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Eric Pinder

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Member Since: Aug, 2007

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A Purr-fect Storm: Cat Tales from Mount Washington
By Eric Pinder
Thursday, September 13, 2007

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Meet the cats who live at the Mount Washington Observatory, the "Home of the World's Worst Weather."

I first met Jasper the cat on a chilly evening when westerly winds were whipping across the summit at seventy miles per hour. I stood alone on the mountaintop and watched a dark fist of cloud punch slowly toward the peaks, beaching itself on the rocks. Gray mist splashed on the boulders like ocean spray. As I stumbled through the fog, bullets of hail nipped at my face, and the hood of my jacket flapped like a sail. With each strong gust, the precipitation can I was carrying squirmed in my arms like an angry cat.

I encountered a truly angry cat back in the shelter of the observatory. Jasper was not a happy animal when I rudely walked in from the cold and picked him up; I even had the nerve to try to pet him. He squirmed and struggled in my arms until I let him go, but graciously accepted a bowl of milk as a peace offering. He even begged pitifully for a second peace offering two minutes later.

"Is Jasper an outdoor cat?" I wondered aloud.

One of the meteorologists laughed. "I wouldnít say that. The only door Jasper waits in front of is the refrigeratorís."

For fourteen years, Jasper has survived inside the warm belly of the Mount Washington Observatory while sleet and hail battered the windowpanes and hurricane-force winds rattled the walls. Outside, sheets of ice rain have shattered on the rocks like glass, but a snoozing Jasper has purred through it all.

Like most cats, Jasper is a hunter. One night, he trotted off into the twilight and jogged back with a mouse tucked between his jaws. He deposited his prize in the doorway and ran back for more. By nightís end, a row of rodents lay scattered across the observation deck, sorted by size. Everyone was surprised.

"He was stacking them up like cordwood," announced one early riser. We expected the Environmental Protection Agency to show up any minute to delcare the American house mouse an endangered species.

Whatís so odd about an orange tabby cat who lives on a mountain and likes to eat asparagus? In Jasperís case, quite a bit. He often flees in terror from children but tolerates adults, so long as they hold him upside down (he hates being held right-side up) and put plenty of milk in his drinking bowl.

For more than a decade, a traumatized Jasper played second fiddle to Inga, the famous calico cat with frosty whiskers. Inga was always the teacherís pet, the spoiled child. A darling of the media, she was "interviewed" by Cat Fancy magazine while a jealous Jasper sulked in obscurity.

A picture of an icy Inga is still printed on T-shirts, posters, postcards, and refrigerator magnets that are sold each summer in the Mount Washington Museum gift shop. When Inga passed away in 1993 at age nineteen, her estate generously donated all proceeds from her modeling career to the Observatory.

Sadly, Jasper has enjoyed no such notoriety. While thousands of Inga postcards are shipped to mailboxes all across the continent, poor Jasper lurks in the shadows, far from the public eye. Even worse, a new nemesis named Nin appeared on the scene in 1996, just when Jasper finally thought he had the summit to himself. (Rumors to the contrary, Ninís name is not short for nincompoopóthough it should be!) Nin poses for the cameras and purrs in the arms of visiting journalists. He also robs Jasperís food bowl when the older cat isnít looking.

Jasper, patient as always, endures. The only legacy of this big, shy, but basically friendly cat is likely to be a clump of orange furballs left behind on the living room rug.

       Web Site: Sheep Football and Other Strange Tales

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Reviewed by Jennifer Miller 2/16/2009
Your books are incredible! I'll order the one about the felines on Mt. Washington. I too, am from NH. Family still live there. I started writing three years ago. Keep up the wonderful writing!
I wish you much success!
Reviewed by Katie Gabrielle 10/29/2007
Being a fellow New Englander, i can relate to this story! I really
enjoyed it very much and you write beautifully!! thanks for sharing!!
Reviewed by David Perry 9/15/2007
Great story. Humble cats are all the more loveable if only for their scarcity!
Reviewed by Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner 9/13/2007
*purring* Two of my most favorite things: kitties and weather. :) Excellent. :)

(((HUGS))) and love, Karla.
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 9/13/2007
Delightful tale; just "purr"fect!

I know a Jasper; he is the cat of a friend's daughter. He weighs 17 pounds; he's a big boy! :)

(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Tx., Karen Lynn. :D
Reviewed by Mr. Ed 9/13/2007
Jasper sounds like a pretty cool cat to me; orange tabbys usually are!

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