Natchez Politicians Pause to Remember Tripod on the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of His Death
"Having lost his front paw and his teeth and to continue his life as an ordinary cat, I think that took a lot of courage."
-- former mayor Tony Byrne
No one seems to know where he came from or, more importantly, how he came to lose his left front leg and all of his teeth. He simply moseyed into City Hall one day in June of 1979 and Natchez never has been quite the same since.
Dubbed Tripod by the politicians, he went on to spend four years at City Hall before crossing the Rainbow Bridge on October 9, 1983. During the interim, he became such a national sensation through various appearances on talk shows that food and monetary donations for his care poured in from around the country.
He was so popular in fact that tourists arriving on paddleboats would often make City Hall their first destination just so that they could have the pleasure of meeting him. "They (tourists) may not remember the city, but they'd remember the cat," former mayor Tony Byrne recently recalled for The Natchez Democrat on October 2nd. (See "Tripod the Three-Legged Cat Spent Four Years in City Hall.")
It therefore is only fitting that the city likewise has not forgotten its former friend, mascot, and mouser. That was demonstrated on October 9th when approximately forty people gathered outside City Hall for a memorial service in his honor. (See photo above.)
The Reverend Darian Duckworth of Grace United Methodist Church led those assembled in prayer while Byrne and others waxed nostalgic about their long-departed and obviously still terribly missed companion. The attendees later repaired to City Council chambers where a ten-minute news feature about Tripod was shown.
It was not always smooth sailing for Tripod, however, in that he at first received only a tepid welcome. Gradually the politicians warmed to his presence and started feeding him table scraps until he was eventually provided with regular cat food as well as a bed and a litter box.
Being allergic to cats, alderman Hall Wilson tried to get Tripod evicted from City Hall almost as soon as he was installed but was thwarted by his colleague Al Graning who, bless his soul, counter proposed that Wilson be removed. When a rare snowstorm struck the Mississippi River town Wilson was pressed into service feeding Tripod and from that time forward the two buried the hatchet.
"It (feeding Tripod) ruined my reputation," Wilson is reported by The Natchez Democrat on October 10th as saying in jest at the memorial service. (See "Approximately Forty People Attended Memorial Service for Tripod.")
The cat also once was kidnapped from City Hall by a well-meaning woman who did not feel that he was receiving the kind of care that he deserved. Unlike an unidentified party in Ottawa who last year made off with a moggy named Slim for the same reason but never returned him, the woman promptly brought back Tripod a few days later. (See Cat Defender post of July 9, 2007 entitled "Hungry and Disheveled Cat Named Slim Is Picked Up Off the Streets of Ottawa by Rescuer Who Refuses to Return Him to His Owners.")
Over the years other individuals attempted to legally adopt Tripod but by that time he had become such a fixture at City Hall that Byrne was not about to let him go. "It was just a feel-good situation with Tripod," he told The Natchez Democrat in the October 2nd article cited supra.
"Having lost his front paw and his teeth and to continue his life as an ordinary cat, I think that took a lot of courage," he added appreciatively. (See photo on the right of him holding a framed picture of the cat beside his grave.)
Although The Natchez Democrat does not broach the subject, it is suspected that the city was better governed during Tripod's tenure. After all, cats in their own inimitable way are known to bring a measure of bon sens and decency to their surroundings.
In addition to Natchez, many other municipalities have benefited from having resident felines to keep a watchful eye on their elected officials. For instance, Bootsie patrols the corridors of power in El Cerrito while Caloo does the same in Carlstadt. (See Cat Defender posts of March 20, 2007 and September 22, 2008 entitled, respectively, "El Cerrito's Bureaucrats Distinguish Themselves by Showing Compassion for a Waif Known as Bootsie" and "New Jersey at Long Last Has at Least One Honest Public Servant and Her Name Is Caloo from Carlstadt.")
Across the pond, 10 Downing Street has been home to a number of rather famous felines over the years. Among the notables were the legendary Humphrey and the current companion of Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling, Sybil. (See Cat Defender posts of April 6, 2006 and September 19, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Humphrey, the Cat from 10 Downing Street Who Once 'Read' His Own Obituary, Passes Away at 18" and "After a Dreary Ten-Year Absence, Number 10 Downing Street Has a New Resident Feline and Her Name Is Sybil.")
While the willingness of politicians to befriend homeless cats definitely is a positive development, they need to be doing much more in order to protect the rights of cats and other animals. First of all, it is imperative that they not only add some much needed teeth to existing anti-cruelty statutes but also prevail upon police, prosecutors, and judges to start taking animal cruelty seriously.
Second of all, they must put an end to the annual slaughter of tens of millions of cats, dogs, and other animals by shelters, Animal Control, and veterinarians. There is not any conceivable way that these mass killing can be morally justified.
Elected officials also should stop enacting ridiculous leash, anti-feeding, and anti-roaming statutes. A cat is not a dog.
Finally, they should declare animal experimentation to be illegal and padlock all such laboratories. (See Cat Defender post of November 17, 2008 entitled "Mr. Green Genes' Coming Out Party Ushers In a New Era of Unspeakable Atrocities to Be Committed Against Cats by Cloners and Vivisectors.")
Through the compassion that they bestowed upon him during his brief stay at City Hall and by holding the recent memorial service, politicians in Natchez have demonstrated that they cared deeply about Tripod. The time has come, however, for them to extend their circle of compassion to include all cats as well as other animals.
There could not be any better way of honoring Tripod's memory and repaying him for all that he did for the city of Natchez than if City Council were to take bold and decisive action in order to stop the abuse, killing, and exploitation of all cats, dogs, and other animals. If he were still alive, Tripod would expect no less of them.
Photos: Steve VanGunda of The Natchez Democrat.