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Museum Cats 5

Koshare Indian Museum

La Junta, Colorado

While searching on the internet for cats in museums, I came across this marvellous description of the former cat at the Koshare Indian Museum in La Junta, Colorado, USA. It dates from 1997:

'Our museum cat took one look around the place and immediately assumed the role of Supreme Director of the Museum, bending every staff member and visitor to her will. She is of little use in terms of pest control, as she assumes that all little furry creatures have their rightful place in the Universe, and is so laid back that she is often mistaken for a new exhibit.

'She is adored by visitors and is frequently the "most favorite thing" on the visitor survey sheets. She reigns over the gift shop in a lordly and disdainful manner — unless she suspects edibles, in which case she is transformed into a grovelling, snivelling beggar!

'She is not much good as a Curator, as she tends to nibble on catalog cards and is able only to paw the space bar on the collections computer (with often interesting results), but she does provide a unique Registrar function by paw-printing records. Shaggy as she is, she could perform well as a Custodian if she would only drag her belly and tail over where the dust is; but she has great potential as a Fundraiser as soon as we can teach her to say "money" instead of "meow".'

There is no mention of any cats on the museum's website, but I was pleased to be able to contact Joe Clay, Director of Programs at the Museum and writer of the above account, who in 2007 was still on the staff. Joe told me that Blackie, as she was known, turned up at the museum one day in about 1996, and was there for some two years. Unfortunately she then developed feline leukemia and had to be put down. She lies buried at the base of 'Buck's Tree', a Ponderosa pine tree dedicated to museum founder James Francis 'Buck' Burshears, which stands by the museum entrance. No successor to Blackie was appointed, as the museum's new curator did not approve; and sadly no photographs of Blackie can now be found.

However, Joe kindly sent a second piece of descriptive prose, which is reproduced here:

'Lord of all she purrveys, Blackie reigned in imperial splendor in the museum gift shop. Strategically positioned directly in the center of the cash-register service area, this cat among cats lay in a semi-somnambulent state, arousing herself only as necessary to receive the caresses of any museum patron so unwise as to think they could make a purchase without paying homage to the Ruler of the Register.

'If the patron acknowledged the omnipotence of the Ruler of the Register, displayed the proper attitude of supplication and accompanied their tentative approach with the obligatory scratch behind the royal ears, they would be granted the approval of the felicitatious feline, who would then ever so regally arise, stretch, and make room for the mundane business of the museum.

'It is unclear how the flirtatious feline attained this supreme power, having been rescued from some dire fate by the museum caretaker and arriving as a wet and dirty ball of matted fur. The ostensible reasoning was that she would make short work of the rodent population, which she did . . . she advised one and all that they should catch the rodents for themselves, as it was beneath the dignity of a now full-grown Persian Tabby — grown to enormous proportions and dedicated to guarding the cash register.

'It is true that various attempts had been made to bring the ponderous pussy into line, forcing her to accept the supremacy of the human race. We shall always remember the time when it was decreed that she should be on a leash — a cataclysmic event now commemorated as Rodeo Day . . .

Beloved by all, spoiled rotten by many, from the moment of her arrival as a mud-spattered fur-ball to her elevation to the lofty status of ponderous pussy, Blackie exercised dominion over all, ruling in splendor over both staff and patrons until the end of her days. She lies in a quiet spot under the trees by the entrance — now and forever a part of the Koshare Indian Museum. We shall never see her like again.'

Very warm thanks to Joe for sharing with us his memories of Blackie, the one and only Koshare Indian Museum cat.

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Our featured feline at the head of the page is Socks, pictured in 2003 surveying his 'estate' in the early morning sunshine. Affectionately known as Soxy, he blossomed from a thin and hungry stray into a substantial and handsome cat who loved life and company, and his gentle ways endeared him to many friends. He is now no longer with us, but you can read more from his human companion here.

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