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Stupendous Cool Cats

Story ID:3757
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Diary/Journal Entry
Location:Broken Tree Ranch Mt. USA
Year:1986
Person:General Sterling Price
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Stupendous Cool Cats

Stupendous Cool Cats
by Kathe Campbell

While I fold laundry, his ringed tail flicks as he leans in hard, encircling and caressing my ankles He curls up close, watching me sleep in our big bed until I wake, tears blanketing my eyes. "Poor kitty, my poor sweet old guy," I sigh.

One of the poor old kitty's nine lives began years ago when some heartless person tossed the yellow cat out into our forest, far from his city home. I've seen dozens of the frightened things, mostly kittens standing bewildered at the edge of the dusty road, defenseless dump-offs. They rush into the woods to hide, innocent victims of someone who dislikes cats. My neighbors and I had spotted him often throughout his harrowing journey, but now suspicion ruled and no amount of enticing could corral him.

The kitty may well have been a sweet guy, good with kids, used his kitty box faithfully, and purred sweet love songs on every lap. But the wilderness echoed unfamiliar sounds, thrusting cat at tree trunks, clambering high until only the sound of the babbling creek. Sprawling over a large limb or hunkered in the crotch of a fir, he waited for dawn's pink glow and safe flight. But safe flights were rare in this unfamiliar neighborhood. Coyotes, badgers, foxes, weasels, even owls and raptors had him on their short list.

Winter came blustery and white, and the cat was eternally deep down frozen and shivery. Gimping along on cracked and sore paws, he made his way through thick underbrush where the ground laid bare. Sometimes gigantic fir boughs loosed their great snow loads in the wind, plunging heavily atop cat's hiding places, burying him alive.

His coat had lost it's luster and thick mantle, his only belongings tangled masses of rangy clothing protruding down his back. Tree saps fused his old carcass together into stiff, hairy spurs, pulling and stretching him with every move. Listening to his mewl and purr must have been his only comfort, but the freeze cruelly shattered his song.

After months of wandering and rustling up his own pitiful grub, houses loomed high in our mountain valley. Cat had made it through the winter on his own - scrawny, but intact, seemingly fair and less despondent about life. Dump-offs usually pose an edgy, woeful kitty presence at places they encounter, and this kitty was no exception.

Still guarded and looking the worse for wear, the sorry old cat moved from one barn to another. Despite unwanted intrusions into the local feline establishment, his grit became the subject of rural gossip. A kitty should be fit for productive hunting, so folks began tossing scraps from behind small cracks in their doorways. Cat gobbled up anything, competing with dogs and raccoons, for his mousing days had become few and he was near starved.

Like clockwork, I retreated from my log dwelling to feed my donkey herd every morning. The cat watched, clearly in need of a kind word, but leery of the dog that romped at my side. I bent low for him to eat from my hand, but he was terrified to venture close. Quieting his fears, I left an old woolen army blanket and daily bowl of chow and milk atop the tallest bale in my hay-room. Cat seemed almost content in the place if his matted coat hadn't finally overwhelmed his tongue, even in the warmth of summer.

If Mother Nature was an actress, autumn would be her finest performance. But orangey leaves and cooler nights warned cat he wouldn't survive another winter as he peeked over the lower bales with his hackles up, just in case. Murmuring soft kitty sounds at daily chores, I reached up to touch his head just once before he panicked and fled. Then one afternoon, with all the courage he could muster, he thrust out his claws and climbed down into my lap to let me stroke his chin. Pent-up emotions finally gave way, releasing his burden and my tears. "It's okay fella, it's okay. I've got you now. I won't rush you, take your time, dear old thing," as my crippled fingers nuzzled cat's neck. He was home.

I called him General Sterling Price, after the big yellow cat in the movie, "True Grit," and he was welcomed by the Keeshond he had feared. My dog followed the General around for days, watching him roll in delicious green grass, obviously fascinated by his gamy and bizarre self.

Now, after the loss of many of his nine lives, I wonder how old the General is? Surely twenty-some, looking grizzled after losing an eye and various teeth. Winter finds him indoors mostly, lest an occasional stroll into the barn where the mice have his number. But mostly the old boy curls up atop the cozy black bear in front of the fireplace. After a couple rugged years he's old and thin and tired again, ofttimes carried to his bowl of milk and special supper that puts a dent in my monthly check. I don't complain, for I too have been in the fight.

So we happily endure our antiquity together while the General longingly eyes the fur-covered cedar chest at the foot of our bed. After awhile he works his way up, where at long last a wee purr thrums it's sweet song in my ear. Where I remind him...."We're not so peculiar, my sweet General. You have one eye and only a few teeth; I have one arm and a few teeth. We're survivors, and that makes us a pair of stupendous cool cats."

************
Gen. Sterling Price
1986 - 2008