Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Purring Like A Kitten

I know, I know, you're not supposed to feed stray cats.

But when three very tiny kittens showed up on my doorstep the first week of December, what was I supposed to do? They were born out of season at the beginning of a New England winter. I just didn't see them surviving. So I fed them.

And yes, I know that cat populations tend to increase exponentially, and what that means down the road. Still, I didn't see any options. Well, any moral options.

Two of the three are still here; one of them disappeared around the end of March, and I assume it was killed. The two that are left have been given the working titles of 'Smudge' and 'Splotch' because of their facial markings. Splotch, especially, has this funny face with what looks like a drip of India ink right down her nose.


They aren't exactly tame, Smudge and Splotch, but they do sleep on the doorstep, just by the glass door, where I can see them at night. Splotch will even purr when I talk to her, though she runs away when I approach her outside.

In late March their mother of course had another litter; this time, though, either she only had one, or only one survived. This little guy (or girl; I can't tell yet) is probably just coming up on five weeks old right now, and is the fattest roundest roly-poliest chubbiest thing you will ever see. He is sublimely, ridiculously, outlandishly cute. I mean, I know, that's what kittens do for a living, is be so adorable that you simply cannot resist feeding them. Still, Holy Mother of the Gods, look at this:

So, you're asking, just what-all has this to do with hoarding? Well, because it always comes back to those rusty hunks of rusty rust, the junk cars of this place.

Now Splotch is a little odd. She's not even full grown, yet she's of a distinctly round shape. I figured she was just getting too much chow, and started to cut back (they will all eventually have to revert to catching the mouses all on their own anyhow, or, at least, that is The Plan). My mother, however, wondered if she might be pregnant herself. I have been watching her, with this in mind, but she didn't seem to be getting any bigger.

Last night around midnight when I put some food out in the downstairs breezeway the little grey and white chubby kitten came running up to me. He does this, as he quite likes the chow; and he lets me pat him while he stands there with all four feet in the bowl. He will, in fact, even purr as I pat him. But after he'd eaten a bit he wandered back into the downstairs garage and started mewing. It was strange. What? I asked him, What's wrong? But he kept mewing.

Thing was his mews sounded funny. They sounded, well, double. Like two kittens were mewing at the same time.

So I walked over to where he was. Sure enough, the extra mews were coming from the car, the yellowish MG Midget, one of my dad's junk hoarded cars.

There in the back, where there really isn't a back seat, in an area still filled with rusty junk, were three newborn kittens, fallen down behind the driver's-side seat. I could just about see them.

Splotch not only was pregnant, she'd gone and had her kittens. In the back of a junk car. Of course!

I folded the driver's seat forward a little and fished them out. If I hadn't been able to pull the seat forward I don't know that I would have been able to get to them; as it was there wasn't room for a mother cat to get herself in there to rescue them. They were wet-looking, very squirmy, and still had their umbilical cords. As far as I could tell there were three, and once I put them in a box lined with a blanket they quieted right down.

I couldn't see Splotch anywhere, but I could hear someone growling. So I put the box in the front seat of the MG, not far from where she'd had them, and assumed she would find them once I left.

I then went and looked up everything I could find about newborn kittens. I know that if they are not fed within the first twenty-four hours they won't live, and I was worried. I researched emergency formula, and what it takes (a lot!) to bottle-feed newborn abandoned kittens, just in case it came to that.

When I went out an hour later one of the kittens was gone. I assumed that Splotch had found it and taken it somewhere she thought more suitable. They never like the nice nests humans make for them.

But when I came back just before going to bed the two kittens were still there, and hadn't been moved. Ai yi. And while I figured she wasn't far, how on earth was I to find her amid all the junk that is still there? We've made some inroads in cleaning out the downstairs garage, but there are still corners that are inaccessible. Well, inaccessible to humans.

So I stepped over by the other car, the Citro├źn by the front of the MG, and just listened.

And there it was. A loud purring. A very loud purring, the kind a mother cat makes when nursing.

It was coming from under the hood of the MG.

You know, where the engine is.

I had no idea how that was even possible, as an engine is not exactly enclosed, and has all these tangled bits and air pockets and just what the Hell? But I went and got a flashlight anyway. Now the front end of that car is missing some bits, having been in an accident; so I could shine some light in there from the front, without opening the hood. I couldn't see anything, but when I aimed the flashlight at certain areas the purr changed to a warning growl.

Eventually I had no choice but to open the hood, though I didn't want to disturb her.

