Now, Barry, Priscilla and I love Melvin the Man at least as much as he loves cats. We have, however, become concerned with his propagation project. Indeed, Barry and I have known Melvin and his wife Betty longer than we have known anyone besides Momma Rose and Daddy Duke. In our early days of running through the dirt streets of Bluff like renegades, it was Melvin and Betty who watched out for us and tried to ensure we did not fall from a cliff, get lodged on a ledge or go too far wrong when we wandered outside our parents’ influence.
When I returned to Bluff in 1989, I was comforted to learn Melvin and Betty were still there in the same house, still as stable as the sandstone walls surrounding and embracing this town. Not much besides their age had changed. Melvin the Man still wore his trademark Highway Orange safety shirts and tinkered with every machine and gadget known to humans. Betty was, as always, right by his side. Like our paternal grandfather Woody, Melvin the Man is of the generation that can repair or patch together with bailing wire any object or article ever invented. Tractors, farm implements or household appliances are no match for this repairman. Leaving aside contemporary cars, with their computers and indecipherable code, from semi-tractor to syrup dispenser, Melvin the Man can fix it.
At approximately 85 years of age, Melvin the Man is also of the generation that accumulates many items others typically cast off. When Barry and I are heading for the parts or hardware store, Melvin is going to his boneyard to find exactly what he needs. He has it all, and all he has makes for great cat houses. And so, as one might guess, cats of all stripe have moved in next door.
Not long after they began feeding at Melvin the Man’s trough, the menagerie decided a little variety would be a good thing and commenced invading the trash cans and dumpsters of Twin Rocks Café. We would see them massing for the attack, plotting their strategy and sneaking across the gravel parking lot. Barry, Priscilla and I headed them off whenever our intelligence indicated an imminent assault, scattering the furry fury like wheat in the wind. They, however, are persistent and ultimately win many battles.
So it was one day when Jana the Animal Accumulator and her trusty associate Grange paid a visit to Twin Rocks Trading Post. Since Barry, Priscilla and I were engaged in selling turquoise and silver and Navajo rugs and baskets, we did not notice five kittens had infiltrated the boulders between the businesses When Jana went to get coffee, most of the quinary took flight, leaving only one pussy to curl around her leg and purr its way into our possession. Before I knew it Melvin the Man was minus a mouser and “Skinny” was comfortably ensconced on the porch at 420 E. Mulberry Avenue.
It was not long, however, before Skinny was not at all skinny, and Jana the Animal Accumulator and her teenage accomplice decided to rename him in honor of his prior patron. Thus, Melvin the Cat was initiated. When my conscience began to trouble me, I disclosed the theft to our neighbor. Melvin the Man, however, had not noticed his loss and ultimately determined Melvin the Cat could not possibly have been part of his tribe. “All mine are wild”, he declared. “They would never let you pet them. I would like to have a pussy cat to pet, but they just scatter, won’t let you touch them. No, can’t be mine.”
And so, as the balance of Melvin the Man’s battalions continue to assault our beachhead and sort through our refuse like undercover agents for the FBI, at least one soldier has been captured and converted. Melvin the Man does not miss his former charge, and Melvin the Cat has easily made the transition from Guardian of the Garbage to Prince of the Portico.