Posts Tagged ‘Buddie Jacopo’

Jasper came into our lives the spring I was 11 (going on 12). My friend, Trudi, lived on the very outskirts of Winnemucca. Their yard backed up to miles of sagebrush, dusty dirt roads, and Mt. Winnemucca. She could watch wild horses from her bedroom window.

The downside to that location was that people dumped unwanted animals along the dirt roads. Such was the case of the starving, blind, newborn kittens that Trudi and her brother rescued. The kittens’ eyes were caked over and they were much too young for anything besides a thin gruel of baby cereal and warm water. They couldn’t even eat from eye-droppers because there were four or five of them and no one had the patience to try to feed them that way. They lapped the gruel from a bowl, caking it in their fur, on their faces, and on their paws. One by one, they opened their eyes – and one by one, they succumbed to death.

It took everything in me to present my case to my mother, and then wait with bated breath while she presented my case to my father. To my surprise, he said I could have one of the kittens. I think he thought it would die.

She came home with me, then – the only tabby kitty in the litter, and ultimately, the only one to live longer than that summer. She was a tortoiseshell tabby, red-brown, grey, and stripped. I named her Jasper.


She bulled her way into our hearts and even the schnauzer put up with her.

We moved the following autumn, just before my 13th birthday, and Jasper came along with us.

004She loved our new home: close to the sagebrush hills and a peak that rose stiffly above the ore train tracks. She used a culvert to travel from the back yard to the sagebrush to hunt. She even fended off the next door German Shepherd and the Gordon Setter mix. Jasper was in heaven.

She had three lives, not nine. Her first life as a kitten that ended in a dump along a dusty road, her second life with us that ended when she was hit by a car – rolled, really, but it did some internal damage and she wasn’t quite herself for months, and her third life which rolled into the summer before I turned 15.

I had a day job as a babysitter (the cute little girls next door who belonged to the big dogs), but I had to sub-let my job to my sister when I traveled to Reno for Rainbow Grand Assembly. The little girls greeted me when I came home with an announcement about my cat.

My family was waiting for the right time to tell me; the little girls spilled the beans. Jasper, still reeling from the car accident, had wandered up the hill and across the tracks. Only – she didn’t make it across the tracks. The ore train came. My sister and brother buried the two halves of Jassy Cat under a sagebrush, and built a rock cairn to mark her grave. I was crushed.

A few months later, a little black kitten wandered in to our lives. My brother coerced Mom to let him stay in the garage until Terry had built up his nerve to broach the subject with dad. Dad noticed that Mom wasn’t parking in the garage, however, and the subject came up after only three days of hiding. Dad knew he’d been had, but it didn’t make him happy. Speckos was allowed, BUT NO MORE CATS DAMMIT.

Specks had a few white hairs on his chest, but “Speckles” was just not quite the right name for him, hence “Speckos”.


November 2, 1972. I rode to school with my brother, in his pink Willys Jeep. I met my best friend, Janet, outside the school. It was my fifteenth birthday, cold, and there was this adorable little black kitten mewling around. I wanted to put him inside the Jeep and keep him, but my brother put his foot down. Dad would kill us.

The kitty was gone after school and I returned home, a little sad that I couldn’t have a kitten for my 15th birthday.

MEANWHILE, the kitten was picked up by a group of grade school kids and carried off to the nearby grade school. My mother worked as a receptionist for an engineering firm next to the grade school, and my sister attended the grade school. What happened next was typical of my sister. She wasn’t very big, just a mite of a girl in the 7th grade.

A group of mean little children were tormenting the kitten and devising ways to torture it when my sister waded into the middle of them, arms flailing, voice raised, black eyes burned over. They would NOT torment any kitten on her watch!

She hauled the rescue over to Mom’s work and tearily told Mom what had happened. “Well, what do you plan to do with this kitten?” Mom asked.

“I’m going to give him to Jaci for her birthday.” Mom melted.

