Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?

I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, I concocted a plan to take Chuck with me when I travel around the world, which I do frequently. Not an easy task. First, I have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when I arrive, I pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chuck, the Wannabe Native Chief!

Chuck has always had a thing for teepees and tents and being outside underneath the stars. He is one of those cats who should have been born hundreds of years ago when the West was still wild and a cat could still roam the plains free, without fear of being run over by a car or a wild horse.

After he attacked the woodpile in the English 17th c village of Plimouth, we lost no time hightailing Chuck over to the other half of the Plimouth Plantation--the Native American Wampanoag homesite--located on the Eel River, figuring he had a thing or two to learn about how the native people lived on the east coast.

At home we call Chuck the “eagle eye.” He is always the first one to spot the tiniest bug crawling along the window ledge. He goes nuts if there is a reflection from the sun off your wristwatch hitting the kitchen wall. He notices everything.

In that first minute when we arrived at the homesite, Chuck’s head popped out of my backpack, and he just itched to jump out and have a look around. This was not the usual protocol. After all, cats are seldom welcome anywhere.

But Chuck had a distinct advantage. Smoke.

There seemed to be smoke everywhere because it was cold, cold, cold and the only way to keep warm back then was to build a fire. Which created smoke. The entire homesite sat under a gray cloud, which gave the Chuckster just the protection he needed to roam around without being noticed.

So off we went. First, the “belly boy” trotted over to a lean-to where animal skins were being laid out to dry, skins which would later be used as clothing and bedding. Sniff, sniff, sniff, his curious nose couldn’t get enough.

But I could tell that Chuck had his eye on a bigger prize--the Wampanoag had recently completed building a massive dome-shaped house covered with bark. No, it wasn’t called a teepee. Native American domiciles out west were called teepees. In the East, the proper term is a “wetus” or “wigwam.”

Chuck snuck inside, and luckily no one noticed his furry body.

Imagine a rectangular structure that extended at least twelve feet high, with a dirt floor and a large campfire placed strategically in the middle for warmth. The beds, built from tree branches and off the ground, would be placed along the edge, but facing toward the center. This “wigwam” would be large enough for an entire extended family. The interior decorators were at work.

I started coughing from the smoke. So did Chuck.

There was nothing glamorous about life 400 hundred years ago.

Outside, shivering, I asked Chuck, “Have you seen enough?”

But Chuck was already scampering over to what appeared to be the cooking area. Two beautiful ladies sat in front of an oversized black kettle, preparing what would be the evening meal.

Oh, yeah, Chuck has an eye for the ladies.

Inside the kettle was a combination of berries, pumpkin seeds, squash . . . “Did the Chuckster want to stay for dinner?”


He obviously didn’t think so. At that very moment a whiff of wind from the river blew through the camp, and the smoke cleared.

From the corner of my eye I noticed two official types “noticing” Chuck for the first time, frowning.

Oh, no.

It was true--the Chuckster had gone where no cat had ever gone before, but his idyllic trip back into the past was over.

We had to get out of here FAST.

“We’ve been spotted,” I whispered to the kid. “C’mon.”

Chuck was no fool. But, you know, what they say about cats-mighty curious.

He stopped mid scamper.

“Chuck, c’mon. We’re not welcome here.”

But Chuck had spied an authentic hand-carved canoe, or rather what the Native Americans called a “mishoon.” And at that moment, it was on fire. Yep. That’s right. No joke. It seems that the native people often used fire as a tool to hollow out a tree so they could “create” a canoe.

With no thought of the imminent danger from the “suits,” Chuck jumped on the edge of the canoe and began sniffing, careful not to burn his too curious nose off.

“That’s it,” I thought, as I grabbed him by the scruff of his orange and white neck. “You’ll thank me later when you’re not rotting in some Massachusetts jail cell awaiting sentencing from some dog loving judge.”

On our way back to the car, I asked him, “Well, Chuck, what do you think? Do you still want to live back then?”

No answer.

I had gently shoved the kid back into my backpack. Now I peeked inside. He looked to be catnapping.

Was he dreaming of a more rustic lifestyle when he could someday grow up to become Chief Chuck of the Wampanoag tribe?

Who knows what cats secretly dream about besides snacks?

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