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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Thursday, July 30, 2009

What Constitutes Terrorism?

Acts of terrorism are despicable. All too often the victims are women, children, infants, the elderly. Killing them does nothing to advance a cause. Terrorism never discourages an enemy, it just makes him fight all the harder. It leads others to rally to his side.
We brand those who oppose us as terrorists, yet we all bear that title. We may not have committed the acts, but we support those who did. It has always been that way and likely always will be that way. We learn nothing from history. We like to believe we do, but it isn't true. We always find an enemy, always find someone to hate, someone to kill. If infants and children and their mothers happen to get in the way. . .well, that's not our fault is it?
Yes, it is. The Germans, Japanese, British and Americans raised terrorism to a new and horrible level during the Second World War. Death camps and the terror bombing of civilians obliterated countless millions. Nothing granted a person immunity. Not being an infant, not being a schoolgirl, not being a mother, not being a grandmother, not anything. All were fair game and all of us were guilty.
I had seen the devastation caused by air raids in London and Liverpool. I had seen villages and small towns leveled during the fighting. I had seen massive destruction in Germany, but nothing prepared me for what I saw in Bremen and Hamburg. In Bremen I stared across vast open space that had been block after block of residences. Nothing was left that stood as tall as I did. It was even worse in Hamburg. We were told more than 200,000 homes had been destroyed, more than a million left homeless by the firebombing. Incendiary bombs dropped on innocents. Not on soldiers, they were off somewhere on battlefields.
The British General called "Bomber" Harris objected when Churchill used the word terror while discussing the firebombing of Dresden. It was worth it, Harris said, if it saved the life of one British soldier. The same thing was said when an American bombing raid killed close to a hundred thousand in Tokyo and then when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They said it saved the lives of American soldiers but rarely mentioned that the Russians, the traditional enemy of the Japanese, had just entered the war in the east and were rolling back some of Japan's best troops 25 miles a day. Regardless of that, do you save the lives of soldiers by killing infants and young girls walking to school?
In a Focke-Wulf aircraft factory where not a bomb had fallen although across the river residential areas had been devastated, a former German paratrooper named Muller told me, "We hate the Americans and British for killing our women and children. We hate the Russians for destroying our army."
I sometimes think back to a day when some of us were pinned down in a ditch during a driving rain. At a thick dirt hedgerow 25 yards away, German soldiers fired at us with rifles and machine guns. The door of a farmhouse opened and three French girls came out. They were the age of most of the soldiers on both sides of the line. They went along the ditch, each of them bending down to shake the hand of every one of us, then turned and went back inside. Not a shot had been fired. As soon as the door closed behind them the Germans opened up on us again. Two groups of honorable men fighting each other, but not willing to kill civilians.
On a smaller scale, all that goes on today. They have come up with a new phrase for killing civilians: collateral damage. Sounds better than women and children, torn flesh and spilt blood. But do the air strikes save American lives or merely make more men join the fight against our soldiers?
Humans didn't learn a thing from either World War. They didn't learn a thing from Korea or Vietnam. They don't remember that two wrongs don't make a right. Our heroes are their terrorists. Their heroes are our terrorists. No matter how you do it or why you do it, killing children, babies, their mothers, is always wrong. The only difference between people today and those in the darkest periods of history is that we have more sophisticated methods of killing. The outcome of the 21st century conflicts won't mean a thing. There always will be another reason to hate and to kill and no one will be immune. The innocent will go on dying. There isn't much cause for being proud of the human species.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The News of the Day

It is reassuring to know the local upholders of the law are right on the job and with the help of the Feds took down another gambling operation. They must have run out of bingo games played by little old ladies because this raid caught some guys with tip books and other assorted items.
I've been waiting years for the day they raid the state government because those are the boys who operate the biggest gambling operation of all. It's called the state lottery and those who run it are brazen enough to post ads on TV urging people to join the fun. Or is this another case of being too big to fail?
I'm confused. According to the Pentagon they are hiring one of those private armies to guard the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. Something about this is unsettling. Does it mean the Army can no longer guard itself? Is it possible they have given up guard duty? I realize they no longer do KP or any of the other onerous tasks that used to be part of military life, but when private guards have to guard the Army. . .well, I'm confused.
The commercials paid for by insurance companies and conservative organizations warn that if the government has a health care program they will decide who gets treatments and procedures and who doesn't. Isn't that what insurance companies have been doing for decades?
I have two government-run health care setups, Medicare and the VA. Both seem to do a fine job, better than the policy I once had with an insurance company. About 24 percent of Americans don't want a change in health care. It's a safe bet that none of them are among the 50 or so million who don't have any. Nearly three-fourths of us don't believe the members of Congress have a clue as to what health care is all about. That's understandable because they have the best available and never give it a thought.
Considering that nothing ever gets done in Washington because whatever one party wants the other is against, why not expand Medicare to include every man, woman and child in the country, then figure how to pay for it? One way would be to get American troops out of all the places they shouldn't be.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Almighty Dollar

