Columbus in watering can on the porch. He didn't last long at a one digit weight.I've had many pets during my lifetime. Columbus was, and will always stand on his furry black and white paws above the rest. We got him in Morengo Illinois, from a white clapboard house that was in need of painting. We answered an add for free kittens in the local paper. Kelley and I drove together in my pick up truck to get some "barn cats." We had a mouse population that needed serious attention.
When we got to the house, it was filled with little kids. They showed us to "the cat room" which was an unheated glass windowed back porch that one sees in typical Midwestern farm houses. The kids had made a kitty jungle gym out of empty brown cardboard boxes. They had a litter of 7. 6 black and white tuxedo kittens, and one brown tabby. I watched the kittens playing. They were having a wonderful time jumping in and out of the boxes. One stopped and came to me. I asked the kids about "this one."
"Oh he's the wildest!" they said in unison.
"We'll take him for sure!" I answered. thinking Alex would love him.
Then Kelley chose the largest of the litter for herself. A sweet calm hunk of fur. I am fond of cats with M's on their forehead, and chose the runt of the litter...the only tabby and female. When we picked up the two males they both purred. That's a good sign when kitten shopping.
In the top photo he is under Alex's "midi" blanket.
Cooling off in a sink in summer.
On the drive home Columbus sat on the back of the front seat between Kelley and me looking out the window. His brother "Bailey" slept in Kell's lap. "Frances" the tabby hid under the seat. We had our barn cats who would live in the mudroom and on the screened porch until they were old enough to venture outside on their own. The ride home would be the foreshadowing of their personalities. Before summer came it was clear that Columbus was large and in charge. He loved to hang from the screens on the porch to get a higher POV (point of view). He slept in a large blue watering can until he couldn't fit any longer. He greeted everyone coming and going. He was one of those dog-like cats who was everywhere we were. As soon as someone sat down on the porch, he was on their laps.
Frances was one of the most stunning kittens I have ever had.
She looked like a greeting card.
When the 3 were old enough to go outside...Frances got pregnant immediately. We had been given 2 large black cats (Heckle and Jeckle) and when Frances saw Heckle it was love at first sight. No hissing. Just nose touching nose, and they went out to the field to return in three days. She would deliver 9 kittens on the front hall rug: 7 all black, 2 brown tabbies. Uncle Columbus loved to babysit his nieces and nephews. He'd take them out of the box and bring them up on a large red wing chair and bathe them. Even licking the diaper changing parts like a mommy cat. It drove the naturally paranoid Frances crazy. So she'd hide the kittens in places he couldn't get to...some would endanger them. Like, behind the dryer that got very hot. Every morning I would come down and play "find the kittens." Columbus was the tell. He'd walk over and get as close as he could. And sure enough, there they were.
Mama Frances and her "7"
Bailey did not even make it to a year. The road in front of the farm took him. Then, as life would have it...we had to leave the farm. Of all the cats we had, I kept Columbus and Frances. They moved to several locations before we came to New Mexico. On the long drive from Chicago to Albuquerque they kept me company in Motel 8's (who accept pets). Columbus would get on the bed, Frances would hide under it. They moved from Albuquerque to Santa Fe and back to Albuquerque without a complaint.
"Are you sure you want to delete that?"
Columbus was about 23 pounds of Maine Coon. At one point he was down to 7 pounds. After exploratory surgery that was inconclusive, we switched foods, and he was back to his fighting weight in no time. He ate his California Natural food morning, noon, and night. A few years later he dropped weight again. It was because of cancer in his thyroid. Bob said he was worth the costly radioactive material and 3 week vet stay we paid for. He could go home when a geiger counter didn't click at 3 feet. Once home and snuggled in my lap I fondly called him "my radioactive lap blanket." After that he would sleep on a floor outlet that we felt kept him alive in some unexplainable sci-fi way.
If we were there...he was there.
I took a photo on his birthday as he and Frances waiting for the expensive "South Beach diet for cats" canned food I dished out. He had gotten so fat, that he couldn't groom himself. He had to be shaved and bathed twice. The second time he was so cold, that Bob and I bought him a camo print polar fleece dog coat and called him "Camo-Cat!" We never told him it was a dog coat...that could really get to a cat.
Never met a cool sink he didn't like. Getting bathed by "the Cat Diva."
He loved everyone and every animal. He slept with our pot belly pigs in the barn. He joined Ethan in the crib when he was a baby. When E was old enough to be in a booster chair, he sat right next to him IN the chair. Boxes were his favorite. For years when we did jig saw puzzles or played a game he would sleep in the box tops. Too big for most...they all gave way to his 23 pounds and had to be taped together at the corners. We have so many photos of him in amusing places. I called him "the fur lined speed bump."
Next to "the plug" he is the "fur lined speed bump"
Jenny took this picture last summer when he was visiting her house.
And now we are left with his sister Frances, and Lola cats. I feel as if I am running the cat asylum. Frances has an over developed fight or flight response and runs away from any sudden move or noise. She is naturally paranoid. I can say this because I have had her from 8 weeks, and she has always been like this. Lola has an official diagnosis of "OMD": obsessive marking disorder. Like a hand washer feels their hands are dirty, she constantly feels the urge to mark her territory. So she is on an anti depressant...that helps (and saved our furniture). Neither of the two crazy cats will ever be the kind of companion Columbus was. Columbus was always where we were. The two girls, like humans with mental disorders are in their own private Idaho. Frances is still calling to Columbus every night, and sometimes it lasts for hours. Pitiful hearing her cry, not able to understand where he is.
I have boxes of photos from our lives at the farm. I will have to go through them to find some pics of Columbus at stellar moments. These boxes of photos I have avoided since leaving the farm. But with Columbus' passing I feel somehow compelled to face the grief of losing my life at the farm. I know that psychologically the two are tied together. I am now ready to face the grief I have pushed away for so many years.
I bought myself a pendant from Lulubug Jewelry on Etsy. It is sterling with a black and white cat like Columbus on it. Here's the link:
Withing days of his passing...Columbus has come back to us in a special way. Our daughter Kelley and Grandson Ethan have adopted "Ernie" a dark gray and white tuxedo cat. His calm, loving, purring madly spirit lives on.
We planted a fig tree in the back yard, and under it we put the ashes of Columbus. When I water the tree I greet him every day. Grateful to have been blessed with such a pet for 16 years. See you on the other side, Columbo. XO
Thanks for reading. I'm still amazed that you do.