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A Cat of a Different Color

One of my favorite films is the Wizard of Oz. Who has not marveled at the color and special effects used in this film way back in the 1930s? The production was nothing short of genius during the dark ages of the special effects industry. One of the most memorable scenes in the movie for me is when Dorothy and her entourage enter Emerald City and the horse drawing their coach keeps changing colors. To draw audience attention to this colorful spectacle the coach driver (who also is the traveling salesman, the doorman to Emerald City and the Wizard himself) announces "Now that is a horse of a different color!"

Now, in real life I have never seen a horse like the one pictured in the film, but I have seen a cat of a different color. In order to tell you about the cat however, I first must tell you about a dog; my dog…"Scooter".

Scooter was the first dog I ever shared my life with. He came out of a cardboard box sitting in a department store. He cost me $4.99, almost all of my birthday money for that year. I didn't know it then, but that purchase was perhaps the best value I had ever gotten for my money in my life. He was definitely the best investment, for he paid out years of devotion and friendship that my human friends could never have given me. He was a great companion and friend. He was protective and faithful. He stuck closer to me than a brother no matter where my adventurous travels took us.

On one of our escapades, Scooter and I were at one of our favorite places, the marble yard. Before you picture circles drawn in the dirt with kids shooting glass balls, let me explain that the marble yard was a plant where they cut and stored huge marble slabs. Each slab was as wide as the widest refrigerator and twice as long, weighing several tons each. The slabs were stacked 4 or 5 high with railroad ties between them to give the stacks stability.

There were easily hundreds of stacks on the four acre parcel of land. Each stack was different in shape, size and stability. Some were solid and firm. Others would wobble when you jumped on them from another stack, much like the trick stones on some Disney rides. In retrospect, the wobbling slabs were probably what kept drawing me and the rest of the gang back to play there. It was so much fun being able to rock a multi-ton stone so high off the ground. Typical boys, we never thought about the danger, only the fun.

My gang (a term that did not carry a violent connotation to it in my day) consisted of six or seven pre-teen boys and our dogs. Most of our time together was spent at the marble yard. During mulberry season, you could climb up the slabs and reach the biggest and most juicy berries anywhere. We played Army, using sticks for guns and flung mulberries at each other like kids do today with their paint guns. The only difference was the stain left by mulberries didn't wash off as easily.

We also played tag, chasing each other around the tops of those stacks. It was a grand place that we all loved with the same passion our mothers loathed it. Many a fractured skull had come crying home from this enchanting place. We were all forbidden to play there, but… On one particular occasion, only Scooter and I were in the marble yard. I was jumping from stack to stack above, while he chased me from a dozen feet below. The idea of this game was to get away and hide from Scooter so he could search for me. He was really very good at it and I had to scurry around with abandon to get away from him. The fact that I could have fallen and split my head open (again) was not a consideration. We were having too much fun.

I made some quick maneuvers, jumping rapidly across four stacks of marble and felt that I surely had confused and lost Scooter. When I laid down on one of the top slabs and peeked over the edge, he was not there. I peeked over the other side and he wasn't there either. In fact, he was nowhere to be seen and I started to get concerned. Suddenly, I heard him yelping and barking from what seemed to be a great distance away.

I mountain-goated my way down to the ground and began looking for him. To my surprise I found that he wasn't very far away at all. He had just been barking from inside a huge hole under one of the bottom slabs. This had muffled the sound and given the impression that he was farther away.

He was aggressively digging and barking under this slab, so I got on my hands and knees to see what he was after. I knew feral cats abounded in the marble yard and often had their kittens under the slabs, so it did not surprise me to see the silhouette of a cat back in the dark, under the slab, near to where Scooter was.

I egged him on by saying "get him Scooter, get him boy". Now, before you think me an insensitive wretch or cat hater, please let me explain. I love cats and would do nothing to endanger them. Scooter was all bark. He always had been. I knew it and he knew it. He was a very fast dog. He had often chased cats and rabbits down, but when he caught them, he didn't know what he was supposed to do next. So he would back off and just look at them. Even when a cat spat or swiped at him, he would just sit with a stupid grin on his face and ultimately turn and run off.

He apparently knew that chasing cats was what dogs did, but I guess no one ever explained to him why. His modus operandi was to chase, catch and hold down; then back off and watch them. He never bit them, never growled, and never stayed interested in them very long after the chase. He just seemed to like to run after them to prove he was faster. He never hurt any of them and I knew this time would be the same

So, knowing this, I had no reservations about egging him on. After doing so, I maneuvered myself to the place I thought the cat would exit when Scooter successfully flushed him out so I could catch him. Right on cue, the cat came running out and I jumped forward to catch it. Everything happened so quickly after that I cannot recall the exact order of events, but I do remember noting that it was the most strangely colored cat I had ever seen. It was black with beautiful white stripes and a very fluffy tail. In fact, it was a cat of a different color.

This thought was immediately followed by a very strange event. Like magic, right before my eyes, this beautifully colored cat transformed itself into a skunk, and a very angry one at that. I had no time to react. I was airborne, in the middle of my lunge for the "cat" when Scooter came shooting out of the hole behind him.

I don't know how I managed it, but somehow I changed direction in mid-air and decided on a sage plan of escape. I think I might have made it too, except for Scooter. In keeping with his routine, he jumped on the back of the skunk and, to be honest, I don't really remember what happened next, except to say that the immediate area was enveloped in a rather sickening cloud of skunk musk.

The only experience I have ever had that came close to that nauseating encounter was the day I went through the gas chamber training at the Naval Recruit Training Center in San Diego. At least then a quick shower took the gas residue off. Not so skunk musk. Everything you see in the cartoons is true. Your eyes burn, your skin burns, your face burns and you cannot breathe without gagging.

And you have to scrub. My mother scrubbed Scooter and me raw and when she was done doing that, she scrubbed us again. Scooter and I both got butch hair cuts and a bath of tomato juice that day. And then mom scrubbed us again. My mother was finally getting revenge for all the gray hairs the marble yard had caused her.

Scooter and I both learned a valuable lesson that day. There is no such thing as a cat of a different color!

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About The Author: The author is a retired Coast Guard Officer with over 32 years of service. He is also a Baptist Preacher and Bible Teacher. He helps those grieving the loss of a pet to understand the Biblical evidence that proves they live on. His most popular book, "Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates" delivers hope and comfort to the reader in a very gentle, yet convincing way. Visit at http://www.coldnosesbook.com for more information and tips.

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