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JOHN EGGERS COLUMN: Welcome to 'The Nut House,' Rascal

John Eggers

I purchased a tin sign at a garage sale showing some squirrels eating acorns. On the sign it says, "Welcome to the nut house." I thought it would be appropriate to post alongside my office door. I think my dogs and I could be accused of going a little nutty at times. so I said to Rascal, "Why not join the crowd, Rascal?"

Who's Rascal?

With all of this thunder and lighting during our recent rainstorm our two golden retrievers have been acting a little nutty. Simone, the youngest, climbed on our bed and there was no way she was going to be removed from her security blankets—Kathy and me. Simon, the father, sat up and rested his head against Kathy's side of the bed the entire night as if she needed protection.

The only creature that couldn't have cared less about the storms was Rascal, our cat. Rascal has been with us now for about six months. The dogs have finally given up trying to harass him and chase him away. Right from the onset, he paid no attention to them but, rather, tried to snuggle up to them. Rascal knows how to win friends and influence people.

Talk about going nuts. That was Kathy and me after Rascal first came into our domain. He was a rescue cat but the only people who needed rescuing were his new caretakers. He ran around the house like a Tasmanian Devil destroying everything in his way including two of our favorite Native American pottery pieces.

One night in late winter he happened to escape outside. Kathy and I were thinking this was a mixed blessing. I looked for him but to know avail. Since he was, we thought, probably a feral cat, maybe he just had had enough of us and wanted to be "born free" again.

The next night I decided to take the dogs and look for him one more time. After awhile I thought I heard a distinct meowing. It was difficult to pinpoint its exact location but I knew I definitely heard a cat noise. The meowing would very faintly come and go. It was like a pin dropping on a mattress.

Simone began to sniff at the base of a tree. I went over to examine what she was sniffing and I inadvertently shined the flashlight up the tree and there was Rascal hanging on to a 1-inch branch for dear life. He looked at me and said, "Well, it's about time. I climbed up but now I can't get down," Rascal said. I used my tallest ladder and even then I had to step on the highest rung to grab him. Talk about a nutty thing for me to do.

I could read the headlines, "Local Bemidji columnist falls from ladder, breaks his neck while attempting to rescue a no-good cat."

Rascal has turned out to be a pretty good cat and one of my wife's all time favorites. Occasionally he will sleep on her head at night. If he is not on her head, he sleeps on the pillow on her wheelchair beside the bed.

Rascal enjoys going for walks with Simon, Simone and me. He tags along as if he were one of the gang. He will plop down on the grass or gravel, get covered with dirt and grass and come up as clean as ever. I have come to the conclusion that nothing sticks to cat hair. When God made cats, he definitely said, "It was good, maybe just a bit nutty, but good."

We could debate the question if pets make us nuttier or saner. I guess I would have to bet on all pets making us a bit saner. They cause us to laugh when we don't feel like laughing. They cause us to smile when we don't feel like smiling. They cause us to have empathy and have feelings for all animals that need our protection.

I had this dream the other night that my brother shot a bear. In my younger days I would have helped him celebrate this moment. In the dream he called me over to take a look but I told him I just couldn't do it. "I think I have enough shooting of animals," I said. He responded, "Yes, I know what you mean."

Being a hunter all of my life, I cherish many of those memories, but today I have a hard time even keeping some of the fish I catch. I guess that's kind of nutty but as we grow older we know the value of life. I suppose if people over the age of 75, especially women, ruled the world, there would be no more killing.

So, now it's the adventures of Simon, Simone and Rascal. Simone would like Rascal to take a swim with them but Rascal says, "Not today." Rascal will go down to the shore and hide in the weeds until the dogs come out of the water. They roll in the grass and make it look like it's the world's greatest activity. Rascal looks at them and says, "That sure is a nutty thing to do." Welcome to the nuthouse, Rascal.

Riddle: What happened when the cat ate the clown? He felt funny. The good thing about cats and dogs and other animals, they do makes us feel a little funny.

100 percent graduation rate

A local movement is underway to ensure the area has a 100 percent high school graduation rate. Here's some tips on how you can help us achieve that goal:

1. Teachers who can make kids laugh have a better chance of winning them over and helping them appreciate the value of schools and the need to graduate.

2. Hard to believe, but the best teachers I have ever known were just a little bit nutty. Kids who stay in school and graduate will say the same.

John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.