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Growing up, my family took our annual trek to my grandparent’s home in Fort Blackmore, Virginia. My grandfather was a no-nonsense kind of guy who liked control. He had full control over his prized possession, the ancient black box known as the television. The knobs to turn on and change the tv channels had broken years ago. No one in the house touched that television except for my grandfather. What was the point? In my eyes, the tv was broken, but we all knew my grandfather had the secret to the magic box.
Without Fail~The Warning!
Before we arrived at my grandparent’s house, my father always reminded us not to make a big deal about the tv. That was a pretty hard request to follow, especially thirty-plus years ago; it was equivalent and just as important as our smartphones are now.
The Only Pair in The House
During every visit without fail, grandpa would turn on the TV each evening following dinner at 7 pm sharp. He slid the cabinet out at an angle so he could reach behind and flip that elusive switch. I always used to run over to see how he turned it on. But my grandfather knew what I was doing, and he would block my view by standing in front of me. Dang, well, there was always another chance tomorrow to figure it out when grandpa is out mowing the grass or hanging up his tobacco leaves to dry.
When he turned on the tv, he never asked what channel anyone wanted to watch. That was always left up to him. Changing the channel required a pair of pliers. There was only one pair of pliers in the house, and they lived in my grandfather’s pant pocket. He always had those pesky pliers with him AT ALL TIMES, no matter where he went. He was never without them. Turning on the television or changing the channel was done so at my grandfather’s discrepancy.
Same TV, Same Pliers, Same Grandpa
Every day was a new mystery in my quest to solve the secret to the tv. I tried and failed every time, but not without excitement, imagining that this would be the one time where I figured it out. Heck, I wasn’t picky about what I watched; even figuring out how to turn it on would have proved this mission to be a success.
The years went by, however, and nothing changed; same tv, same pliers, same grandpa. I always hoped to discover another clue each year to get me closer to figuring out this black box. I believe in hindsight, figuring it all out would prove to my grandfather that I was smart, and he wasn’t the only one that could control the tv. Year after year, my efforts to find the magic switch on the back of the tv were fruitless.
Kentucky Fried Chicken
As I mentioned before, my grandfather was a no-nonsense man, but he had a soft spot for only one thing, and that was his cat, ok, make that 30 plus cats! Yes, you read that correctly. These weren’t stray cats; all of his babies were healthy, vaccinated, neutered, or spayed. They also received regular veterinary care and a special treat once a month when he went into town. But each time he went, he called ahead to Kentucky Fried Chicken and requested his 30 plus skinless, fried chicken breasts for each of his kitties.
Upon his return from town, the cats would come from everywhere, like angels welcoming him with open paws. They scurried around his feet and climbed up his pant leg to get their treat. My grandfather passed out one chicken breast at a time from the KFC bucket. You would see cats of all sizes, big and small, dragging off in every direction their mealtime treat. You could almost set your watch by the hysteria that followed 60 minutes after handing out the chicken. Cats that had finished started in on the ones that were still feasting. The hysteria of a boatload of cats hissing, growling, and screeching is a vision I won’t ever forget.
There were only a select few of the cats that were allowed in the house. Grandfather’s favorite was Bonnie Bell. Bonnie Bell liked to make muffins and milk your shirt. Both at the same time. So every evening, grandpa would sling a hand towel over his shoulder, and in an instant, Bonnie Bell would crawl up the side of the chair and do her thing. Eventually, she scurried down as Grandpa used his hands to shoo her away.
Grandpa raised out of his chair and slid his hand down in his pant pocket to retrieve the golden pliers. There it was – zero consideration if you were watching TV or not; click! The tv cut off just like that! He slid the pliers back into his pocket and summoned my grandmother for bed.
Whenever there was a stray cat or one that needed re-homing, my grandfather was always first on the list to contact. He never said no to a cat. My father asked him how many cats he thought he had. Grandpa replied with certainty, “I know that this morning I have 42.” Dad noted jokingly, “Soon, these animals will outnumber us all!” Fort Blackmore had around 76 residents. Since the cats were going to overtake the humans, they might need their own city—and so from then on, grandpa’s house became known as Kitty City: where new cat arrivals are accepted into the family without question and adopted permanently.
Growing up, I always loved cats, and in the past 30 years, I’ve had Fuzz, Grey, Asrael, Beavis, Toots, Troy, and Zelda. Troy is 10 years old, and Zelda is 8; these two are still here by my side. Every cat I’ve had has lived to 17 years of age or older.
Here Come The Squirrels
So, we all know by now the squirrels are a key part of this story. Where do the squirrels fit into all of this?
I live in a condo, and one morning I was out on my balcony when suddenly there is this shuffling noise coming from the utility closet. Curious about what it might be, the door was slightly open, so I peek through the crack, and what did I see? A squirrel! It stared back at me with its round brown eyes before darting off lickety-split while my poor heart was pounding away. It left me wondering what does that squirrel want?
Tiny Paw Prints
The next morning, it surprised me to see the same squirrel peering through my balcony door. The weather had turned windy and rainy; her fur and tail were sopping wet from a morning rainstorm. She gazed up at me with her eyes the color of charcoal, clearly expecting to be fed again.
I tossed out a few nuts and quickly closed the slider. Leaving her tiny paw prints behind on the glass, she gathered her nuts and quickly scampered away. As she took off, it didn’t take long for me to realize something different about her: she sported an unusually short tail with what looked like a pom-pom at its end. I had a feeling she was going to show up again tomorrow.
Later on the same day, I headed out to run errands. The rain had been pouring for hours, and as I opened my front door, there she was again, sitting outside on the ledge. I go back inside and find some almonds, which the little critter gobbled up in an instant before running off with lightning speed! My first instinct was to think that she’s hungry.
Pretty Girl with the Pom-Pom Tail
The Pretty Girl with the pom-pom tail appeared like magic at my balcony door again the next morning. I kept calling her Pretty Girl. That name stuck, and she is the original squirrel of the gang that started it all.
Every day, I took pictures of Pretty Girl, and any little thing she did was photo-worthy. I thought, wow, she really likes me, and she keeps coming back. Hmmm, I think now she is only here for the nuts.
Rumors Travel Fast
Well, rumor travels fast in the squirrel community, and pretty soon, I had a squad of squirrels demanding nuts every day. The more nuts I bought, the more squirrels I collected. I had enough squirrels to rival my grandfather’s Kitty City. I took so many pictures of every little thing, and I was running out of storage space on my cell phone.
I stockpiled photos of the squirrels, and I thought my neighbor would love them as much as me, but that was not the case. After cornering her into looking at my vast collection, she blurted out that I should make an Instagram account just for people who want to see these furry creatures on their screens. “I’m sure someone wants to look at them,” she said, “But it isn’t me!”
So, there you have it; I started an IG page. I nicknamed my house Kitty City because my cats outnumbered me. Suddenly, it hit me as I watched my cats staring at the squirrels on the balcony.
Boom, Kitty City Squirrels! Established 2018~Population 20 plus and growing.
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