Friday, March 03, 2006

Claudes Cats & Rats

You may remember that Daddy Mat had a cousin Ed Ferrell that he once attempted sleeping in the grave yard on a dare from a few his uncles. After his parents succombed to tuberculoses in 1906 Madison Pearson most likely moved to Valdosta Ga and lived with his Uncle Edger and worked as a clerk at the New Valdes Hotel in Valdosta Georgia. The following is a story written by his cousin Ed that takes place in the New Valdes Hotel.


This is another tale about my beloved brother, Claude. He was not known as a bad boy, but rather as one who knew how to enjoy life and have others enjoy it with him. Too few get the pleasure out of life that my brother Claude did.

You might remember that we were mainly reared in the Valdes Hotel, in Valdosta, Georgia. It was owned and run by my Father, Edgar Dawson Ferrell. This was sometime before 1902. Being raised in a hotel environment with lots of traveling salesmen coming and going might not have been the best experience for a young person, as there were so many pranksters and fun loving salesmen who were jokesters. However, our parents kept a vigilant and careful watch over us, and they knew when to draw the line between family and hotel guests.

My niece, Gloria, remembers hearing about how Claude loved to persecute poor old Giles Miller. Giles was the head cook at the Valdes Hotel, and Claude got Giles to cook him special meals and do special things for him. Giles was deathly afraid of white rats It just so happened that Claude had a cage of white rats and a circus of cats that he maintained out behind the pony stables. When Giles found a white rat in his cooking apron one day, he knew just where it had come from. Giles called Claude "The Commander" and would do almost anything for him to avoid those white rats.

Back in the old days before all the new pesticides came out, the best way to keep the mice population down was to have a good cat about to do the mousing. The chamber maids at the Valdes had one or two cats in the large linen rooms on each floor and made pets of them. So, Claude made capital of this, and with a modest start of four cats, he soon had some kittens that were pretty smart. Claude started training them, and gradually they were doing some cute tricks that amused just about everyone.

We all know how kittens will slap at a string and play with one another. Well, Claude had two that were pretty smart, and so he devised these little boxing gloves for their paws, and taught them how to box each other. They were really cute to watch, and would make us all laugh.
Also, he had two other cats that he taught to run around in circles trying to catch up with the tips of their own tails. We think that Claude probably put something on the cat’s tails to keep them moving so fast, but we could not figure out if it was hot pepper, honey, sugar or cat nip. Claude was too smart to give his secret away, but we always suspected something knowing Claude.

Sometimes he would get all his cats on the big porch of the Valdes Hotel, and put on a free show for the salesmen and friends. We would encourage him when this happened and he was a great showman. Two of the cats would box, and the other two would run like crazy and chase their tales. He also had the mice doing tricks with several devices he had put together. It was a darn good show.

With the passage of time Claude got a little bored with these tricks the cats and dice were doing, so he made another discovery that really got things going.

The Valdes Hotel had a very wide long hall, with marble floors, and this ran from the wide entrance doors on the Toombs Street side to the full length of the hotel, right to the dining room doors, which were at the extreme west end of the building. This lobby was always filled with guests and friends sitting around in large chairs.

Claude decided that if he blew up a paper bag and tied the end of it tight, then put a string on it and attached it to the tail of one of his cats, that as it bounced around behind the poor cat, the cat would run faster and faster trying to escape what was chasing it. The cat would be very scared and the more afraid he was, the faster he would run, and dart about, and shriek plaintive cat sounds.

It took some time and practice, but Claude planned well, and he sought to pick his me to launch his "Cat Race Down The Valdes Hotel Marble Hallway". He figured he might get in some trouble with Father, but he wasn't hurting the cats, he was just having some fun.

Late one afternoon, on the selected day for his "Cat Race", he made sure the Valdes Lobby was filled with people and he retrieved his two fastest cats and harnessed them up with the paper bags tied to their tails. He had one cat under each arm, and he stepped into the wide hall from the Toombs Street side of the porch. He carefully put the cats down on the floor and shooed them off to a flying start. Claude then stepped back outside beside the door to see what the race would look like.

The cats were absolutely frantic and were pawing each other and anything that got in their way. They started yowling and screeching and running and slipping and sliding and moving faster and faster trying to get away from their own tails. They flew down the long hotel lobby. When the cats reached the crowd of people in the lobby, they bounced and bounded among the frightened and confused guests. Anyone that wasn't in the cat’s way came running to see what all the commotion was about. The salesmen seeing what the commotion was about started laughing and jumping about making the situation worse for the cats.

Finally, the bellboys caught the cats and relieved them of the baggage on their tails. The guests were still frightened and there was quite a situation to be handled. Father was in his office and he came running when he heard all the loud noises in the lobby. When he saw the cats with the bags on their tails, he immediately smelled a "rat". He instructed the bellboys to have Claude brought to him at once.

When things settled down the crowd in the lobby began to laugh and each person had their own version of what they saw when the cats went bizerk. It was thereafter known as the afternoon of the "Raid of the Wild Cats".

Well, that was Claude's first and last race of the cats in the Valdes. Father threatened to take away the rats, the cats and Claude's pony, Oklahoma. Father was laughing as hard as the salesmen and guests, but had to put a stern face on for Claude's punishment. I actually think that Father was proud of Claude for his ingenuity. I will tell you again that Claude was a good boy when he was asleep, but when he was awake, he was Full O Pep.


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