Davey Crockett May Have Lost the Alamo to the Mexicans but Clara Carmack Is Making Sure It Does Not Fall to Invading Mice
"There are people who reshape the world by force or argument, but the cat just lies there, dozing, and the world quietly reshapes itself to suit his comfort and convenience."
-- Allen and Ivy Dodd
Although it is better known for the likes of Davey Crockett and Jim Bowie who gave their lives in its defense, the Alamo in San Antonio has been home to some rather impressive felines during its long and illustrious history. In fact, there was at least one cat present on that fateful day in 1836 when the Texans were slaughtered by the Mexicans.
The Alamo's current feline heartthrob is an eleven-year-old, twelve-pound black and white little darling named Clara Carmack; C.C. for short. (See photos above and below.) She is named in honor of Clara Driscoll, a former owner of the shrine, and Alamo Committee Chairwoman Mary Carmack.
She arrived on the scene in 1996 pregnant, feral, and hissing at everyone who ventured near her. She was eventually trapped, presumably sterilized, and later domesticated.
She now has been on the job as the Alamo's official mascot for more than ten years and she is every bit as friendly and charming as she is beautiful. More to the point, she is living proof that anyone who claims that feral cats cannot be domesticated is a bare-faced liar.
Far from being merely ornamental, Clara performs a myriad of valuable functions at the memorial. First and foremost, she serves as a guard cat in much the same fashion that Wesley does at Geoff Warmouth's suburban Des Moines hardware store. (See Cat Defender post of December 14, 2006 entitled "Former Stray Named Wesley Lands Job as Greeter and Security Guard at Iowa Hardware Store.")
"She's our guard kitty and the grounds are her territory," employee Pattie Sandoval told San Antonio's Express-News on April 30th. (See "Four-Legged Defender Warms the Hearts of Those Around Her.") "We may be her caretakers, but she's in charge here. (She) bosses me and everybody else around."
She is also a proficient mouser. "No mouse would dare show his face around here," Sandoval added.
Clara's day begins promptly at 6:30 a.m. when she is served breakfast by Rosa Ayala. A typical day might find her helping to conduct a tour (See photo below), assisting both staff and scholars with their research at the memorial's library, and keeping an eye out for shoplifters at the gift shop.
There also is usually some time left over for her to sit for a while on curator Bruce Winders' shoulder, grab a few winks on the couch in the employees' lounge, and to watch the carp as they swim in a ditch that runs behind the Alamo. Her most appreciated function, however, may be in helping to ease stress levels for both staff and visitors.
Her presence also helps to give the memorial a homelike atmosphere. "C.C. brightens our lives and makes work fun," Sandoval affirmed. "Having her around makes the Alamo extra special."
To say that the staff dotes on her would be an understatement. For instance, director David Stewart stopped by one Christmas when the Alamo was closed in order to ensure that she had plenty of food and was inside and out of the cold. (See Cat Defender post of March 20, 2007 entitled "El Cerrito's Bureaucrats Distinguish Themselves by Showing Compassion for a Waif Known as Bootsie.")
The stunning transformations that cats such as Clara can have on individuals was well understood by Allen and Ivy Dodd. "There are people who reshape the world by force or by argument, but the cat just lies there, dozing, and the world quietly reshapes itself to suit his comfort and convenience," they once remarked.
Sometimes the hustle and bustle of the shrine becomes too much even for Clara and she has to sneak away for some privacy of her own. "Cats have a way of disappearing when they don't want you to see them or when they're just not in the mood to socialize," employee Sally Koch told the Express-News. "Who knows where they go? They're intriguing, mysterious creatures."
What is known, however, is that she used to raid the Dumpster at the nearby Hyatt Hotel and that she currently has an admirer in the form of an unidentified gray-striped tomcat who drops by from time to time.
Clara's predecessor, Ms. Ruby Le Gato, was an equally gifted and famous cat. (See photo above.) While patrolling the grounds of the Alamo during the 1980s, she was awarded an honorary certificate in basic security officer training by San Antonio College. It was said that "not a stray cat, dog, nor other varmint dared set foot in the sacred battleground" while she was around.
Her life was immortalized by Rita Kerr in her tome, The Alamo Cat and she is laid to rest on the grounds of the memorial. (See photo above.) It is likely that once her toils on this earth are completed that Clara will be buried beside her.
Through the compassion and understanding that they have shown Clara and her predecessors, the staff of the Alamo is pointing the way toward a new partnership between cats and the world of business and government. Both parties have much to gain from these types of arrangements but, most of all, they save precious feline lives.
Photos: J. Michael Short for the Express-News (Clara, Ruby's grave) and Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library (Ruby).