Thursday, July 31, 2008

Origins of the Kracker Cats: Boxcar Bean - Part 3 of 4: Home for Angel is a Kracker Home

When Fire first brought Stephanie home, a dog came with her - a chocolate lab by the name of Cassie. Stephanie was definitely a dog person, and she could not totally hide her dismay when she first stepped into the Kracker house and saw cats lounging and wandering about everywhre. Worse yet, Royce walked up to her, stopped at her feet and then without warning, suddenly leaped upwards to her chest.

Stephanie screamed, but her reflexes were quick and she caught him. Then she discovered that he felt kind of good, cradled there in her arms like that. Still, "I'm a dog person," she insisted. Yet, each time Fire would bring her to the house, a cat would appear upon her lap and she would look quite content as she sat there and stroked it.

"The Kracker Cats are okay," she would insist, "but I'm a dog person."

By the time I rescued little Miss Angel, Fire and Stephanie had been married for 14 months. Given the hugs, pets, strokes and cooing Stephanie had poured out upon the cats each time the two came over, however strong her feelings towards dogs, it was apparent that Stephanie had now become a cat person as well.

So I placed a call to the happy young couple. "You know, I rescued a kitten today and I must find a home..."

"Oh!" Stephanie exclaimed, "Fire and I were just talking today. We decided it is time to get a cat. We are planning to start searching tomorrow. We could come out there, first!"

Darn! I was secretly hoping that she would say, "thanks but no thanks. I'm sure it's a nice kitty, but I'm a dog person."

Then I could tell Sunflower that I had made a heroic effort to find a home for Angel, but, doggonit and dagnabbit, I had failed and I could not put this kitty on the street or into the pound and so, as much as I hated too, I would just keep it here with us.

So Fire and Stephanie arrived the next day to begin their cat search. That search ended the moment their eyes focused upon little Miss Angel.

As you can see, Miss Angel made Fire and Steph very happy.

Angel and Royce say their mournful goodbyes.

The happy trio drive away. Afterward, I returned to the house. Without Angel, it felt very empty in there.

Up next: Little Miss Angel becomes Mr. Boxcar Bean.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Origins of the Kracker Cats: Boxcar Bean - Part 2 of 4: I fall hopelessly in love with little Miss Angel

At the end of my last entry, I left little Miss Angel peeking out from under our porch into the Kracker's back yard. The day was June 22, 2007, and it was the first time that she had seen our backyard. She was a little spooked by it.

As you can see, she soon gained the courage to step out from beneath that porch to go exploring. Royce wondered who the heck she was.

Jimmy came over to check out the newcomer with a sniff. She sniffed him out right back.

I suppose they could have done their sniffing at the other end, but they were both unusually polite this day.

Oh, oh! I don't know what this was about!

Angel explores beneath an old canoe.

Angel in the grass.

Angel in the grass, image 2.

Once, these long-empty gas cans carried extra fuel for my now broken-airplane, The Running Dog. Now, they give Angel a new landscape to explore.

Angel passes beneath a worn-out ski.


Someone holds Angel. Who could it be?

Why, it's Charlie!

If Charlie is here, Tryskuit must be nearby.

There she is! And she holds Angel, too!

As does Sunflower. It seems like everyone allows themselves to fall in love with Angel. But I dare not. I cannot. I will not. I must find a home for Angel - a home that is not my home. It will hurt too much if I love her.

Oh no! I now hold Angel! What am I to do? I do love Angel! I cannot give her away! I cannot let her depart from this family! She must become a Kracker Cat! 

How do I accomplish this?

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Origins of the Kracker Cats: Boxcar Bean - Part 1 of 4: Becky says goodbye to her beloved Angel

In about one minute after I take this picture, Becky will remove this kitten from beneath her jacket, hand it to me and then little Angel will be out of her life - but never out of her heart. Despite this act, do not doubt the depth of Becky's love for Angel. On this day, June 22, 2007, Becky had been raising little Angel for several weeks.

"She's my little baby," Becky told me. It had been her intent that her home and the kitten's home would be one and the same for as long as both lived.

