A LIFE ON THE RAILS: Houston Hairy and the Death of the 8th Texian Tuxedo
As told to Kiril Kundurazieff - July 2014
If you were in a certain part of Houston (Kilpatrick, between Banyan and Ley) one day, recently, and were driving down a road entering the Settegast Rail Yard, you might have seen a somewhat balding, 50-ish, white guy in suspenders staring into space in a patch of grass and weeds next to an abandoned stretch of track.
That would have been me.
No, I wasn’t considering hopping a freight, fleeing Texas on the cheap, heading back to Santa Ana, CA. with my tail between my legs and all my hopes and dreams for a fresh start in Houston dashed to hell and gone; I was there for another reason and, besides, I didn’t have my cats, my books, or my laptop with me.
Watching a noisy, rumbling, line of Union Pacific engines sitting on a track and the melodic sound of a train horn somewhere in the yard, I was reflecting on the 3 hour chat I’d just had in a nearby park.
BEGIN HERE: A Street in Laredo: A Ballad of the 8th Texian Tuxedo
Growing up, railroad tracks held a special sort of fun and challenge for me; Well into my teens I’d walk the rails, balancing myself on the narrow, rusting, steel rail, that took trains through La Verne, North Pomona, the Village in Claremont, Montclair and beyond, east and west. The goal was to not fall off the rail for as long as possible.
Anyway, enough about that, there is a story to tell!
When I came home from work, one recent day, 3 of the apartment complex strays approached to let me know someone wanted to meet me and talk; it seems an ancient feline, learning that the new Texian Tuxedo resides with me, had a story he wanted to share before he went to Rainbow Bridge.
That’s how I found myself, in Elbert Park, a small, triangle of a park with a handful of trees, picnic tables and a tiny play area, but no other amenities, providing a meal of canned Tuna to a beat up, but proud and dignified, black cat, of uncertain age (probably around 27, as his earliest memories are of Reagan’s last year as president); the missing tip of right ear, limp in his gait and scar on the left side of his face indicated he’d experienced much in his life.
He is probably the oldest living example of a certain type of stray cat, the Boxcar Pussy (he insisted I use the word, as, like my dear Nikita, he didn’t care for how human culture has vulgarized the it), cats who used the rails to get around, not just all over a state, but whole nation, sharing the life of humans they met doing the same, or living mostly alone, their only other contact being with other cats, even dogs, relying on their survival skills and handouts from humans in towns, cities and on the rails.
He goes by the name of Houston Hairy (“that’s Hairy with an “I” and one “R”, if you please!”), a name bestowed on him by some human long forgotten; a restless, adventuresome, kitten who kept sneaking outside his human home every chance he got, he finally had enough of the indoor life, even though he loved his humans, and set out on his own to, as he described it, “see the world”.
He did not wish to have his photo taken only to have it end up "plastered all over the internet so my reputation could be ruined by any damn human with a LOL Cats account"; a request I respected.
The rest of his story is best shared in his own words, as written down by me, so I now turn things over to Houston Hairy…