A Swell Game…of DEATH!!!

kitty_wampusAh.  Lookit Kitty Wampus.

So precious.  

Little party hat.  Little fluffy dress wif starched collar.  Little Demonic Face set into a rictus of a smile.

Ah, and look, you’ve just back little Kitty Wampus into a corner.  That wasn’t smart.  I’d be going now, if I were you…

Well, see, here I am, still trapped here in teh house and was just nosing around teh basement when I noticed this board game.  Mrs. Whatsername bought it because she thought it was keeeeee-yuuuuute.  So like her.  So clueless.  

http://www.tintoyarcade.com/products/Kitty-Wampus-Classic-Childrens-Game.html

And while you think Mrs. W. would love it, Arrested Pre-schooler that she is, the game was neva a big hit and here in the the promotional picture you can see why: there are blue tiles and red tiles and yellow tiles and, um…beige? tiles, and when it’s time to go, you flick the little arrow on the game spinner, which somehow always gets stuck on green.

And yet - There. Is. No. Green.  

So, it’s maddening and poorly designed and boring, but it’s not exactly murderous. 

or is it?

Luckily, Suzie, The Emerald-Eyed Empress of Snoozeville, had the perfect beddie-bye story about the real Kitty Wampus and all her gory details. 

The Wampus Cat - I don't know the artist - does anyone? please let me know if you do.Teh Wampus Cat, Suzie sez, is a Demon Kitteh, born deep in the dark Appalachian woods.  Legend has it that a Cherokee Woman was jealous that her husband got to attend the Ancient Hunting Ritual, so one night, she followed him, dressed in a cougar skin, to spy on the proceedings. But she was discovered, and as punishment, she was turned into a great, stinking She-Devil-Cat, who terrorizes the woods to this day.  

Of course, that’s the Mans version of the story.  Let Suzie tell you wut really happened…

Once Pon teh Times, a Cherokee Woman was a little fed up that her Husband and all his Hunting Buddies would leave camp for days on end, for a Double Top Secret, No Girls Allowed “Hunting Ritual,” as they called it, but all they eva seemed to come back wif was a hang-over and scrawny squirrel or two.  More than once the Chief had to drag them all home from other villages, where they found creating a Public Nuisance in the company of Dancing Girls who they insisted were just “really good friends.”

So something had to be done. One night, after she had tucked her little childrens into bed but they couldn’t sleep because of the noise and laughing and spitting and carrying-ons of this so-called Ritual, the Brave Woman marched into the fire circle, kicked empty beer cans outta her way, raised her fist to the night sky and cried –

“OH! Great Spirit! Let me show these morons how it’s done!”

And wif that, the sky was parted by a lightening bolt and before their blurry eyes, the Woman turned into a snarling, nasty, drooling pissed off kitteh.   

“You want to hunt? This is how you hunt.”

said she, and leapt into the woods like a panther, easily snagging a deer, a moose, an entire family of rabbits and a peacock.  She piled the foods at the feet of the Mans and instructed them to get to work, as she expected something a little nicer than Fried Squirrel Brains for breakfast, for once.  Later, she decided she preferred the life of the wild and so she left the mans with the crying babies and set off for a life of adventure, where she Hunts the Hunters to this very day.

Wow, Suzie.  That was great.  What a role model she is.  But the kitteh on the box…is that Baby Wampus?

No, that’s just a game the Mans came up, in a desperate attempt to entertain the childrens they were stuck with.  But the childrens, wisely, hated the game and so they turned into Snarling Demon Kittens and left to rejoin Mommy on the Hunting Trail.

Yes, that would be more fun.  Fanks for the great story, Suzie!

Anytimes.

and also Fanks! to The Hiking Club of the Southeast Appalacian Trail as well as many other websites for these great folktales.  I wish we could credit the artist of the Wampus cat picture, but my searches didn’t find much.  If you know, please let us know so we can properly credit them.

Trapped! But wif a happy ending…

rulesKittehs! oh, this has been awful!  I am trapped! TRAPPED.  

The last thing I knew, there were piles of laundry to unfold and luggage to hide in and THEN – poof! Everything and everyone was gone, except for a bag of food and a note and mysterious woman who lets herself in and feeds us all wrong.  And! AND, it gets worse, because she won’t open doors, no matter how politely I ask.  She just sort of hunkers down when it’s time to leave, body-blocking all my stealthiest escape moves, like she received a degree in Hospitality Management training at Rikers Island.

It’s just so insulting.

These are my cell mates:

and it could be worse, I suppose, cuz Suzie always has lots of bed-time stories and The Ugly Kitten has a wonderfully yummy smell.  I lick his little door-stop shaped head every time I see him.

“Stop tasting me!”

he always shouts in that squeak-toy meow of his.  Silly Kitten. 

Somefing terrible must have happened to The Ugly Kitten, like an Ebil Magic Spell or an 8th grade Science Experiment Gone Bad, cuz there is no earfly reason a kitten should be so ugly.  So, it’s really not his fault that he has that ginormous nose and that hippo butt.  I’m always trying my best to keep him positive and lift his self esteem. So I spend a lot of time licking his little earsies, trying to get them to stand up and reminding him that his tail is sure to grow in some day soon.

“I am not a kitten. I don’t need a tail.”

“That’s the spirit,” I tell him, “but still, it could come in any day now.  You wait and see.”

It kind of breaks my heart to see him try to be so brave.

