Yesterday was the Forever Home Feline Ranch's Open House, which I was definitely looking forward to. So I dutifully checked the address, checked Google, and wrote down all needed phone numbers. All of this was needed, because the truth is that I can get lost in a brown paper bag.
And off I headed for Rochester, Il.
While a hot day it was also a lovely day, and made for a pleasant drive. I made it to the older part of Rochester, and realized I may have not written the directions correctly. And the phone numbers were going to voice mail. So....
I logically stopped in one little store, Dollars and Cents, which is a lovely coin shop located, appropriately, in a 19th century bank. They weren't sure where Hobbs Road was, and sent me to the antique store.
A very gracious lady, who unfortunately wasn't from Rochester, sent me to the quilt shop next door, and they sent me to the vet's office. They, mercifully, were able to give me directions. Nor could I really complain about my little side trip through Rochester, since I learned of many interesting new places to explore.
Some further driving took me out to Buckheart, IL, and down a couple of country roads to the Forever Home Feline Ranch.
A breeze had kicked up, which made the day more pleasant, and I was situated under a large shade tree - all the better to appreciate said breeze. I had also brought one of my Folkmanis kitten puppets with me, a little ginger one, and as planned, it helped as an attention-getter. As individuals finished tours of the ranch, or finished with the games, they would come over to hear a story or two.
Popular tales of the day were "Jack and the Friendly Animals," and "Dick Whittengton and His Cat." Later I was able to go visit with the three ranch donkeys, and to try and get some photos of the ranch.
The donkeys, it is hoped, will one day be able to live at the Ranch, since they will help protect the farm against coyotes. To do this, however, ranch will need the funds to repair the barn. As I came over to their pen the donkeys vied for attention, but when I stepped back to get a picture - all three turned their tails to me. I guess they had had enough of that for the day.
The Ranch is neatly organized, and has lovely grounds. There are four small houses; three of which are homes for the cats; with two of the houses dedicated to cats who have transmittable diseases.
Mr Hugh Moore was there to perform his music, though I didn't get a chance to go over and hear him.
As the breeze began to blow harder it became apparent that rain was probably headed our way, and slightly before 3 pm folks began to pack up. However, that was at the end of successful day, since there had been a good number of visitors. Hopefully many will become volunteers for the ranch, or, at least, adopt one of the cats.
Sometime this evening I will get what pictures I have up. I won't swear to my photographic skills, but hopefully they will give some idea of the ranch.
This coming Saturday, June 22nd, will be the Feline Home Forever Ranch's Open House (http://www.felineranch.org), and in honor that I am doing a Feline-oriented blog.
While getting ready for a show I have been reading John Richard Stephen's book, The King of the Cats, and Other Feline Fairy Tales. The book has proved fascinating in that the editor has not only collected a lovely range of stories, from all over the world and centuries, but has compiled many of them in such a way as to show variations of a tale.
An example of this is the oft-told tale, "Dick Whittington and his Cat," which is an English rags-to-riches folktale. The basic story is how a poor cook's servant, Dick Whittington, has only his cat to call his own, and is given a chance by the master of the house to sell something on the master's merchant ship. And since poor Dick's only possession is the cat he allows himself to be talked into giving over the puss.
The merchant ship ends up the port of a unknown land, which is over run by rodents, and the cat becomes the heroine of the day. So much so that the ship's captain is able to sell the cat for amazing price.
So young Whittington grows rich, marries, the merchant's daughter, and later goes on to become the Lord Mayor of London - three times.
The editor found the version he used in Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book, entitled, "The History of Whittington." The story is attached to a Richard Whittinton (1358- 1423), who was the Lord Mayor of London three times, but was of a well-off family.
Other versions told in the book are: "The Origin of Venice" (c. 1256), German; "The Genoese Merchant" (15th century), Italy; "The Island of Kais" (1299), Persia; "The Honesty Penny", Norway; "The Cottager and His Cat," Iceland.
I have to admit I found "The Genoese Merchant" ironically amusing. It is a story within a story, with a priest trying to teach a friend about supply and demand. At one point the priest tells the story of the cat helping a king, but his tale ends with another merchant going to the same land to try his luck. He goes with valuable presents for the (now mouse-free) king. The King is well-pleased with the presents, and gives to his new friend the most valuable thing in the kingdom - one of the new kittens.
The editor also does much the same type of treatment for "Puss in Boots," and offers a selection of lesser known cat fairy tales.
Mr. Stephens ends the section with a possible theory as to the popularity of the theme - of a land that doesn't know cats. He mentions that until 1500 B.C., when the Greeks stole a few dozen cat, that the Egyptian's had made it illegal to export the sacred cat. In Europe, before the arrival of the cat, pest control was done by skunks and weasels.
As the coffee kicks in after a very fine Thanksgiving meal I am pondering the clues of how a story might have traveled from Europe to the US.
Originally I found a tale in Vance Randolph's Who Blowed up the Church House? entitled "White-Bear Whittington." The title had caught my attention, since there is also the English legend of "Dick Whittington and his Cat," though this is legend connected to a 14th century Mayor of London.
And none of the later tales have anything to do with a cat.
The Ozark story bears a very loose resemblance to East of the Sun West of the Moon and The Black Bull of Norway.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Bull_of_Norroway). The Ozark version, though, doesn't have the husband shape shift - he simply wears a white bearskin coat. His bewitchment occurs when he is entranced from his family by a sorceress.
My curiosity was reawakened (though not solved) when I came upon William H. Hooks' picture book, Snowbear Whittington: An Appalachian Beauty and the Beast. It is very similar to East of the Sun West of the Moon. I found a interesting website, AppLit
(http://www2.ferrum.edu/applit/bibs/tales/whitebear.htm), which offers an excellent overview of the American variations, and learned that the tale is also known as, "The Three Golden Nuts." And I also learned that Mr. Hooker based his story upon oral performances that started off very like Beauty and The Beast.
I, however, have not yet learned why the name, "Whittington" has had such staying power with the tales.
I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.