Bob's Pride: The Cats of El Triunfo
IExcuse bad quality: Re-photoed from prints
Much Loved and Never Forgotten
Growing up in Britain, we were a doggy family and cats, who killed song birds and yowled at night, were not in favor. We never owned one and next door’s got short-shrift when found trespassing and eyeing our garden robin - who eyed it back with some aplomb: robins are no pushover and will mob sparrow-hawks never mind the Pierson’s fat tabby.
So I matured - after a fashion - knowing little about “Felis silvestris catus,” as the domestic cat is called,
Thanks to human’s compacted living arrangements these days, and despite rarely smoking Virginia Slims, cats have ‘come a long way baby,’ by 2012.
But my first role as cat owner came no earlier than 1996 when I was working for a local Spanish rag in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
It will, said it’s hard hearted owner then, “Be put down if no one wants it.”
As I was going through one of my regular between wives moments, I decided I could not let this happen and Sheba came into my life - to change it forever as far as cats are concerned.
We had a small bungalow with a pretty little sunken garden and a couple of trees. Sheba soon settled in and learned a few skills. She was a good footballer with balls of paper and loved playing, her favorite game being hiding under a cupboard for hours until I had forgotten her whereupon she would charge out, skid to a stop and look at me with the football in her mouth! I soon got to love this little calico girl too much.
While I wrote on the laptop for tomorrow’s edition, she would climb into my lap and fold her paws across my left arm, appearing most engrossed in what I was writing.
When she was about 8 months old, I got a chance to continue my column in Cuernavaca, but also move to La Paz. South Baja California, to write for a local, English paper.
This gave me a double income for a few years until the Cuernavaca newspaper boss decided to can the English page.
So I continued where I was in South Baja.
I hadn’t succeeded in finding love yet - by 1998 - but Sheba had, unfortunately. I had more or less decided not to neuter her until she had one litter, anyway. To give birth is such a drive in all higher animals and I didn’t want to prevent my beloved companion from at least satisfying her evolutionary duties.
She had four gorgeous kittens. Missie, black as night with yellow eyes, George, a shy and timid ginger and white boy, Patch, a black and white male, and, my son and heir, Rambo, a staunch little Tabby who was singled out for success early as he rode everywhere on my shoulder!
Just about then, I had some other woes and decided to move out of La Paz, despite this causing great sadness with Sheba and her swain, a furtive grey chap who would wait for me to disappear before approaching his beloved. Female cats form firm relationships with their Tom; they don’t cohabit unless the female is ready, but they enjoy each other’s company.
Sheba trusted me with her kittens from the first hour. I find this such an honor when a wild, or domesticated, animals trusts her keeper with her cubs, or whatever. I loved handling them and, well, I just couldn’t bear to get rid of her children.
I did have her fixed, though, no more sweetheart, that’s it.
In El Triunfo I had a small house with a garden and the whole of the nearby desert to explore.
The rapidly growing kitties had all that, as well as the local tom cats to explore! When Missy, my little midnight lady, had her first litter she was about one year old. I had made her a box and she allowed me to pick them up just as her mother had done. We were all happy then: my original four, plus Missie’s four kittens.
That’s when things got a bit out of control. Two of Missie’s brood were little girls, and “Little girls get bigger every day,” as Maurice Chevalier warned us. I had a neighbor with two Tom cats…fixed? You kidding, poor Mexicans can’t afford a handful of tortillas every day, never mind vet bills to mess around with a chingada gato, for goodness sake! (effing cat).
Keeping tom cats away from a ready female is a hopeless task. They would sit…and sit there, until they saw my guard was down and then get the object of their affections into the orchard and consummate their desire real quick, along with some yowls of bliss.
I must admit Missy was genuinely ashamed when she started showing again, because I had lectured her about not having more kittens. She knew. And she disappeared to have her second litter: goodness knows where.
After a few weeks, she crawled into the house, exhausted and beaten down, one little sodden bundle in her mouth. I scooped her up, kitten and all and immediately prepared her box. Meanwhile, she crept away and came back with one more tiny precious mite.
I used to drive the 30 or so miles to La Paz several times a week to submit articles, shop, and meet with friends. During one of these trips, Ana came into my life, and I began to spend more and more time in La Paz, often staying overnight. My mozo, Armando, fed the pride while I was away and cared for my house.
The cats increased in number, as these extremely sensual and fertile creatures will, until we had 17 at the dining table each night. It did stop there, and I wonder if the cat’s efficient survival mechanism had kicked in, resulting in a collective, “Party time’s over” to their swains. (They never interbred, incidentally).
I found a large serving bowl with multi-compartments and they arrayed themselves around this, all the world like some multi-hued, tropical flower. My pride’s feeding time became quite famous and people dropped in to watch them eat. Never once did one cat try to get food from his relation’s share. Never once in these two years did I ever see my cats fight with one another. Humankind could learn a lot from these wise creatures.
I was the Alpha; my word, accompanied by a broom and shooing noises was law. These social carnivores really enjoy the attention of the alpha males and females…Sheba was my alpha female and Rambo the second in command when I wasn’t there.
Their biggest sin, which I am sure they anticipated with much glee, was to find my bedroom door open (off limits to them). They would then all pile in and be waiting on the bed for me; seventeen pairs of mischief filled eyes looking at me. You had to laugh.
Cats love to bring you delicious tidbits to share with them. I could never dissuade them from popping in with a juicy scorpion, a desperate lizard, or, a couple of times, a baby rattlesnake! There was also ordinary fare, such as pigeons and other birds.
Missy was the greatest hunter; she could climb trees like lightning. I loved them all: Sheba, of course, but Rambo and lithe, anxious little Missy with the huge yellow eyes stole my heart completely…and they still own it today.
There was so much sadness along with the joy. We were a handful of houses surrounded by one big desert and cactus covered hills.
Sheba failed to make it home first and began to break my heart. Coyotes come right in to the village fringes and take small dogs and cats. I prayed her death had been fast. I wonder if her last thoughts were of her pride and her “daddy cat…”
I’m sorry, I can’t see the keyboard to write any more of this article….
Later; I am going to skip a lot of the sad parts of this story as I don’t have the control to pen the words. I had to return to Britain in 2003. When I last returned to El Triunfo in 2006, Rambo - my Rambo - was still alive and came over and head-butted me as if 3 years had not passed. He didn’t seem to mind the squeeze I gave him. He lived with Armando now, and one of his sons I had given Armando previously
Of the others, some still lived on and had been adopted…most had given in to the harsh surroundings…
I like to think Rambo lives on in 2012..he would be 12 now, no great age, and Armando also loves him. I am going over there this year and will visit him.
If one were to believe in spirits, a phalanx of brightly colored and mischievous creatures cavort around the hills of this timeless village - looking for a baby rattler to bring home for Daddy-Cat…
Was I eccentric in allowing this pride to increase like this, as a friend has suggested, without foreseeing their demise?
Should I have done more to neuter the original four - or eight?
Yes and yes, no doubt about it. But I will remember for what years I have left the companionship of these incredible, affectionate and peace-loving creatures…and long to have them with me again - all those naughty eyes gazing insouciantly from my bed - and do a better job as their Alpha this time…
I am sorry this article is so sketchy and just the bare bones of all that occurred over nearly three years, but to cover the saga adequately would take a book.
I will add photos as soon as I can.