The Ultimate Demise of Minky

Last week our contractor called me to say “thanks a lot” for warning him about the stuffed fox hidden under the basement stairs of the mountain house. They were pulling things out in preparation for laying tile down there and I guess a couple of the builders screamed like girls.(Foxy never did like the neo-industrial architecture of the Chicago condo. He jumped at the chance to go to North Carolina.)

Those few of you who have known me for a while know that I had a brief fling with taxidermy. Back in Michigan I could sometimes be found haunting antique stores, not in search of a Roseville vase or a Chippewa basket but rather some hapless stuffed critter. I admit that I was fascinated with these specimens that, in life, I couldn’t get close to but as taxidermy, I could admire them to my heart’s content. Small mammals were my favorite. And although I would never be involved with the killing or commissioning of such an item I did really enjoy my little collection, much to the amusement of BCMA. In retrospect it was probably much to the horror and bewilderment of some of my patients. Ah, me.

Anyway, I’ve been busy organizing life and this household in Florida for my move north to Asheville. Rich is coming along in about a month and a bit, after everything is done and our possessions have been pulled out of storage and brought down from the Midwest. It makes the most sense to have everything as settled as possible before he and the cats arrive. A slight digression: Curious thing about marriage. The past couple weeks as I’ve been really very busy, with many details in my head, I have gotten a bit short with Rich’s apparent inability to find a fork or open mail. But as I was thinking about it, I realized that we each have gone helpless in certain areas, deferring to the other for assistance. Really, we’re more capable than we each act. So when I considered the possibilities I realized that if Rich is at the mountain house when the van first arrives and dumps everything off, he’ll be distressed because he can’t work in peace and I’ll be distressed because he’s not helping me lift boxes and move heavy things. And we’ll give vent to our distress because that’s who we are and then there will be that negative pall over something new and special and happy. It is far better for him to stay here and work and mind the kitties. I’ll be there, managing just fine (remind me I wrote this in a couple of weeks) getting everything arranged and put away. When Rich isn’t around I surprise myself with my own physical strength and if that isn’t sufficient I’ll just work around what I can’t do until I can snag trusty Rosario. (he has no idea he’s becoming a fixture in my plans and in my blog, poor fellow.)

As far as the cats go, they like routine and they do not like change. They would prefer to stay put whether we go or not. It would be fine with them if the Roomba put out their food as long as it was at 7am and 7pm. Not really. They like us and besides, the Roomba wouldn’t do the litter box.

They not only like us, they bring us food. Much in the same way that Rich and I are in some ways helpless to care for ourselves but care for each other, so it is with the cats. McCloud can’t open a can and although he surely could, he hasn’t gone out and caught any sustenance for himself lately. But he reliably brings us bunnies. And Sophie brings birds. Every morning when we get up the bedroom floor is littered with delicacies for us to eat. I think Sophie is a tad brighter because she at least brings things that vaguely resemble birds while McCloud just brings large balls of yarn. He would move dozens every night from the living room to the foot of the bed if I didn’t intervene but since he also enthusiastically kills each and every skein, I’ve got him down to his own basket of 6 balls, all tangled and in shreds. Every morning we round them all up and put them back, Cloudy’s bunnies in his basket and Sophie’s birdies in hers. Then we thank the cats effusively and give them breakfast.

The two of them are in for a rude awakening when they get piled into the car and driven north.I plan to have their baskets of yarn and toys in a convenient place near our new bedroom but still…When I worked at Lincoln Park Zoo we would often change up the habitats of the animals just to keep them on their toes. It’s called “enrichment.” By giving them a whole new environment to explore they stayed alert and curious and didn’t get complacent. So, Cloudy and Sophie- brace yourselves for a little enrichment.

(Okay. As I was writing that I had deja vu for this delightful Monty Python skit. I have tried to describe it before and no one seems to have seen it but me-except now I find it on YouTube. Go here and laugh with Confuse-a-Cat.)

Where was I? Oh, right, moving in circular fashion back to taxidermy. Working at the zoo pretty much cured me of my interest in taxidermy. I had lots of opportunities to get up close and personal with all sorts of furry creatures and besides, I began to feel fairly guilty on behalf of all us ignorant folk for lording it over animals in the first place when really, we should try at all costs to leave them to themselves when we can. That includes not being party to enjoying stuffed ones, thereby denying them the privilege of the whole dust-to-dust scenario. Who knows? A dung beetle might come back as a meerkat, left to decompose in peace. But here I was, stuck with the responsibility of a half-dozen taxidermied animals. Hence the fox under the stairs at the mountain house.(Minky, minus an ear and two moth-eaten feet, finds herself unceremoniously dumped in the trash today. Life moves on.)

Minky made the move here to Florida a few years ago when (God forgive me) I dressed her up with Christmas bows and posed her under the tree- back when the house was on the Old Northeast Christmas home tour. (Now that I think of it, it’s possible that this had something to do with my lack of acceptance in the neighborhood garden club. Then again, I might be imagining that.) Yesterday, in the process of packing up some things that will go north I discovered that Minky has acclimated to Florida’s pestilence and high humid temperatures about as well as I have: not at all. And now I feel badly because while I was having my own encounters with the dermatologist and tending to the cats flea allergies, I ignored Minky who was just sitting in an old fishing creel in the corner, coming apart at the seams.