To explain how fate, in an act of both kindness and cruelty, was not going to allow this to happen, I must back up a bit:

I took this picture maybe half-an-hour earlier on that same day, June 22. I had gone out for my morning walk, had topped the hill at the corner of Ward's Road and Sand's Drive and had then turned around to walk back. As I came down the hill, I saw these two, Becky and her older brother, Danny, pedaling up the hill towards me.

I smiled, because I always smile when I see Danny and Becky.

I had first met the two on a July day in 2004, again when I was out on a walk. I spotted them in the distance as I walked down Seldon Street towards Wards. They were a bit off to the side of the house of a retired couple - a large, expensive house that the grandmotherly wife had constructed herself. I had heard that the husband's health was failing him. 

Becky was standing beside her bike, holding it. Danny's bike lay upon the ground and he sat in front of it. For some reason, he had found it necessary to briefly remove his pants. Maybe he had gotten into some thorns, or a bug had bitten him; I don't know. 

Anyway, a lady who was losing a fight with breast cancer lived with a 22 year-old orange cat just across the street in a duplex (yes - this orange boy is in my Cat's Met Along the way archives and I plan to one day drop him into this forum) stepped out of that duplex and spotted the two.

"For God's sakes!" she shouted out, "put your pants back on!"

Danny did put his pants back on. The woman had gone back inside by the time I reached the two children, but they were indignant and livid over her order. "That... that... that... mean woman told my brother to put his pants back on!" Becky stammered with rage. "She's got no business to tell him what to do! She's not our Mom! We have a Mom."

So we introduced ourselves to each other. Then they told me that their grandfather had died that morning about 1:00 AM.

"He went to live with Jesus," Danny said.

After the woman across the street died from her breast cancer, Danny and Becky's grandma bought her duplex. The two children and their widowed mother moved in and they all settled down into the side that had once been home to a 22 year-old cat and the woman who, on the day his grandfather died, had gruffly told Danny to put his pants back on.

Later, on a day in May, 2007, I came walking by the duplex and saw Danny playing in the yard. "Hi Grahamn!" he shouted. "Becky got a new kitten. Do you want to see it?" 

Of course I did. 

Danny ran inside, then came back out with a somewhat smaller version of the same kitten that you see on these pages. "Her name is Angel," he said.

Angel! She was so pretty. I did take her picture and it is in my files somewhere - as are some that I subsequently took of Angel being loved by Becky.

Now, on this day, June 22, 2007, the three of us stopped to visit near a roadwork sign. It was Danny who spoke first. "Hey Grahamn!" he said. "Do you know what? Mom says Becky can't keep Angel any longer. We have to get rid of her. We can't afford to keep her. We really can't."

"What are you going to do with her?" I asked.

"We're going to take her to the pound," Danny answered. Then he fell into silent thoughtfulness for several seconds. I oftentimes see Danny, Becky, and their mother riding their bicycles into the shopping area of Wasilla, about three miles away, because they do not have a car. The pound is 13 miles away - a long way to carry a kitten on a bicycle.

"Or maybe we will just turn her loose, by the side of the road, where people live, so someone will find her," he added.

Becky said nothing, but just straddled her bike, forlorn and downcast.

"What would you think if I took her?" I asked. "We already have five cats, so I can't keep her, but I will find a good home for her."

Becky brightened up. "Would you?" she pleaded. "Would you take my sweet baby Angel? Promise you'll find a good home for her? She's my precious baby."

From there, I took the short cut home, through the marsh. I entered the house through the back door, stepped into the garage, grabbed a small, green, travel kennel and stepped back inside. "I've got to go pick up a kitten," I told a baffled Sunflower. I then exited through the front door, climbed into the car and drove to Danny and Becky's house.

Thus it happened that I took this small series of pictures of Becky holding her precious baby Angel for the last time. 

If you want to get an idea how hard it was for Becky to give up this kitten, I suggest that you click on the above image, so that you can see a bigger version of it.

Angel in the kennel, on her way to our house.

After I brought her home, I took Angel into the backyard for a short romp. She promptly darted beneath the porch. Sunflower stepped out the door. "You better find a home for her today," she warned, "or it will be too late. You will never give her away."

"That wouldn't be so bad," I mused.

