Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Oregon Trail Festival and Barbeque

Saturday morning dawned clear and warm.  David declared it to be chore day and took off in the rental car to do his laundry and pick up a few more groceries.  LT and Rudy looked at each other.  Cats don't do chores.  Well, at least they don't do them on demand.  At home in New Jersey they did patrol the yard for wasps and bees, but that was because they worried that the Mommy would get stung and swell up like she did the last time.  Anyway, there weren't any chores here they could do.  The RV was not infested with mice to catch, nor were there critters that threatened David.  So, the two decided to take the morning off. 

It was already getting hot by 10 am, and according to David this would be the hottest day since they had arrived.  It didn't bother LT as much as Rudy.  Being a long-haired mostly black cat was pure torture in the summer.  The color of her fur absorbed all the sun, and the length of it trapped the heat.  Whenever possible, Rudy preferred to lounge in the shade in hot weather.  She hoped that wherever the special viewing spot for the parade was that it was shady.  Otherwise, she likely wouldn't stay there long.  She could just come back and enjoy the lovely air conditioning in the RV.  Admittedly, David didn't keep the temperature as low when he wasn't going to be there, but it was still quite comfortable for the cats. 

By this time David had determined that LT and Rudy were responsible cats who didn't need to be locked in the RV when he was gone.  He'd also found that there were no aggressive dogs or any coyotes anywhere nearby.  If a dog did happen to come near them, the cats could scoot into the RV through the cat door, which incidentally was too small for any dog except perhaps toy varieties or a chihuahua.  They'd be safe in there, especially since they seemed to have mastered the door locking mechanism better than he had. 

Cars were driving by the campground that *had* to be for the car show.  Old cars, really old cars and cars with interesting paint jobs and really loud exhaust systems.  Some of those had numbers and company names painted on them.  The cats guessed that these were cars that raced on local tracks.  Rudy had wandered out to the road as she wanted to view the really old cars and was scared out of her wits by a cavalcade of monster trucks.  Their wheels were larger than David's rental car, and the truck part sat on top of those wheels, not between them like they are supposed to be.  And they were LOUD.  She tore back to the RV, passed LT and scooted right inside, slapping the lock shut behind her.  It took LT ten minutes to convince her that they were just passing by and had not driven all the way to Westmoreland specifically to run over Rudy. 

Things quieted down a bit after that, and if they looked down Main Street they could see the old and odd cars parked up and down the sides of the street.  Now, Rudy had heard that there was to be a quilt show at the Methodist Church.  She considered herself rather a quilt expert, since the Mommy had won a lovely hand-made quilt that Rudy loved to sleep on and she had kept the yarn lady company while she was working on the quilt she had made a year and a half ago.  She checked out the location on David's map and decided to see if they'd let her in.  Rudy got to the church, and since there were few humans outside she was able to get into the church hall easily.  Once inside she tried to stay away from big feet tromping.  She sat under tables and viewed as much as she could from that vantage level.  The quilts there were quite extraordinary.  Some were done by groups as gifts for Wounded Warriors or survivors of soldiers who were lost in combat.  Rudy thought those were very nice gestures.  Something like a quilt that takes a long time to make would truly show the soldiers or their families that people didn't forget them and cared about how they were doing.  Rudy crept out and stood admiring one of these when a photographer came up and snapped a picture of her next to the quilt.  How nice, Rudy thought.  Maybe I'll be in the newspaper and David can send that picture home. 

After admiring all the quilts Rudy decided to check out the car show.  After all, the Daddy was a diesel mechanic, so she should know a lot about cars and trucks, right?  Well, Rudy knew less than she thought she did.  There were cars from over a hundred years ago and newer cars that had been modified for racing.  She didn't even recognize most of the cars.  She turned around and decided to head back, since she was getting thirsty and hot.  She passed a vacant lot and heard some growling.  Rudy picked up her pace.  She didn't want to tussle with a pack of Kansas dogs.  They might be fierce around here.

Rudy burst through the cat door, surprising LT.  “Dogs - chasing me,” she panted.  She flopped down on the floor and caught her breath.  “I think I’ll just…take a nice rest…until it’s time for the parade.”  When her breathed slowed, had a nice long drink of water and settled down on the bed for a nice snooze.

