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winter 2005

Howdy folks,

I'm sorry to report our ancient tomcat, Leopard, died last year. Had he lived until April he would have been 21. Panther is still here and doing well at 22. He makes "patrols" through the woods in back of our house and chases his tail. He'll sit in the living room, tail twitching. He glances over a shoulder looking at the enemy until he can no longer stand it taunting him. He has an Osama tail, a Taliban tail that persists in cowardly attempts to ambush him. Suddenly, he spins around to catch it, round and round, in a search-and-destroy mission, working himself into a frenzy, reversing course one way, then the other, until his skull slams into a piece of furniture, or worse yet, the brick fireplace wall. Everyone hears a loud thonk. Everyone but Pan, who puts himself to sleep, only to awaken and begin again. We considered getting him a baby brother (as in kitten) but after a week or so of searching for Leo, he settled into being an "only child" with considerable relish. He has two laps, two sets of hands for petting, feeding and generally living to serve him. Life is good for a Henke feline.

Speaking of sons, our human one nearly lost his buddy Max while bring him over for a visit with "grandma" and "grandpa." Max is not a good car traveler and suffers from, how to put this delicately...indisposition while in transit. Eyes watering, Matt pulled over to clean Max's carrier and the startlingly agile brute (Max is the size of a small bear) jumped out and dashed across a busy road into dense woods on the opposite side. Matt made a frantic call to his mother and Shirl dashed off to help. She found Matt standing by the side of the road calling over the roar of eighteen wheelers. With the practicality of her gender, she immediately sensed the futility of the plan and dragged him deep into the brush where they could see a small clearing. There was Max, hidden beneath a rotted log, meowing piteously. In cat talk, he was paraphrasing Chief Joseph's famous line: "Rescue me, and from where the road now roars, I will crap no more forever!"

Shirl's mentioned our research trip to Miami. I was the designated driver of our rental car. What a harrowing experience! She got to take pictures and interview police officers, Coast Guard folks and yacht owners. I had to deal with Miami motorists. Now, I spent four years in the Navy and was stationed in Florida. The drivers haven't improved a bit. In fact, in modern parlance, I'd call it "Suicide Salsa," circa Havana during the late '50s before Fidel's calming influence. If you drive less than sixty on a residential street, you're taking your life in your hands.

>Our stay was in south Miami Beach over the Halloween weekend. The nice folks at our hotel advised us to take advantage of the big costume parade up on Lincoln Avenue just a few blocks up the street. Talk about a way to get local color for the books! We saw super heroes, ghosts and ghouls, drag queens (who probably were) and dominatrixs in leather and five-inch heels (some of these were even female). The favored costume seemed to be Egyptian pharaohs who wore tiny gold lame miniskirts, gold collars and hats. All the rest was skin. Very popular for men and women and even a number of dogs. A good thing the temperature was in the 70's that night or everyone but the canines would've frozen. I sat there thinking that this is Florida, Bush country. Hence, these folks streaming by must be American mainstream...don't tell G.W.

I began a joyous holiday season by having my right shoulder operated on. The joy quickly ended. My cutter assured me that it would probably be an arthroscopic procedure, nothing to worry about. When it comes to doctors, I've always said that professors deal in veracity while physicians deal in mendacity. I was again proven correct. The surgery ended up requiring a slice the size of the Grand Canyon across my shoulder and the application of metal screws to reattach a torn tendon to the bone. Six months of physical therapy to follow. Happy new year.

Shirl insisted I add that I should make a complete recovery and be happily out yanking lawnmower and leaf blower starters by summer. And, besides, as she said, it was all my fault in the first place for playing judo and being tossed around. Seemed I usually managed to land on my right shoulder, so it serves me right. As I've mentioned before, redheads can be very cruel. Talk again in the spring when she'll have me hard at work in the yard.


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