It's always about the money, isn't it? Go to college and you'll make X number of dollars more than someone with only a high school diploma. There was another one of those stories a few days ago. If you want the big bucks, get a degree in engineering. That's the hot ticket today.
I hope some people give young folks different advice. Go to college, that's fine, but pick out a field you really love and forget where it ranks on the pay scale. Work at a job that makes you eager to leap out of bed in the morning and get to work. Maybe you won't have an oversize house in a fancy suburb or drive a luxury model car or have the biggest TV screen on the block, but you will love the life you're leading.
Whenever you hear someone talk about early retirement you know they have wasted their life doing the wrong kind of work, have missed their chance at true fulfillment all for the safe and steady paycheck. They worked for money, not love, not pleasure, not fun. They missed out on passion.
While working for Pinkerton's I had three secret (undercover) assignments at places where going to work was less enjoyable than going to the dentist. At the worst of the lot a youth of nineteen spent his first day's lunch break asking about the company's retirement benefits. Hearing that, I lost my appetite.
A lot of people feel like that young fellow, of course. They are willing to spend their best years in drudgery for the sake of security that in reality doesn't exist.
My advice to any young person is enter a field you love. If it's being an engineer, fine. If' it's being a carpenter, that's fine too. Don't let money influence your decision. If you do, that may be about all you ever get out of life. Money, no matter how much of it you may acquire, can't buy happiness. Life shouldn't be about how much you have but how much you enjoy.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What's in a Name?

As a young fellow I developed a liking for odd names. I also liked sports at the high schools and Akron U and they offered a veritable treasure trove of great monikers.
The football team at the municipal college, now a state university, was a poetic pleasure. In the backfield were Al Abdullah and Frankie Zazula. On the line were Mike Fernella and Dominic Patella. The captain was Walt Kominick and playing center was a tough Irishman named Shanty Hogan. I liked Joe Zemla, Andy Maluke and Collie McCombs.
East High athletes had great names. Jim Comedy was a favorite of mine, as was Sam Serves, pronounced service. Walt Gezzar (geezer) and Charley Nurse were fine ones and so were Joe Yen, Willie Lee and Bob Royal. Gene Woodling went on to play baseball for the New York Yankees.
There were good names out at Garfield High, names like Mike Feduniak, Ernie Stadvec and Kenny Batman. It almost seemed unfair to have Batman carrying the football. At South High were Fritz Nagy, Wyndol Grey, Joe Papp and Ara Parseghian. The latter went on to coach Notre Dame football. North featured Ralph Vinceguerra, Tony Campanella and Chuck Palazzo. Central had Felix Latona and at West was Friend Van Fleet.
Latona went on to coach football at his alma mater, then died of a heart attack at practice while still a young man. Van Fleet was killed in WWII.
I have always enjoyed picking names for characters in short stories and novellas. Memory and the Akron phone book ensure a steady supply of the memorable variety, but it's best not to turn on the spell checker.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Soap Box Derby time in Akron

