I took a slight hiatus in college and went to work, driving a catering truck, in 1972/73. As I was pulling off the lot in my truck one morning, I spotted a white cat near the office. It was apparent he was beat up, with injuries that made him walk with great difficulty. Throughout the day, he was on my mind. I feared another truck would return to the lot and he wouldn’t be able to get out of the way, and would get run over and killed. When I pulled in at the end of the day, I saw he was still there and was greatly relieved.
At the end of the day, it was necessary to pack up any of the sandwiches and other items that needed refrigeration and take them up to the office. We’d also turn in our money for the day. As I turned to head up to the office I saw the kitty had managed to drag himself all the way down to my truck. Needless to say, I knew he’d be going home with me.
I turned in my stuff, picked him up and put him into my car with me. Of course, I had no cat carrier in the car, and he proceeded to lie down on my thigh. Off we went to the vet’s office to see what could be done to fix him up. For the entire trip, he calmly slept on my leg. The vet determined he had been hit by a car some time ago and the bones in both his back legs and his tail had healed, but not in their proper positions. He felt that if the cat wasn’t able to get around that the best solution would be to amputate one of his legs. He said it would be easier for him to get around on 3 good legs.
I named him Chester, after Dennis Weaver’s character on Gunsmoke. Chester was a blacksmith who walked with a severe limp. My Chester’s tail was bent at a 90 degree angle and both of his back legs were bowed, so that he looked like Charlie Chaplin’s little tramp from the rear. He immediately got along with my other cats and soon regained his strength, thanks to regular meals and plenty of love.
Chester came into my life when my other cats included Casey (the beloved), Cerulea, Cinnamon, Cricket and Corky. Casey preferred to be held and would jump into my arms from the floor or anywhere he happened to be. Chester wanted to do the same, but his back legs weren’t strong enough. He learned to jump into my arms from counter tops. And, a college friend taught him to climb up our legs. That was fine when we were wearing those old fashioned Levi men’s jeans that were heavy duty denim – nothing like today’s jeans. Of course, Chester didn’t discriminate. It didn’t matter whether you were wearing jeans, or shorts, or a nightgown with bare legs. If he wanted UP, he was going to get there.
Chester was the most laid back, trusting cat that I’ve ever had. I could hold my arms in front of me, and he would fall asleep on them. I would grab both his back legs with one hand and his front legs with my other and put him around my neck, where he would also fall asleep. He could sleep anywhere. After spending at least 30 minutes putting together our artificial Christmas tree one year, making sure all of the branches were just perfect, I left the room for about 15 minutes. When I came back into the room, I noticed that the tree looked a bit lopsided, with one branch hanging low right in the middle of the tree. I didn’t understand how I could have missed that branch. But, I didn’t. While I was gone, Chester had climbed into the tree, straddled the branch and fallen asleep.
Chester gave me one of the biggest scares of my life. We had a phone installed in our kitchen and I didn’t discover that the technician had left our back door standing open when he left. It never occurred to me that someone would simply leave a door to the outside wide open, especially when there were cats and dogs in the house. After counting noses, I discovered that Chester was missing. At the time we lived a block off U.S. 441, a major highway in Miami. My mother, a neighbor and I walked the neighborhood calling Chester to no avail. I feared he would either get killed by a car or a dog. Our dog, Cody, loved Chester. She would “mouth” him, up and down his back. Chester loved it. Maybe he thought he was getting a massage. But Cody would leave him with wet, spiked hair running down his spine. He had no fear of dogs because of Cody and if he encountered a dog while outside, he wouldn’t run or even defend himself. It wasn’t until hours later that I found him, across the street lying in the grass. Fortunately, he was fine.
I called Chester my football cat. Many years ago, I was a big Miami Dolphins football fan. I had a tendency to get a bit excited when watching the game and would yell quite a bit. Once the screaming started, Chester would dash into the room from wherever he had been, and jump into my lap. Seeing that I wasn’t in danger and didn’t need him to rescue me from an attacker, he would curl up in my lap and go to sleep. I don’t know how he slept through my hollering, but he slept contentedly throughout the game and commotion. I lost him to kidney disease when he wasn’t much older than 10 years old. Football watching was never the same and not as much fun, once he was gone. He was certainly one of a kind and a true delight. It’s been about 30 years since his death and I still miss him to this day.