apparently more formidable inquiry came from a young Chi Phi in Chapel Hill, N.C., intrepidly intent on augmenting his income:
Could you tell me who would be interested in buying cotton-mouths? I make a trip into the Big Cypress Swamp of Florida every Christmas and cottonmouths are a dime a dozen there. I thought I could possibly pick up a little extra spending money by merely gathering a few of these poor misunderstood creatures.
If you are curious, as I was, about how Reader Service got the answer to this one, it was simply a matter of asking the gracious Dr. James Oliver of the Bronx Zoo, who had the information at his fingertips. (Turns out that the demand for cottonmouths is indeed rather limited—confined, as you would imagine, to reptile houses. The going price is 25¢ apiece—a substantial markup perhaps from a dime a dozen—but the customers are hard to find.)
We were sorry we could not lend much encouragement here. But we were pleased, as always, to be asked, and pleased to be able to answer.