"What a miserable, worthless, troublesome, good-for-nothing, no good, mangy, measly, arrogant, poor excuse for a furry critter you are," the Grump complains to Mint.
Dear Tryskuit and Nabysko:
You will recognize this grump as your own, dear, Grampa Fire Kracker, Sr. - my Dad.
During the years I spent growing up in whatever place he happened to make home at the time, I never knew him to have anything to do with a cat. In fact, he often grumbled and complained about my legendary dog, Harry - just as he grumbled and complained about almost everything.
Yet, whenever Harry landed in the pound, Dad always bailed him out. As the years went by, I could not help but notice how, whenever Dad would be grumbling about Harry, about what a worthless, miserable mutt he was, he would be fondly scratching that miserable, worthless, mutt behind the ears. As was her way, Mom would often kick Harry out of the house. Dad would then divert her attention, and sneak Harry right back in.
Your grandfather, you see, is a grump of the kindly, soft-hearted kind.
When your Aunt Sal Tien fell on hard times, she found herself with four kids and four cats and no more husband to help care for any of them, so she, kids and cats all moved in with your grandparents for a spell. Your grandpa grumbled mightily about those miserable cats - yet, if you were to peek around the corner when he didn't know you were looking, this is the kind of scene you were likely to see.
This is Mint. Mint is taking great comfort from The Grump. Although The Grump would grumpily deny it, The Grump is taking great comfort from Mint.
In later years, a neighbor would run over Mint, stuff his body into a garbage can and then cover him with grass clippings. Fortunately, another neighbor witnessed this cowardly treachery and told the family, so they did not have to worry for weeks and months, wondering what happened to Mint.
They gave Mint and proper and respectful funeral and then put him away for good.
I don't recall exactly when I wrote the above story, but it is in the form that I originally catalogued the stories of Cats Met Along the Way after I photographed them for Tryskuit and Nabysko - as little missives to my two daughters.
During the final fourteen months of my father's life, I tried to call him everyday. One day, as I entered the office that Jim so generously shares with me, intending to call, I was surprised to see splots of water everywhere.
There was water on the floor, water on my work table, water on my desk, water ON MY COMPUTER, MY MONITOR AND MY HARD DRIVES!!!!
Then I spotted Jim, sitting in the gap between my desk and the 90 gallon oscar tank, looking at me. His eyes were wide and he looked perplexed. His fur was drenched. So I looked into the oscar tank. There, in the gravel on the bottom, was the lid to the tank.
So I called Dad and told him what had just happened. In his misery, he laughed. He just kept laughing. From then on, whenever I called him, he asked about Jim, "The Skin Diving Cat." He developed a great fondness for this little mischief-maker, so I made him a print of the above image.
I then traveled down to Salt Lake City to visit him in the Highland Care Center - the place where he would die. There, hanging on the wall over him, right next to a picture of my late mother, was Jim and the fish.
One year ago this month, some young soldiers stood guard over my Dad in silence as pure as any that I have heard. Three volleys were then fired for him, a bugler played Taps and then he was put away for good.
Dad was not only Fire Kracker, Sr., but also Rex J. Hess, Sr., World War II veteran of the air war against Germany in Europe and North Africa. Many times, he flew into flak and bullets and dropped bombs and, as a child, many were his medals that I snuck out of his drawer to play with and then lost.
My eyes water even as I type this, and so I will stop.