I glanced at the clock as I stood impatiently tapping my foot, fully dressed and ready to go. I crept out the side door just as the sun burst through the clouds, which, up to 7:45 a.m., had been throwing dapples of shadow but no promising big bursts of light. The air had a definite bite to it and I hunched further into my sweatshirt cardigan and dug my gloved hands into the pockets. I made a mental note to drag out still more woolens from the cedar closet this weekend.
I stole down to Council Point Park and the sun hit me full in the face as I walked toward the start of the pathway. Once again, the fog permeated the low-lying soccer and baseball fields and eerily hovered over the vast grassy areas. Perhaps the mysterious extra-large, wet paw prints I saw yesterday on the perimeter path belonged to the feet of that feline fog that Carl Sandburg writes about. For sure those big paw prints were not from “Paws”, the Detroit Tiger’s mascot, hoping for an early a.m. photo op.
In the early morn, the media was conflicted whether they should be more abuzz about today’s Kilpatrick sentencing or tonight’s Game 5 of the ALDS series. The Tigers seemed to be the happier subject though, especially after our boys clawed and scratched their way to a win in Game 4 Tuesday night. That victory helped the somewhat dubious and fair-weather fans to once again proclaim them as OUR Tigers. I’ve enjoyed seeing the Photo-shopped pictures of a tiger chomping on an Oakland Athletics’ bat throughout this series, yet no images were to be found to accompany this post. So, will JV do well? Will the Tigers prevail or will we see you next Spring boys? Go get ‘em Tigers! Everyone should sing along, even if you’ve not yet perfected “the growl”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzmAuKXfhP4
The Tigers hoopla got me thinking about big ol’ striped tigers of the warm and fuzzy variety causing me to remember my bus buddy, Pat Quinn, who works amongst these beasts. Pat and I rode the suburban bus to and from Detroit for eons. Fifteen years ago, Pat decided to take a week’s vacation to Arkansas. She was an animal lover with a pet house cat and decided to tour the big cat preserve called Turpentine Creek in Eureka Springs, Arkansas (www.turpentinecreek.org). Turpentine Creek, then as well as now, is not a zoo but a refuge for rescued big cats and they later added other non-feline wildlife to the mix. Well, Pat was instantly enamored with the compound and its inhabitants. Turpentine Creek was sorely in need of volunteers and Pat was invited to bottle feed the baby tigers and later to give them some exercise by walking them around the compound, under the watchful eye of another more-experienced volunteer. She was ecstatic and asked what else she could do to help. Well … the cages needed cleaning. Pat was game. They also needed someone to help with some administrative duties in the office. Pat had worked as an executive assistant at a large bank in Detroit for years so she was more than qualified. She went in and met the owner/operator of Turpentine Creek, (before mucking out the cages of course), and they talked cats, credentials and pipedreams … a story he had in his head and wanted to create into a memoir about his experiences at the compound. Was she game to join their little family? As infatuated as she was with Turpentine Creek, it was a big step to take. Pat told him she needed to mull it over and he told her to take her time. A handshake and the “interview” was over but Pat visited the compound every day for the balance of her vacation, communing with nature and the baby tigers plus doing alot of oohing and aahing over the big, beautiful cats.
The following Monday, she recited her experience to me enroute to Detroit and I said “wow, I’d go for it Pat” and she said she was still conflicted. That night on the bus trip home, she told me she gave her boss, a banking exec at Comerica Bank, two weeks’ notice and she had alot of plans to make. A long-time divorcée, with her kids now grown and on their own and no other family, she had no strings to hold her here. Within a month her house was up for sale and she was living in Arkansas. Pat took her computer with her and a makeshift office was created for her to do her administrative duties for Turpentine Creek. But not all her chores kept her office-bound. While she no longer opted to muck out the cat cages, she still found time to walk the baby tigers who were now growing in leaps and bounds. She knew each of the big cats by their name and would call out to them as she walked through the compound. She told me she was never scared as she thought of them as “just big kitties”. At night she worked with her new boss on the manuscript to memorialize his life-long dream. We’ve kept in touch via e-mail through the years and she never regretted her decision. She had a house built on a big hill, just a stone’s throw away from the wildlife sanctuary. She is now semi-retired and only works two days a week. Think of the stories she could tell – perhaps one day she will write her own tale about mingling with the big cats.