It's All-American Soap Box Derby time again in Akron so the downtown streets are crowded with kids and parents from all over the nation and a few foreign countries. Except for the paint jobs the cars look pretty much alike today because they are put together from kits costing hundreds of dollars and parents are allowed to help. Even girls get to compete, for crying out loud.
It was a different world back in 1938 when four seventh graders from old Kent School took part in the Akron city race. Left to right they were Lionel Burke, me, Nick Zissimopoulus and Steve Subichin. We could only spend $10 on a car, including wheels that cost six bucks. We built them from scratch and no one was supposed to help. The results were not pretty.
For the entire month of May and the first week of June the four of us were allowed to skip school all morning and walk the streets of East Akron looking for scrap lumber and metal for our cars. We also tried to get businessmen to cough up ten bucks to sponsor a car and have the company name on the side. We didn't have any luck and maybe it was because we'd walk in the door and say, "Yuh don't wanna sponsor no Soap Box Derby car, do yuh?" They didn't.
All that time Subichin talked about the beautiful blue car he'd have on race day. He came up with the money for a can of blue paint, then spilled it on his basement floor. On race day he drove a gray car.
Burke had to build his car on the front porch. When it was finished, kids from his neighborhood kept trying to steal it to run on the street. He and his older brother took turns standing guard to fight them off.
All three of those guys lost in the first round but I won a heat. We were all winners in that we got to miss half a day of school for more than a month. Not that much was demanded of us at school, but being on the streets was more fun.

Monday, July 20, 2009

How're Things in Wapakoneta?

Jackie's a little peeved with me because I can't recall watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. The truth is, she was excited about it back in 1969 while I didn't much care.
She saw something about the moon landing on TV yesterday, or maybe it was this morning, so I said, "Did they mention that Armstrong is from Wapakoneta?"
"Nobody cares that he's from Wapakoneta."
"I care. The people in Wapakoneta care."
"Why couldn't he have come from a town in Ohio with a pretty name?"
"You mean like Ashtabula or Piqua, Gallipolis or Knockemstiff?"
"Not Gallipolis, it's -"
"It's pronounced Gallup-uh-lees. Rhymes with police. The police in Gallup-uh-lees -"
"That's enough!"
"OK. Then how about Piqua?"
"No. Even the people who live in Piqua can't decide how to pronounce the name of the place."
"We saw a football game in Piqua. The chief came riding out on a horse, remember?"
"What has that got to do with landing on the moon?"
"For one thing, Piqua nearly always beats Wapakoneta in football."
"That does it. Forget I mentioned it. I give up."
Sometimes I just don't understand women.

Friday, July 17, 2009

It isn't the 1930s - Part 1

I was reading something about the early years of the Great Depression and how all the people were lazy and looking for a handout. Funny how quickly everyone got that way, but that's what the writer said. So did the man in the White House, Herbert Hoover. If ever a man was out of touch with reality it was Herb. In his memoirs he wrote that in the early 1930s "many persons left their jobs for the more profitable one of selling apples."
Yeah, sure. Doctors and lawyers and businessmen decided the big money lay in standing on street corners peddling those apples for a nickel, provided any passerby had a nickel.
And how about the breadlines. All those loafers in their suits and neckties and fedoras or flat caps who had pounded the pavement all day looking for work that wasn't there and then had the gall to line up for a bowl of watery soup and a slice of bread. That might be enough nourishment so they could pound the pavements the next day looking for work that still wasn't there. Shameless, weren't they?
Those Okies and other folks who lost their farms and their homes and their jobs and tried to make it to California where they heard there was work picking fruit, just a bunch of freeloaders, right?
Then those teachers and cops and firemen who stayed on the job even though they were paid in scrip because there was no money, were they expecting the people who still had a few bucks to share it? Ingrates, every one of them.
And how about the shiftless kids? We hunted in packs, hoping to find enough dandelion greens so everyone had some to take home at the end of the day. If the old man had managed to come up with a quarter he could buy a quart of milk and a pound of hamburger so a hearty meal could be enjoyed by all.
On other days we hiked along the railroad tracks looking for bits of coal that had fallen from steam locomotives. Some firemen, when they saw us, would throw out a shovelful of coal to share. Sometimes they'd do that when passing through a town even if no one was there at the time. Somebody would find it, they knew that. But wasn't that a crime, stealing a few lumps of coal from the railroad barons?
Well, Mr. President, they didn't call those shantytowns made of cardboard and tar paper "Hoovervilles" because of the deep affection felt for you. Remember when you said if you were elected there would be a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage? So instead the car and the garage were repossessed, the chicken didn't show up and even if it had there wasn't a pot to put it in. Some wiseguys made a joke about that pot, about not having one to do something in. Just a worthless bunch weren't they? Yep, it was all their fault.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The frightening thing about my new driver's license picture is that Jackie claims I look better than I did on the past two. The lady at the Ohio BMV told me to smile so I did but even that didn't make it a whole lot better. Granted, these kind of photos are on par with police mug shots. Nobody ever says, "Let me show you the picture on my driver's license."
On the old one I had a ghastly pallor. Now I look like I've been dunked in boiling water. If I saw someone who looked like this coming toward me in a dark alley I'd hightail it in the other direction. It does explain why little kids stare in shocked disbelief when I enter a room. On his worst days, Jack the Ripper looked better than this.
The annoying thing is that when I went out to the car and showed it to Jackie she said, "Oh, you look much better." Than what? I wondered.
My new license is good for four more years. It does not come with a guarantee that I'm good for four more years. I said, "This is my last driver's license."
Jackie said, "You don't know that."
True, I don't. Nor do I know for sure that the sun will set in the west this evening but I'd say both things are a pretty safe bet.
So here it is, one o'clock, and I haven't got a lick of work done today. After taking a look at my new photo I decided not to start any major projects and I'm going to wrap up the stuff I've been working on as quickly as possible. It's hard to believe anyone could disagree with that way of thinking. On the other hand, I've outlived three sell-by dates so I guess you never know.
If I am back at the BMV in 2013 it will be interesting to see what my new photo looks like. By then they may have a new camera. Recession or not, they're due for one. Or maybe it's just me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I Wonder

