You like cats, don't you?
Clipper and Keebles are large cats, longhaired blurs of gray, ginger, white, brown, and maybe something else. Whenever Daddy visits Bill Ball, they sit on the porch and drink beer. (The humans, not the cats.) A cat always sits on Daddy's lap, purring, and Daddy rubs him.
But remember, Daddy doesn't like cats.
Daddy is 6'4" and around 280 pounds. Bill Ball is 5'9" and 180 pounds, I'd guess. He's about ten years younger than Daddy, and his beard is maybe a foot long. He raises cows. If you saw Daddy and Bill Ball together, you'd never guess you were looking at two millionaires. They like it that way.
When they went to their first Wild Turkey Federation Auction, together of course, Daddy wondered about the dress code. Suit and tie? He sure didn't want to wear a suit and tie.
"I tell ya, Jim," said Bill. "The last time I wore a tie was in 1964. It was about a foot wide, and it said George Wallace For President."
They wore jeans and T-shirts. They were correct to do so.
But remember, Bill loves his cats.
These cats are rather large, slug-like creatures. But one of them, probably Clipper, is quicker than he looks. The cat (Clipper?) once caught a hummingbird in his mouth. Bill yelled and ran over to Clipper and slapped him on the back. Clipper coughed up a single feather, just like in an old cartoon.
One evening, Daddy was patrolling his property. He saw two Mexicans on foot, trespassing. He grabbed his gun and fired at them, then chased them around in his truck shooting and cussing like only he can. They finally escaped through the woods where a truck can't follow.
The next day, Daddy was visiting Bill Ball. One of the cats purred peacefully on Daddy's lap.
"Jim," Bill drawled, "A funny thing happened last night. I was settin' out here on the porch, and these two Mexicans come runnin' outta the woods. They were scared to death, I tell ya, like they'd seen a ghost. I asked ‘em what was wrong, and they slowed down just long enough to yell at me, ‘El Diablo is after us. El Diablo is comin' to get us.'"
El Diablo is Spanish for "the devil."
Daddy smiled. "Was it around nine o'clock?"
"Well yeah, Jim, I believe it was."
Daddy laughed. "You're lookin' at El Diablo. I chased those Mexicans off my land."
"Well hell, Jim, if I'd a known they was yours I'd a sent ‘em back."
But remember, Bill Ball loves his cats.
Hurricane Floyd, the fifth and final one I saw in Watha (North Carolina), was the worst. It came on the heels of Hurricane Dennis, a rather weak one that hit us twice. The land was already flooded and the river was seeping over the banks. Then came Floyd. Not only was it destructive, but it hovered a while, raining and raining.
Bill Ball lives half a mile from the river, which was higher than anyone remembered it being before. When the road was under water, he crossed it to get his cats. He left them on the porch, where they stayed for a while. Then they went under the house, a favorite spot, and he forgot about them.
Hours passed, and the river kept rising. Nobody in the area had power at this point, and there was quite a bit of property damage. Meanwhile, the rains kept coming. Bill and his wife were sitting in the house, waiting it out by candlelight, when they heard an awful howling. It wasn't the wind. It sounded terrible. It was coming from beneath the floor.
Bill ran outside. The water came up to his waist, maybe higher. He waded over to a place where a pipe led from somewhere outside to beneath the house. He pulled aside the plastic and insulation that blocked the hole, but both cats were too large to fit through it. He rescued a third cat, whose name I don't know.
Bill rushed into the house, now thoroughly soaked. The screaming was terrible. Clipper and Keebles had maybe an inch of air, and the water was still rising. These were the screams of two cats who were drowning.
"Oh God, Bill, do something quick! Do something!"
Bill looked at his floor. His gorgeous, polished hardwood floor. It had his initials burned into it with a circle around them, I think. I never saw it myself, but I heard that it was a real work of art. He was so proud of that floor.
"Well," he decided, "It's probably ruined anyway."
Bill got his chainsaw and cut a hole in the floor to save his drowning cats.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael publishes a free weekly newsletter, WHO MOVED MY RICE?, which is dedicated to proving that you can't eat grits with chopsticks. http://www.chinarice.org