Browser Beats Back a Determined Effort to Oust Him from the White Settlement Public Library and in Doing So Has the Distinct Pleasure of Seeing His Political Nemesis Voted Out of Office
|Browser Is the Library's Number One Attraction|
"Browser is still employed and will be as long as he wishes to continue his duties as mascot and reading helper for children at the library."
-- Ronald A. White, mayor of White Settlement
Cats do not often come out on top in this ailurophobic world but a handsome six-year-old gray male named Browser from White Settlement appears to have pulled off that herculean feat by beating back a determined effort to evict him from the public library. "Browser is still employed and will be as long as he wishes to continue his duties as mascot and reading helper for children at the library," Mayor Ronald A. White declared to The Dallas Morning News on December 13th. (See "Browser Will Be White Settlement Cat for Life, Mayor Says.")
Adopted from a local shelter in October of 2010 by the White Settlement Public Library (WSPL), the then tiny kitten quickly became a huge favorite of both staffers and patrons alike in the small community of sixteen-thousand souls located sixteen kilometers west of Fort Worth. He often can be found either napping on staffers' chairs and desks, lounging on top of computer keyboards, or assisting children with their studies.
Always on the lookout in order to better himself, he attends GED classes twice and week and for that effort he has been rewarded with an honorary high school diploma. Even more remarkably, he was able to accomplish that milestone in spite of suffering from periodic bouts of Wanderlust that prompt him to make impromptu breaks for any doors that have been left ajar by arriving and departing visitors to the facility at 8215 White Settlement Road.
Although he more than pays for his keep through the many hats that he wears, such as that of mascot, goodwill ambassador, and rodent chaser, he additionally puts money in the library's coffers by graciously consenting to pose for its annual calendars which staffers then sell back to his legions of fans and others. All things considered, the arrangement has worked out remarkably well for both parties and, best of all, the library saved a life by ransoming him off of death row.
The tranquility and happiness that he had enjoyed for so many years was rudely shattered back in June, however, and it all began with, predictably, a dog. That was when City Secretary Amy Arnold brought an unidentified puppy to work with her which in turn provoked the ire of seventy-five-year-old city councilman Elzie Clements.
"City Hall and city businesses are no place (sic) for animals," he declared to Fox News on June 26th. (See "Texas City Council Votes to Evict Library Cat.")
Arnold accordingly was instructed to get rid of the dog and when he obediently complied that served as the catalyst for Clements to go after Browser's tiny head in a spirited effort to add it to his trophy collection. Now feeling his oats more than ever, the old warhorse was able to convince councilman Paul Moore to support his scheme to remove Browser from the library.
The City Council then compliantly voted two to one on June 14th to issue Browser a thirty-day eviction notice. Only councilman David Mann was able to muster the moxie in order to go against Clements' wishes.
The reaction to that disastrous turn of events was quick and predictable. "We've had that cat five (sic) years, and there's never been a question," White, a nominal, non-voting member of the council, complained afterwards to Fox News.
It was, however, Lillian Blackburn of the Friends of the WSPL who most succinctly and eloquently summed up the sorry situation. "This cat has been loved by people of all ages for six years," she pointed out to Fox News. "I don't have any animals but this cat is so gentle and so lovable and he brings so much comfort to so many people, it seems a shame to take him away."
|Mayor Ronald A. White|
To their credit, neither the library nor the citizens of White Settlement were about to knuckle under to the prejudices of a mean-spirited old man with a political ax to grind and they accordingly circulated a petition demanding that Browser be allowed to continue residing in the only home that he ever has known and it quickly garnered more than twenty-thousand signatures. His supporters received a major shot in the arm when both the mainstream as well as social media rallied to his defense.
In particular, his desperate plight was not only chronicled on Facebook, Gawker, and BuzzFeed, but also by the Associated Press, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. That in turn led to White being inundated with at least fourteen-hundred e-mail letters, some of which came from as far away as London, Guam, and Australia.
"They're all in support of the cat," he divulged to the Grizzly Detail of Fort Worth on July 8th. (See "Council Reinstates Library Cat at Special Me(ow)eting Friday.")
That alone put the obscure little town with the provocative moniker on the map. "We are now known all over the world," White caroled to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram on July 1st. (See "Browser the Cat Gets to Stay at White Settlement Library.") "I'm not sure yet if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I never expected this would get this big."
As things eventually turned out, that was not the end of the matter but rather only the beginning in that public opposition to Browser's ouster became so widespread and vociferous that City Council was forced into calling a special meeting on July 1st in order to undo the colossal damage that it earlier had inflicted. On that memorable occasion, fifty or more of Browser's avid supporters packed council chambers while others waited outside and once the political dust had settled councilman Paul Moore had reversed his earlier vote and joined Mann in voting to rescind the eviction notice.
Realizing that he was licked, Clements grudgingly joined his opponents in making the decision unanimous. To say that he was unhappy with that outcome would be a gross understatement.
