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On Jan. 12, 1884, the North Loup Herald ran a story headlined, “Bearly Possible,” in which editor N. H. Parks reported a visit to a local farmer who had a black bear that had been taught to shuck corn. While the story’s conclusion suggests that Parks had crafted a tall tale, keeping a country newspaper going was often a daunting challenge. Journalists can be forgiven for thinking up ways to enliven their papers’ otherwise generally bland fare of local news and patent insides. Offbeat stories were sometimes picked up by other state papers, providing an extra measure of publicity for the originating sheet. In this case, the Nebraska State Journal reprinted the bear story in its Jan. 17 issue.


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