A Story submitted by Roger Kiser:
I sure love to fish. There is nothing that I have ever known that is more relaxing than being high up in the mountains and breathing in that fresh, cool air.
My favorite fishing spot is a lake near a little four-building-one-gas-station town located high in the mountains of California, three hours from my home. Each year, as soon as the winter snow melts, I load my fishing gear into the station wagon and head out for a day of trout fishing.
Many years ago, during one of my trips, I crossed the small dam that had been built to create the beautiful mountain lake, pulled over to the side and began to unload my fishing poles. Suddenly I heard a gunshot ring out, whistling as it flew over my head. I was quite surprised to hear someone shooting a firearm as this was a restricted area, and no hunting was allowed. Besides, in all my years fishing the area, it was the very first time that I had ever come across anyone, except a few logging trucks passing by.
I ducked down behind my automobile and I carefully looked around to see if I could see anyone.
"Bam, bam!" Another two shots were fired. "Zing!" rang the bullets as they hit against the large boulders. Still I could see no one.
Then four young men came walking down the dirt road. One raised his rifle and fired off a shot. A cat ran across the road and into the bushes.
"Hey! What the heck are you doing?" I asked them, as they approached me. "This is not a hunting area."
"Just shooting at a darn cat," said the larger boy. Slowly, another one of the boys raised his rifle and fired another shot at the cat, who was still hidden behind the large rock.
"Come on, guys. Why kill something for no reason?" I asked.
"What's the cat worth to you?" asked one of the boys.
"How about ten dollars?" I said.
"Bam!" Another shot in the cat’s direction.
"How about a hundred dollars? That's what it’s going to take," said the largest of the four boys, as he took another shot in the cat's direction.
For weeks, I had been saving money so that I could buy some type of used boat and motor so that I would not have to fish from the bank. I had about one hundred and ten dollars in my wallet and about twenty dollars in my pocket.
"Okay, I'll give you a hundred dollars for the cat. Just don't kill it. Please," I said.
I pulled out my wallet, took the money out of the secret compartment and laid it on the hood of the brown station wagon. The four boys walked up and stood looking at the money.
A very serious look came over their faces. The older boy reached down and picked up the money and put it into his jean pocket. As the four boys disappeared around the bend of the road, I began to look for the cat. Several minutes later, the boys, in an old pickup truck, drove past me, headed back up the mountain towards town.
It took me over an hour to get the cat to trust me enough so that I could catch it. I petted her for five minutes or so and then I put her into my vehicle, along with my fishing gear and drove back up the mountain to the little store.
I asked the owner if he knew if anyone in the area had lost a cat. He walked out to my vehicle and looked at the cat. He told me that the old man who lived next door had lost his cat about a week ago. The old man was very upset because it was his wife's cat and she had died several months before and the cat was all that he had left.
The owner of the small store went to the telephone and made a call. When he returned he poured us a hot cup of coffee and we talked for about ten minutes. I heard the door open behind me and I turned around. A gray-haired man, all hunched over, who looked to be at least 100 years old, slowly made his way to the corner. He sat down in a rocking chair, but didn’t say a word.
"It's his cat," the owner told me.
The old man tapped his walking cane three times on the floor. The owner came from behind the counter and walked over to where the old man was sitting. The old man whispered something to the owner and then handed him a piece of paper. The owner took the old man by the arm, helped him up, and they walked outside to the station wagon.
I watched through the window as the old man reached in and picking up the cat, hugged it to his chest. Then the two men walked to a mobile home next door and went inside.
Several minutes later, the storeowner came back.
"I had best be hitting the road," I told him.
“There's a reward for finding the cat,” the storeowner said.
"I don't want a reward." I replied, but the man held out a piece of paper and I took it from him.
I opened the folded paper and saw that it was a personal check made out to "CASH" and written in the amount of two thousand five hundred dollars. I raised my eyebrows in surprise.
"Don’t worry, that check’s no good. Old man’s been off his rocker since his wife died," said the storeowner.
I folded the check back in half and I threw it onto the counter so that he could throw it away. Then something inside me told me to keep the check. I picked it back up and placed it into my shirt pocket.
"I guess only an idiot would think that a cat is worth paying that kind of money for," he said, as he laughed out loud.
"Yeah, I know. Only an idiot would think like that," I said, laughing too.
I walked out the door, got into my station wagon and I drove home. The boys and their guns had made me decide to postpone my fishing trip until another time.
When I arrived home, my wife handed me a note a friend of mine had dropped by. The note said he knew a man who would sell me his boat on a monthly payment plan. I telephoned the man with the boat. After discussing the boat, I asked him how much he wanted for it.
"Twenty-five hundred dollars. Three thousand if I have to finance it for you," he told me.
I told him that I would telephone him back in a about an hour.
Taking the check out of my pocket, I telephoned my bank. I told them the story and I asked them if there was any way to find out if the check that the old man had given me was any good. I gave them the numbers off the check and I waited for them to call me back. Ten minutes later the call came in.
"Mr. Kiser, the check is good," said the woman, laughing.
"What's so funny?" I asked her.
"Well, when I called the bank to ask if the check would clear, the gentleman there laughed. He told me that the old man who gave you the check is extremely wealthy. He owns most of the logging companies that operate in that area of California."
And that wasn’t the only surprise. That evening I drove over to see the boat, motor and trailer that were for sale. When the tarp was removed the boat was like new. It was a great deal; I knew I wanted it. But when I saw the boat’s name, I decided—right there and then—that it was meant to be. Painted on the back of the boat were the words "The Cat Man."
Stories from The Life and Times of Roger Dean Kiser http://www.rogerdeankiser.com