Grits and Purls

Spinning yarns about the grit of life

We have a hamster problem at our house. We don’t even own a hamster.

It all started one evening after my daughter’s dance class. She wanted to go home a “different” way, and I agreed to this request. When I was a little girl I loved it when we would drive on the farm roads or country highways to go somewhere. I would stare out of the car window and daydream. Sometimes I created elaborate story plots that I never managed to write down, sometimes I just dreamed about my own life and future. So I can appreciate the request to avoid the congested roads and drive along a different, quieter route. It gives more “scope for the imagination.”

We chose Harmony Townhall road as part of our alternate route. As we passed the electric substation, my daughter asked “What’s that, mommy?”

I do not know what got into me—some might say “inspired” me if they are in a generous mood—but I replied: “That is where all the hamsters live.”


“Yes, hamsters. They turn the little wheels that provide all of the electricity to the homes and the stores for light and other things.”

“Wow, how many hamsters?”

“I don’t know exactly. A lot I guess, because we use a lot of electricity.”

“Does the farmer feed the hamsters?”

“Well, the hamsters have to be fed. All of that wheel turning requires a lot of energy on their part.”

“What do the hamsters eat?”

“Well they like dry grasses, grain and small grubs and insects. They are omnivores, so they eat plants and other small animals like insects.”

And that was the end of the conversation, and I thought no more of it.

Then, weeks later, we were out driving as a family and passed another substation.

“Daddy! Look, Daddy look! That’s where the hamsters live.”


“Yes,” I jumped in quickly, “the hamsters that turn the wheels and generate all of the electricity for us.”

“Yes, and the farmer feeds them dry grasses and insects.”

Now, every time we spot an electric substation, my daughter points and exclaims “Hamsters!”
Occasionally we will get new questions about the hamsters, as my daughter ponders life as a hamster in a substation. “Are the hamsters in the wires, too? When do the hamsters sleep? Do the hamsters get to play?”

Some day in school a hapless teacher will have the misfortune of asking, “Where does our electricity come from?” My daughter will raise her hand straight to the ceiling and proclaim, “Hamsters!” The teacher will look at her with a quizzical expression, and she will describe the entire scenario in excruciating detail. I’ll probably get a note about my daughter making up wild stories and being disruptive in class.

And Mom will be the one who serves the detention, because I believe in hamsters. I love the way my daughter has run with this. I love the hard questions she’s asking. I love the fact that she thinks we need to conserve electricity for the sake of the hamsters. One day she’ll learn the truth, as all children do about the myths we tell to them in early childhood. Hopefully, her life and imagination will be all the richer for the myths.

Meanwhile, if you hear her exclaim “Hamsters!” on the school bus, do me a favor and go along with the story.

Oh, and be sure and turn off unnecessary lights, TVs and radios. Those hamsters are working pretty hard.

© 2011 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

5 thoughts on “A Hamster-Powered Tale

  1. LOL…I’ll be sure to watch my electricity use even more diligently now that I know how it’s produced….who knew? I just hope the hamsters are receiving benefits such as pension and clean drinking water for their efforts.
    Isn’t it amazing what comes to our minds sometimes when our child/children ask such an innocent question…I think there must be something wrong with us…our imaginations are to blame, for sure, but we’re the ones who take the heat! Great post.

  2. I’m pretty sure hamsters are the only things keeping my car running.

  3. Ken says:

    It pays to be nice to the hamsters 🙂

  4. I so love this post. When I was a little girl we would drive past an old dilapidated farm house, and my dad would tell us that it was the home of The Three Bears that Goldilocks visited. I believed him for so many years. Imagination is a wonderful thing to develop.

    1. Michele says:

      Oh wow, I love the three bears story!

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