Why does Ralph, the Hallmark hamster at the left, show up on my screen saver every three or four minutes? There are 36 items available and some of them are seen only once a month, if that often. But Ralph pops up constantly with that quizzical look on his face. I know he's asking, "How's Sophie?" and I have to tell him she's sleeping or isn't feeling well or whatever the proper answer is at that moment.
Do other people talk to their screen savers? I assume they do if Ralph is one of the features on it. He's an inquisitive little guy.
I wonder how long the United States is going to continue pouring money down those rat holes of Iraq and Afghanistan? They cite improvement in Iraq. That means that ten or twenty years after all Americans have left, the Iraqis will be back to where they were before we invaded their country for spurious reasons.
I wonder what the real goal is in Afghanistan? I've heard reasons, none of which make sense. By the time its all over in those two countries, if it ever is, thousands of Americans and other NATO forces will have been killed and many times that number of Iraqis and Afghans will have died. By then enough money will have been spent to pay for health care for every American. The big question is: For what?
I wonder when politicians will quit asking generals what they want and what they need? Asking a general if he wants or needs more men and more equipment is like asking a 4-year-old if he wants or needs more toys.
I wonder if we will ever hear a politician who claims providing health care for everyone is too expensive say at the same time he is giving up his government provided free health care?
I wonder if Americans will ever switch from saying "Keep us safe" to "Keep everyone safe"?
I wonder about a lot of things.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Wanna make a MILLION BUCKS?

If I were a young man, which I'm not, and wanted to make a lot of money, something I never craved, I would take advantage of the slump in the publishing business. Isn't that what the big-buck boys like Warren Buffet and Donald Trump say to do, capitalize on the problems of someone else?
A Washington Post story highlighted the issue. For the first time more self-published books were released last year than were sent into the pipeline by the large trade publishers, whose output was cut by more than three percent. The big outfits are laying off people. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has stopped buying manuscripts. Some are turning to print-on-demand technology for certain books.
Borders, one of the two largest book retailers, is having problems but still has to acquire books for its shelves. So does Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million and all the other retailers, including Walmart and Target.
Now here's my idea. Three or four energetic young people with a little capital and loads of ambition jump into the field without having the overhead of a publisher or a retailer. They would produce a catalog on slick paper listing. . .oh, let's say the top hundred self-published books. A super salesman would call on the book buyers for all the brick and mortar stores and online sites. Small ads would run in the New York Times book section, reviews would be sent to Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and anywhere else that might lead to sales. The outfit that handles library recommendations would be high on the contact list.
Where does the money come in? The young entrepreneurs would figure that out. A percentage, an upfront sum, the opportunities are numerous.
Another possibility is a bulk publisher such as PublishAmerica that accepts almost anything will jump in and do it first. A lot of the writers would leap at the chance, but many of its books are crap while a few are as good as anything from a major publisher. Only the best of its 30,000 or so books could be used. The upfront money would come from the writers.
Will one scenario or another become a reality? Bank on it, and soon. With the publishing business in a state of flux, there's money to be made with a new approach. Somebody will make it.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Old enough to die, too young to drink