And there she was, up by the dashboard, in what amounted to a little metal box; Tara tells me it is actually the battery compartment, though there is no battery in there now.

I was afraid that she'd take off; but she seemed willing to stay put despite the growling.

So I picked up one of the other newborns, and brought it to her. She growled some more at me, but seemed very interested in the kitten. I wasn't sure quite what to do with it; I thought she might take it herself but apparently she didn't want to get too close to me, so in the end I dropped it next to her. (Turns out it wasn't far at all, just a few inches, though at the time I had no idea where she even was or what it looked like). I did the same with the second kitten, and soon heard little mews and slurping noises.

So, crisis averted.

I'm guessing though that Splotch is not the brightest bulb. For one thing, apparently she can only count as high as one. For another, really, inside the engine compartment of a rusty old hunk of rusty rust is an appropriate nest? What?

We tried to get some pictures, but I didn't want to disturb her by opening the hood again. I'm afraid she'll relocate and only take one of the kittens with her if I do, to some place I really can't get to. But we did get some video:

Crazy thing. I wish them well.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Saab Off

Goodness, is it that time already? Our Rusty Jones is so eager, so righteously aggressive in his fight to say Goodbye! to rusty cars that this time he was even here a day early. This black Saab was slated to get picked up by the junk guys on Wednesday; however when I called today to try to get an idea as to what time they might be around tomorrow, I was told, Oh hey, actually the guy's free this afternoon. Would that be okay?

Would it? Like they even have to ask. Silly junk guys.

Compared to a lot of the cars in the yard this Saab 900 was practically fresh from the showroom floor, being a 1988 model. Why that's only twenty-three years old!

Youth or no, however, it went. For Fate may not be cheated.

Here it is up on the ramp truck. As you can see, it's had a few parts picked off it, and those tires aren't exactly regulation; that back driver's side one being held on with a single bolt. Good thing it went on the truck itself and wasn't towed. (Note the appearance of Junk Guy Rob's left boot just there on the lower right.)

Before Tara left town (part of what is accounting for her crazy schedule this month) she cleaned it out; I believe it had been hers at one point, so it held a few remnants from her teenage years, such as the odd David Bowie cassette which had been roasting in the sun for godsknow how long and an awful lot of Doritos wrappers, as well as this charming vignette, located just behind the driver's seat:

Hey, works for me. Although, to be strictly honest, the 80s Average Joe look on the guy, while certainly subversive for him, just doesn't do a whole lot for me. I much prefer this look:

Mmmmmmmm. Tasty tasty scrawny glammy gothy draggy art boy goodness. Oh yum. Fruitcages and honeybees and heaven ahead in number eleven and all that marvellous May loveliness. Oh sigh...

Wait. I was talking about something. What was it now?

Oh right. Cars. My favorite. Grumble.

Here's the (more or less; this picture is from last year) before, from its spot over by the shed:

And the after, with the patch of dead grass it left:

So off it went; this time though Junk Guy Rob followed me, as the regular tow guy was on vacation, and he was subbing in from another location and hadn't actually been to the one in my town so didn't know where he was going. After the usual business with handing in the title (this one actually had one!) they cut me a check. Very nice.

So that puts Rusty's countdown at eight junk cars out, with eighteen left to go; three more and we'll have hit the halfway mark. Well, halfway as of this latest push, the one we started last summer. If you count it from the seventy-eight cars that were here in the 1990s, we're more than three-quarters done with the cars, down to about 23% of what was here. Which is pretty damned good, really.

It is getting there!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Swap Meet

Despite the fact that the weather in these parts has been quite lovely, there hasn't been a whole lot to report on the yard clean-up effort the last couple of weeks. Mostly that's because Tara's schedule is ridiculously full this month; as for myself, most of my outdoor efforts have been focussed on the more ordinary yard tasks of edging and weeding gardens, digging new ones (as if there aren't enough already!) and planting new stuff. Which is, it is true, refreshingly normal for yard work, and very satisfying; or well it will be if I can keep up with it. May, you know. If the gardens get ahead of you in May, you're doomed—doomed!—for the rest of the season.

But we did make it to this swap meet thing yesterday.

This gigantic swap meet thing.

Now, understand: when I say gigantic, I mean you can see it from the surface of the Moon.

There were literally acres of vendors, spread out over at least nine lots, though there may have been more. We were stationed at number nine ourselves; we kind of lost count after that.