Although he unmercifully castigated both mainstream and social media for meddling in White Settlement's affairs, he reserved his most poisonous venom for cat-lovers. "This small group of activists and their political supporters have chosen to ignore the needs of the minority group of people, which includes our schoolchildren who are unable to use the public facility," he declared to the Grizzly Detail. "They take their view of the cat's residence in the library as exclusive and set aside the needs of everyone else who may wish to use the facility."
On all of those points Clements was being considerably less than truthful. Most importantly, there is absolutely nothing in the public record to even remotely suggest that Browser's presence ever had deterred anyone from using the facility.
Au contraire, several residents who are allergic to cats themselves spoke up at the July 1st meeting in favor of allowing him to keep his home. Moreover, staffers at the library always have been more than willing to accommodate any patrons with allergies by confining Browser during their visits if they so requested.
Most dishonest of all, Clements has conveniently forgotten that the main reason that the library acquired Browser in the first place was to protect the health and well-being of its juvenile patrons. That is because prior to his arrival the facility had employed an exterminator who was so careless that some of the rat poison that was put out eventually found its way onto the books and that in turn necessitated that they had to be individually inspected and wiped clean.
"We don't want those books getting into the hands of little children who would then put their fingers in their mouths," White astutely pointed out to the Star-Telegram in the July 1st article cited supra.
|Mean Old Elzie Clements|
In addition to contaminating the environment, it is the epitome of cruelty to poison rodents. Furthermore, in many instances the mere presence of a cat is sufficient in itself to persuade them to pull up stakes and to relocate elsewhere. They thus are able to escape with their lives but with poisons they do not stand a ghost of a chance of doing so and instead die hideously painful deaths.
While he had the wind up, old Clements heaped scorn and ridicule upon Browser's supporters by arguing, in effect, that depriving him of a place to hang his hat was of no consequence. "Yet, with all of that going on (other city business), the only focus of a small group of community activists and their political supporters is whether or not a cat can reside in the public library," he sneered to the Grizzly Detail.
He additionally had the chutzpah to blame Browser's supporters for his own pigheadedness and folly. "Staff and elected officials have been needlessly called names and ridiculed over this issue," he whined to the Grizzly Detail. "The entire town has been made a mockery."
His wife, Penny, echoed those sentiments. "We have gotten nothing but hate e-mails and hate messages since this whole thing started," she groused to the Star-Telegram. "We just wanted (sic) it all to go away."
Regardless of how many incidents of this nature occur, the way in which cat-hating individuals and institutions do their sums continues to boggle the mind. First of all, they talk and behave as if they are endowed with a divine right to malign, evict, abuse, and even kill cats with impunity.
Secondly, whenever they encounter any opposition whatsoever they immediately show their true fascist colors by declaring their total opposition to free speech and press as well as the constitutional right of citizens to petition the government for the redress of grievances. A good example of that behavior is to be found in how Clements threw his considerable weight around at the July 1st city council meeting.
Specifically, he adjourned the meeting twenty minutes after it had been called to order without granting any of Browser's supporters the opportunity to speak. Even more unfairly, he did that after he had monopolized the allotted time in order to harangue and denigrate them to the hilt.
Worst of all, Clements and his misbegotten ilk categorically refuse to acknowledge cats' right to live and to be treated humanely. To top it all off, he and his wife would have the world to believe that they actually like cats.
"We've been called cat-haters and we have cats at home," she averred to the Star-Telegram. "People have suggested doing things just short of murder."
While it is conceivable that she was being truthful, it nevertheless is extremely odd for one cat owner to be agitating for the uprooting and eviction of someone else's resident feline. That is especially the case in light of the millions of unwanted and homeless cats that are systematically exterminated each year without so much as a twinge of conscience by shelter operators and veterinarians.
|Browser Is Always on Hand to Assist Children with Their Reading|
Most deplorable of all, there is absolutely nothing in press reports to even remotely suggest that either Clements or his spouse ever expressed one iota of concern about Browser's well-being and future. Quite obviously, neither of them cared whether he lived or died.
Their callousness is trumped only by their ingratitude, unfairness, and cheapness. Given that Browser had worked as a dutiful city employee for the past six years, he was at the very least owed a pension and veterinary care for life.
It additionally is the very pinnacle of hypocrisy for the Clements to complain about receiving threats after what they were attempting to do to Browser. Everywhere in the world it is always the same old story in that the rich and powerful believe that they not only should be allowed to do with cats, other animals, Mother Earth, and the poor as they see fit but without opposition to boot.
Clements' cavalier treatment of Browser also makes a mockery of his utterly laughable attempt to pass himself off as a champion of minorities. In reality, the only minority that he cares about is himself.