Luckily, Suzie remembered that The Girl, who loves Ugly more than is seemly, if you ask me, was painting a lovely picture of him.  It reminded her of a story…

reno's portrait, by SonjaOnce pon teh times, a handsome kitteh was completely in loves with himself.  Couldn’t stop looking in the mirror and didn’t even hiss when he did it.  He liked looking at the kitteh in the mirror.  Did it all day long.  Then he got the fine idea of hiring a painter to capture his portrait so eva one could see his handsomeocity.

Eva one in town, from the Mayor on down, was mightily impressed with the portrait, and they stood in long lines to look at it.

But soon the Handsome Kitteh started to fret.  The portrait would be lovely forever, while he aged and grew ugly.  So he wanted moar.

“Oh! Basement Cat!” he cried, “keep me forever as Young and Dishy as this portrait!  Let me neva grow old!”

Basement Kitteh heard his plea and was feeling like a real stinker that day so he granted his wish, but while the Handsome Kitteh impressed Lady Cats for years with his Never Ending Stud Muffin Status, his portrait grew decrepit.  

In the portrait, his pointy teefs fell out and claws snagged on the carpet.  Fleas chewed on his rear end until it was bald. His tail grew crooked, and his fur mangy and matted. Evatime the Kitteh walked past, the cloudy old eyes seemed to follow him with a reproachful glare and more than once, he swears the portrait passed gas.

Enough! cried the Handsome Kitteh.  “Mock me no moar, you Demon!”

and he leapt on the painting to rip it to shreds.  Except that he forgot the painting was next to the open window and he and the portrait tumbled out and landed with a splat onto the street below.  Passersby found an ancient foul-smelling kitteh, tangled in a canvas of a beautiful young cat.  They tossed the kitteh carcass into the recycling bin and hung the portait in the Mayor’s Office, to inspire eva one in the city with the Promise of  Youth. The End.”

“See”, I said, “The Girl is doing the same fing for you with this painting. Only backwards.”

“What on earth are you babbling about now,” gweeped Ugly.

“Well, obviously, she is painting a magic portrait of you that will get more and more Awful as you turn moar like a Proper Kitten everyday.  In fact, if the current state of Ugliness is any indication, I would say you are due to become a lovely kitteh sometime this afternoon.  By breakfast tomorrow, at the latest.  I’m sure of it.  Oh! I’m so happy for you!”

and I licked his little head and sniffed under his pathetic little legs and licked his butt until he tried to nip me with his pathetic unsharpened little teefs.  

He is so brave.

the Brave Ugly Kitten

Cherry Blossom Kitteh

Cherry Blossom NosticleKittehs!

It is times for a little history and cultures and poetry and what nots!

Cherry Blossom Season is here in WashingtonDC, with the 101 year-old gift from our friends, the Japanese, who gave us hundreds of Cherry Trees  so all Americans can enjoy the spectacular blossom time,  filling the air wif fluffy pink pollen clouds all the way from teh Tidal Basin to teh Washington Monument.  Which got me to thinking of another pair of of unlikely friends -the bee-too-tee-full and renowned Kitteh Geisha, Sakura Neko, and her poetry-slam rival, Hamu-san.

Neko-ko, sakura neko-koas she was called, was famous for her charm, wit, and her mad skillz in singing, dancing and poetry.  She would entertain big time Shogun and Samurai, sometimes bringing big Sumo wrestlers to tears wif her delicate and thought-provoking poetry.

such as this haiku in honor of the season:

white kitteh wif

cherry blossom nosticle;

Spring floats thru cat door

or this startlingly simple, yet evocative, poem:

Baff in Sun Puddle,

curl tight as a Cinnabun:

purr purr purr purr zzzz.

Now – not to be out done is another Poetry Legend of Teh Day, the great Hamu-san, Poet Hamsterate of the Imperial Court:

Despite her small size, Hamu was a spunky little fighter with a sharp tongue who used her mad satorizing skillz to knock the mighty down to size. A favorite poem of the day, often found scrawled on the walls outside the communal baff house and litter box:

Stupid Fleabag Cat,

claw stuck in rice paper door,

who’s the hunter now? 

Or this:

Nap the entire day,

the lazy moocher kitteh

dreams he’s a lion

The Kittehs of the Imperial Court were pretty incensed, but even they had to agree Hamu-san, sometimes, had a point.

One day, at the request of the Emperor, Neko-ko and Hamu were invited to a poetry and dance smack-down.  Hamu came prepared to please the Emperor, wif a little fan dance and a medley of Top Ten Noh Theater hits.  And of course, her scathing poetry:

Watch Neko-ko dance:

leaping, spinning – but really,

Fleas are biting her.

Neko-ko came only with a plate.  To the amazement of the Court, she put it on the floor, bowed to the Emperor and bowed to Hamu.  Then she unsheathed a single claw and sliced little Hamu into bite-size pieces, saying:

Imperial snack,

tasty treat for Son of Heaven,

Hamster Sashimi.

 then she handed it to the Emperor, who was well pleased and asked for wasabi.

So, there you go. A little bit of culture neva hurt anybuddy, right? Well, of course, other than Hamu-san. But she died for her art, so it’s all good.  Now, I leaves you wif a modern look at Kitteh Geishas in training.  I fink I would be good at that, don’t you?

thanks again to my friends, MaxAnd the Animals, where you can find these and other great vintage anthropomorphic prints at the Etsy Shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/MaxAndTheAnimals

Cat Copy Editing. An Ancient Art.

medieval cat copy edit, originally discovered by Emir O. Filipovic

Kittehs!

