Nin, the famous Mount Washington Observatory cat and star of the children's book Cat in the Clouds, passed away in July. You'll never meet a funnier, friendlier cat.
Nin showed up as a stray in Putney, Vermont, many years ago, so we don't know exactly how old he was. But he was probably close to 20 years old.
I had just walked in the door when a reporter called and broke the news in mid-interview, assuming that I already knew. I was stunned, and kind of choked up for a moment. Poor ol' Nin. With all the reporters calling ("This cat gets more press than Michael Jackson!" one person commented) I found myself thinking of some favorite but lesser known memories of Nin at the weather observatory atop Mount Washington.
You know how cartoon characters like Coyote and Roadrunner can spin their arms and legs frantically, defying gravity without going anywhere? Nin would do that sometimes, trying to turn the corner too fast in the weather room. His legs would be churning in one spot on the floor tiles for a few seconds, then he'd finally get traction and zoom away. Just like a cartoon. It was hilarious.
I remember him perched on the radiator in the Observatory kitchen, joining the conversation as we all sat around and talked. He loved one crewmember's old red sweater, so she left it behind for him in a box when she went to South Pole. He'd sleep on it for hours.
One morning right in the middle of one of the live radio forecasts, he jumped up on my desk and sprawled across all my notes and weather maps, purring. I think I made some joke on the air about being "obscured by Nin." Good ol' Nin. During a slide show at an educational program, suddenly a giant silhouette of Nin filled the screen. He knew exactly where to stand to be the center of attention. But whenever we played Scrabble, somehow he always knew not to disturb the tiles. He just stretched out along the edge of the board and kept us company while we played.
One night on the summit I was very sick, half-sleeping in misery on the couch. Nin came and sat with me, not lying down the way he'd usually do with a sleeping person, but sitting upright, staring down at me. A co-worker said Nin stayed like that for hours, as if keeping a hospital vigil. He was a very empathetic cat.
Wish I'd had a chance to see him one last time. Two weeks earlier on the way out of town, I drove right by the house where he's been living in comfortable retirement. I actually thought about stopping right then, but remember thinking, "I'm running late, it's a long drive, I forgot my camera, and it doesn't look like anyone's home anyway. I'll just stop by and bring a camera when I get back." And now I'll never get the chance.
We'll miss you, Nin. You were New Hampshire's "real" Old Man of the Mountain.