One of the local police departments proudly announced last week that its sturdy men in blue had broken up a ring of lawbreakers and hauled the culprits off to the hoosegow.
Who were these vicious people? A wild bunch of 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds who got together to party and had the gall to drink alcoholic beverages. The shame of it all.
No matter that a high percentage of men getting shot at and blown up in Afghanistan and Iraq are that age. No matter that an equally high percentage of men and women on our navel ships are that age. Trust them to do those jobs, send them off knowing that some will die, but heaven forbid that they drink a glass of beer or a shot of Jack Daniel's finest.
There is something badly flawed with the mindset of a society that allows that. If someone is too young to drink, what sort of person would say he or she is old enough to die in the service of the country? You can't have it both ways. If they are too young for one they are too young for the other.
But they aren't too young. That is the age of countless men who have fought the battles down through the ages. My friend Harry McKitrick was a sergeant, a rifle squad leader, when he was killed in Germany at the age of 19. My friend Lewis Gorkowski was an infantryman of 18 when he died in Italy. The list would fill volumes of those that age killed in every war from the American Revolution to those of today. Include those from all nations and you'd fill a library.
But many do-gooders with twisted thinking say some of those 18, 19, and 20 are immature and irresponsible. True. So are many at the ripe old age of 21, 31 or even 81.
It's a farce and anyone who says otherwise needs to give it some serious thought. Either bring everyone under the age of 21 home or welcome them back with, "Let me buy you a beer."
I was months short of my 20th birthday after having survived some of history's bloodiest battles. Had someone said, "That's nice, but you aren't old enough to take a drink," I would have handed them my rifle and said, "Here, you do it."

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Fourth of July Fireworks

Hours before first light on July Fourth it began, a massive artillery barrage that lit up the sky with brilliant flashes of gold and silver. Ships in the nearby English Channel joined in. Their shells passed overhead with a rustling sound like snakes slithering through dry leaves. The sound of death about to strike.
We watched from our staging area not far off , unable to sleep with the crash of exploding shells shaking the ground and the sky close by such a brilliant hue.
Last night we watched a fireworks display from our sixth floor balcony. It was excellent, noisy and colorful, yet puny by comparison with that earlier display. That one had been the beginning of a major offensive that failed to get off the starting line. In afternoon we were placed on alert, ready to move forward if the American front line collapsed.
It was morning before our hike began under threatening gray clouds. It was a circuitous march because flooded ground and a large morass separated us from the battle. We crossed a bridge where Eisenhower and Bradley were reported. We didn't see them. In late afternoon we stopped for a few minutes. Just in front of me was a milepost pointing the way to the town of Meautis. A short time later we halted and were told to dig in for the night.
The next morning was bright, the sky clear. A few minutes march brought us to the highway running south from Carentan. Our objective was the crossroads settlement of le Verimesmil. We entered a field to the right of the highway and I counted nineteen men from another division lying in their slit trenches, stabbed to death with their own bayonets. What had happened here? There was no way of knowing.
After hiking south a hundred yards or so the ripping sound of fast-firing German machine guns and the distinctive crack of rifle fire broke out. The men ahead had made contact, the fighting had begun. We ran forward to the sound of the guns.
By noon our company commander was dead. By evening we had lost four of our six officers and a hundred men, more than half of those in the company. For the first time we had made the acquaintance of a German SS division.
It had been one helluva Fourth of July fireworks display. The next ten days proved to be one helluva battle. Replacement poured in and died before they knew where they were, or why. Historians write about it but they don't know what it was like. It's listed as the Battle of Sainteny, the Battle of Sainteny Hill, the Battle of the Isthmus, the Battle of the Hedgerows. Take your pick, it doesn't matter.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Forbidden is a Dirty Word

