On the road again with the Fur Wagon Express

Ifyou were taking an innocent stroll recently along Highway 62, you may have been startled by a speeding vehicle emitting what sounded eerily like wailing lamentations from the underworld.

But there was no need to dive into the ditch or jump behind a tree.

It was just the Fur Wagon Express making a run from the woods south of Jacksonville to a veterinarian in Eagle Point.

I know. I was the one clinging to the wheel of our silver Subaru wagon filled with all creatures, great and small.

In addition to two humanoids, the vehicle was hauling six yowling cats and two burly dogs woofing at the world flashing past.

My wife had waggishly dubbed it the Fur Wagon. The moniker was appropriate, given the fact we were hauling 200 pounds of canine and more than 60 pounds of cat.

Sadly, the whining and whimpering quickly got to her.

"Oh puhleeez!" Maureen finally protested. "I don't know how much more of this I can take."

The poor woman had a point. The noise was unbearable.

"I don't want to offend you, but you are scaring the animals," she added. "Are you coughing up a hair ball or trying to imitate two cats fighting?"

"Fine, have your little fun at my expense," I replied. "But I thought a little singing would help calm them down."

Actually, not all of the fur bearers were in distress.

Take Sable, the black cat who adopted us about eight years ago, then sadly suffered a stroke two years ago.

Thanks to Maureen, Sable has recovered nicely. After I quit singing, she began purring contentedly in Maureen's arms, oblivious to the furry din roiling around her.

But others weren't faring so well. Creeping up on cat's feet from behind the driver's seat came an eye-watering stench that let us know one scaredy cat had lost the battle to control his or her intestinal tract.

"Good God! That must be Fitzwilliam!" I yelled as I hung my head out the window to gulp untainted air. "I told you we couldn't take in any more creatures."

"You said what?" Maureen sputtered. "You were the one who insisted we take him in."

Truth be told, she may have had a point.

Our man Fitz showed up on our deck a few months ago, all 20 pounds of muscle and meow. He was big on eating but not much on socializing, although he finally started letting me pet him.

Sullen and withdrawn, he reminded me of Mr. Darcy in that great book "Pride and Prejudice." Jane Austen fans out there will recall that Mr. Darcy's name is Fitzwilliam.

But the feline Mr. Darcy had ample reason to be a bit miffed on this day. He was in a cage, about to lose his male-cat-hood.

Yes, you could say he had ample reason to go nuts.

Next to him was an equally upset Odysseys, the long-haired stray cat we rescued several years ago. He was loudly lamenting that his cage was next to Fitzwilliam's.

Then there was Mouse, Evinrude and Miss Chievious, three young adult tabbies Maureen had bottled fed after they were born and abandoned by their mom. Collectively called the "Little People" by Maureen, they were gleefully caterwauling out of one big cage.

Taking it all in were mutts Waldo and Harpo, both sitting in the back seat and adding a baritone bark now and then to keep the cats fired up.

Tan and white, Waldo is a lovable mongrel from the county pound. A growing mix of black Labrador and English mastiff, Harpo hails from a litter literally discovered by friends of ours in a hollow log near Butte Falls 18 months ago.

The noise was bad enough, but having a rearview mirror filled with the image of Harpo's goofy grin is more than I could take. I swear he looks like he is wearing false teeth.

What's more, he has adopted an Elvis lip of late. Raising one hairy lip slightly, he looks like he is about to start barking out, "A hunk-a, hunk-a burnin' love."

I find it in bad form for a log dog.

But we made it to the vet on time. Turns out not all of the fur bearers needed a shot. Waldo and the Little People were apparently along for the Fur Wagon joy ride.

It was surprisingly quiet on the way home. Of course, I would later return to pick up a somewhat dazed Fitzwilliam.

Well, most of him, anyway. Yeow.

"We'll have to take most of them back next month for booster shots," Maureen observed after all the creatures were back home. "But I think they will be OK with it now."

Yet I've been troubled by a recurring nightmare in which I'm in a cage in the Fur Wagon flying down the road bound for the vet's. In the dream, Harpo is driving and grinning back at me in the rearview mirror. He is doing that Elvis lip thing.

And he keeps calling me Fitzwilliam.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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