The moral of this round about tale (yet another one) is that, as noted in Ecclesiastes,  there is a time and a place for everything. My skin tells me that much of the time, Florida is not a place for me. The cats’ constant struggle with flea allergies and the subsequent itching and fur loss suggest this place is rough on them during the really hot times.  Many of my plants, nurtured over years, including begonias from my mother, have struggled with the Florida heat and sun.(These plants will hopefully survive the trip and thrive in North Carolina)

On the other hand, plants that I could never grow before flourish here,  in a fashion I never imagined possible. Orchids and ferns go wild. Rich thrives here in Florida, especially since he’s found a renewed love for playing baseball and a group of swell teammates. He does a much better job of growing where he is planted, in any case. Me? I need the seasons. I need the contrast between full vibrant green and dormant cold ground. Basically, I need that deciduous thing, the starting and the stopping and then all over again. That’s more my nature.

For a fair part of the year, I will miss my friends here, especially my good neighbors Marion and Other Vicki and Ken and south of the bridge Cathy. I will miss the art people here in St. Petersburg and classes at the Morean Arts Center. I will really miss Shadow and Wheezer and Phantom and Hoo2 and Mystic, my feathered raptor friends and all of my fellow caretakers at Boyd Hill. I’m not sure yet what my schedule will look like; I’m going to let the weather move me so we’ll see. These next couple days I’ll be loading up my car and heading to the mountain house- the first house that I have ever really designed with me and my life with Rich in mind. A house to fit my life. Imagine that. What will the reality be, for me and for Rich and those flea-bitten cats? Imagine that!  I’ll see you there.(Okay, I admit it. There are things about Florida that are simply beautiful.)

11 responses to “The Ultimate Demise of Minky

  1. Chaaauuhh, yeah,… like manatees, ratsnakes, swallowtail kites, hermit crabs, scrub jays, gators, jumping mullet, blue crabs, flounder lights at night, indigo snakes, gophers, beach sand, beads of sweat, dermatologists mansions, shark pups, air-clear spring water, fried shrimp, live shrimp, boiled shrimp, blackened shrimp,
    batfish, seaturtles, dolphins breathing in the darkness, BBQ, chicken pilau, datil peppers, boats of every inclination, cypress knees, jumping sturgeon on the Suwannee, …
    … do I need to go on?

  2. Your contemplation about the cycle of life and the demise of Minky reminded me of this poem by Mary Oliver that my brother read to me just the other day:


    Like large dark
    butterflies they sweep over
    the glades looking
    for death,
    to eat it,
    to make it vanish,
    to make of it the miracle:

    …Locked into
    the blaze of our own bodies
    we watch them
    wheeling and drifting, we
    honor them and we
    loathe them,
    however wise the doctrine,
    however magnificent the cycles,
    however ultimately sweet
    the huddle of death to fuel
    those powerful wings.

    I like the idea of letting all the dead ones become the fuel for those powerful wings. A beautiful resurrection.

    Have a safe journey home, Vicki. I can’t wait to see what you post from the new place.

  3. Have a safe and uneventful trip, Vicki, and let us know when you get there.

    I have a feeling that your life in Asheville will soon be just as busy as it ever was; you seem to find wonderful things to fill your days.

  4. Yes, have a safe trip. I would imagine you will find a garden in full growth mode. I love the picture of the cats and their “gifts”. Rhett used to get Nyssa’s sock drawer open every night and he would drag down her rolled up pairs of socks and deposit them in front of my door… no bunnies or birds… just balled up socks. But, it was easier to navigate around than my old cat Shamroc… he would get mad when we left for too long and would drag throw rugs from the apartment kitchen and bathroom and pile them in front of the door. Sometimes it was almost impossible to get in.

    I have been planting flowerbeds and finally tilled up the area next to the preserve and planted the yellow German iris that I brought from the old house. They were in plastic wash kitchen wash tubs, with no dirt and I just ignored them for three years. They would not die… instead… twenty five of them turned into over 50… Now there are iris planted the full length of the back yard. Today I cannot move.

    It sounds like your new place will be a place of peace and beauty and all the color nature has to offer. Enjoy!

  5. Wise words on marriage. I know in my own we are both guilty of the same – you are smart to recognize it and work with it! I’ll try to remember that and bury the bitter as I act as Sherpa for the trek to our summer island.

  6. I’m so excited to hear your updates from your new life and home.

  7. Beth Ann Choate

    You have to love where you are or it will never be home!!!

  8. Great post. Just full of fun and wise observations. Hope everything goes smoothly. Oh, and tell the mountain folk you are from Chicago. They have a “thing” about Floridians.

  9. Taxidermists really know their stuff! Your dead animals give new meaning to still life. What is the difference between a tax collector and a taxidermist? The taxidermist leaves the hide.

    A guy walked into a bar in Enumclaw, Washington and ordered a martini. Everybody sitting around the bar looked up, surprised, and the bartender said, “You ain’t from around here, are ya? Where ya from, boy?” The stranger said, “I’m from Missouri.” The bartender asked, “What do you do in Missouri?” The guy responded, “I’m a taxidermist.” The bartender asked, “A taxidermist? Now just what the heck is a taxidermist?” The stranger replied, “I mount animals.” The bartender grinned and shouted out to the whole bar, “It’s okay boys, he’s one of us!”

    Cute cat, freaky fauna, fascinating flora, and marvelous Monty!

    Prayers go up for your move! It sounds like a perfect fit! xo

  10. Goodness, I’m late stopping by. Are you there yet? It seems to me that Rich is always the one who drives the cats. Does he travel with a litter box in the car or do they just have to hold it?

    I’m excited for you, Vicki. This move makes so much sense. And don’t tell FC but I would choose the mountains over Florida any day.

  11. absurdoldbird

    Gives a whole new meaning to the Brit expression, “Get stuffed!”

    Your builders’ alarm reminds me of what happened a few decades ago when my family had a window cleaner who spotted my sister’s pet of the time – a python that was curled up in its tank in her room – and he was absolutely terrified and fled, never to return!

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