By Chuck Woodbury
I once traveled with a cat. His name was Rocky.
Rocky was forced upon me in a campground in Grand Junction, Colorado where I had met up with a reporter from the Denver Post who was writing about my newspaper Out West.
The reporter and I traveled around the countryside for a day. I gathered stories and reporter Pat O’Driscoll asked me questions. That evening we drank beer by a campfire and talked about journalism, newspapers, and probably women. Back when I was younger, when I got together with guys we talked about women: now we talk about ailments and our respective surgical procedures.
The cat, a gray tabby, was homeless. He was hungry. So I fed him lunch meat. Of course, that made me his new best friend. So while Pat and I talked by the campfire, the cat sat nearby and stared at me. “More lunch meat, Mister,” he would say. His name was not yet Rocky. His name was still Stray Cat.
The next morning Pat stopped by my campsite to say goodbye. He handed me two shopping bags. Inside: a litter box, kitty litter, cat food, a collar and a leash. “You need to take the cat,” he said. I said “no way.” But I gave in. He suggested Rocky for a name, after the Rocky Mountains. That was fine with me, and Stray Cat didn’t care as long as I fed him.
Checkout time was soon upon us. The newly dubbed Rocky Cat followed me into the motorhome in search of lunch meat. I slammed the door. Hah! He was trapped! The engine roared. I drove toward California.
Rocky was a cat possessed. He leaped at the RV’s door, occasionally attaching his claws to its screen. Where he saw “freedom” I saw wasting money replacing the screen. At rest areas, Rocky scanned his surroundings through crazed-cat eyes and then wanted back into the motorhome. We made it back to my then-hometown of Sacramento. No longer moving, Rocky was happy again.
I tried another trip with Rocky, just for a weekend. He went crazy. Next trip, a long one, I boarded him. It cost me $250, which was more than I paid for campsites. This was not working out.
I began a search for a new owner. My father took him, but reluctantly, and only with an “opt out” in the arrangement. Rocky liked his new life in the Sierra foothills where he could catch an occasional lizard.
But he soon developed an annoying habit that drove my father nuts. He began to “meow” with every step he took. He never shut up. The solution was to remove his legs (just kidding!) or attach a muzzle. My father found another one: Pawn the cat off to someone else. And that’s what he did.
I never saw Rocky again.