It’s history time again!  And, not surprisingly, it again involves me.  Or at the very least, a member of my large and illustrious clan of well-read felines.  Here we see the copy-editing of my great-great-great-greeeeeeeeeat Grandpaw, Meowulf, who kept monks in line during 15th century scribble sessions.  Transcribing was, as you can imagine, boring business – line after line, curlicue after curlicue, elaborate Celtic cross after elaborate Celtic cross.  Monks, usually full of hand-crafted ale, were often a sleepy bunch, so Meowulf had to use every trick in teh book: playful jabs at the quill, ankle-biting, even the occasional butt in the day-dreaming face, anything to keep them on task.

Here, I do believe Meowulf had to take the extreme measure of putting his stamp of disapproval on the whole work.  Four paws usually meant the whole thing had to be chucked and started over, even if it did take another decade.  Not that Grandpaw was such a task master, but prol’ly becuz the Monk had passed out and started to drool on the parchment.  He had high standards, my Grandpaw.  

But since we talking about medieval relatives, here is another famous family member – Meowulf’s second cousin on his neighbor’s side – Pangur Ban, in a scene from the  PBS documentary on medieval cats

 

and the ending, which could have been written by my very own Monkish Mrs.Whatsername, sitting as she always does, in a dark room with the white computer light in her face, and me, biting her ankle on my way out the door for a quick mole hunt:

So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

The Catcat of Cancan

Kittehs! You know how evabuddy is always asking me, “Sparky! How did you ever get so graceful?” or, “Sparky, wow! Are you a high-stepping prancer or what?!” or “Sparky! you ought to be on stage, you know?”

Well, yes.  We all know.  But now we know why.

Thanks to my friends at the Etsy shop, Max and the Animals, I have more photographic evidences of my famous relatives! Here is my great great great great great aunt Minnie, star of stage and screen, performing at La Scala, where she got many a starched shirt collar in a bunch with her famous rendition of the Cancan dance.  Teh starched stuffed shirts wanted Opera.  They got, instead, the avante-garde de danse; Le Catcat Cancan. She was renowned for her ability to kick like a rabbit, to leap over the other dancers, climb the stage curtains, do a backwards somersault and a pirouette in mid air, land in the splits and then flick hats off of audience members’ heads with her tail.  

She was a phenomenon, but she had to overcome many critics and nay-sayers who got in the way of her dreams. There is in an early illustration, by the great Cancan connoisseur himself, Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, called “Le Secret.”  She is listening to the advice of her own Mrs. Whatsername who, like many many grumpy and frumpy Mrs. W.’s before and since, tried to talk her out of dancing-fool dreams.  

“No Brass Rings for you, Little Lady,” she is saying to my Aunt Minnie.  “and stop wasting time day-dreaming about being famous.  No one needs a Dancing Cat. I need you here to catch mouses.  Very dull, very slow moving mouses. The house is full of ‘em. Now, get to work.”

To which Auntie Minnie very wisely said, “talk to teh tail,” and left.  The rest, as they say, is history.  

Aunt Minnie’s story was later picked up by Hollywood, of course.  Her name was changed to Mewsette and she was turned into an innocent helpless fluffy white kitteh – all her dashing tiger stripes and devil-may-care Tabby Cat flair white-washed out of her. A pity, of course, but what can you expect from Hollywood of the mid-twentieth century? 

from the movie "Gay Purreeee"But try as they might – they can’t white-wash out this:  I give you my own High Prancing Devil May Care Dance. 
and do it againflip aroundjump in teh air!

IMG_2616Vive La Danse!

The Ghost of Christmas Naptime

Kittehs! It has come to my attenshun that not evabuddy is aware that Ebenezer Scrooge had a cat.  The haunting of his faithful feline, Figgy Pudding, was sadly cut out in teh editing process, pro’lly cuz it seems so unlikely that a kitteh would care to even notice teh errors of his ways or (as if!) become a betta, kinda, gentlea sort o’ kitteh.  But luckily I am here to set teh record straight.

Here then, wif out further ado (and oh! so many apologies to Mr. Dickens), I give you -

Figgy Pudding and teh Ghost of Christmas Naptime -

Figgy Pudding was dead, to begin with. Dead asleep on the thin pillows of Scrooge’s bed, warm in furry slumber and cushioned by cozy dreams of clumsy mice, until, quite without warning, his snooze was rent assunder by the clatter of Scrooge racing in the bed chamber, slamming the door, locking it twice and stuttering “Huh! Huh! Hum-bug!” with his knees knocking in fright.

The shock sent Fig racing up the bed posts, screeching like a banshee, shredding the curtains as he went.  He settled onto of the canopy and eyed Scrooge. What was the old man up to tonight, he wondered, watching his frail master tremble before the puny flames, muttering and jerking about at every creaking noise and fluttering shadow.

 Oh, this should be good… Fig thought and he reached out to tug on the cord of the servant bell above the door.  The cat rang it twice then quickly hid under a canopy bed ruffle.

 At the sound of the unused bell ringing in the long empty house, Scrooge grabbed at his heart and gulped for air.  Fig would have curled up to laugh himself back to sleep, had the Ghost not chosen that particular moment to slide through the bed chamber door, noisily dragging chains.

