|This is Smokey and I remember him I couldn't have been more than six years old|
Smokie The Cat
A man and his dog somehow fit together, like Damon and Pythias, or ham and eggs, or pork and beans; but a yarn about a man and a cat is--well listen:
My friend, Edward M. (Bud) Metzen, of Detroit, who hunted birds, bears and bucks as a member of the Maple Ridge Hunt Club of Hulbert, Michigan, tells the story--and Bud should know all about it. You see, it was Bud's father, The late E.B. Metzen, Detroit contractor, who was the cat's master. The cat was a huge, black Persian named Smokie, and Smokie was a cat who traveled twice around the world, who chased dogs (instead of vice versa), who once tackled a bear, and who openly grieved while separated from his doting master.
"Smokie first came into dad's life on a bleak winter day in 1942" Bud Metzen began. "At the time, Dad was in the Coast Guard, and was renting a house on U.S.2 just outside Sault Ste. Marie. During a quiet moment, sandwiched between howls of a blizzard, Dad heard a faint meow at the back door. He opened the door, and there stood Smokie-shivering in the near zero temperature, and looking into Dad's face with an irresistible "please-may-I-come-in" expression.
"Dad was a dog lover all his life; he had never given any cat a second glance. But beneath the hard shell he may have presented to other human beings, he had a kind heart. So he stood in the doorway a moment thinking the situation over. Most cats wouldn't have been tactful enough to ask to come in; as quickly as they could, they would have darted in........to ask permission later, if at all. But Smokie didn't attempt that--and it's good that he didn't; he may have been booted out right at the start. It was his tact that helped sell Dad.
"Smokie was just a little tyke then--about two months old. His ribs, corrugating his shiny black sides, showed foraging in the woods hadn't been paying off too well. Moreover, the blizzard screaming through the tangled trees was none too friendly to man or beast; and tiny tracks in the snow, leading straight as a ruled line from the woods to Dad's back door, were proof enough that Smokie had found the going just too tough.
"So Dad bent down, picked up Smokie, and carried him into the warm house. A bowl of milk and a handful of hamburg would help, too, after which there would be time enough to think about finding the friendless kitten a good home. Of course, Dad didn't realize it at the time, but Smokie did: Smokie already had found a good home."
And that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship--a close and touching association between man and cat which lasted until Mr. Metzen's death in 1948. Smokie himself, grieving unbelievably, didn't last long thereafter. He died the very same summer.
Smokie, Bud Metzen said, remained close to E.B. Metzen for six long troublesome years. He seemed to idolize Metzen with all the affection an animal can bestow upon a man--and for a man who never cared for cats, E.B. always managed to keep a warm spot in his heart for Smokie.. And many's the time Bud Metzen went on, when the two of them were alone in E.B.'s cabin aboard ship, Smokie sat on Metzen's lap purring happily, and stroking E.B.'s face with his paw.
"On one occasion," Bud said, "Dad couldn't take Smokie along on his vessel, so the cat was boarded out in a veterinary hospital. But long before Dad's return, the vet telephoned us asking us to come pick up Smokie before the cat starved to death.. My sister had to go buy the vet's place, pick Smokie up and bring him home with us. For days he had lain in his cage sulking. He simply refused to eat for any stranger.
In spite of his early training, fending for himself in the woods, Smokie was gentle and well behaved. He'd come a-runninjg when whistled for, and E.B. Metzen always claimed the cat was a good retriever, He proved this unusual ability once by bringing his master a live bird, carrying the tiny feathered creature in his mouth very tenderly. The bird, frightened but completely unharmed, was placed proudly at Mr. Metzen's feet.
But Smokie didn't like dogs, although, unlike most of his kind, he wasn't afraid of them. On the contrary, he frequently turned things wrong-end to by chasing dogs!
"Once when Dad became executive officer of a troop transport," Bud Metzen continued, "he asked permission of the Captain to bring Smokie aboard with him. The Captain said it was okay with him, but explained that he [the skipper] had a large dog aboard who had no use for cats, and probably would make life aboard that ship fairly miserable for Smokie. Dad then felt it good business to do some explaining himself. He explained that Smokie had little use for dogs either, and could take care of himself around them.
But, as might be expected when cat and dog meet, there was trouble. Just as the Captain had predicted, the skippers dog declared war on Smokie instantly. Smokie dodged the dog's initial charge, then, when the dog wheeled and charge again, Smokie neatly leaped aboard the dog's back. There followed a long exciting ride around the ship's decks, astride the Captain's dog, which by then was a badly scared animal. Because the dog belonged to Dad's superior officer, the incident was a bit embarrassing. But it settled the trouble for all time; the skippers dog never again attempted to molest Smokie."
Smokie proved to be a good sailor. He loved to travel--via any method at all, but he was particularly fond of sailing. He completely circled the globe twice aboard ship, and on one occasion, when first crossing the equator, he underwent the usual equatorial ritual by being doused in a tank of water. He never quite forgave the sailor who did the tossing.
If Smokie harbored fear of any other animal, he kept it to himself. He was particularly valiant, perhaps a bit jealous, when other animals hove too close to his master. Once, while Mr. Metzen and Smokie were crossing the States by automobile, Metzen stopped in a national park to watch bears cavorting before a dozen or more spectators. One of the big bruins, obviously looking for a handout, ventured too close to E.B. Like a bolt of lightening, Smokie charge at the Gargantuan intruder, leaped aboard his back, and put the startled bear to flight. Animals simply didn't exist that could scare the intrepid ship's cat.
But Smokie did have one fer. He dreaded the noise of man-made battle, and each time E.B.'s vessel became involved in a shooting war, he climbed into E.B.'s dresser and hid in a drawer, under the masters clean shirts. Even to Smokie, there seemed to be something senseless, shameful; and fearsome about a man-made shooting war.
When the shooting war was finally ended and E.B. brought Smokie home to a peacetime existence, Smokie was extremely happy. He remained that way, until that awful day in 1948 when E.B. went away, to remain away forever. Smokie moped about the Metzen home, refusing to eat and getting thinner day after day. He missed his master tremendously, and he sensed something was wrong. But he never gave up hope, never stopped looking for him. Finally, Smokie could stand his loneliness no longer. One day, while he lay on the floor near the big chair in which his master had often sat, a long sigh slipped from his lips, he never sighed again.
"It is probably silly of me," Bud concluded," "but I like to believe that at that very moment, Smokie took the trail which ultimately would lead him to a reunion with Dad. I know that would make Smokie happy--and it would make Dad Happy too."
And just one thing more, before the story's ended: Following Smokie's death, E.B. Metzen's widow (Bud's mother) had a veterinary perform an autopsy on the grief-stricken cat. The vet reported in all seriousness that Smokie died from a broken heart.
I don't want to take anything away from this story but I would add that my cat arrived in my life at an adoption fair. He was in a cage, this beautiful cat. I can only conclude that he was waiting for me. He comes on a whistle, follows me like a dog would, and occasionally strokes my cheek with his paw. Synchronicity is.