Tuesday, February 14, 1961 – Rocky Mountain News “… End for Velox,”
___ By Jack Foster, Editor of the Rocky Mountain News
(A monologue with Velox, blind polar bear which is slowly dying of old age at the Denver Zoo.)
I know how it is, old gal. Back’s weary, joints ache, too tired to eat any more. Just want to lie down and sleep. Doze softly in the sun…a long, long time.
I’ve seen that look around the eyes before… of old animals and old men. Though lost to sight, they look a far, far way. Far from the crippling aches of age. Far from the bars of the cage of life. Deep into the gray distance where old men and old animals meet in common quietude.
I saw the look one winter’s morning in the eyes of an old Airedale. As the film closed in, they saw for the last time the precious corners of the neighborhood where he stopped on his morning rounds. They saw the sun-flaked mountains which once his strong, young legs had conquered. And he stretched out in the inevitable meeting place which you today are sensing.
It broke my heart. It breaks my heart this morning to see you bent under the burden of life which once was fresh and sweet.
But I should feel much better if I only knew. If I only knew, old gal, that you realize the joy you have given for 20 years to Denver’s children. And to men with the hearts of children who are growing old themselves.
Sam had his streets and mountains. But you have had a fairer picture. An endless panoply of children’s faces which you have made to shine. And I pray that in these latter hours you know that this is true. For, if you do, I shall feel much less the sense of guilt I’ve always had because of the cage’s bars.
I know that bars are never sweet. I know the misery of only walking back and forth, back and forth. Never able to turn around because as a cub you were forced to live in a narrow circus cage. More desirable by far would be the freedom of ice floes, of the arctic storms, of the winter’s midnight sun. I know all this in sorrow.
But, after all, old gal, none of us can fully shape the pattern of his life. And none of us, as years restrain our efforts, is completely free. What we come to prize most, as wiser we become, is the inner satisfaction that we have been useful to someone. That someone needed us. That someone was happier because he passed our presence.
And so, old gal, bear gallantly these aches and ills, for there are thousands of children who are bearing them with you.
Bend quietly under the burden of years, for there are other old animals and old men whose backs are likewise bent.
Gaze peacefully toward the final meeting place, for you will not be forgotten.
And, when the burden is ended, I hope they will bury you on the hill where other mirth-giving animals are covered. And on a headstone I hope will be written this paraphrase of the inscription above a grave in an early Colorado mining camp.
VELOX. She did what she could…
Can anything better be said of any old animal or any old man?
Being a man, I would never claim to understand the things a woman might have to go through in life. But in my short time on this earth, I have encountered a few ideas.
First, I guess, is that it is hard.
“Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men,” according to Joseph Conrad. That, coming from a man, of course.
Again, I won't speak for them, but that could be true.
Second, never patronize.
Third, you'll never figure it out.
But being human, I want tell a story about them anyway. Maybe it is one woman. Perhaps it is several. Conceivably, it is every one I have ever known.
She didn't know what to think of me because I was afraid of her. I liked that she tried to keep me honest ... had trouble with that, though.
I tell stories. Not all of them are true.
You have to know how much I care, though. How hard I try to do the right thing. Even, how there is a little bit of truth in every story?
People always try to keep us separate. Men, Women, from an early age ... to the grave.
I remember in kindergarten, at nap time, after just a few days, the teacher wouldn't let me try to sleep on the same mat as one of the girls. "Quit messing around, Robby, or you will go out into the hall."
Later, I marveled about all the things they knew. Things I didn't understand.
They were just same, yet different.
By the time sixth or seventh grade rolls around, the difficulty is evident. We are speaking a different language.
"For most women, the language of conversation is primarily a language of rapport: a way of establishing connections and negotiating relationships ... For most men, talk is primarily a means to preserve independence and negotiate and maintain status in a hierarchical social order," writes sociolinguistic professor Deborah Tannen of Georgetown University.Men often dominate conversations in public, even where they know less about a subject than a female interlocutor, because they use conversation to establish status. Women, on the other hand, often listen more because they have been socialized to be accommodating. These patterns, which begin in childhood, mean, for instance, that men are far more likely to interrupt another speaker, and not to take it personally when they are themselves interrupted, while women are more likely to finish each other's sentences, according to Tannen's book, "You Just Don't Understand."
I am trying create connections. She doesn't think we live in the same world.
In high school, it is like many of the songs lay out.
We struggle to figure out who we are as people.
There is this study and that study. Women talk more than men. No they don't.
"Louann Brizendine, founder and director of the University of California, San Francisco's Women's Mood and Hormone Clinic, published The Female Brain. One of the most cited gems within its pages was a claim that women are chatterboxes, speaking an average of 20,000 words per day, nearly three times the mere 7,000 spoken by men," reported Scientific American in 2007.
"Seemed to make sense, given the rep of women as purveyors of gossip, not to mention creatures incapable of keeping their traps shut. Right? Wrong."
James Pennebaker, chair of the University of Texas at Austin's psychology department, says he was skeptical of the lopsided stats when he saw them quoted in an interview with Brizendine in The New York Times Magazine.
Pennebaker developed a device called EAR (for electronically activated recorder) which is a digital recorder that subjects can store in a sheath similar to a case for glasses in their purses or pockets. The EAR samples 30 seconds of ambient noise (including conversations) every 12.5 minutes; carriers cannot tamper with recordings.
"Researchers used this device to collect data on the chatter patterns of 396 university students (210 women and 186 men) at colleges in Texas, Arizona and Mexico. They estimated the total number of words that each volunteer spoke daily, assuming they were awake 17 of 24 hours. In most of the samples, the average number of words spoken by men and women were about the same. Men showed a slightly wider variability in words uttered, and boasted both the most economical speaker (roughly 500 words daily) and the most verbose yapping at a whopping 47,000 words a day," according to Scientific American.
But in the end, the magazine reported, the sexes came out just about even in the daily averages: women at 16,215 words and men at 15,669. In terms of statistical significance, Pennebaker says, "It's not even remotely close to different."
But it is not just the talking. Is 'us' against 'them?' Are country songs correct?
Was it the "Wild Side of Life," as Hank Thompson noted. Or was Kitty Wells right about "It wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels?"
I can feel betrayed, too.
In your 20s and 30s, it seems you figured out enough to stay in the same room, for limited periods of time anyway.
I guess, as we get older, the real trouble starts.
In the language of the newspapers business, a Velox is a graphic image, reproduced on light-sensitive paper, that can then be photographically copied, scaled and manipulated before being transferred to a printing plate. It is also called a Photomechanical Transfer or PMT. They are no longer widely used as they have been replaced by other methods and technology.
Is that why they call it a mid-life crisis? Research does not support a normative midlife crisis. It is more accurate to refer to a transition that often involves a midlife review, which may be a psychological turning point. We are all headed one way or another, I guess.
"Narrative psychology describes identity development as a continuous process of constructing a life story," says "Human Development: Ninth Edition, by Paplia Olds Felman."
That is what I have been trying to tell you.
I tell stories. Most of them are true. But in my short time on this earth, I have encountered a few ideas about women.
None of us are completely free. We prize the idea we were useful to someone. We do what we can.