Figgy Pudding’s peaceful sanctuary was then further disturbed by excessive displays of moaning, rattling, gnashing of teeth, dropping of jaws, etcetera.  Fig lost interest for a bit, having a sudden need to wash his rear end, but when he was finally looked down again, he saw Scrooge on his knees, pleading with the ghost, who didn’t seem inclined to negotiate. 

‘You will be haunted,’ resumed the Ghost, ‘by Three Spirits,’

and as Scrooge groveled, the specter walked backwards towards the window that opened as he drew near.   After dragging his last chain out into the misty fog, the Ghost poked his head back in, pointed up at the canopy and cried:

 “You too, you Mangy No-Good Cat.”

 Figgy only yawned.  While Scrooge cowered in his bed, Fig scratched at fleas behind his ear and chewed on the mats between his toes, barely noticing the little man in a robe who shuffled his master out the window in search of Christmas Past, or something like that.

Now thoroughly annoyed by this nocturnal nonsense, Fig hopped on the floor to lodge a complaint in the form of a giant fur ball, when a sudden, stupendous, eye-stinging whiff of cat pee stopped him in his tracks. From behind him, the fireplace rumbled, sparks flew and the sounds of hisses and caterwauls shook the china cups on the mantel.  Fig froze, arched and stiff as a cardboard Hallowe’en cat, as a herd of feline phantoms galloping out of the embers; hundreds of cats, some carrying human contraptions and accessories: hats, eyeglasses, parasols, fishing poles; others outfitted with entire and elaborate human costumes. They walked on two legs and cavorted in many darling and coquette poses. And just when he thought their confusing numbers would never end, through the chimney came the largest one of all, big as a lion but dressed as a school boy, and on his back, the wispy and disheveled figure of a Crazy Cat Lady. 

The herd came to a halt in front of Figgy and the Lady dismounted, shifted her crooked hat in a different crocked direction and tried, unsuccessfully, to smooth her frizzy hair.  She addressed her herd in a sweet sing-song that made the pack purr in unison, roll at her feet and rub even more cat hair onto her jacket.  

“Okay, my Darlings, go play now. I have work to do with this one.  Go on! Mommy will be back soon and we’ll have treats then.  Go on! Scat”

The herd eyed Fig with murderous intent, but nonetheless evaporated into the fireplace, leaving a cloud of fur and dander that the Cat Lady gently waved away as she made herself comfortable in Scrooge’s chair.

“Come now, Precious Figgy,” she cooed, “hop in my lap so that we might consider your position on this earthly plane.”

The cats gone, Fig un-arched his back and pretended now to be completely disinterested, although he kept a wary eye on the fireplace, ready to flee if the horde returned.

“Nothing doing, Madame Mad Petticoats,” replied Fig, “I snuggle with no human, phantom or otherwise.  Peeps gives me the creeps.”

“Now Figgster, that is a little hard.  You don’t really mean that, do you?”

The Lady pulled a delightfully long string from her pocket and dangled it before him, but Fig turned his back.

 “No thank you.  I have better uses for my time.”

 “Ah, but what better service is there than to be a soft and warm welcome after a long day of toil?” she pulled a herring out of her pocket and waved it under his nose before continuing, “and as you well know, a purr works magic to soften the hearts of mankind. It may have been just what Scrooge needed most of all.”

“Mankind? CATkind is my business, Madame! And the cat I serve, precisely, is me.  I am not so blessed as your little minions to have someone to feed and coddle me.  Take a look at my food bowl.  There’s more grave than gravy there, as that old skinflint is too cheap to feed me. I fend for myself and I am better off for it.”

 “But what of the mice?” she pulled a whimpering rodent from her pocket and swung it by the tail before him. “This house crawls with them. Surely you could do the old man the favor or clearing it of vermin in exchange for warm place to sleep.”

Figgy only turned his back again and wrapped his tail about him regally.

 “Thank you, no.  I am too full to eat them.”

“How now?” the Cat Lady laughed at the riddle. “how can you be both unfed yet too full?”

 “Because everyday I go to the warm and cheery Cratchit kitchen where I beg for tidbits. Then I use Tiny Tim’s crutches as a scratching post and unravel Mrs. Cratchit’s knitting, put paw prints in the freshly turned butter and then steal the whole steak and kidney pie while Mr. Cratchit’s back is turned.”

Fig flicked his tail in her general direction and sauntered towards the bed.

“Now if you don’t mind, I have to get back to my nap. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

 The Cat Lady’s countenance went quite dark with fury.  She grabbed Fig by the scruff of his neck and held him nose to nose, so that there was no way he could ignore her hair now flying like Medusa or her eyes that burned red with anger.

 “Listen, Wretched Flea-bag. You don’t have time to nap.  You have reckoning to do.  Hundreds of nap hours you have wasted, shunning a lonely old man.  Hundreds of days you have abused the good nature of the Cratchits.  What prize, exactly, do you think your Aloof Pride wins you in the afterlife?”

 “I’ll take care of myself in the afterlife, as I have done so well here.”

 The Cat Lady’s mouth curled into a smile so hideous that Figgy’s stomach dropped with dread.

“Ah, but there you are wrong, Sweetiekins.  For you see, if you continue in your Cruel Disinterest of your Fellow Creatures, it is I that will take after you, for ever more, in the afterlife.”