Acres of vendors selling all kinds of stuff; my understanding was that it likely started out as a car-parts swap, but branched out from there. It was advertised as a flea market/antiques fair, but I didn't see any genuine antiques.

Most of it was frankly junk. Old lawnmowers, beat-up fiberglass dinghies, rusty go-carts, old bikes, entire old rusty cars on trailers, old shelves that had been sitting in someone's barn, giant used Barbie dolls in not very good condition, old crappy books from the 70s on useless subjects, all this junk, this random junk. Some of the vendors did seem to have a theme going, and a few (like the guy across from us selling fancy truck hoods) did seem to be selling actual new stuff, but for the most part, it was filled with pure, and purely random, crap.

I even saw, with my own eyes, one of those lady's leg in a fishnet stocking lamps, holy fuck. Alas, (or hurray) I forgot to bring my camera, so you'll have to take my word for it.

We went to try to sell some old VW car parts, of course. I had never heard of the thing, though it was pretty local; the way it had been described to us I'd thought it was more a car part thing. Still, we did sell a few parts, though how anyone found us among all the pure chaos of it was beyond me.

Now, I grew up poor. I am no longer convinced that this was entirely the hand of fate, as it was drummed into us as children by our parents; I'm quite sure that my parents actually, well, made sure that's how it was. I really think they (yes, both of them) were so in love with the idea that life was hard, impossibly hard, that they did everything in their power to make that come true. Especially my father, with his hoarding and his extreme miserliness; with him anything good that happened was always negated by something bad.

Here is an example. It's more recent, from after I moved back in with them a while back, not from when I was a child; but it's pretty characteristic of how he thought.

One day, out of the blue, he got a check for $200. I don't know why, but it was, as far as I know, a legitimate thing and not some kind of mistake, so to my father it was $200 out of thin air. A good thing, in other words.

The next day he broke his glasses. It cost, guess what, about $200 to fix.

Now, the way I see something like that, is that, Oh wow, I broke my glasses but look! Money out of the sky to fix them! Isn't that amazing, and wonderful? The Universe is looking out for me!

How did he see it? Those glasses, or the fate that made them break, took away that $200. His rightful $200, that good good $200! That's always how it works and it's so unfair! That was my money and it was just taken away like that! Stolen!! UNFAIR!!!!!

He ranted about that for ages, about the unfairness of it all, and how everything everywhere was always trying to take his money from him. His rightful money, that was his. He'd still be ranting about it now, I imagine, except his brain is very damaged after the stroke.

So anyway. I grew up poor. I know what it is like, and I know there are plenty of circumstances that contribute; many, if not most, of which being out of the control of the average poor person. I understand that, and I do not blame poor people for being poor, not one bit. I get it.

But there are unhealthy attitudes about things, too. My father was so wedded to the idea of being poor that I swear he would deliberately sabotage things rather than risk having things change. Because change was bad, always bad, to him. Everything with him was about making sure nothing had any ease to it. Keeping the heat at 55° in the winter? Making sure it is a big production to take a bath? If you make things as near to impossible as you can, then you get to gripe about how hard life is.

I know, that doesn't make sense. But I swear that was part of it. Maybe because then he got his beliefs confirmed, and in some grim way that was comforting to him. Or maybe it was simply about control. That was at the root of just about everything with him, I think. He had to have that control. Hoarders give all kinds of excuses as to why they absolutely must keep things, but I think in my father's case anyway it did come down to that fear, that abject terror, of change, any kind of change.

But back to the swap meet.

I'm sure some reporter who hasn't lived it would probably have found it all quite charming and fascinating, a real human interest story, in its kitschy Americana way. But for us it was a hoarder's paradise, filled with people thrilled to be buying pure useless shit after having probably talked the vendor down to next to nothing. I mean I suppose I shouldn't complain; we did make some money, after all. But it really squicked us out.

We were supposed to go today, Sunday, for another day of it. But late last night Tara decided she just couldn't, and I agreed. I mean, the rain predicted for today was a factor, of course; the idea of sitting out in it all day was decidedly unappealing. But beyond that was the thought that the event was enabling other hoarders. I suppose I shouldn't judge; I don't know that all (or any, for that matter) of them were hoarders. But it had that vibe, of unhealth, of deliberate poverty, of getting something for nothing, of miserliness, of the thrill of accumulating useless, broken, dirty, rusted-out crap; and we just couldn't.

That is probably unfairly judgmental; but I am glad we didn't have to go back.