John Howell Sr. Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sunshine made his annual appearance at the Crowder Christmas Parade on December 6. The Panolian photo by John Howell Sr.

Crowder cat revels in riding in annual parade

Even after three years, Levi Brewer catches me by surprise when he drives by in the Crowder Christmas Parade with his cat, Sunshine.

They come easing along at parade speed in Brewer’s shiny new/old 1969 Chevrolet pickup, this year dressed in matching Santa hats and red Christmas vests — Levi and Sunshine.

“’It seem like he liked to get dressed up for Christmas,’” Brewer’s wife Cookie told him.

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Sunshine is a buff-colored, neutered tom, one of three born under the Brewers’ house. The other two, Black Boy and Goldie, don’t appreciate the public parade spotlight like their brother.

Sunshine resembles Rosemary’s Cookout Kitty in New Orleans — at least he resembles Cookout Kitty when we first met him in 1998. He came with the house we bought on Laurel Street and had earned his name among neighbors by simply showing up anytime a grill was lit.

Back then Cookout Kitty “belonged” to anyone on this block of Laurel Street who would feed him or who left him undisturbed while he napped in a sunny spot on their front porch. That loose arrangement didn’t suit Rosemary. She easily lured him into her exclusive orbit with special treatment. Still, Cookout Kitty didn’t belong to her as much as she belonged to him.

Though Cookout Kitty had been neutered when we first encountered him, he was fiercely territorial. He would challenge any damncat who came onto his turf. He never backed down. He did not know how to back down. I never saw what happened to the other fellow during such quarrels, but the vet bills that accumulated following some of those encounters could provide if needed an extensive paper trail documenting the damncat’s ownership.

We left him behind during the Katrina evacuation. Like so many in this city we thought it would be another one of those forced, three-day vacations we’d experienced in earlier hurricanes. When the levees broke and the city was shut off, Rosemary’s angst was such that about a week after Katrina hit, we sneaked back in and “rescued” Cookout Kitty who stayed with her until she was able to return.

Now that Cookout Kitty is in his dotage, the inventory of stray damncats hanging around this house has increased. When he was in his prime, he’d never have allowed them to stay. He still has trouble backing down. Though the territory Cookout Kitty claims has shrunk, he still won’t back down from a head-to-head encounter. But he will turn the other way, and he’s just too old to keep the trespassers at a distance.

When I spot Sunshine in the pickup cab with Levi, I’m reminded of Cookout Kitty and our long history.

Also, I wonder if Levi could take in a few of these extra New Orleans damncats that have started to accumulate down here on Laurel Street.