First, if you didn’t come here by way of the Janice Williams’ Austin website, go check it out. It’s the beginning of an update at least.
Today is my baby Willie’s birthday, so I must chronicle the life of my pride and joy.
I guess I have to start at Christmastime 2002. We stayed in Austin for Christmas and on Christmas Eve I opened the front door to look outside and there, on the doorstep, sat a fluffy, long-haired gray cat. I don’t know where she came from so I took her in. We had Nathan already and certainly were not looking for another cat, but taking her in on Christmas Eve seemed like the thing to do until we could find out who she belonged to. Mark named her Miss L Toe. Miss Toe quickly made herself at home.
A few days later, with no luck finding an owner, Mark commented that Miss Toe was rather wide and he wondered if she could be pregnant. I sought counsel from our neighbor, the cat lady, Katie. She confirmed that definitely this cat was going to have kittens. It appeared imminent from her size.
Days and days go buy and I’m expecting to find a litter at the house at any minute. Miss Toe got bigger and bigger. I read up on gestation periods for cats and it is 72 days. Again, I thought, ANY minute. January turned to February and then MARCH was here. We had HAD Miss Toe 72 days and she looked pregnant when we got her, how could this be? There was no doubt, of course, that she was pregnant. She looked like a furry gray basketball and the poor thing would lay in the most uncomfortable positions, it seemed. I just wanted the poor thing to be able to have these kittens. How many could be IN there? 12?
Mark was Guy Forsyth’s drummer at the time. In March he had a gig at Casbeer’s in San Antonio, so I decided to go with him. We had a box in the closet ready for Miss L Toe when she was ready and we expected any day to be the day. But the night we left for Casbeer’s we really thought she might take that opportunity while we were good and gone, to deliver.
And she did. We got home about 4 in the morning and looked in the closet to find the most wonderful pile of fur and a very nervous Mama cat licking and checking and not wanting us to be any part of this project. Of course, we immediately took pictures and loved on each and every one of them.
If you’ve heard me talk about Willie on the radio, you know he became Willie because he was the red-headed stranger. Can you tell which one he is? He was so easy to spot among this crowd. Five of them were varying shades of gray with white and he was spectacularly red. But the name didn’t come immediately. It came after they were up and on their feet and around the house. Not only was he red-headed, he truly was the “loner” and treated differently by his four brothers and one sister. He was different. So, he became Willie.
This was Willie just hours old:
Is that adorable or what?
That tiny little thing grew so quickly. So did his brothers (Ringo, Turbo, Mambo, and Pinky) and his sister (Amazing Grace). About a month after they were born Mark had to go on a European tour with Guy. We had already found prospective homes for some of the kitties, but Mark begged me not to give them away until he was back. He wanted more time to play with them. The kitties had already managed to get beyond the reaches of their box about the time he left so, in order to corral them, we’d put them in a bathtub. Seems like the minute Mark stepped on that plane, those cats could get out of the bathtub and be anywhere and everywhere all at once.
It was a CRAZY time at our house. I would stand in the kitchen with a bowl of cereal, trying to eat without a cat in my bowl and I would have kittens crawling up the outside and inside of my nightgown. I would try to sit on the couch and eat something while watching television and I would have a kitten on each shoulder and three in the lap and one climbing on the others to get into my plate. Now Miss Toe was an angel during all of this. While they were going wild and assaulting me, she would be off somewhere, exhausted, trying to regain some strength! And Nathan Jr? He did NOT like this intrusion into his house one bit. At that point, we still let him outside so he spent a lot of time in the yard or on the porch or at a neighbor’s, harumphing the fact that his space had been overtaken.
I had intended to keep the kitties until Mark got home, if I could, until one night I was working on the computer. I kept sniffing and sniffing, wondering what it was I was smelling. I crawled back under the desk and looked along the wall and back there, where you just CAN’T get to and the floor is full of wires?Â My wires had little piles of poo on them. Little kitty poo. Okay, kitties are old enough to be trained and be gone!
We had found a home for Miss Toe to go to along with Turbo, so I drove to LaGrange to meet the friend from Houston that wanted a grown cat and kitten. Pinky and Mambo went to friends in Dallas and I drove up to Robinson to meet them and give them their new babies. Grace went to my old roommates little girl Kayai in San Antonio. That left Ringo and Willie with us. This is what Mark came home to:
Oh, my, how could you resist that little angel? We had planned to keep a kitten, but there were people that wanted Willie because he was the unique yellow kitten. Mark’s old roommate wanted him, but sadly, he died and that home fell through. One of my listeners wanted him, but then she decided she was allergic to cats and she backed out. Since poor little Willie, the red-headed stranger, didn’t have a home, we decided he needed to stay with us.Â We found Ringo a home with a woman I worked with.
How could you let that sweet face go?
So Willie became our second cat. Once all the other cats were out of the house, Nathan began loosening up a little bit and it wasn’t too long before they were sleeping side by side and even licking each other with love. Wilie began to grow a little bit, but was still lanky and had no mane. But that tail was an indicator of what was to come, we just didn’t know it.
Mark has his Numero Uno Gato Nathan Jr., but he fell in love with Willie, too. Soon, for some reason, Willie began being called Wilburt. It just fit better. Or Willie Burton.
Wilburt maybe should have been called Wilbur, like the pig, because he does have some piggy tendencies. He likes his Purina One and his Friskies wet food, that’s for sure. But he still thinks he is a tiny kitten, capable of sleeping on window sills.
So today Wilburt is six years old. He and Nathan Jr. have such unique personalities. I had no idea before that cats even had personalities. Willie is definitely MY baby. We must have bonded in those first few weeks while Mark was in Europe, because Willie tends to follow me to whatever room I am in and get near me (often climbing up here on the desk and lounging on the keyboard). When I watch TV, he is close by on the couch. He isn’t a lap baby, he doesn’t like being THAT close, but he wants to be nearby. And Willie is the talker, too. Tonight I heard a cat yowling in the kitchen. I went in to see if Mark had stepped on one of the boys! No, he said, Willie was just insisting that he needed to be fed and was stating his case. It was fun to look through all my Wilburt pictures tonight. He is a beautiful boy and I don’t even mind the hairballs and wisps of hair all over the house that he has taught me about. Here is one of my very favorite Wilburt pictures that Mark took. Mark is the amazing animal photographer that took most of these shots. Yes, he is on the kitchen table. In our house Willie gets to be wherever he wants to be. Happy Birthday sweet boy!