An un­for­get­table cat

The Covington News - - LIFE­STYLE - PAULA TRAVIS COLUM­NIST

When I was grow­ing up, my fam­ily al­ways had a cat. I can’t re­mem­ber them all. And af­ter I got mar­ried, my home fol­lowed that tra­di­tion. We al­ways had a cat. But af­ter nearly 50 years of mar­riage, I can’t re­mem­ber all of their names, ei­ther. Most, how­ever, fol­lowed a lit­er­ary tra­di­tion, from the first, “Mil­ton,” to the last to die, “Earnest” (from “The Im­por­tance of Be­ing Ernest”). There were ex­cep­tions when my chil­dren or a grand­child named a cat. That would in­clude my present cat Ju­lianne, a stray who took up with us and who was named by my old­est grand­daugh­ter.

My sis­ter has al­ways had a cat, too. She is now cat­less, since her last, named Tippy, is de­ceased. She did have a stray take up with her af­ter Tippy. She named her Cleopa­tra, but that cat is too wild and does not like to be so­cial.

My sis­ter’s most fa­mous, or infamous, cat was Rhett But­ler.

She went with her son to a neigh­bor whose cat had just had kit­tens. Their in­tent was to pick out a fam­ily pet. She asked the neigh­bor, a farmer, which was the smartest of the lit­ter. He said some­thing to this ef­fect. “Lady, they ain’t no smart cat.” That state­ment was to be prophetic for Rhett But­ler.

My sis­ter then in­di­cated she would take the one with big ears. Hence his name. Ac­cord­ing to my sis­ter, Clark Gable, who played Rhett But­ler, had big ears.

Rhett But­ler was black and white and was an in­door/out­door cat. And it seems he had an affin­ity for car en­gines, par­tic­u­larly on cold morn­ings.

One chilly morn­ing my sis­ter started her car, let it run awhile to warm up and then drove off. She was on the way to the school where she taught when she heard a blood-cur­dling howl com­ing from her en­gine. It was Rhett But­ler.

Since she was in the mid­dle of nowhere on her drive to school, she had no op­tion but to con­tinue to her des­ti­na­tion.

When she got there, Rhett But­ler was still howl­ing, and my sis­ter was afraid to open the hood, for fear of see­ing a man­gled cat.

Her hus­band was the prin­ci­pal of the same school and had left for work ear­lier than she. She went to his of­fice and explained the sit­u­a­tion. He came to the park­ing lot, popped the hood and found Rhett But­ler no worse for the wear. How he man­aged to re­main in a rel­a­tively safe place un­der that hood and around that en­gine and did not jump off onto a strange road is any­one’s guess.

Since classes were about to start, Rhett But­ler, like any way­ward child, had to spend the day in the prin­ci­pal’s of­fice. It some­what mys­ti­fied those lis­ten­ing to the morn­ing an­nounce­ments when a me­ow­ing cat was heard in the back­ground. Rhett But­ler did not learn his les­son. The next time it was in the af­ter­noon and not all that chilly. My sis­ter and her son were headed to a ball field for her son’s base­ball game. This time she and her son heard the fear­ful howls of a cat when they were about half­way to their des­ti­na­tion.

When they ar­rived at the ball field, my sis­ter sent her son on to get ready for the game. This time, she was not afraid of what she might find. She was just an­gry.

She stood in the mid­dle of the park­ing lot and screamed at the hood of her car. “Rhett But­ler, come out of there right now!” Af­ter she had done that sev­eral times, she be­gan to at­tract a crowd and had to of­fer an ex­pla­na­tion.

He even­tu­ally came out and she and the cat watched the ball game. He wasn’t happy hav­ing to sit still for so long, but she couldn’t leave him locked up in the car. She did get him back home from his sec­ond ex­ploit as a stow­away in a car en­gine. And it was his last.

Rhett But­ler was not a long-lived cat. He died when he was about five. Prob­a­bly just the com­fort­able mid­dle of cat life.

He de­vel­oped re­s­pi­ra­tory prob­lems. Prob­a­bly from in­hal­ing en­gine fumes.

Paula Travis is a re­tired teacher from the New­ton County School Sys­tem.

WED­NES­DAY Take off pounds sen­si­bly

10 to 11 a. m.; First Pres­by­te­rian Church, 1169 Clark St., SW Cov­ing­ton; Free; Mar­i­lyn Hall, 770-788-1711.

THURS­DAY ‘Char­lotte’s Web’

9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.; Madi­son Mor­gan Cul­tural Cen­ter; 434 S. Main St., Madi­son; rec­om­mended for grades K-5; $ 5 stu­dents; Re­becca Bonas rbonas@ mmcc. art.org or 706-342-4743, ext. 23. Min­is­ters meet­ing

11: 30 a. m- 1 p. m..; Ruby Tues­day’s, 1714 Ge­or­gia 138, Cony­ers; Those at­tend­ing will cover their own meals. Pas­tors, min­is­ters and chil­dren’s/ youth pas­tors in­vited for a time of re­la­tion­ship-build­ing and prayer for our com­mu­nity. Deb­bie Hogg, 770- 841- 7481, pazdeb­bie@gmail.com.

SUN­DAY Singing Sis­ters

4 p. m.; Beth­le­hem Bap­tist Church, Cov­ing­ton; Free ad­mis­sion with do­na­tion to Young Artists Pro­gram Scholarships.; New­ton County Arts As­so­ci­a­tion, 770786-8188, New­tonCoun­tyArts.org.

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