Monday, September 14, 2009

Scenes from Silver Creek: Watson

Watson was a fat orange tabby owned by our next-door neighbors when I was growing up. One of the four redheaded Orr kids did the old “he followed me home” bits and Watson moved into their house and our street.

Watson e thought any yard with a sunbeam was fair game, any door open to the summertime heat an invitation, and any lap his rightful domain. He would follow anybody down the street, indignantly meowing at a lack of pets. During the morning parade of kids walking to school in the morning he would sit in front of the Orr house and we would all dutifully pat his head as we walked by. Once the first child made his appearance on the sidewalk Watson would pad over, plunk his plump butt down, and wait for the pilgrimage. Every kid on the street, even the ones who didn’t like cats, would bend down to stroke his head or scratch his twitchy ears. Then, the ritual completed to his satisfaction, he would head off to start his day. It was a busy life with butterflies to chase, birds to chirp at, squirrels to scold and other cats to intimidate.

Of the five or six cats on our block at any one time, Watson was definitely the ringleader. He was the one who always held his ground when another would dare to invade his turf. He was the one that cruised the lady cats who always seemed sadly unimpressed with his strutting bluster. Although fixed, he never seemed aware of the fact and his attempts to play Romeo were numerous and legendary. A conscientious would-be suitor, his best effort involved bringing the corpse of Rudy Gardoff’s hamster, Dutch (recently and too shallowly buried in the Gardoff’s rose garden) to the Arthur’s brown tabby, Mona. Mona, at that time enamored of a black monster of unknown parentage and ownership seemed pleased at the offering but still preferred to keep company with someone else.

In spite of his masculine bravado, Watson was endlessly patient with any bored child who wanted to play dress-up or war. One of my favorite childhood photos shows me holding him, overfilling my chubby child’s arms, as he looked with surly acceptance at the camera in a tiny sailor hat. When my Barbie married Melissa Garth’s Ken, Wilson was both flower girl and minister. And when the Orr kids reenacted by Battle of the Bulge, Watson was (for some reason historically incongruous reason) George Washington.

Watson lived to the ripe old age of 16 and when he died the whole street turned out for his funeral. Mr.Orr played “Amazing Grace” and “The Alley Cat Song” on the harmonica and Mrs. Baciagaloupi made a mouse-shaped wreath from the flowers in the back garden. (Although she had to explain it was a mouse because we all thought it was Idaho.) He was buried under their oak tree, in a spot where he would while away the hot summer afternoons in the shade. And for many years there was a small wooden cross on which was painted “Watson Orr. A fine cat.’

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