Ralph was born in Sandpoint, Idaho, sometime in 1969. He lived at the same house for his entire life and was adopted by his second and final family in 1970 when they moved into his house from across town.
He was initially very shy and only allowed Momcat to come near him. New to the business of having a cat, there was no cat food in the house the day his new family moved in but Momcat fed him some bread soaked in milk as his first meal and he was never short of crunchies afterwards. He quickly warmed to the children in the house but it took him a long time to get used to his Dadcat, probably because his previous Dadcat didn't really care for cats all that much. And although he never overcame his early fear of brooms, he thoroughly enjoyed being vacuumed with the upholstery brush!
Perhaps it was his first meal with his new family that ignited a love of bread and pastry. Although normally a very well-behaved cat, he stopped at nothing to get at any doughnut in his vicinity. Once, when Momcat was experimenting with bread baking, he dragged the burnt tops of the fresh loaves out of the rubbish and ate the delicious interiors. He also liked cheese and popcorn. He would get his own little paper cup with popcorn and he would delicately spear the pieces with his claws, eating them one by one.
He grew into a large, handsome fellow, with a black 'mask' and a black 'cape' on his back, plus small black spots on the back of three of his legs. His left ear lopped over to the side, the result of a cat fight injury early in his life. He was part Manx (on his mother's side of the family) and inherited his mother's short crooked tail. (It was only a few inches long and had a natural right angle bend in it.) His long hind legs gave him a hoppy gate and he could run like the wind. He could also jump very high indeed. This came in handy when he was hunting. His mother, Princess, taught him to be an excellent mouser and he could catch any small critter on four legs. Or on two wings. One of his favourite tricks was to climb into the low hanging branches of the neighbour's cedar tree at dusk and then launch himself into the air to catch bats on the wing! He probably made a bit of dent in the local bird population although he wisely steered clear of the gulls and crows that infested the neighbourhood. He once came home with a grouse; pretty impressive for a cat living in town! After one memorable episode when he brought in a live mouse as a gift to his Momcat, he always underwent a 'snout check' before he was allowed in during evening hours.
Ralph was an 'outside cat' for most of his life, coming in for meals and when the weather was cold or nasty. During the summer, he would summon the 'doorman' to the back door by jumping up on the screen door and hanging on until someone saw him peering in through the window. In winter he was allowed to sleep in the basement; he had a special bed on top of the furnace which was toasty warm. The house had a hot air central heating system and Ralph loved to sleep on the top of the floor grates. His favourite one was directly over the furnace and thus, the warmest. Unfortunately, it was also in the dining room and the constant rising warm air would cause his cat hair to drift all over the kitchen. Thus, he was usually shooed away from that outlet. However, the grate in the 'music room' (later the home office) was set in the wall rather than in the floor so he had a special piece of carpet in front of it and he often slept there with the warm air blowing over him, at least, when no one was practicing the piano! He also had a special affinity for the fireplace during the long cold north Idaho winters, often sleeping so close that embers would jump out on him. Even a smoking ear one time wouldn't get him to shift away from his favoured spot.
He was a pretty easy-going cat and normally didn't bother other cats and dogs. However, when cornered he knew how to defend himself. On one summer's day, the neighbour's Husky pup chased Ralph into the garage. Ralph turned around and took a swipe at the pup. There was a yelp, the pup turned tail and Ralph chased her back home.
Ralph passed away in his sleep in 1985, following a long illness which might have been feline leukemia. (Ironically, the vaccine against this disease was developed that very same year.) He is buried at his lifelong home and is remembered with great fondness. Rest in peace, Ralph. We love you.
Turkey Grunt moved in next door to Ralph in the late 1970s and Shadow was a stray who turned up some time after Turkey Grunt's arrival in the neighbourhood. He tried his luck at Ralph's house first but was soon taken in next door and became Turkey Grunt's little brother. When their human family split up and moved away, the two cats were supposed to be adopted by whoever bought their house, just as Ralph had been. But the house remained empty for many months and although the realtor was very conscientious about feeding them, Shadow and Turkey Grunt decided that they would join Ralph's family instead. And so they did. Momcat referred to them as the 'The Invaders' but made them feel right at home.
Turkey Grunt was a big sealpoint Siamese with scars across his two front legs. He was thought to be a couple of years younger than Ralph. He was definitely a man's cat and eagerly adopted Dadcat for his very own. Unlike most cats, he loved to go for rides in the car and the residents of Sandpoint were often treated to the sight of Turkey (or 'Turk' as he was affectionately known) looking out the window of the 'Scow' (Dadcat's pickup truck) as he was driven off on some errand. He preferred to ride on the driver's shoulders which made things a little tricky as he was big and heavy!
He wasn't averse to the comforts of home and would happily settle on a lap for some petting action. However, he only wanted it on his own terms. Pet him for too long and his dark brown tail would start thumping on your leg. Persist and a low growl would replace the purr. Finally he would jump down, snorting in disgust, and stomp off.
He went deaf in his later years but lived to a ripe old age, finally being put to sleep in 1987 after suffering sudden kidney failure. He was one of a kind. Thank you, Turkey, for riding shotgun with us for so many years.
Shadow was the youngest of the trio. He appeared one day and stayed on, first at Turkey Grunt's house and then at Ralph's house. Like his older step-brother, he was a sealpoint Siamese but he also had flashy white paws, chest and tummy. Unlike Turk, Shadow was a goofy, friendly sort, with a peculiar fondness for jumping up and drinking out of the bathroom sink. We lost him far too soon. He suddenly became ill in late 1984, possibly contracting an illness from Ralph, and was put to sleep early in 1985. Good night, sweet Shadow.