Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Life is Hard and Then You Die

Among a stack of writing projects I keep chipping away at every day is the piecing together of a collection of excerpts from columns I wrote for an Indiana newspaper in the 1980s. I turned out five a week along with a few other duties and if you think that's easy just try it sometime. Anyway, I decided to stick a portion of one of them here just to make life easy for a change. Considering the season, it's timely. Here it is:

To my surprise Stubby has made it halfway through the winter. Stubby is a gray squirrel, given his name by Jackie because a stub is all he has for a tail.
Lack of a tail is a tremendous handicap for a squirrel. A full and bushy one serves as a blanket on cold days, does duty as an umbrella when the summer sun falls mercilously upon the flatlands. But more important than either of these is the role played by the tail as a stabilizer. It acts as a balancing pole when a squirrel runs from danger or walks a precarious tightrope, something a squirrel insists on doing even when an easier route is available.
During the bitter cold spell in late December I prematurely announced Stubby’s demise. The others, gray ones and red ones and chubby fox squirrels, came around for breakfast, lunch and dinner even when the thermometer read 20 below. Not Stubby. Day after day he was missing.
“Stubby didn’t make it,” I said. “He’s dead.” A logical assumption considering his lack of a blanket at night.
“You don’t know that,” said Jackie. “Why do you always look on the dark side? Why can’t you ever be optimistic about anything?”
“I’m a realist,” I told her. “No sense in kidding yourself. It’s like they say, life is hard and then you die.”
That’s the way it is, too, but anybody can be wrong once in a while. On a day that seemed downright balmy with the temperature about 5 degrees on the positive of zero, there was Stubby having lunch with the others.
“Stubby’s back,” I called to Jackie.
“See, she said. “See, I told you so”
So I was wrong for once. Big deal . That doesn’t change anything in the overall scheme. But if Stubby made it through December it’s hard to imagine that he’ll face a more difficult challenge during the coming six weeks. I was glad to see him. It was a little like having an old friend come back to the outfit from the hospital after others had told you he was dead when the litter bearers carried him away.
I wonder, though, do animals know when the weather is ready to turn unusually cold? On the relatively warm days before the arctic blast hit Muncie one fox squirrel worked feverishly on padding its nest. All day long, time after time, it would fill its mouth with leaves and take them up the tall oak that serves as home.
While this was going on its mate frolicked at the base of the tree, fleeing from some imaginary threat, dodging and weaving about, running back to the oak and using it as a springboard in changing direction. Putting on a real squirrely act in other words.
We watched as this routine continued day after day.
“That busy one,” I said, “he sure is fixing up a warm nest.”
“It’s a she,” said Jackie.
“How do you know that?”
“It’s obvious,” she said. “The one that’s playing, that’s the male.”
Well, maybe. And maybe not.


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