"I knew it," she said disgustedly, in a voice filled with overpowering love and fondness.

Next up: I fall hopelessly in love with little Miss Angel.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

I will go back to telling cat stories now...

My purpose in starting this practice blog was to tell cat stories - both about the Kracker Cats and Cats Met Along the Way. While I have done done a bit of both, this little accident that seems to have brought such change to my life also seems to have thrown me slightly off track.

It is time for me to start telling cat stories again. I will do so beginning tomorrow. As the sidebar makes clear, it has been my intent to wait to tell the stories of the origins of  each Kracker Cat until I start the real blog - hopefully early in the fall.

I have been rethinking this a bit. In my mind, although they are a continuous stream, I divide the Kracker Cats into two groups, with Jimmy being the pivot point. The original Kracker Cats are those who came to us before Jim. They are the ones who educated me about cats, as I previously had no idea. These include Royce and Chicago.

The contemporary Kracker Cats are those from Jimmy on - who continue to educate me about cats, as I have just the slightest knowledge.

I have decided to go ahead and tell the stories of the contemporary Kracker Cats in this practice blog (but not Jim's - Jim's story must first appear in the real blog). I will begin with the most recent - Boxcar Bean, owner of Fire and Stephanie, and work my way back in time, until I finish with Pistol-Yero and Slick, "The Bear," as both entered the Kracker family at the same time.

Between these stories, I will throw in some "Cats Met Along the Way."

Please notify your friends and relatives and every stranger you can contact so that you all can join me tomorrow to begin the happy-sad story of how pretty Miss Angel became handsome Mr. Boxcar Bean.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Apache Sunrise Dance - Sweetened by a Touch of Butter

As promised, I now present the Apache Sunrise Dance, as photographed June 20-22, by my oldest son, Toast Ed Kracker and my daughter-in-law, Prickly Pear Blossom Kracker, even as I lay in the hospital, unable to attend.

Yet, this is a cat blog - thus I begin with a photo of the Apache kitten, Butter, cousin to the Kracker Cats. Butter lives in Whiteriver, capitol of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, two miles from the dance site at Fort Apache.

The Apache Sunrise Dance. Often, when an Apache girl makes the change into becoming a woman, this special dance is held for her - to help assure that health will accompany her into her journey into womanhood and motherhood. 

The main part of the dance lasts for three days, but the preparation takes a year. Followup activities will last another year. At the beginning of this process, the young woman's parents invite another couple to be her Godparents. Her Godmother will dance with her throughout the three days, and all members of the Godfamily have an important part to play.

From here on out, the two families will be as one.

Above is Justine Jones, the young woman, being blessed by the medicine man. At her side is her Godmother, Janet Craig, my sister-in-law, Sunflower's sister.

Here is my lovely Sunflower, dressed in her new blue camp dress, dancing at the Sunrise Dance. Her Aunt Dolly is in green behind her and her sister, Charlene, in purple and blue. If you click on this picture, blow it up and look closely at Sunflower's face, you will see much stress and worry.

At the very moment this picture was taken, my good doctor was removing my shattered shoulder, my humerous, to replace it with a prothesis.

Tryskuit and Nabysko, dancing at the Sunrise Dance. Tryskuit is in the middle, wearing black and brown. Nabysko on the right, dressed in red.

These are the Crown Dancers, their outfits patterned after ancient paintings found on the faces of red rock cliffs at different places on the reservation and elsewhere. They represent helpful and benevolent spirits that reside in the mountains. Justine has been painted with corn pollen.

Justine and my brother-in-law, Emmerson Craig - her Godfather.

Just to reconfirm that this is, in fact, a cat blog, I revert back to the kitten, Butter, held in the arms of Eliot Joplin, one of many of my Apache nephews.

The Crown Dancers.

The Clown is the most powerful of all the Crown Dancers and his cross-predates the introduction of Christianity into Apacheland. I am told that he danced for my grandson Wry for about 15 minutes straight. Wry remained fascinated and entranced throughout.

Of all the regrets I have regarding all that I have missed this summer of my injury, my greatest lament is the fact that I missed these 15 minutes.

Back at the Joplin house - Prickly Pear Blossom and Butter.

