Photo: Sam at Christmas 1986

Samurai, or Sam as we called him, showed up before I did in the early years of my parents marriage. My mom said she found him a skinny sad baby in the yard. Her heart went out to him and she fed him, much to the chagrin of my father. Over time, my mom was able to convince Dad to take in this stray orange kitty. Sam was about two years old when he was found and he was king of the castle.

Early on in the tumultuous relationship he had with my Dad, Dad decided to show Sam who was boss by flicking the cat in the nose.

Sam_in-sinkSam had a bad attitude, and when I came around four years later he was not pleased at sharing the attention. From my understanding of the story, I wasn’t doing anything but sitting there minding my own baby business when Sam (who I can only guess learned this from Dad with the famous flicking of the nose) decided to let me know who was the first born. He slashed me across the forehead. My mother almost killed him, but by some sort of miracle, Dad came to his rescue.

When I was three years old we moved to the house I grew up in. Sam quickly adapted to his new home, spending his days outside hunting mice. Every Mothers Day he would bring home a mouse and leave it on the porch for us without fail.

Sam on PorchOne day I was going passed the back door to get a soda from the basement and I heard Sam mewing. I was probably six or seven at the time. When I looked out the door I saw he had a chipmunk in his mouth. Not thinking anything about it, I let him in and called to my mother to come see what Sam brought. She came around the corner and squawked at him. The noise must have startled him, because he opened his mouth and dropped the chipmunk by the backdoor. One big problem was: the chipmunk wasn’t dead. In fact, it hopped up and ran down the stairs to the basement. Sam looked at my mom and I for a moment as though he was saying, “Well, now what?” “Well go get it,” mom said. Sam took off in a flash and for forty five minutes we heard him scooting and pouncing until he emerged triumphant with the chipmunk in his mouth.

The neighborhood dog at the time was named Sparky. Sparky would wander the neighborhood without a leash and make his daily rounds to see his people friends. He used to come by my house daily and he and I would share a piece of American Cheese. One day Sparky came by and chased Sam to the highest place in the tallest tree in our backyard. It took us hours to get him to come back down. There was actually talk about calling the fire department. Mom eventually coaxed him down with a big plate of food.

Sam SneerWhen I was about ten years old, Shadow showed up for the first time. Sam was not pleased at the prospect of a second cat, but by that time he was already a very senior cat. He had developed an Elivs sneer, always looking mildly nonplussed with the days activities.

One night my father and I came home from a college football game, I think I was at least eleven or twelve at that time and found my mother crying. Sam had just passed away. We went down to see him where he lay on a small couch in the basement. Mom had sat with him until the end. He was still warm when I petted him. Mom said that Shadow had come in and mewed and Sam responded with a small mew of his own.

We let Sam stay on the couch over night. The next morning when I woke up and my father was already hard at work in the backyard digging a little hole. He gently placed our Sam in a lovely wooden box he had been saving. My father wept and said to us, “I wish I had never flicked him in the nose.”

Sam was laid to rest next to the garage, and though he is gone he is still in our hearts: Samurai Warrior Cat, the toughest orange kitty on the block.

Sam Under Tree