“Then you are crazier than you look, Lady.  Why would you do that?”

 “Did you not see my Darling and Delightful Little Friends?” she sat Fig down and turned towards the chimney, singing “here kittykittykittykittykitty….”

Instantly the room filled again with cats, preening in their fancy dress, swarming at her feet, and licking her fingers with reverence.

 “These, Figgy Pudding, are the Ghosts of Callous Cats, such as you.  A lifetime of Indifference and now they get to be my Playthings.  I dress them as I please.  They come when I call.  They speak to me in baby talk. They let me take pictures with silly captions. They dance and cavort to my liking and they do this now, forever more.  This,” she called forward two cats dressed in silk pantaloons and hoop skirts, “is but a vision of your Future Naptimes.”

Fig gasped in horror as two cats bowed and curtsied like members of the royal court, then danced a minuette while the cat lady clapped her hands.

 “No! No! Say it isn’t so!” Fig rubbed his head against her knee and cried pitiously. “No, Good Cat Lady, hear me, I was not the cat I was! I will not be the cat I must have been. Why show me this, if I am past all hope?”

 The Cat Lady only pointed a long and bony finger at the dancing cats and said nothing.

 “I will honor Humans with my soft purrs within my heart, I will! I will live in the past, present and future in human laps so that we may enjoy our time together. O! Please, Kind Spirit, let me show you what a good kitty I can be!”

 And in his agony, Fig leapt in her lap and all the cats flew after him; biting, hissing, pushing him away, until the room whirled and trembled around him, and the folds of the Cat Lady’s dress shrank, collapsed and dwindled down into a bedpost.

 And after that, Figgy was better than his word.  He kept Scrooge’s chair warm until he returned home from work, whence the two shared a meal together (Scrooge, now, for some reason, more generous with the food bowl). During the day, he cleared the house of mice and even more than that, he daily brought down a rabbit or pigeon to Mrs. Cratchit’s back door, pausing briefly to delight Tiny Tim with some frolicsome kitten play before returning home to keep Scrooge company before the evening fire.  And it was always said of him that he knew how to keep a lap warm well.

And so, as lap cats everywhere observe,

‘Cod Bless Us, Every One!’

teaching Little Miss Sure Shot a Thing or Two…

from the Curious Crow

kittehs! do not be alarmed by the fox packing heat! Today i share another one of my Grandma Nellie’s stories and today we feature Ohio’s famed Peerless Lady Wing and Rifle Shot, teh lovely and foxy Ruby Fox.  

Oh. Did you fink i meant a different Wing and Rifle Shot Lady who claimed to be without peers?   Well, yes, I see how you could get confused. But don’t be.  Accept no imitations.  Back in the day, Ruby was The Dead-Eye Huntress Supreme …until she took a certain little sure shot upstart under her wing.

Ruby reigned over the Ohio River Valley, renown for her ability to mow down mices and quails faster than a John Deere tractor.  Her ears could pick up the sound of a bird landing on a nest at the top of a tree in Cincinnati, then twitch the other direction and hear a rabbit sneeze outside a corn field in Ft Wayne.  Her nose could not only sniff out a party of mice in burrows deep under ground, but could also detect who was teh birthday boy based on teh scent o’ cake crumb on his paws.  Sharks was jealous of her pearly white razor sharp teeths.  Chickens who saw her coming up and plucked themselves in order to save eva one teh fuss and bother of a fight.  

One day she was in the middle of  juggling chipmunks when heard a little girl tramping through the deep dark woods.  She was tiny, not much bigger than Ruby, and certainly no bigger than the shotgun she dragged after her.  looking hungrily at at a rabbit in a clearing, the little girl hoisted the gun to her shoulder, aimed and missed.  The recoil sent the child tumbling back over a hollow log. The rabbit laughed as it dashed away and the girl lay quietly on the ground, staring stoically at the sky. After a bit, she started to cry. Ruby had been thinking of snacking on the little human but her tiny tears were too much to bear, so instead she sat on log beside her and struck up a conversation.

“What’s wrong, Small One? don’t you know the deep dark woods is no place for a child like you? maybe yer Momma is worried and yer Daddy looking for you and his gun right now. you best get yer rear end home afore eva one gets mad.”

the child sobbed harder, but then choked out the following sad story:

“Ain’t no one to get mad. My Momma is too busy trying to make dinner with a handful of moldy old corn and my Daddy is too busy being dead. I can’t bear another night of going to bed hungry. I come out here to find us some dinner.”

The girl sat up, wiped tears from her eyes and looked hard at Ruby.  Ruby saw the barrel lower and heard the shotgun cock.  Hunger, it seemed, had sharpened the child’s wits. So Ruby spoke fast.

“Well, it appears to me that you are just unpracticed. Here, let’s test your reflexes,” 

and Ruby tossed the chipmunks up in the air. Bam! Bam! Bam! the little rodents died a quick but noble death in aid of a starving family.  Annie was pleased but doubted that buckshot-filled rodents would make a very good dinner.  She continued to survey Ruby’s luxurious red coat with dollar signs in her eyes. The gun cocked once more and so again Ruby thought fast.

“That wasn’t too bad,  I suppose. It is possible that you possess the makings of a dead-eye, but really, there is only one way to know for sure. Think you could shoot something even smaller?”

Annie guessed she could and Ruby tossed pine cones, then walnuts and finally acorns in the air, one at a time.   Each one exploded into nut powder before hitting the ground.

