They say you can’t make everyone like you.
They say you can’t like everyone you meet.
They say a lot of things. Hank says: bollocks.
That’s not quite right. Hank more likely says, “I reckon not, pilgrim.” (Being named Hank = instant ticket to being a cowboy for life. Even if you’re from New Jersey, and you happen to be a cat. This is how we roll. Or ride.)
With an easy-going speed stuck on “tumbleweed,” Hank distinctly does not dislike anyone. You may be a dictator. You may be a marauder. You may not like folk-rock. You may be the kind of person about whom the nicest thing people can say is, “well, he has an inoffensive-looking forehead.”
Hank likes you.
Hank will chirp in circles around your legs, greeting you as though you’ve just brought in freshly-roast Roast Beast for his personal consumption…every time you enter, whoever you may or may not be, with or without aforementioned Roast Beast.
And here’s the real reckoning: whoever you are, even if it’s against your will, you’ll like Hank.
Don’t try to resist it.
You may be a hater. You may be such a hater that, everywhere you go, strangers roll down their windows and bellow, “don’t be a hater!” You’re going to like Hank.
Hank has the kind of “happy eyes” that only seem possible for stuffed animals and cartoon characters. Perpetually squinting into a smile, Hank’s peepers shine from a cowboy with only happy trails in view.
We don’t know the full details of Hank’s pre-Tabby’s Place meanderings, other than that he was at a large public shelter in north Jersey. We reckon, though, that nothing good leads an 8-year-old smiley-cat to an “open-intake” shelter.*
But, then, Hank doesn’t spend much time peeling scabs off the past. Would that we could do the same.
Every creature – feline, human or nutria – finds a way of dealing with the bad cards life turns over. Some hold ’em, building an impenetrable shield of pain that never forgets the ache and never forgives. But a round, hard little anger-ball is no place to live. (Picture it as a turd, except somehow uglier and smellier and angrier and sadder. Yes, a sad, angry turd. Don’t set up camp in the sad, angry turd.)
Some fold ’em, foreclosing on all possible paths. No hope = no disappointment, they reckon. But no hope = no hope, and without hope, you’re blind to miracles, blind to red skies at night, willfully blind to your own redeeming moment.
Most of us do the best we can, holding and folding and grasping at the poetry where we can get it. We make our own camp blankets from the materials on hand, and we learn to keep warm, or at least warmish. My own tendency is to wrap myself in words, a lacy coat of armor that lets in half-light when I walk out into the overwhelming starry night of More Than I Can Understand. Your cloak may be humor, or beauty, or prowess, or any number of glittering gold things. And, all the while, we’re all stumbling towards the truth that Someone is ever waiting to wrap us in a better cloak of invincible, immortal hope.
Simple cowboy cats like Hank bring us back to the essence of hope and forward-gazing smiles. “Excelsior ever upward” might be the words on the bumper of Hank’s Conestoga wagon.* Whatever happened before Tabby’s Place, it’s all dissolved into chirps and chatters, figure-eights around human legs and long naps next to Natalie. Forgetting the past, he presses ahead towards the things for which he was made.
Would that we could do the same.
He may squint those eyes half-shut, but Hank’s anything but blind to the best that’s yet to come. The old trails are behind him, and he’s not about to give up before he gets his miracle.
From the look of those smiling eyes, I’d reckon it’s already here.
Happy trails to you, Henricum.**
*Then again, this was the same shelter that sent us fellow luminaries Patrick, Mario, Luigi and Purple. They are doing something very, very right, and we salute their efforts with love. We are all in this together.
**No, I don’t think cowboys actually drive Conestoga wagons. But Hank would. Don’t be hatin’.
***That’s “Hank” in Latin. Given Hank’s obvious and extreme well of wisdom, it’s only right that he have a high-falutin’ name to match his amblin’ Western one.