Airplane Cat sits atop dispatch cabinet in Craig Air, a Bethel, Alaska, air taxi. (To see larger image, click on photograph.)
According to the company historian, when a scruffy looking white cat showed up at Craig Air, a bush flying service based in Bethel, Alaska, the owner was unhappy. He had a hard heart towards felines and did not want this one hanging around to bother his pilots, mechanics, customers and certainly not himself.*
Yet, the cat was friendly, so he picked it up, gripped it in one hand, drew it back behind his head and then flung it as hard and far as he could. Twisting and jerking, the cat flew through the air in a great arch, came down across the road, jumped up, and scurried off into the bushes.
“And don’t come back, you g... d... f… miserable son-of-a-b-!” the owner, in a startling case of species misidentification, shouted after the cat as it fled.
But the cat did come back, in the night, after everyone had left for the day. He leaped up through the open door into the cockpit of a Cessna undergoing maintenance in the hangar. There, the cat squatted and pooped on the seat.
Cat studies dog lying on Craig Air floor.
Come morning, the owner peered inside the plane and saw the fresh pile of poop. He then spotted the cat standing nearby, staring at him in bullheaded defiance. With a hard gleam in his eye, the man scrutinized the cat critically for several long moments. Not withstanding the danger of the moment, the cat did not flinch, but just stared back; the gleam that was hard slowly transformed into a bemused twinkle.
Airplane Cat groom in front of aviation map and manuals.
“Hell. If you’ve got that kind of attitude, I guess you can stay,” the flight service owner chuckled. And so the cat stayed, and was still there when I arrived many years later. When I asked its name, the young Brazilian immigrant who served as flight service clerk, dispatcher, coffee-maker and historian, looked puzzled, as if the concept of a cat having a name was brand new to him.
Whoa! Historian scratches Airport Cat. It feels good.
“He doesn’t really have a name,” he finally answered, “we just call him ‘Airport Cat,’ or “Airplane Cat,’ or ‘Hangar Cat,’ or mostly, just ‘Cat.’” The historian then reached over to stroke the cat’s belly. By all appearances, Airport Cat found the experience to be immediately ecstatic.
So good to be a cat!
My, oh my, oh my!
Hey! It's been good, but maybe that's enough...
Overpet! Overpet! Attack! Attack!
Airplane Cat claws the hand that scratches him, and bites the wrist.
*As my regular readers know, thanks to this absurd injury of mine, I have had to stay put all summer. I have not traveled as I usually do. Still, I have hundreds of back-logged Cats Met Along the Way stories, so I thought I would break away to a not too distant time when I was still traveling, flying about Alaska in tiny airplanes, to tell this story about Airplane Cat.