“Yes, well, could you shoot an acorn with your back turned?” Ruby challenged.  As luck would have it, Annie brung a mirror with her that day.  http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lyfqi9bpab1r3dw34o1_400.jpg

Ruby and Annie both laughed and cheered to see the acorn shells shatter in mid air. Then Annie’s stomach growled.  She began to re-fill the shotgun with the last of her buckshot and leveled a pointed look at Ruby.

“Thank you kindly for the lesson, Miss Fox, but I do have to get home now. If you don’t mind sitting still for just one second…”

Ruby pretended not to notice the gun barrel pointed at her nose and quickly cocked her ear to the log.

“Do you hear that?” she cried. “No! Say it isn’t so? Why, that cheatin’ rascal!” she hopped off the log and ran to one end. “Quick! Keep yer eye peeled as I flush out the feathered scoundrel who plans on deserting his wife and her eggs!”

And, quick as a red firecracker, Ruby shot into the log.  After a bit of yelping and squawking, a fat quail flew out the other end.  Annie’s rifle took it down in mid-flight, then took it home to her very grateful family.

After that, Annie met Ruby in the forest everyday for a little target practice.  Soon Annie was not only shooting enough game to feed her family but also selling the extra at the general store and winning marksmenship ribbons and loving cups at the County Fair.  Before she left to become an International Star in the Wild West Show, Annie stopped by the forest to say goodbye to her former teacher.  

“I can’t take you with me, I’m afraid, Annie apologized.  “The men are already  flabbergasted to see a girl shot better than them.  I don’t reckon they would welcome the sight of a fox who hunts as well as you.  I hope you understand.”

And she presented Ruby with a pistol and the pretty dress you see in the picture, as a token of her esteem.

But this was just fine with Ruby, for as much as she liked teh fancy duds, she knew in her heart that she was faster than any bullet.  Plus, she didn’t have time to waste in a carnival side show.  There were simply too many rabbits and quails left to hunt. Still, it did her heart good to get all dressed up and see her best student up on the screen at the new fangled Nickolodean.   

Leaving the theatre, Miss Ruby Fox held her head high and said with pride, to anyone who would listen to a pistol packin’ fox:

“I taught her that.”

many thanks to the Garst Museum of Greenville Ohio for making me a life-long fan of my home-town girl.  Also, to The Curious Crow, for another brilliant “Anthropormorphic Animal Portrait,” one of many on sale at her Etsy Shop, The Curious Crow.

Spit-Fire vs. the Bard

Kittehs! Time now for Cats o’ Myth and Legend! which is always great, but you will purr your furry little head off when you realize today’s bit of cat lore features ME .  I know. Exciting, right? My fur is filled wif static electricity just finking about it.

Well, okay, mebbe the story is not about ME, ‘xactly.  but my Grandma.  Not even Grandma Nell, who you met ‘tother day, but a “great, great, great greater than great, gosh that was a long time ago,” Grandma – the celtic Queen of Cats, Spit-Fire.  

Queen Spit-Fire was teh wife o’ Irusan, who shows up in a lot of older-than-dirt stories from the British Isles.  And like this one, King Irusan battles humans while protecting all the kittehs in his tribe.  But the way humans tell this story, teh truth gets a bit glossed over.  In fact, they just up and leave out the entire heroic ending.  Which is why we is so lucky that we has Grandma Nell to set teh historical record straight.  I added a few cultural references to bring teh whole story up to date.

 so, get comfy. this is no short lol cat video to watch while yer boss is not looking.  Go curl up on a couch, pop some corn and enjoy!

So…Once Pon Teh Times…

…there was a King Guaire of Connaught who loved to throw parties.  He was famous for stuffing his guests wif piles o’ gourmet food served by a crackerjack staff.  One day, the King invited the famous Bard Seanchan, Chief Poet of Ireland, to attend.  Now, Poets back then was quite different than today – they was not weepy romantics gathering rose buds as they may.  No. Bards were sought-after entertainers wif  mad satirizing skillz. Peeps hung on Seanchan’s every word and laughed themselves silly over his mockery and bullying ways…not unlike certain Radio Talk Show hosts o’ today.  LimBards, you might say.  Anyway, King Guaire longed to host someone so popular, so he invited Seanchan the Bard and a bunch of his fans for a three-day gorge fest.

“Seanchan! How lovely to have you here!” the king exclaimed on the first day of the party. “My other guests will be delighted by your wry commentary.  Pray, good man, come! Eat, drink, enjoy, and if the mood strikes you, favor us with a poem or a song or amusing conspiracy theory.”

Seanchan, however, sulked through the party and refused to eat or talk to anyone.  The King noticed and checked on his guest.

“How now, Seanchan? Don’t you like Turduckin? Haggis? 4 and 20 Blackbird Pie? No? Ah, c’mon my Bard.  I ordered these dishes up for you. Why so glum, my famous friend?” 

Seanchan bade the King to talk to his chubby hand.

“I have never had worse days or worse nights or worse meals in all my life,” replied the Bard and he ate not for three whole days.

The King was stricken.  He had never had an unhappy house guest before.  He was also a little worried that he would be the next target of sarcasm, blabbing to everyone after he left that King Guaire was  a poor host. So he sent for his chief servant – a handsome, clean-cut young man.

“Here, lad,” says the Lord, “take Seanchan a special meal in his room.”  