By the time for the parade, Rudy and LT were ready to get out of the RV.  David had come home, put away his laundry and then proceeded to clean the RV, singing the whole while.  He didn’t have a bad voice, it was mostly that it was a small place, and there was nowhere the cats could go for some peace and quiet.  He swept, dusted, washed the windows, changed his linens and fluffed pillows.  Such industry – it made them feel like they were shirking.  At home when the humans got like that Rudy and LT would just go outside, where they could avoid all that industrious…work. 

The temperature was over 90 ° and there was not a cloud in the sky.  The heat hit the two cats like a wall.  LT shook his head.  If there wasn’t a promise to meet the local cats, he’d head right back inside, singing or not.  The cats trotted down the street to Sheba’s house where they found her waiting in the shade of a tree in front of the house.  “Good to see you.  I was afraid this prairie heat would keep you Easterners home.  Let’s go!”

Sheba took off down the street with LT and Rudy trailing behind her.  For a large cat, she moved pretty quickly.  They headed up Main Street, took a right on Walnut and then a left onto State Street where the parade was to be held.  Sheba trotted towards a house with a raised porch.  Below the porch was a lattice with large openings.  Sheba squeezed into one of the openings and gestured for LT and Rudy to follow.  As their eyes adjusted to the heavy shade they saw at least a dozen cats. 

Sheba introduced Rudy and LT to the assembled Westmoreland cats, who welcomed them with good humor.  It almost seemed that these cats were talking down to Rudy and LT, and they didn’t quite understand it.  When the cats talked to each other they spoke normally, but when speaking to the newcomers they spoke slowly, a little louder and mostly used small words.  Rudy shot a questioning look at LT, who just shrugged.  Maybe these cats thought they were foreigners who didn’t speak much English.  Who knows?

Sheba explained that this was a parade that anyone could march in.  Folks could make a float, walk with a banner, whatever they wanted.  Sometimes there were more people marching in the parade than watching it.  It was called the Oregon Trail Festival, so some folks made mobile historical displays, but others just marched because they wanted to.  As they waited, they could hear music up at the other end of the street, snatches of a marching band practicing songs, the blare of a sound system being tested and a burst of feedback from an electric guitar. 

Critter, a spectacular tortoise shell cat, pointed out a bucket of water to Rudy and LT.  “Help yourselves.  It gets hot after a while under here, and you’ll need it.  The rain water drains down into this, and since it’s shady it doesn’t dry out as quickly as it would in the sun.”  LT thanked Critter and went over to have a sip. 

Sheba called him back, saying that the parade was starting.  For the next forty minutes the cats watched as a variety of humans in vehicles and on foot passed by.  Trucks filled with produce and historical displays alternated with bands or cars with sound systems.  One church choir even marched and sang.  There was a Conestoga wagon pulled by two horses.  Rudy overheard the horses thanking the spectators for their kind appreciation. 

About three quarters of the way through the parade Rudy decided she needed some water and went over to the bucket.  As she drank she heard one of the cats talking to another about her and LT.  “Sheba thinks these two cats are, well, a little bit off.  Maybe like delusional or something.  They think that the cats here go to salons to get their fur done and live in their own private houses with cooks to prepare meals just for them.”

The other cat replied, “Oh, I don’t know.  They seem nice enough to me.  Who knows, maybe someone told them some sort of a tale, and they’re hear from some big eastern newspaper to research the story.”

The first cat snorted.  “Then you’re as barmy as they are.  Cats don’t write for newspapers.  Sheba just said to humor them.  They’re visitors and it doesn’t cost us anything to be nice to them.  Who knows?  Maybe one of us will get East someday.  I’d sure like it a heck of a lot more than Kansas.  There’s fields of catnip out there, just waiting for cats to come along and roll in it, and so many mice you can’t go ten feet without scaring one up in the grass.” 

Rudy shook her head and went back to LT.  “Remind me to tell you about a conversation I just overheard when we get back.  You’re not going to believe this.”  They watched the rest of the parade, and then Sheba announced they were going to the barbeque.

“They’re real nice at this barbeque.  The cooks always pretend that some of the meat is too burned to sell, and they dump it around back for us cats.  There are some folks here who really do care a lot for their cats, you know.  Maybe they don’t build houses for them, but they do look out for us.”  Sheba looked pointedly at LT and Rudy. 

LT smiled his most gracious smile and said they would love to attend the barbeque, and could he be her escort?  Sheba brightened and the two of them trotted off down State Street with Rudy trailing, rolling her eyes.  LT could be such a ladies’ man.  

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