Wednesday, April 23, 2008


©Ken Harris, 2008

El Monte, Los Angeles County, 1958. We had a new home so we acquired a new kitten, a grey kitten with four white feet that resembled moccasins. We were too lazy to say “moccasins,” so we named him Mocs. He and our new dog Skoshi immediately became fast friends. They played a special game, “Ambush.” As Skoshi ran around the persimmon-colored Volkswagen, yelping loudly at nothing at all, Mocs lurked behind the right rear wheel. Then as Skoshi whizzed by, Mocs would pounce on the dog’s hind leg while Skoshi ran off happily yelping, dragging the kitten with him. This scene repeated itself over and over.

Skoshi had long hair that knotted and tangled easily. Except for the left hind leg where the hair was long, silky, and untangled, combed by the family cat.

As is the case with most kittens, Mocs was a jangle of nerves. Once Joanne’s sister and her husband, Audrey and Tom Kampe, visited us bringing with them their teacup sized black dog, Frederick Minimus. Frederick just knew he was a predator. It was deep within his DNA. As soon as he saw Mocs, who was much larger than he, he ran up behind him and yapped as loudly as he could. Mocs immediately leaped high into a nearby persimmon tree. Then he sat in a fork of the tree, front paws on one side and rear paws on the other, and looked at the happy, dancing dog in utter self-disgust. “I ran from that?”

As an only cat, there was no one to teach Mocs to hunt. He showed little natural ability. One morning he took an interest in a flock of doves grazing on our front lawn. He hid himself behind a saxaphragia plant Joanne had just planted a few weeks before. The plant was still small, the kitten large; large enough to be plainly visible behind the saxaphragia, at any rate. He bulged out on all sides.

As the doves grazed and moved ever closer to the lurking cat, you could see Mocs trying to resolve some monumental questions. Which bird? When? Now? Which foot do I start with? What do I do if I catch one? It’s not easy being a cat. You’ve got to have a keen eye, balance, and a sense of timing. You’ve got to have a plan. The doves eventually tired of waiting to be eaten and wandered off leaving the poor kitten to wonder if he would ever get it right

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