When the servant tried to serve the Bard, Seanchan knocked the dishes to the floor.

“But why, Bard? What’s wrong?
“I’ll have nothing from you, with your dirty fingernails and your long hair and your Occupy tee shirt…what are you, some kind of voter-fraud hippy with a forged birth certificate?”

Seanchan also added some other unkind suggestions about the servant’s sexual orientation that i won’t repeat here, but suffice it to say that the servant rolled his eyes, cleaned up the mess and left Seanchan to stew.  The other guest heard about it and laughed at Seanchan’s wit and also took pot shots at the servant.  In a hurry to make the Bard happy, the King then sent his niece, a lovely girl young girl, to take him a piece of cake.  But after a bit, the child came back down, sobbing.

“He called me a prostitute and a feminazi and “the white-house dog,” whatever that is…and then he accused me of making taxpayers pay for the cake!” 

The guests roared with laughter, but the King patted the child on the back and decided it was time to send Seanchan packing.  He called the Bard down and ordered him to leave. 

“What? Aren’t you even going to feed me?” the Bard groused.  

The guests blew raspberries. The King rolled his eyes and bade the kitchen maid to fetch an egg.  

The maid crept back into the great hall, head bowed. There is no egg.  A mouse must have eaten it, she explained, embarrassed.

“A MOUSE? ha!” snorted Seanchan, “I don’t believe it. She probably stole the egg and ate it, her and her entire illegal boarder-crossing family…where is your green card, Senorita?” 

“Ditto!” someone in the back of the royal hall yelled, but the King seethed with anger.

“Seanchan, honest to God, I have had about all I can take of you…”

the King muttered through gritted teeth.  He waved in the Royal Guard who stepped forward with their swords drawn.

“Uh…” Seanchan quavered for a second, and then brightened, “well, fine, but let me tell the mice what I think of them!”  

and he marched into the kitchen unleashed a torrent of criticisms, half truths and trumped up charges against the mice.  The mice, small, gentle and not terribly fast with come-backs or fact-checking, sputtered with indignation, then fell over dead.

“And yer mothers were all cadillac-driving welfare cheats!”

he bellowed as the last mouse grabbed at his heart and collapsed under the kitchen table.  The Bard surveyed his destruction and was well pleased.  

“T’is well, but the cat is most to blame, for it was their duty to suppress the votes…I mean, mice, and it was they who should have protected my tax cuts…uh, I mean, egg. And I shall start with the King of them all, Irusan, son of Arusan, for I know where he lives with his wife Spit-fire and his daughter Sharp Tooth and her brothers, The Purrer and the Growler.  But I shall begin with Irusan himself, as he is King and answerable to all cats.”  

So the Bard stuck his head out a tower window and yelled across teh rolling hills of Connaught, barking insults and tirades that could be heard all the way to the Royal Cave of Irusan.

“Irusan, monster of claws, who strikes at mice but then let’s them go, you hunt like a girl. You’re as useless as the UN. Let yer tail hang down, you lazy beast, for even the mice laugh at you.”

Now Irusan heard these words in his cave, and he said to his daughter Sharp-tooth: “Seanchan has satirised me, but I will be avenged. Just you wait until I tell Arianna Huffington about this…”

“Nay, Father,” said Sharp Tooth, “bring him here, alive, that we may all take our revenge.”  

Her Dad had to admit that this was a better plan.

“Send thy brothers after me,”

he growled as he put on his game face and marched off to the castle.  

When Seanchan heard that Irusan was on his way to kill him, he started to shake.  “Protect me!” he begged.  The King smiled and suggested he ask the kitchen staff for help.  Seanchan turned to the maid and tried flattery, but she dropped a dead mouse down his tunic.   Then the servant lad tossed him out into the street and the King’s niece dropped the slice of cake on his head. Then they slammed the door shut.

Standing in the street, the Bard felt the ground rumble.  Then, after he picked icing out of his ears, he heard a roar, like a tempest of a fire in full blaze.  Suddenly Irusan appeared before him, as large as a bull and just as angry and vindictive; kicking up dirt, snorting, snarling, with red eyes and curls of smoke coming from his nose.  Before anyone could bat an eye, Irusan scooped up the poet, tossed him over his shoulder and marched back across the country side.

“Irusan, son of Arusan!” the Bard tried with a nervous laugh, “long time no see old buddy! My, but you’ve grown.  How healthy! How fit!”

When the King o’ Cats refused to answer, Seanchan tried again:

“But Irusan! What have I done to offend thee? T’was all in jest! I’m an entertainer! It’s like professional wrestling.  Everyone knows I don’t mean half the stuff I ever say, right? why don’t you put me down and we’ll agree to disagree…oh please Irusan, son of Arusan, spare me! I invoke the name of the saints…pleeeeeeease don’t kill meeeeeeee.”

And as Irusan marched off at full steam to deliver the Bard to his bloody end, they went past the forge of Saint Keiran. The Saint was hard at work but couldn’t believe what he saw. 

“What!” exclaimed the saint; “is that the Chief Bard of Erin on the back of a cat? Has Guaire’s hospitality ended in this?”

And he ran for a red-hot bar of iron that was in the furnace, and struck the cat on the side with it, so that the iron passed through him, and he fell down lifeless.

Now my curse on the hand that gave that blow!” said the bard, when he got upon his feet.

“And wherefore?” asked St. Kieran.

