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The cockroach

In to the Wind

December 13, 2011
By Mike Gilchrist , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

I've never had a friend with the nickname "Cockroach."

Cockroaches are the shadow of man as he spreads out across the land; wherever he goes, the roach follows. Cockroaches are ancient, and scientists tell us they have remained unchanged since the Carboniferous period 300 million years ago.

Roaches are seen as resilient, resourceful, survivors. After a nuclear winter, it has been said the only survivor would be the cockroach. The cockroach is indeed a shadowy figure. They will follow the boundary between the wall and floor, skittering, not quite visible in their attempt to move from point to point without being seen.

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This sort of behavior and movement has earned one member of the menagerie here at Gilly Hollow the sometimes nomenclature of cockroach.

There are people who frequent our place who have never seen the second cat residing here. While glimpses of Wink, the diminutive one eyed feline might be less than rare, glimpses of Garth, the three legged cat are uncommon for visitors. They have heard me talk about Garth, but have never seen him.

Garth is the fifth animal in our menagerie. This one is a plain old run of the mill black and white alley cat -- with personality. He was rescued by the Tama County Humane Society. He was found in someone's garage. He had suffered some unspeakable trauma which had to be excruciatingly painful. He had a compound fracture of one of his rear legs which healed with the foot and leg pointing backwards. A humanitarian campaign was launched by the staffers of the Humane Society, and money was raised to pay for amputation of Garth's deformed leg.

Garth is the master of the underworld. He is intimately familiar with every dark and secluded place in our house. He will disappear for hours on end and not be seen. I am sure I know some of his hiding places, but not all. Garth does not like company. A visit from an unfamiliar person will cause Garth to go into hiding. No amount of coaxing or cajoling will cause him to make an appearance either.

There are two times of day when Garth will usually make an appearance. The first is early in the morning when I typically do my writing in the quiet solitude of the predawn hours. Garth will become quite vocal and look for affection then. Affection to Garth is to be scratched behind the ears.

Even when it is only two of us here, appearances by Garth can be rare. The second time of day he usually comes out of hiding is late in the evening. He seems most playful then, and will at times look for affection.

Other times we might catch a glimpse of Garth as he slinks along the edge of the room darting from one hiding place to the next. Many times I will just catch his movement out of the corner of my eye; hence the nickname "Cockroach."

Along one wall in house I built some closets a few years ago. One is a large closet with a bifold door and 4 large clothes rods. Seasonal clothes, as well as coats and jackets are kept in that closet. Several times while retrieving a coat, or an article of clothing when the weather changes, I have opened that closet door and been unaware Garth had slipped unseen into the closet to explore or hide. A few times, often hours later, after not seeing him for a long time, I'll remember I had opened the closet and the cat was probably locked inside. He is usually ready to come out then and when I open the door he will dash out, often to find new cover. His hiding places are usually places where he can see but not be seen. I believe his is very much aware of what is going on, but just chooses to view his world from the security of cover.

Besides the aforementioned antisocial behavior, Garth is a remarkable animal in many regards. In the fall when the field mice decide to relocate in the house to avoid the cold, Garth becomes a patient and efficient mouser. He moves just fine for a three legged cat too. Flat out, I believe he runs about as fast as any four legged cat.

Attentive readers will remember we also have a three legged dog, Paris. Paris is missing a front leg. After much observation, I can testify that if a four legged animal has to lose a limb, it is better to lose a rear one than a front.

Many times Paris will lose footing while running outside or on the hardwood floors while inside, and fall on her chin. It's not a pretty sight, and usually elicits a tiny wave of sympathy for the unfortunate creature when someone witnesses the fall. Garth on the other hand seems to get along just fine with only three legs, and in fact can round corners more efficiently without the added bulk of the second leg on his hindquarters. The motion is kind of hard to describe, but he can move really fast in a sort of sidewinder fashion. His front legs don't move as a unit like a galloping horse, instead each of them articulates independently. When he is moving slowly, the motion is not unlike someone walking on crutches, where the good legs stops and wait for the other one to catch up. His motions tend to elicit less sympathy from observers than does Paris'.

Until next time--

You can read past columns by visiting and clicking on "view all" next to "Local Columns."

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2011 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.



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