Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

February 19, 2004

Cat research

Determined to do this cat thing right, I went down to Barnes and Noble this afternoon and read through a cat encyclopedia. I learned several things. To wit:

•Cat toys are important. They allow the cat to give vent to its hunting urges. You must play with your cat every day so that it doesn't lose its sense of purpose in life, which is to hunt. A cat without toys and without somebody to make those toys move is in danger of sinking into an existential funk.

•Leaving your cat alone for a long time is a bad thing for its psychological well-being. I had thought that you could leave a bag of catfood out and take a two-week vacation, but apparently not. To avoid permanent psychological harm to kitty, you must have somebody visit the cat daily, and not just to put out food.

•All kittens have blue eyes to start with.

•When the cat presses its paws against me in a rhythmic motion while I am petting it on my lap, it is trying to get me to lactate.

•Cats sweat through their paws only. Pushing their paws on you is also a way for a cat to spread its scent via sweat.

•You should wash the cat dish out every day, and always feed the cat at the same time or it will get discombobulated.

•Cats which are separated from their mothers too soon never get over it and are likely to eat their owners.

•Cats need a high place to sit and watch things happen. They also need at least 15 inches of personal space at all times. If denied their personal space, they can get stressed out and be susceptible to disease.

•Everybody in your household should be in favor of getting a cat or you are just asking for trouble. There needs to be a family conference to make sure of this before you acquire a cat.

•It is true that cats sense non-cat people and crawl all over them when they visit.

•Most cats are mutts. That is good. The pure-breds are usually less healthy because they are sort of inbred. For instance, it is likely that all Siamese cats see double.

•Cats clean themselves as a way of restoring their dignity after they fall or do something stupid. When they clean themselves, it is a sign that they want to be left alone. Play time is over.

•By no means do you ever laugh at a cat when it does something undignified. The penalties for making fun of a cat when its dignity has been ruffled are severe.

•Every meow has a different meaning. According to scientific research, there are roughly 15 types of meows, not including those awful howls they do when mating.

•It is quite possible that a neutered male house cat could live to be 20 years old. The record is 43. (By then I will be 83 years old.)

A big pet supermarket is conveniently located next door to Barnes and Noble. I never thought I would darken the door of one of those places, but there I went with a big cart and started buying things. A scratching post. Some toys. And some catnip.

The catnip was key. I guess it causes some drug-like reaction in cats which makes them go nuts.

So, I drove home and unloaded my take. Before even unloading the groceries, I dipped one of the little felt balls in the bag of catnip, rubbed it around and then threw it on the floor. The cat went nuts for it. Rubbed the ball against its face. Chased it, chewed it, clawed it, until the ball disappeared somewhere. That makes three balls in two days that the cat has lost so completely that I can't find them.

I also rubbed some catnip on the scratching post, and when the cat discovered that, it started rubbing itself against it and howling.

Now the cat is so hyper that I doubt it will sleep tonight. It just took a flying leap at a cupboard door. Big bang. Then it came over to me meowing pitifully, as if I were supposed to feel sorry for it for being out of its mind.

First geraniums arrive

It is always a landmark day at the nursery when the first shipment of geraniums arrives. Six hundred came via Fed Ex a couple of days ago. So then it is to get a greenhouse warmed up, thaw out the frozen pots and get them planted.

The smell of dirt in the greenhouse is welcome. The changes in the season never really hit home until the smells arrive. I suppose I have smelled that dirt for the past 35 springs. It triggers memories of when I used to play with my trucks under the greenhouse bench while the women worked above. When I found worms, I felt it was my duty to help them reproduce by cutting them into several segments.

February 18, 2004

Skiing in the Sandhills

A local cross country ski enthusiast took me into the Fertile Alps, otherwise known as the Sandhills, yesterday afternoon. The Sandhills have a network of groomed cross-country trails, as well as wider groomed trails for snowmobiles.

I did all right until we hit the first hill. I have never gone downhill on cross country skis and I fell spectacularly. By the end, I actually made it down one hill standing, so there was some progress. By that time I was covered in snow from head to toe.

The hills, both up and down, make for some vigorous exercise. You fight up the hills with your skis in a V shape. You go down the hills just hoping for the best. My concern going out there alone would be getting lost. The trails are obvious, but there are a lot of turn offs and you could end up going in circles if you weren't careful.