“Because,” answered Seanchan, “I would rather Irusan had killed me, and eaten me every bit, that so I might bring disgrace on Guaire for the bad food he gave me.  Now I have to go back to that wretched party.  Thanks for nothing, Father.”

Now, for some reason, the Human story ends here, and even has Seanchan going off to be invited, incredibly, to other parties, but let Grandma Nell tell you what really happened.

Back at the cave, Queen Spit-Fire heard the fiery yowls of her husband and she flew like a furry bullet to Kieran’s forge.  She bent over her lifeless husband and purred in his ear.  Irusan, son of Arusan, King o’ Cats, shuddered and shook and coughed up a fur ball before returning to the land o’ the living.  

What happened? did I use up another life?”

“Not to worry, my dear.  why don’t you go home and I’ll take care of everything here.”

She gave St. Kieran a stern look and the Saint muttered, “my bad, your Kittehship. won’t happen again.”  The Queen reached out her paw and pinched the Bard by the ear.  

“You and I have business to discuss, Mr. Poet…”

she hissed and dragged him back to the castle.  She kicked open the door of the great hall and marched in, to the shock of party guests settling down to breakfast in the great hall.

“Here! I bring you your great hero, this so-called Bard – mocker of women, laborers, the under-class, children even. This Great Bully whose cruelties you so enjoy.  And here! I give you a piece of him to share,”

and she unsheathed a single gleaming claw and sliced into the Bard’s ribs where she withdrew a heart, black as coal and shriveled to the size of a pea.  She flicked the pitiful stub onto the great hall table and it landed with a plunk into someone’s bowl of Raisin Bran.

“There! Good luck finding that. And while you hunt for it, consider what happens to the human heart when you spend all day demonizing yer fellow man and debasing the national dialogue so that anyone who disagrees with ye is a Nazi and some such nonsense.   And keep in mind that your own heart may not be much bigger if you continue to cheer on Bullies such as he.”

and wif that, Spit-Fire, Queen o’ teh Kittehs, dropped the Bard on the stone floor and went home and lived happily eva after.

many fanks to teh book “Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms and Superstitions of Ireland,” by Lady Francesca Wilde, where we lifted some quotes directly, probably the best ones.  the rest springs fresh from Sparky’s own fevered imagination.

Nellie Knows

Oh, hello.  i didn’t see you there as i am surfing teh whirled-wide webs, doing some genealogical research.  while you was out over teh river and troo teh woods, I was finding my Grandma on teh internet.

you knows, evaday, kittehs ask me where I get all my famous stories.  ”Who told you a thing like that?” they say…or “what on earths gave you that idea,” or “are you out of your furry little mind?” they all wants to know.  Here then, is my source – my great great great great great wonderful neat-o cool and pawesome Grandma, Nellie McPuss.

Nelle teh Belle was an encyclopedia of cat-lore and history.  She searched teh world for kitteh stories and committed them all to memory.  from time to times, she ended up as the subject of a few legends herself, often as an international spy, crossing teh bad lands of teh Somme, stealing away from an assignation wif Baron von  Puff, blueprints for teh Kaiser’s cat-shaped zeppelin clenched in her teeth, searching teh trenches for her true love, RAF mascot, Trevor.  you know. that kind o’ thing.

Nellie was a welcome guests on red-carpets, rubbing her head against teh shins of stars of stage and screen, as well as in intellectual salons, curling up in teh laps of notable eggheads o’ teh day.  You know that famous story of teh french novelist and party-animal, Colette, who meets teh kitteh in New York City and they meow and meow at each other, until Colette exclaims, “Enfin! Quelqu’un qui parle francais!” (finally! someone who speaks French!)  That was my Grandma.

anywho, i now has Grandma’s treasure trove of stories to share wif you, you lucky fings, you.  stories of love and intrigues; cautionary tales of fickle fame, betrayal and teh ravishes of cat nip addiction.  and all of it true. as far as i knows. Cuz Grandma would neva lie to me.

so, stay tuned.

thanks to Rachel Birdsell for the great pictures!  You can find more of her  “Anthropormorphic Altered Victorians” at her Etsy shop: The Curious Crow.

nice try, Hans.

Kittehs! here is a cautionary tale.  gather round yer teenage girl humans and get them to pay heed (how to get them to pay heed is yer problem, but  this is a very important Public Service Announcement for Comely Frauleins Everywhere!).  Muschi, der Deutchlander kitteh, is abouts to save teh day. 

Hans: Fraulein! Ich Liebe dich! 

Gretel: oh Hans! is it true? do you really?

Hans: Ja! Ja! would I lie to my little Spatzchen? Come, Liebling, let’s make a picnic with your wonderful schnitzel and go discuss our love behind the hay stacks.  leave the cat.  mein Hund, Fritz, will protect her.

Muschi (whispering in her ear): not so fast, mein mådchen.  i just saw him throwing back a stein in the biergarten wif teh burgermeister’s daughter.  smell his breathes. foooeey! that’s a whole lotta Heinken! it’s not even lunch time!  also, Fritz there? he just ate the coo-coo from the clock and barfed it up in the umbrella stand. I fink you knows what you needs to do.

Gretel (closing the door on Hans and Fritz): oh, Muschi, what would I ever do without you?  

Muschi: don know. but bring me teh schnitzel and mebbe you won’t have to find out.

thanks! to Jan Willemsen and his excellent collection of vintage post cards and photos on Flickr