The 1970s in Vermillion, South Dakota found plenty of abandoned farm houses surrounding the small town. The University of South Dakota student’s dominated the area and renting a farmhouse was quite cheap. The amiable farmers had no problem occupying the mostly rundown buildings to the many students, hippies and free-thinking spirits willing to live in such accommodations.
Jack was a famous Siamese party cat at one of these farmhouses that became known as party central. Clyde, Damien, Chip and Heiny adopted the lovable vagabond until their eviction day when somebody’s $10 waterbed burst on the upstairs bedroom floor. They were moved out and Jack moved into my farmhouse.
Jack became a homebody and loved us deeply until the day we took him on a cross-country adventure from McAllen, Texas to New York City. We stayed at an old Army buddy’s house and he bragged about what a well-trained cat we had.
“Even in the big city your cat is smart enough to go to the bathroom outdoors,” Rick exclaimed.
Soon we left the Big Apple for Canada. Only later did we learn from my friend that Jack left his "business #2" behind the couch.
We entered Canada by way of Montreal and later picked up three friends in South Dakota. Jack would have preferred to stay back at the farm but we continued our Canadian adventure through Calgary to Vancouver, British Columbia.
Jack got a real laugh when we were detained by U.S. Customs agents at the U.S./Canada border. The ruthless Inspector didn’t like our haircuts and hated our attitudes even more. Confident that my father-in-law’s car contained no drugs, weapons, bombs or terrorists, the five of us took turns holding Jack while our Oldsmobile 98 was disassembled.
As he pulled out the back seat, Inspector Clouseau yelled, “Which one of you owns this car?”
My wife yelled back, “It belongs to my dad.”
“Well, next time tell him to clean it out; and get this darn thing out of here!”
We were more than willing to replace the seats and our luggage, fully aware that technically, under the current Nixon Administration’s rules, we could have been busted like the poor sap in front of us. They confiscated his VW Bug and carted him off to jail for felony possession of narcotics.
We headed down scenic Pacific Coastal Highway 101 with the Grand Canyon as our next destination. Somewhere along the way we encountered a desert-like environment where the temperatures were approaching 110 degrees.
We stopped and looked for some shade and no one appreciated it more than Jack. He was off like a rabbit at the dog track and quickly laid down in the shade of a mesquite shrub. When it came time to return to the car, Jack had disappeared, even though we kept close tabs on that bush.
Five dusty, dirty overheated vagabonds spent numerous hours hollering, “Jack, come here Jack! Where are you?” in addition to several other colorful phrases.
We voted. Four travelers wanted to continue on, fully aware of my wife’s veto power. The Olds 98 would go nowhere without the beloved Jack.
We eventually found Jack lying in the shade of a different mesquite bush, in no hurry to go anywhere. He got a three-day break at a kitty spa located near the Grand Canyon. The place had a booming business with idiots who chose to take their pets on vacation.
About 40 years later I ran into Jimmy Bass, one of the four voters who favored leaving Jack behind. We discussed that summer’s escapade.
“You know it was lucky your wife found that cat. I had different plans for him,” Jimmy stated.
Next week’s column will be about Jack and Jill.