The Sandhills are remnants of the beach of old Lake Agazziz. They have spawned vegetation and wildlife unique to this area, including a little lizard called a skink which is found two places in the world: In the Sandhills by Fertile, and in a small part of Siberia.

In the middle of the Sandhills is an Environmental Learning Center, where school children and others can learn about the flora and fauna of the area.

In local culture, the function of the Sandhills is somewhat different: They have long been a prime location for teen parties. Hot-rodders test their vehicles on the hills. Others climb the hills with their ATVs.

Until thirty years ago, the Ski Devil ski area hosted local downhill skiers. The chalet is now a house. In the past ten years, the northeast part of the Sandhills was developed into the Sandhill River Golf Club.

I'll be sore today! Climbing those hills and falling down the other side was good exercise.

February 17, 2004

Climax in the news

According to LB, an email correspondent (and cousin) from Boise, ID, Fertile made the news out there when Idaho pot entrepreneur John O'Keefe, alias "John Johnson," was busted here.

Then, Climax made an appearance as a human interest story on Boise television. Apparently the t-shirt "Climax: More than Just a Feeling" was banned in the Climax-Shelly High School. The t-shirt has been out for years, and has been generating revenue for somebody all this time, but when a teacher wore it to school, the puritans balked, pushing school administrators into an avoid-trouble-at-all-costs panic.

View the t-shirt here, or purchase one of the many colors, one of which is sure to fit your wardrobe.

February 16, 2004

Rodriguez to the Yanks

Well, the rich get richer. The Yankees picked up Alex Rodriguez, baseball's best player. We should have expected this. George gets his way.

Rodriguez is a wonderful player. I watched him play for the Rangers in three games last season, including the game I saw at Yankee Stadium. He dominates a game from all angles--at bat and on the field.

Rodriguez was a victim of his greed. He chased a few more million from the Rangers than his old team, the Seattle Mariners, were willing to part with--only to find himself on a last place team going nowhere fast. Meanwhile, the Mariners became one of baseball's best teams.

Sometimes, I think having a big home run-hitting star does a team more harm than good. The Mariners didn't excel until they let their two biggest sluggers, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Rodriguez, go to other teams. Rarely do you see the league's home run leader play for the World Series victor. In fact, it almost never happens.

Now Rodriguez has escaped Texas to play for the mighty Yankees. It doesn't seem fair. The Yanks just go out and grab whoever they want. All the more reason to cheer for the Red Sox, although they have spent plenty of money themselves.

One problem: The Yankees pitching staff. You can get all the runs you want, but if you can't keep the other team from scoring, you're in trouble. Texas is a big example. Pitching, particularly starting pitching, wins.

The Yankees have picked up some talented pitchers to replace the departed Andy Pettite, Roger Clemens and David Wells, but none of those pitchers have played in New York before. That place eats people up. There's a reason they play that song at the end of every Yankee's win that has the line, "If you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere..."

A cat's life

It is Day 5 of having a cat in my house. It has stopped shedding so prolifically. It demands canned food at five o'clock each night. It is now more energetic. Instead of jumping up on the bed right when I go to bed, it chases around the house for an hour or two before finally retiring for the night. I suspect any mice which dare show themselves will meet a quick end.

I am slowly getting trained in.

The laptop computer is offensive to the cat. A cat is supposed to have full access and control over all laps, apparently. Last night, we worked out a compromise whereby the cat sat beside me in the recliner while I typed. This truce lasted for about twenty minutes before the cat decided just to crawl onto the keyboard. It wanted undivided attention.

In fact, the whole notion of me doing anything besides acting as a couch for the cat offends him. He is a complete narcissist. As somebody said, dogs have masters but cats have staff. You are but an extension of their vision. This is not always cute.

Inadvertently stepping on the cat's tail does nothing to discourage it from being underfoot in the kitchen.

Ignoring the persistent demands for attention isn't enough--you have to be actively hostile before the cat will finally go retire to a corner. I do not like to do this, but I also like to get things done.

I can see that this relationship will work out best if we have frequent time apart. Overexposure is bad. In other words, winter weekends when it is too cold to go anywhere will test both of our limits.

Of course, having a cat to worry about and fret over keeps one's mind off of the many other things one could worry about this time of year when there is so little pressing to do.