About 10 years ago Dispatch pressmen Jerry Hayes and Jamie Morrison found a litter of kittens nestled between the walls in the basement. Hayes, now retired, and Morrison worked in the dark, cavernous space that houses our Goss Urbanite printing press.
The basement, or “the dungeon” as it is sometimes called around here, has an air of mystery about it. A century or so ago, when that part of the building was a pool room, a man was shot and killed down there. The pressmen swear the place is haunted, and, as far as I know, no one has tried to contradict them.
A supporting wall divides the basement into two large areas. The press and pressmen’s quarters take up one side; the other half is filled with rolls of newsprint and serves as a graveyard for long-obsolete equipment now collecting dust. There are two exhaust fans in the dividing wall. Turns out the mother cat had tried to exit through one of the fans and in doing so rendered her newborns orphans. Three days passed before Jerry and Jamie came along. The kittens, still with their eyes closed, were near death. We took two of them and homes were found for the others.
An employee in veterinarian Jim Dowdle’s office bottle-fed our kittens goat’s milk until they were old enough to make it on their own. Since then Miss Prissy and Gray Cat have become family members.
When the grandkids come over for dinner one of the things we like to do afterward is walk up to the vacant lot beside the Princess Theater and build inukshuks. Credit Mississippi University for Women molecular biologist Ross Whitwam for that. Inukshuks are small, makeshift totems, often human in form, built with rocks. The native peoples of the North American Artic use them as navigational markers across their barren landscape. Ross has built inukshuks all over Southside, including those in his own yard at the corner of Second Street and Third Avenue South.
Where else but Columbus.
As is always the case with kids, there are plenty of distractions when we go for a walk. Chief among them is William and Danette Starks’ cat, Rosie. We call her “Ghost Cat” — gives her an air of mystery. Almost always Ghost Cat, er … Rosie, ventures out to greet us when we are walking by. She lays on her back in the street in case we want to scratch her belly. Helen, who is 4, then picks her up and Ghost Cat, ever patient, goes limp until Helen is done.
Last week we varied our routine. Earlier when entering the building after hours, I had been greeted by an ink-splattered tomcat who appeared to have taken up residence in the basement. He seemed friendly and well fed. Monday night on our walk I mentioned to my charges that I thought The Dispatch had its own ghost cat and asked if they wanted to see if we could find him. It was a silly question.
Entering through the back door, we were immediately greeted by the cat, still ink-splattered. Helen picked him up. Apparently, they bonded. The cat followed us home. On the way we named her “Inky,” or in 4-year-old speak, “Icky.”
At the house Icky ate two bowls of cat food and seemed eager for a third. Instead we put him in the armadillo trap and took him back to town.
The next day at work we called a vet to make arrangements to have Icky neutered. All well and good, but we’ve not seen a sign of him since.
All of which begs the question: Do ghosts keep cats?
Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.
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