Thursday, June 7, 2012

Meeting Sheba

Rudy woke to the sound of someone washing dishes in the morning.  That wasn’t unusual, except instead of waking in her house in New Jersey, she was in a large RV in Kansas.  As she stretched and composed her body for the day she remembered the conversation with that darned dawg who said there were no folks that cared specially for their cats here in Pottawatomie, which wasn’t even Pottawatomie at all.  Oh bother.  Maybe just a few more hours sleep and it would all go away or look better when the sun was out brighter.  She put a paw over her eyes, but David came in and lifted the paw to get her attention. 

“Rudy, I’m heading down to Ft. Riley to start the work on the sweat lodge.  They’d sent me plans, but they used software I couldn’t access.  I read the specs, and they seem okay.  If everything came through we should start to lay out the willow trunks today and arrange them for lashing.  On the other hand if everything has gone pear shaped I may be home by lunchtime and meaner than a hungry grizzly bear.  If that’s the case, you and LT should give me some space to grump out my grues and then we’ll have a fun afternoon.  Can’t have fun until I get rid of the grues. 

Rudy followed him as he walked to the door.  “If I get home at a reasonable hour we’ll head over to Lake Pottawatomie 1 or 2 and get some fishing in.  They’ve got some awesome fishing there, and far as I can tell, I don’t need any special permit.  The only thing they worry about is moving invasive mussels and some weird fish from one place to another, so let’s make sure we don’t do that.  We will however move some fish from the lake into our stomachs with some excess for the freezer so we can have a chowder on a stormy day.  I have all the fixings for a good New England fish chowder.  Tell LT that I’ll see him as soon as I get back, and warn him about the grues.”  He waved from the doorway and called, “See you later, alligator!” 
Rudy wandered back to bed, wondering if he had always been such a morning person.  She certainly wasn’t.  Peep was, but in an unobtrusive way.  LT was a stealth morning person.  He went from outdoors to the top of the kitchen table without any intervening steps that the other cats had observed.  In Rudy’s case she might not have been paying enough attention, in fact those eyes may been closed, so how could she have noticed.  Whatever.  She dozed off again. 

The next thing to waken Rudy was a low knock on the door.  Not a soft knock, a low one.  It was like someone was knocking at the cat door.  Rudy called out asking who was there. “Sheba,” the visitor replied.  “Bucky Boy said you all were asking after our special cats so I thought I’d come give you the poop, the scoop, but not a scoop of poop.  I’ve been here for fifteen years, and that should count for something, shouldn’t it?”

Rudy worked at the cat door for a moment and found that it had never been relocked, and so just pushed it open for their visitor.  Sheba squeezed through and entered the RV, all 20 some pounds of her.  She was a BIG cat.  She cocked her head and asked, “Well, aren’t you going introduce yourself?” 

Rudy hastily introduced herself and called to LT, who had slept in.  He came out of the bedroom yawning and stretching.  He gaped owlishly at the newcomer.  He wasn't a small cat, but the cat facing him was...ginormous.  He introduced himself and apologized, saying he had overslept. 

"Nonsense, honey," Sheba said.  "No woman of breeding would call at such an early hour, but no one ever accused me of having class".   She posed to allow them to appreciate her appearance.  LT tried to say something, but couldn't figure out what it should be, so he sat down with a thud.

Sheba laughed at her own audacity and took pity on the two.  “Seriously, Bucky said you were looking for some cats, and since I’m the closest to this park I thought I’d stop in and try to help you. Now who exactly are you looking for?”

Rudy recovered first.  She explained why they had come to Pottawatomie and they were hoping to find confirmation of the stories they had heard as kittens about how wonderfully cats were treated here.  As they spoke, a number of expressions fleetingly crossed Sheba’s face.  She thought for a moment and said, “Well, most of this town isn’t Pottawatomie, you know.  Everything east of here, the way you would have come in on Rt. 99 isn’t Pottawatomie.  This town of Westmoreland is mostly part of Rock Creek and Union Townships.  Kansas has an odd way of dividing things up.  And since I never get out of town, I really can’t speak to how things are done in Pottawatomie.  There are only a couple of houses close to here if you’re heading west on Main St. where we are, and none of them have cats. This isn’t New Jersey, you know.  Houses are spread pretty far apart around here unless you’re in the middle of a little town like this.”

Rudy and LT looked crestfallen.  They were in Pottawatomie – shouldn’t they be able to find the cats they were looking for?  LT asked how difficult it would be for them to walk to some of the nearer properties in Pottawatomie.  Again his hopes were dashed.  Sheba said that in this heat that a cat might die of thirst by the time he got to the nearest farmhouse out of town.  Considering how hot it had been when they arrived last night, Rudy and LT could believe that. 

Rudy tried to make the best of an awkward situation by asking Sheba about the local cats.  Since they were going to be here for a while, they’d like to get to know some of them. 

Sheba brightened at this request.  “Well, you know this Saturday is the Oregon Trail Festival here in town.  There will be parades, a barbeque, classic car show, clog dancers and even a concert in the evening.  Some of the cats are getting together to watch the parade – we have a special spot where the humans wouldn’t bother us, you know.  And the concert will be a humdinger.  Rusty Rierson is something else, what a handsome young man.  He just signed a recording contract with those folks down in Nashville.  People around here love his music!  You’re welcome to come by my place around 3:30 and we’ll walk over together.  I’ll introduce you to everyone then.  How does that sound?” 

That sounded marvelous to Rudy and LT.  They promised that they would come to Sheba’s house on Saturday, providing David didn’t take them somewhere else.  Hopefully he’d want to visit the Festival himself and it wouldn’t be a problem.  Sheba said that she’d better get back home, as the lady she lived with got nervous if she was out too long in the heat of the day.  She trotted off, tail waving and called “toodeloo” from the street. 

LT climbed up onto the dining table and looked out the westward facing window.  Sheba was right.  He didn’t see any other houses.  Where they lived in New Jersey, you could throw a rock in most directions and hit a house (if you had a good throwing arm, that is).  As they’d driven in from the interstate he and Rudy had noticed houses were few and far between.  There very well could be folks in Pottawatomie who spoiled and cherished their cats, but it wasn’t going to be easy to find them. 

Photo courtesy of Dirk Huijssoon -

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