While crawling around on the floor after a stack of papers fell and scattered helter-skelter all over, Bogey took his place next to my sculpture of Mark Twain. Sphynx-like, he watched as I scrambled around picking up my mess.
The bronze bust of Twain is a work that came from a very talented local artist and friend of mine named Don Wiegand, and it has been sitting beside my desk for years.
I’ve long been an admirer of Twain, and I think most people enjoy reading his works. He created some of the literary world’s most unforgettable characters such as Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
What do I like about Mark Twain? For one thing, he’s a born and bred writer from my home state of Missouri. For another, unlike many authors of his era, his talent brought him a great deal of success and fame during his lifetime. That’s much more pleasant than being recognized only after you’re gone. Finally, his words had a distinctive humor, often slyly skewering the people in power who saw themselves as better than the average guy.
With Bogey posing so happily next to the sculpture, I decided to avoid a writing project and search the internet to read a few articles about Mark Twain. I discovered something I didn’t know.
Twain apparently had a lifelong love affair with cats. I’d already heard stories about Ernest Hemingway and his beloved extra-toed kitties, but had no idea Mark Twain also favored felines to the degree that he often had more than a dozen living in his residence at a time.
He respected his cats enough not to give them ordinary names. No “Fluffy” or “Puff” among them. Instead they were given impressive monikers such as Bambino, Sour Mash, Zoraster, Beelzebub, and Blatherkite.
Even when traveling, Twain preferred to keep himself in the company of cats. If he couldn’t bring along one or two kitties of his own, he’d find a nearby farm and rent kittens. I can only imagine the surprise of a nineteenth century farmer upon being asked if he’d rent kittens to Mark Twain for a few days. The farmer must have thought Mr. Twain had extreme phobias over mice.
Twain drew inspiration from cats. Not surprisingly, he wrote about them, too.
Here are a few gems by Mark Twain on the subject.
“I simply can’t resist a cat, particularly a purring one. They are the cleanest, cunningest, and most intelligent things I know, outside of the girl you love, of course.”
“One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is a cat has only nine lives.”
“When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.”
There are some who suggest that the world is divided in two very distinct camps. There are those who love dogs, and those who love cats. If anyone asked me to pick sides, I’d be like Switzerland, with one foot in each.
I have no doubt at all where Mark Twain would pitch his tent.
How about it? On which side do you stand?