Cats and Trains


Cats and Trains 

By Roger Heid 

I think, it goes back to 1956, if I remember correctly. Earlier that year, our old cat had passed on, a rather tearful event. She was an excellent companion during my childhood. I played all kinds of games with her. Trains she was never interested in.


Spitting Image

Things changed in early summer, that year, when I was blessed with the arrival of Flippy, my new playmate, only about seven weeks old, full of the dickens. He was a gorgeous blue/white tuxedo cat, a white tip on the end of his tail, and white paws on front and rear. He was very fast, a good fly catcher. He usually caught them in mid flight, displaying all sorts of impossible gyrations while leaping after a fly in flight. This is why he finally wound up with his name.


That’s the way he looked


While he was in his rambunctious state, I refrained from setting up my railroad tracks. I better waited until he would settle down to an acceptable degree, at least in my opinion. My opinion about him and my Mom’s opinion differed greatly, at first. She had to replace a few things while he was a kitten. Spare me the details. A couple of times, she mentioned she was about to get rid of him. I prefer not to quote her. But the love between him and I saved him from his departure. I briefly learned how to bawl again the way I did when I something like 5 years old.


That was him! Oh yeah!

By the end of October, the wordage my Mom used to address him had mellowed to a printable status. I figured this was a good time to put up my railroad tracks, just the tracks, for a starter.  Unexpectedly, he totally ignored them, as if they did not exist, at all. Maybe he had gone insane or feeble minded. Who knows? He was far more interested stealing sugar cubes from an uncovered bowl the lid of which he had busted some months earlier. No he did not have a sweet tooth. She sugar cubes he batted around until he could not find or reach them anymore. Sometimes, there was a crunching noise when you stepped on the edges of a certain rug.

Well, then I hooked up my transformer and readied my little train except the one car that was a little fragile. He came close to sniff at the train. I opened the throttle a little. The train started to inch forward. Flippy immediately made an about face and raced under the sofa where stayed for several hours.

The next day, he started to watch the train from under the sofa. The following day, he approached it very slowly, coming only half way. On the fourth day, he made piece meal out of my railroad system. It was in shambles. I fathomed Atlanta must have looked like this after Sherman’s troops had come through, on their march to the sea. Fortunately, nothing was on fire.

My voice raised, I resorted to wordage similar to the one my Mom had used earlier in the year. Somehow, I now sympathized with her, retroactively. As a result of my outburst, Flippy could not be found. He reappeared sometime during the night, assumably driven by a growling stomach. While getting ready for school, that morning, Flippy kept out of sight, probably waiting until I was gone.

When I came home he conducted his usual greeting ceremony and acted as if nothing had happened which was fine by me. I figured we try it again. Fortunately, there had been no real damage done, the day before. Domesticated cats are known to have a reasonable amount of intelligence and docility. Flippy proved this, right then and there. He was very careful, almost dainty, while playing with the train, trying to figure out how to have permissible fun. I adored him for that. There was hope, after all.

Another day later, we tried again. This effort yielded about the same results. Even my Mom was amazed and decided to bury the battle ax, for good. She hugged him, letting him know what a good boy he was. Flippy walloped in pleasure in ere of such unexpected treatment. Henceforth, he abstained from stealing sugar cubes, in spite of the missing lid, or maybe regardless of it. I think he forgot about this in view of a new toy. Who knows? Personally, I expected him to come up with another heinous plot. I could hardly wait. I had gotten to know my my Flippy all too well.

The next day, I put the train away, not to set it up again until two days before Christmas. It needed to be ready to have things added I expected Santa to bring, including a bunch of straight tracks. Things would just have to wait.

Centuries later, the day came. As usual, after all the ceremonies and formalities were out of the way, wrapping paper needed to be shredded. Some of it, I crumbled into little balls to keep Flippy busy. This is a venerable, well proven trick, you know. It keeps cats busy and distracted for enough time to complete a task for which a cat’s assistance is deemed undesirable.

Well, I got a pile of straight track and a new freight car. Some friends of ours gave me a long passenger coach with lights in it. I could not believe this. This caught me totally off guard. I gawked at it, for a long time. I won’t mention the other stuff I had to unwrap. You know how that goes, anyway. I already elaborated on this issue in an earlier blog.

The day before, I had set up my train in the old configuration, but had not gotten around to mess around with it much. Just to re-introduce Flippy to it, I briefly ran it before the massive expansion construction would begin. This time, he ran around inside the oval, following the train, running at full speed. He got dizzy, stumbled over his own legs, and fell sideways. That I had never seen before. He got up, stumbled toward his water dish to quench a sudden thirst.

The added length of the track oval necessitated relocation to a different part of the room. I already had designed the new route in late summer, as you may have suspected. Now, more than half of one side of the oval would run underneath some furniture. There was plenty of space for Flippy to go under furniture, as well. Uh, oh!! This may turn out to be somewhat perilous. We would have to see. If need be, my arm was long enough to reach potentially derailed stock. That was a good thing, I already knew.

After construction of the new railway line was completed, I started the new train, full length, waiting for what was in store. At first, Flippy pranced around, in a frenzy, from one end of the oval to the other. Back and forth he went. Sometimes, he would stop to briefly peak under the furniture. It took him no time flat to figure it all out. After a few trials and errors, he found a spot under the hutch. There he took his position. After some unwanted derailments, he learned to knock the last car of the train off the track, finally knocking off my little engine. After his task was completed, he would re-emerge, babbling intensely, beckoning me to reassemble the train to start the whole process all over. I even got a little kiss on my cheek.

This could go on for hours. One of us would eventually get tired of it. It wasn’t always Flippy who did. At the time, I did not know that this game would repeat itself, decades later.




That was him. Oh Yes!

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