15 July 2009

The softer side of Sam's war

The book, Stories from Sam, is now available but I had to cut one of Sam Barter's WWI stories written in 1918 so I'll add it here because it's cute.

Chappie, my pet ferret

On July 2, I was coming toward the recreation room and saw three or four French kids and a half dozen of our soldier boys peering into a deep safety trench and throwing sticks. As I drew near, one of the boys called "Come here Barter. You're a hunter and you can name this animal." I looked inside and saw a small animal about as large as a big red squirrel... So I jumped in... [and] saw at once that it was badly hurt so I took it by the back of the neck... it was a baby ferret and one of the sticks had injured its back so that it could not draw its hind feet back to step [so] it could not walk.

I gave it condensed milk and bread to eat and put it in a box that night. It cried and I got up and took it into my bed and it was quiet. I named him "Chappie" and it grew tame until it would come to my call, follow me anywhere and when I moved to St-Nicholas from Ecossiers, it stayed in my coat. No matter where I lay my coat, that was home for Chappie... He would play like a kitten and grew like a weed...

In Arras, I slept with Thomas Robinson and he had a little bitch dog, Ginger. But Chappie could stay in my kit and be in safety... When I'd come and prepare for bed, Chappie would jump and play and let out little squeals and was crazy with joy as the most playful kitten... He got so he would play with Ginger and ran around freely... On July 21... I fed the dear little chap and went to work.

When I came back I called but no Chappie answered... then I found him in the cook's bed and there lay dear little Chappie dead, blood oozing from his nose... A great pang of sorrow went through me for I felt I had not guarded him well and he had such confidence in me... I did not blame Ginger; she was only a dog.

Buried Chappie in a rat hole as I felt he would be safe there for ferrets are a terror to rats.