January 26, 2007

Unlucky With Toms

My first tom was a ginger cat named "Tiger." I know. How original.

John Crozier and I took him on a road trip across Texas to the Rio Grand Valley. He chewed and clawed my hands all the way. At a pit stop in some dusty West Texas gas station, unbeknownst to me, he escaped the vehicle.

We were hauling ass 20 miles down the road before I realized he wasn't in the car.

We hauled ass 20 miles back.

He was having a grand time clambering among the oil racks in the garage.

In Del Rio, he continued to make us sorry we'd brought him, shinnying up a tree, and of course, it took John and a ladder to get him down .

I lost him to the call of the wild before he was six months old.

Tiger was free to roam just a bit every evening after I arrived home from work, until one night he didn't come home.

I called. I called. I called again. He was nowhere to be found.

Some time passed. I saw him from a distance in the vacant lot adjacent to the railroad tracks - a strapping, handsome orange tabby - on the hunt.

He was like a tiger

Tiger, Houston, TX 1968

There were many years without a cat.

I was a stewardess, traveling most of the time. It didn't seem fair to adopt a cat, then leave it alone all the time.

When I settled more firmly on Mother Earth, I adopted 2 kittens whom I named Abelarde and Eloise. I called them "Rocky" and "Sissy."

Don't let anyone kid you.

Two are not just as easy as one. They increase the food, the mess and the mischief factor by an order of magnitude.

As a result, and because of a personal relationship that had gone sour, the management of my Astor Street apartment building asked me to give up the kittens or move.

I moved.

In six weeks I moved again - trucking both Rocky and Sissy along - to live with a man who said he did not like cats and did not want cats.

I ignored him.

Soon, it was apparent he didn't like cats and didn't want cats. He complained bitterly often chasing Rocky around the apartment with a broom.

If that wasn't bad enough, some of my neighbors also had problems with Rocky. He ate their pet dove and thought their fish tank looked verrrry interesting.

Eventually, I resolved the testosterone tension in my home.

Rocky, Madison, WI 1975

Rocky wandered into an apartment downstairs where he charmed a single woman who lived alone and needed something to love. I gave my gray tabby tom cat freely and generously, then cried so long and hard, the man who didn't like or want cats surrendered.

Sissy stayed.

It wasn't very long before I moved back to Chicago and dumped that man.

Sissy stayed 20 years.

Hamlet, Galena, IL 1996

In Galena, I rescued Hamlet, a beautiful black Persian mix. He moved in, marked the place and completely ignored the resident cats.

Boy, if ears could talk.

When Hamlet claimed my lap, those girls cocked and flattened ears, expressing alarm and disdain as clearly as two old maids sizing up a new bachelor in the 'hood.

Cocksure Hamlet could not have cared less.

One night, he became mesmerized by the screen saver on my computer monitor, hopping up on my chair and stepping on the keyboard to get a good look. The keyboard "beeped." Hamlet fled.

Later, I found three numbers on my screen:


I ain't a scaredy cat.

I neutered Hamlet only to have him move out the day I brought him home. I saw him one more time by the river as I droved into town. He was still going out at night - as a consultant.

John Wayne, Galena, IL 1996

The next year, I rescued another tom cat - a ginger tabby who showed up at my door in the most pitiful state I've ever seen. He was dirty, emaciated, dripping snot and had a crusty sore on his mouth. I fed him, crated him and hauled him to the vet.

I was willing to pay to restore his health and neuter him, but then we had to find a home.

Dr. Barbara concurred.

In several days, I dropped by the clinic to bring toys and say "hello."

He was ensconced in the princely comfort of a double isolation ward cage, doors open. He lolled on his back with all four paws dangling playfully in the air. I doubt I've seen a happier cat.

Barbara named him "John Wayne." He was so affable, she kept him as a clinic cat for a long time until he was adopted.

I swore off cats after that.

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