Dad hit the roof. I dug my heels in and moved outside. Alligator tears ran down my face as I hugged that dear little cat close. He was all black with amber eyes. Speckos had green eyes. I even named him: Buddie Jacopo.

Dad relented, and until my brother and I went away to college, we had two black cats.


Buddie is on the left, a leaner cat with a long tail. Speckos was bulkier, with a shorter tail. They got along as if they were littler mates, although Speckos was older.

I don’t remember what happened to Speckos. Terry probably does. I think he just died of old age. I do know the rest of Buddie’s tale.

I went away to college and moved out on my own. Buddie took it upon himself to replace Jacob, and adopted Dad. Dad even taught him how to sit up and beg for treats. Buddie became the last cat Dad ever loved (although he tolerated Mom’s alley cat stray that he nick-named PITA). Buddie lived a full and normal cat life, dying of old age.

Footnote: Mom’s alleycat stray was never very tame and was originally named “Bob Cat” because of the bobbed tail. When Bob Cat had kittens, she became Roberta Cat. Dad just called her PITA (Pain In The Ass). Roberta disappeared shortly after Mom died in 1995.

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This came to me today. I haven’t thought about it in a long, long, time. I am posting it especially for my nephew, Mike, who wants to hear stories about his mom. This is a classic Deni story.

Of course, it starts out and ends with me: our memories are like that – centered around us. But if Deni had not done what she did naturally – and on that November day, in particular – then Buddie Jacopo would never have been.

The day was November 2nd, 1972. My fifteenth birthday. I rode to school with my brother in his old pink Willys Jeep. (Yes, pink!) He ditched me as soon as the Jeep was parked, but my best friend, Janet, met me outside of school. We found a tiny black kitten with amber eyes. He was so beautiful and so friendly: I almost put him inside my brother’s Jeep so I could sneak him home and beg to keep him.

But I didn’t. I went to school, instead, and hoped the kitty would be out in the same area when I had to walk home after school. He wasn’t.

Five blocks away, the middle school was busy. In those days, my mother worked as a secretary for an engineering firm that had an office adjacent to the middle school play ground. We were taught from an early age that when Mom was at work, we were *not* to bother her. No phone calls, no drop ins, nothing: we were to behave as though we did not know where she worked.

Ely middle school toughs hauled a kitten to the playground: a black kitty with amber eyes that was friendly and wanted only to be picked up and loved. They began to torment the cat with intent to torture it.

One thing you never did in front of my sister was be mean to a living creature. She couldn’t stand someone who picked the wings off of flies. Don’t begin to ask about tormenting kittens.

The kitty was carried to my mom’s office, where my sister begged my mom to take it home: “I want to give it to Jaci for her birthday. PLEEEASE…”

Can you imagine my surprise and joy when my mom brought the kitten home? THE KITTEN. The same one I almost put into the Jeep!

Can you imagine the sorrow and loss I felt when my dad put his foot down and said, “NO MORE CATS.” We already had one: a black cat named Speck-o’s that my brother hid in the garage for a week before our father discovered we had adopted a kitten.

My own beloved Jasper Cat died the summer before, cut in half by an ore train. I was in Reno when it happened and my sister helped my brother bury Jassy.

I cried alligator tears and stood outside in the bitter November chill, refusing to come back inside unless the lucky little black kitten was welcomed to come in, too. I threatened to spend the night outside, crying bitter tears.

I was truly Sarah Bernhardt. It was an act worthy of an Oscar.

The cat was allowed. I named him Buddie. My other best friend, Lisa, suggested I name him Jacopo (whether after the Italian poet, composer, or artist I no longer recall).

In a postscript: when I left for college and left BJ behind, he adopted my dad. Dad, the Grouch who did not want the cat in the first place, taught BJ how to beg for treats and to sit up like a dog. It amused my father greatly. I think BJ was his last favorite pet.

I was so grateful to my little sister for her act of bravery in the face of middle school hazing (she was the new kid on campus) and for her sacrifice (“I want to give the kitty to Jaci for her birthday” when she really wanted him for herself). It was something Deni would do. She had a big heart.

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