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Missouri's Legislature needs an official toy for the state

Sunday, January 27, 2002

The state of Mississippi wants to take credit for the cuddly teddy bear by making it the Magnolia State's official toy.

A state lawmaker has filed legislation to give the teddy bear such distinction.

It's all because of retired librarian Sarah Doxey-Tate of Tupelo, Miss., who is pushing the idea.

She knows of the state's historical connection to the fluffy childhood toy.

In 1902, President Teddy Roosevelt was hunting in the Mississippi Delta. The president was offered a captive bear to kill and he refused.

After political cartoonist Clifford Berryman depicted Roosevelt's humane act, plush toy bears became known worldwide as teddy bears.

Mississippi already has several official symbols, none of them that cuddly. The magnolia is both the state flower and state tree, and the bottle-nosed dolphin is the state water mammal. Petrified wood is the state stone. Milk is the state beverage, except in the case of state lawmakers and college students who clearly like a different brew.

Not be out done, Missouri needs to find itself an official toy.

I think an appropriate one would be the Mark McGwire bobble-head doll, one of the most enduring symbols of Cardinal baseball.

Of course, some might opt for video games, Barbies or the traditional stick horse.

Gov. Holden clearly needs to make this a top priority in his administration. He could check with Missouri's kids, not the ones in the Legislature but those that really are in elementary school.

With any luck, he could develop a clear-cut legislative priority within a year.

Becca and Bailey have grown up playing with Barbie dolls, although they've been known to entertain themselves with cardboard boxes and Joni's marbles too.

Bailey, our 6-year-old daughter, is a consummate pack rat. She collects anything. She has brought me plenty of rocks over the years, including a huge chunk of stone she picked up on the school playground.

She'd collect her school desk if she could fit it in her backpack.

Once she brought a bug inside for me to inspect. I told her she couldn't keep it and sent her back outside to free the creature.

Personally, I'd find it hard to settle on just one official toy. Maybe Missouri should have a whole line of official toys, everything from dolls to video games.

The state then could sell its endorsement, which would bring in badly needed revenue.

If the state can embrace a paddlefish as its official aquatic animal and the honeybee as its insect, it certainly should have room to hug a few toys.

Naturally, the Legislature would need to hold hearings on the issue and bring in some toys to sample.

It would be a real treat to see grown men and women playing with Ken and Barbie instead of raising taxes.

As a dad, I've attended numerous Barbie parties in our house.

Our 9-year-old, Becca, has grown out of the Barbie stage. But Bailey still plays with them. She has a whole toy chest filled with Barbie dolls and accessories.

Both girls even have teddy bears, although, as far as I know, none of them came from the state of Mississippi.

I'm sure that some Missourians would like to make the teddy bear their official toy. After all, there are plenty of them in the state, hanging out in countless children's closets, toy boxes and on bedroom shelves.

But whatever the toy, lawmakers need to get busy and make it official.

This is one issue they shouldn't toy around with.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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Mark Bliss
Mark My Word