This is the time of year when Americans are supposed to think about independence and freedom. A few may take time out from barbecuing and watching fireworks to actually do so. When the mood strikes I always think of one word: verboten.
As a young man I was taught that life in Nazi Germany was not exactly a stroll in the park. There were certain things a person needed to do, others that better not be done if plans had been made to go on living. Soon after my nineteenth birthday I found myself in Germany and was amazed. Not by the destruction, although there was plenty of that, but by the number of signs warning against doing just about everything except breathing. That word verboten - forbidden, not permissible - was everywhere.
A year later after being transferred to the military police I was living in a slave labor barrack complete with a high fence topped by barbed wire. The war was over, I wasn't a slave, but it was hard to turn around without seeing that word verboten. Sometimes I even heard it spoken or actually said it myself: "Das ist verboten."
When I returned to the States, life was much different. Aside from murder and armed robbery, not many things were forbidden. It was a live-and-let-live society so only now and then did you see a sign telling you something was verboten.
Over the years that has changed considerably. First you no longer could do one thing and then another thing and if they didn't come right out and say you couldn't there was always someone to warn that you shouldn't. Fortunately there still are few signs saying something is verboten and life isn't as grim as it was in Nazi Germany, but we're getting there. It would not come as a shock if someone were to tell me that even writing these words is verboten, or should be.
I have written about the few months in 1966 when I decided to get rich by peddling drugs. Legal drugs, of course, although a short time later the company's two leading products were outlawed because their main ingredient was methamphetamine. Soon after taking the job I spent a week at the firm's plant where the joys of meth were highly praised. The company made another product we were told not to push because it could harm a person's inner workings. After more than forty years the government made it official a few days ago. Acetaminophen can do bad things to the liver. No big deal for me because I have always looked upon it as verboten.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Losing a Little Friend

Our little hamster Sophie has grown old before her time and soon will no longer be with us.
A hamster, they say, will at best live a thousand days. Sophie hasn't had quite six hundred.
From the first day she came to live with us Sophie has been different. She looked over her four-story cage and decided the little house at ground level was not for her. She wanted her nest to be on the top floor and that meant sleeping on hard plastic and out in the open. I think that was because the spot she chose was right beside the tube she uses to crawl up to the top. That gave her a place to dive into if danger approached. There was nothing to fear, but she didn't know that.
When it became apparent that Sophie was adamant about where her nest was going to be, Jackie gave her a stack of shredded paper to keep the cold air from her. On cool days and nights, Sophie packs the tube with some of the paper to keep the cold away from that direction.
Jackie fixed one of the little houses up for her potty and placed it beside her nest. From the very first, a hamster will hurry to the potty when the need arises no matter how comfortable their nest might be or how busy they are doing something they enjoy.
For Sophie, a quiet little lady, contentment means having a large supply of food nearby. No matter how well-stocked the larder may be, she never has passed up an opportunity to beg for a special treat.
Sophie know that Jackie is the mommy who provides her with food, fills her water bottle and keeps her nest and potty fresh and clean. When she comes out in the evening she walks along the table and lies down facing Jackie. When Jackie gets up from her chair, Sophie keeps looking in the direction she has gone until she returns. She tolerates me because I sometimes give her a few sunflower seeds or one of the yogurt drops she loves.
Rolling around in her plastic ball has become too much for Sophie so Jackie gets down on hands and knees and lets her walk around on her own. Jackie's hand always hovers close by so Sophie doesn't get herself in trouble. Hamsters have a tendancy to do that whenever possible. Sophie also likes to watch TV and when there's a lot of action she moves closer for a better view.
Like all of her kind, Sophie keeps very clean. She licks her front paws and washes very thoroughly many times during an evening. Washing also is something little creatures do when in danger. By doing something routine they hope that by the time they have finished the danger will no longer be there. It's a vain hope, of course, but the only way a hamster, mouse or rabbit has to ease its fear even if just for a moment.
Now little Sophie has grown weak. Her hind legs no longer work the way they should. She has trouble climbing up to her nest. I believe she thinks it is only something temporary and her mommy will soon make everything better.
People who don't know about them tend to think little creatures don't amount to much and don't really matter. The truth is each of them is different and has its own personality just as humans do. To them their life is just as important as any human believes his or hers is important. They share the same emotions and have the same need and desire for the basic comforts.
I have never been sure if little animals know about death or think that life will always go on just as it has. They know fear, of course, but do they know the things they fear can mean more than just pain? I always hope they don't know life is going to come to an end some day. I hope Sophie doesn't know that. I hope she believes her little world will always be the same.
Humans know better, though, and that can hardly be considered a good thing. We watch Sophie, care for her as best we can, and know we will miss her when she no longer is here just as we miss all the little friends who were with us before her. We know the time to say goodbye is close at hand, and knowing it makes the time we have with her more precious.