Friday, June 1, 2012

A visitor

The heat wave had broken and Rudy was celebrating by sunning herself in the driveway.  It was a beautiful day to lie in the sun, even for a black cat.  She stretched and considered rolling over when she heard car wheels on the gravel driveway.  Looking up she saw the largest vehicle in the world bearing down on her, bigger even than the Daddy's work truck or the tow trucks that occasionally brought trucks for the Daddy to work on.  Rudy rolled and ran for her life, stopping only when she was safely under the deck, where she collided with a napping Fuzzy.  He snarled and took a swipe at her.  "Give me a break, Fuzzy.  I almost got run over.  Look at the size of that thing - what in the world is that?"

"Travel trailer.  Nice Fleetwood from the look of it."  Fuzzy was a cat of few words.  Being a stray who had received more harsh words than cat treats in his life made Fuzzy less than cordial towards the humans and cats he encountered.  The fact that the Rudy's Daddy fed him at least once a day didn't make him any friendlier to his cats.

Rudy thanked Fuzzy and ran to tell LT of the arrival of this...travel trailer, whatever that was.  She found him on the roof of his summer house and told him of her near-death experience.  LT rolled his eyes, but when he saw the Daddy heading for the front yard, he decided to follow.  Perhaps the owner of the trailer had brought cat food, maybe by the pallet.  Trailers often delivered large amounts of things, and food was a definite possibility. 

As they rounded the side of the house the cats saw the Daddy give the new man a bear hug, complete with lots of back-slapping and heard things like "what the heck are you doing here in this monster" and a response that it was his home away from home while he traveled to Kansas to do a job. It was car and house in one, and everyone was invited in to examine it.  The new guy introduced himself specifically to the cats as David Vanderhoop of the Wampanoag in Massachusetts. Rudy formally introduced herself as Rudy Toots of Jackson Mills, New Jersey.

David opened the doors and welcomed the cats to explore. As they started looking they decided it was a really squished mobile house.  There were tables and chairs and a TV and a kitchenette, but they were so squashed together that it would be hard for humans to use them.  The same thing with the bedroom.  Not enough room to walk around.  The back bathroom looked to be completely intact and sizable.  It was while they were in that room that metal on metal noises started.  They walked back into the bedroom to find that it had grown about five feet in width.  The headboard for the bed and the shelves above it now stuck out beyond the regular walls of the trailer.

The main room was the same way.  The kitchen and sitting areas were pushed out and allowed for a comfortable path down the middle and lots of floor room.  With the extra space Rudy could see this as a nice place to live.  She wondered idly if the guy was going to live in their driveway and what the Mommy would say about it when she got home this weekend, providing of course that she was coming home. 

Finishing the tour, Rudy decided to go listen to what the Daddy and his friend were talking about.  David was explaining to the Daddy that he kept this on Noepe at his tribal grounds.  When the Daddy looked as confused as the cats felt David looked at them quizzically and asked, "You do know that I'm Native American, right?  I'm a member of the Wampanoag tribe but since I travel a lot for business I have this.  It's my vehicle and home all in one. When I'm at Noepe I have a house I share with my fiancĂ© and our cats, but this is the home away from home.  The only bad part of it is when I leave; the cats stay on the Vineyard.  That’s the other name for Noepe.  I take the ferry back to the Cape and drive to wherever my next job is.  Thanks for putting me up for a night or two, old man.  It's a long way from New England to Pottawatomie, Kansas, and I figured we could catch up while I ran some ideas by you for this project.  It's out of the usual scope of my work.”

Despite the nice weather it was starting to get a little stuffy in the trailer, so the Daddy invited David to come inside where it was comfortable.  Rudy followed, intrigued by the new man and his mention of Pottawatomie. They met Peep just inside the door.  She cornered Rudy and asked about the metal monster in the yard.  Rudy quickly explained about travel trailers and told Peep that she wanted to listen to the conversation. 

Once the men had their cups of coffee they settled down in the living room and David told the Daddy about the new job in Kansas.  His company had won the bid to build a sweat lodge at Fort Riley, primarily on the strength of David’s Native American ancestry.  The job was expected to last about two to three weeks, as the plans were already approved and the materials were there waiting for him.  It was mostly a matter of making minor adaptations based on the site as well as recommendations for maintenance of the structure.  The problem was that his work in historical conservation and the construction of historically accurate buildings didn’t normally deal with dome structures.  He had the plans, but didn’t know the math or engineering that would ensure that a dome made out of willow saplings would support the weight of the material used to seal in the smoke.  The Daddy looked thoughtful for a moment and then grabbed a pencil and some paper and the two of them began to draw pictures and discuss angles and joins and elevations. 

Rudy gestured to Peep to come into the kitchen and grabbed a mouthful of crunchy food.  “Peep, this guy is going to Pottawatomie!  Can you believe it?  How many times have we said that we want to go there?  Do you think he would take us with him?”   Rudy’s face took on a far-away look. 

Rudy had first heard of Pottawatomie when she lived at the barn with the grey horse, before she’d come to live with the Mommy and the Daddy.  The grey horse said that it was the best place on earth for cats, as there were cat holidays every month, special salons that cats go to for massages and grooming whenever they wanted and the taxes went to pay for cat beds and catnip.  Every cat had a home that was warm in winter and cool in summer and all meals were hand-cooked and available on demand.  During the cold winters at the barn Rudy had huddled inside her hay-bale den dreaming of a home in Pottawatomie.  Since she’d come to live with Peep and LT she hadn’t thought about it much.  She had the run of the house and a cat door to go in and out when she wanted and fresh food whenever she asked for it, but still…Pottawatomie.  She wasn’t sure she’d want to move there, but maybe if she asked nicely she could go for a visit. 

Shaking her head, Peep left Rudy to her thoughts.  Peep knew about Pottawatomie, but it wasn’t the story that Rudy told.  She’d seen a show on the History Channel when she was a kitten about the Potawatomi Indian tribe.  It had told of their travels and how well they had taken care of their cats.  They made sure they weren’t exhausted by the long trips and were fed even when the food was scarce.  She was pretty sure they didn’t live in a place called Pottawatomie any more, as the government had moved them to one reservation after another as the humans decided they wanted whatever land they had been living on at the time.  The cats had discussed this several times, but Peep had never been able to convince Rudy or LT of the truth of the matter. 

Outside, LT was entertaining his own dreams of Pottawatomie.  The humans there revered their cats for their wisdom and sought their advice when making major decisions in their lives, particularly when those decisions involved their cats.  All families had three cats, and no cat was ever spayed or neutered.  The cats in turn were responsible about the number of litters they had, and all kittens stayed with their parents for a year or more until suitable homes could be found.  In his youth LT had met a cat who had come from Pottawatomie.  His owner had moved to New Jersey and brought him along.  The cat missed his old home and the wisdom of the Pottawatomie cats.  He said that the older cats were treated almost like emperors by cats and humans alike.  LT wouldn’t ever want to move away from the Daddy, but even to meet cats who had lived there for their entire lives would be the dream of a lifetime.  From time to time the three cats had talked about going to Pottawatomie, but the problem had always been how to get there.  Rudy had looked it up, and it was over a thousand miles away.  LT remembered his trip four summers ago when it had taken him days to get just to Lakehurst.  No cat could walk to Pottawatomie, but it would be simplicity itself to ride there in a travel trailer….





Photo courtesy of Katy Levinson - http://www.flickr.com/photos/katylevinson/2985225049

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