Back at the dance. My Mother-in-law, Rose Roosevelt, Matriarch of the family, gives her great-grandson, Wry, a squeeze of the foot.

Prickly Pear, Wry and family matriarch Rose.

Prickly Pear Blossom poses with some prickly pear blossoms, her namesake flower. My daughter-in-law is Navajo.

Wry and his cousin, Gracie. Gracie is from the Navajo side of the family and traveled from Shonto, Navajo Nation, with Prickly Pear's sister and mother.

Glenn Joplin with Butter's parents, Salt and Pepper.

As broken as my heart is that I had to miss all this, I give my deepest thanks to Toast Ed and Prickly Pear Blossom for taking these photos and for sharing them with me - and you.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Technical Glitch - Apache Sunrise delayed - Moose and Royce

I ran into a technical glitch and failed to get the Apache Sunrise photos up as promised. I have solved the problem, but it is too late for tonight. I need to go to bed. Tomorrow. This young bull moose just appeared in our backyard, less than one hour ago, so I will let him stand in, for now.

Still shooting with the point and shoot.

And here is Royce, stalking the moose. Click on the image to see larger version.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Very tired and lazy tonight - intermission entry

So I'm still in this gray period, being lazy. Tomorrow I am going to do something that I never thought I would do: I am going to make a post filled only pictures taken by someone else - namely, Toast Ed and Prickly Pear Blossom at the Apache Sunrise Dance in Fort Apache, Arizona. I want you all to see just what it was that was so important to this family that even I insisted they be there instead of with me at my hour of need; at the very hour when I lost my shoulder. 

I'm glad they were there, and not with me. I wish that I had been there, with them. You will see why.

In the meantime, here is Martigny, above and below. Again, taken on the new point and shoot, which, unlike my much superior pro Canon 1Ds Mk III camera, is easy to heft and manipulate with just my left hand.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I get good news, then take nap with Pistol

I am just too exhausted and weary to make much of a post tonight, but I promise you - good things are coming soon - both concerning the Kracker Cats and Cats Met Along the Way. I promise. So don't go away.

And I have good news! Today, Sunflower drove me to Anchorage where I made a followup visit to the doctor who gave me a new shoulder. He let me start my therapy! 

I don't really get to do much, but three to four times a day for the next week I am to remove my arm from the sling, bend slightly at the waist so that my arm hangs down to what ever degree it hangs down and then, by use of a gentle swaying motion from my body, let my arms swing ever so slightly back and forth. 

I do this for a week, then go back next Monday. Assuming that all goes well between now and then, he will then add in one or two range of motion excercises. "Baby steps," Doc said, "just take baby steps for now."

When I got home, I felt exceptionally sleeply - "exceptionally sleepy" being normal these days - and so I decided to take a nap.

"C'mon Jimmy!" I called out to Jim. "Let's go take a nap." Today was surprisingly cold, for late July, and so Sunflower had turned on a couple of electric heaters. Jim had positioned himself in front of one and would not budge from it - not even for a nap.

I continued on into the bedroom. There, waiting on the bed for me was Pistol. Carefully. I eased myself down. Taking care to avoid my injured shoulder, Pistol walked all the way around me and then curled up in the crook of my left arm. He turned his face to the side and pushed his forehead into my chest. He closed his eyes and purred and purred and purred.

Then, as news of Obama's visit to Iraq and of the arrest of Radovan Karadzic played on NPR, the two of us dozed happily off. Occasionally, I would slide my fingers over his fur. Each time, he would purr. We did not get up for over two hours.

One of these days I'm going to be healed and I will have to stop this kind of thing.

As the clock neared 10:00 PM, Toast Ed and Prickly Pear Blossom invited me to go on a walk with them, baby Wry and Muzzy. The rain had finally diminished to a sprinkle, so I did. We hadn't gone far before these two dogs spotted Muzzy from across the road and came charging over, eager to take him on.

Before they actually closed the distance to within fighting range, they stopped, turned around and backed away. They simply did not want to suffer the humiliation of both being whipped by a house cat - even if Muzzy was far and away the biggest and strangest looking house cat they had ever seen.