Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Cat Fights

During my growing up years, our family had a number of pets. Two of them especially stick out in my mind. The first was a darling puppy, a mixed breed, mostly Labrador, that dad declared to be a "boy" after taking a quick look at his underside. For some reason, I had the pleasure of naming the wiggly, tongue-licking pooch.

We soon discovered that Figaro was a female so I adjusted her name to Figarina. When we took her in for her shots, the veterinarian's office declared that they had never had a dog in there with that name!

Frosty the cat is the other pet I vividly recall, probably because she was so beautiful. As dramatically white as Figarina was black, her fur was long, soft to the touch and pristine, as she was always manicuring it with her tongue. But she was quite the independent one, going out at night to who knows where, doing the things that cats do--and sometimes coming back with bloody scratches on her lovely face and sorry-looking chunks out of her gorgeous fur.

We moved to Delaware Street when I was in the fourth grade. Of course we took Frosty with us, but somehow she got out the second day we were in the new neighborhood and we never saw her again. I was incredibly sad to think that the pull of her wild side was stronger than her attachment to our family. I guessed that the affection I felt for her was one-sided.

There were plenty of other cats in the new neighborhood, as evidenced by the nightly noises coming from the wood fence catwalks. At first I thought the sounds were from humans; they were so loud and agonizing. I could relate to the television cartoons of the time showing angry folks throwing shoes and boots at the felines, just to shut them up.

I couldn't understand what the commotion was all about, though. It was incomprehensible that cats could be in such pain just from being hot, particularly in the middle of winter. I asked my mother about it but she acted like she didn't know how to answer me. In fact, a daughter of the Elizabethan era, mother seemed uncomfortable communicating any information about male/female relationships, even though she was a nurse.

With the exception of a Walt Disney teaching movie about menstruation when I was 11 years old, most of the information I gleaned about sex came from my friends and my cousins. I learned that what went on with birds and bees also went on with cats, dogs, horses and cows. I had lots of cousins who lived in the country on farms in Oregon, so even though a city girl, I could also observe nature firsthand.

The most memorable cat fight I ever saw was the one I witnessed while walking home from junior high school when I was 14. A crowd of students quickly formed to watch as shrieks filled the air and flexed claws gouged skin, hair, and eyes--nothing was sacred. The two were out for the kill.

Not being able to stand the bloodbath and butchery, I yelled for a couple of the bigger boys to stop the fight, but they thought it was great sport. I've never seen anything like it since, except in movies. Until then, I didn't know that pony-tailed girls were capable of such aggression and terror. I remembered my own cat fights with my younger sister, but even though we slugged it out when we were young children, we seemed to have had a line over which we wouldn't cross.

These girls, however, even grabbed each other by their blood-spattered hair and jackhammered each other's heads against the rough cement sidewalk. The fight was so out of control and gruesome that it left an indelible mark in my mind's eye.

The recollection returned like a barrage of pounding rain in May 2003 as I read about an incident in Chicago where some high school upper class girls were horribly beating younger girls in a supposedly adult-supervised invitation. Reason vanished as the older girls got into the razing and turned reptilian in the process. The younger girls weren't even battling back in that cat fight!

The Doctor's Comments:
All reason vanishes when anger is the motivating force. One of my favorite quotes about anger is this: "Agree with thine adversary quickly...lest he esteem thee to be thine enemy."

It's always best to never start a battle you cannot win.

1 comment:

Mardel said...

Although its awful to contemplate the damage human beings can do to each other, I enjoyed your colorful explanation. I have tender feelings thinking about it I guess, I just can't stand to see violence between human beings. I want everyone to love eachother. So, I enjoyed the doctors’ comments at the end. It was a nice distraction from the sad, and great words to live by. I'll have to remember them.