By Bill Buchanan
“This is my last next-to-last move. My next move will be to either the nursing home or the funeral home.”
The idiot who uttered that statement was me — in 1992, when my wife and I moved from my hometown of Fort Payne, Ala., to Tuscaloosa, Ala. At the time I said that, I had moved 15 times in 16 years. Some of those moves were across town, and some were across country. Some were made when I was single and one or two carloads would get everything, while others involved professional movers and commercial 18-wheelers. But, at any rate, I was determined to settle into one house and stay put. Period.
That pledge lasted only a few years. So much for putting my foot down. Or I guess you could say that I did put my foot down, it just didn’t stay there long.
Now I am moving to Ojai to run the Ojai Valley News and the Ojai Valley Visitors Guide. While being a veteran of many moves, it is kind of like golf — if you haven’t played in awhile, you get rusty and out of rhythm.
I have had several partners who have “coached” me through this move. I would like to say thanks to:
• Geoff Wells — for providing me a very nice room on very short notice.
• Barry Snyder —for finding me an apartment more quickly than I ever thought possible.
• Jodie, Michelle, Lenny, and Ross here at the newspaper for helping me with my apartment — everything from locating it, to hooking up cable and electricity, to sending me a video of it to view.
• Vic Adam — for locating furnishings for my apartment despite being in the middle of phone book deliveries of the new Ojai Valley Directory. You are my decorating warrior.
• Ren Adam — for staying out of Vic’s way.
• Bill Moses — for lending me a couch.
• Bob Kemper — for lending me a lamp.
As in Olympic diving, all moves have their own degree of difficulty. But the one outstanding thing about my move to Ojai is — I don’t have to move any cats.
Ava and I have always had dogs. I love dogs — all breeds, sizes and personalities. But at one time, along with our dogs, we had cats — lots of them. We inherited the cats years ago, when Ava found the abandoned mother and six nursing babies and took them in. The cats were malnourished and weak. Ava said she was going to let them get a little stronger and find a good home for all of them. And true to her word, she did. Ours.
I know of no one who loves living things as much as my wife, who is sometimes referred to as “St. Francis of Nebraska.” It pains Ava to kill ants. She will catch spiders, bees and other bugs, and put them outside. Ava even refuses to kill snakes (we will save those stories for another day).
So Ava made it her mission to nurse the cats back to health. One kitten was just too small and weak to make it. He died within a few days and was buried in a Velveeta cheese box. But the rest of the cats flourished, growing sleek and strong. One of the cats, a male, repaid our kindness by running off a couple of months later. But the mother and the lone surviving male, as well as the two surviving females, lived with us for many years.
The mother and the male were great cats. They were very mellow and affectionate. The two females could best be described as miniature versions of the monsters in the “Alien” movie series. They were wild and absolutely crazy. They would not come to anyone and refused to be petted. Even if you came up to them casually and in the most non-threatening manner imaginable, they would fix you with a wild saucer-eyed stare, then immediately bolt away.
This did not cause too many problems until it was time to move.
These two cats were always the last things to go. The house would be completely cleared out. Ava would lure the cats into the house with food, shut them off into a confined area, and then attempt to get them into their kennels.
This became known as “The Great Cat Rodeo.”
Ava would place the cat carriers nearby, put on a pair of heavy work gloves, wrap towels around her arms, take a deep breath and proceed to round up the two females. The process would begin with Ava sweetly cooing something like, “Here kitty, kitty — it’s OK, it’s OK …” but would soon evolve into total chaos, with the cats tearing around the room and yowling followed by Ava giving chase and cursing. It was something of a cross between “The Roadrunner and Wily E. Coyote” cartoons and a remake of “The Exorcist.”
On our most recent move, we were down to just one cat. Naturally, it was one of the crazy ones. We tried everything to catch her. Finally, we bought a raccoon trap — a big wire cage with a spring trap door in which to capture the cat. The cat was old, but was still sure-footed and crafty. We hid around the corner of the house to observe the cat. We watched as the cat cautiously entered the cage, ate the food used as the bait, then stepped nimbly over the trip wire, and dashed away. This soon became a daily ritual, and I think, somewhat of a game to the cat.
We were in agony. We were running out of time and patience. Finally, Ava was forced to put the food in the bait dish, and hide behind the corner of the house with a water bottle. When the cat entered the cage, Ava fired a strike with the water bottle, hitting the cage hard enough to trigger the trip wire and capture the cat.
All that makes this move look like a piece of cake. And thanks to those mentioned above, it was.
P.S.: Thanks to the Ojai Independence Day Committee; the fireworks display was outstanding. You made my Fourth.