Under most circumstances, the vote on July 1st would have been the end of this dispute and Browser's position as "Library Cat for Life" would have been secure, but nothing ever can be taken for granted when it comes to members of his species. Someone or some group is always out to get them and that is especially the case once any of them have made any enemy out of a spiteful old man like Clements who does not have anything better to do with his dwindling days upon this earth than to attack them.
Consequently, it was not really all that surprising that he went back on his word and attempted to have Browser removed from the library when the City Council convened again on December 6th. "My view hasn't changed," he proclaimed on that occasion according to the account of events rendered in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram on December 10th. (See "Council Critic Takes Yet Another Swipe at Browser the Library Cat.") "I don't believe we need animals in our buildings."
Clements' about-face left Mann exasperated. "I can't believe they (sic) would bring the cat up again," he told the Star-Telegram. "He's not costing the city any money. Why act this way?"
That was one question that White was more than capable of handling with ease. "Mr. Clements wants to get the last hurrah and snub his nose at everybody," he told the Star-Telegram. "It's like he wants to get the city back for not voting for him."
By that he was referring to Clements' trouncing by Evelyn J. Spurlock at the polls on November 8th. In fact, the political drubbing doled out to him was so bad that he was only able to garner forty-three per cent of the vote as compared to her fifty-seven per cent.
As if any further proof of Clements' designs were needed, it is to be found on the city's Facebook page in a notice that was posted shortly before the calling to order of the December 6th meeting of City Council. "One decision that has been finalized is that there will be no items on this agenda related to the removal of animals from city buildings," the notice read according to The Dallas Morning News' December 13th edition. (See "Browser Will Be White Settlement Library Cat for Life, Mayor Says.") "City leadership made the decision that this item will not be placed on the agenda and at no time was it included."
|Browser Is Safe and Secure in the Stacks -- at Least for the Time Being|
By ultimately prevailing over Clements, Browser became the second cat in recent memory to have outlasted a politician who was not especially fond of him. For instance, earlier this year Larry was allowed to remain at 10 Downing Street after David Cameron was driven from power in the wake of the Brexit debacle.
Larry's and Browser's situations were not exactly identical in that Cameron at least tolerated the former's presence for political reasons even though he, according to Fleet Street, was not overly fond of him. (See Cat Defender post of August 1, 2016 entitled "Unmercifully Maligned and Treated Like Dirt for So Many Years, Larry Nevertheless Manages to Stick Around Long Enough in Order to See the Last of David Cameron and His Uncaring Family.")
"There's one absolute rule in politics: Don't mess with cat people," former Miami Beach Mayor Seymour Gelber declared in 1995. While they are not always able to prevail, cat-lovers usually can be counted upon to at least put up a good fight.
In that respect, the fighting spirit of Browser's defenders in White Settlement may be needed again in that it is anything but certain that they have seen and heard the last of Clements. Even though he has been driven from power, he is more than willing and capable of going after Browser again in his capacity as a private citizen.
That is precisely what local rabble-rouser and ex-jailbird Patrick Higgins did in 2013 when he unsuccessfully attempted to have an elderly tortoiseshell named Penny evicted from the Swansea Public Library in Massachusetts. (See Cat Defender post of March 8, 2016 entitled "Penny of the Swansea Public Library: A Remembrance.")
Browser's best hope of remaining at the library therefore lies in the continued vigilance of his supporters in White Settlement. In that respect, his fate appears to be in especially capable hands in that this was by no means the first time that residents have joined together in order to rein in their elected officials once they had become tyrannical.
For example on November 8, 2005, they beat back an attempt to change the town's politically incorrect name to West Settlement by the lopsided vote of two-thousand-three-hundred-eighty-eight to two-hundred-nineteen. When it was incorporated in 1941, the town's elders gave it that moniker in order to distinguish it from, not blacks, but rather a group of Native Americans that had a settlement of their own nearby.
Even if the political winds should once again turn against him, it is unlikely that Browser is going to wind up on the street given the large number of individuals from around the world who have generously offered to adopt him if worse should ever come to worst. That is unlikely to be necessary, however, considering how much that the resident of White Settlement value his presence.
Speaking more broadly, libraries and other facilities, both public and private, need more, not fewer, cats. Not only do they have a proven calming effect upon most individuals but their presence also serves as a poignant reminder that, contrary to what some people believe, a whole other world still exists outside of computers, mobile telephones, and television.
Cats additionally have much to teach individuals who are still willing to learn. "These intelligent, peace-loving, four-footed friends -- who are without prejudice, without hate, without greed -- may someday teach us something," novelist Lilian Jackson Braun once observed.
Besides, cats and books just naturally go together. "Outside of a cat, a book is man's best friend," a sign at the Lilac Hedge Bookshop in Norwich, Vermont, proclaims. "Inside of a cat, it's too dark to read."
Photos: White Settlement Public Library (Browser holding court and in the stacks), Paul Moseley of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram (White and Clements), and KDFW-TV of Dallas-Fort Worth (Browser assisting a group of children with their reading).