So dear to the heart. This is an old picture of Dad and Tuffy, taken around 1976. Dear old Dad just loved that orange striped cat to the end of the earth.
Dad and His Buddy, Tuffy the Cat
By Richard Mabey Jr.
My dad loved our family cat, Tuffy. Tuffy was an orange striped cat who was quite a little character. Tuffy was also quite a smart cat. It was kind of heart warming to see Dad and Tuffy do their “TV watching routine” at night.
After working all day, Dad loved to watch the old movies from the 1930’s and 1940’s. Before cable television came to our little Mayberry in New Jersey, the independent television stations from New York City would play a lot of the old films.
I remember that Channel 9, WOR-TV, had something that they called “The Million Dollar Movie.” This was quite a gimmick. Channel 9 would play the same old film, all week long, at different times of the day. They justified this low budget television programming by saying that each film was carefully chosen by popular demand of the station’s viewers. Then they would go on to say that they chose “The Million Dollar Movie” based on the letters that they received.
I think that the whole “popular demand” thing was a big hoax. I remember that when I was about 10 years old, one summer I asked all my friends if they ever wrote into Channel 9 to vote for a favorite movie to be picked for “The Million Dollar Movie.” Not one of my friends had ever invested the cost of a stamp to correspond with Channel 9. Then, I asked all my relatives and none of them had ever sent Channel 9 a letter. Then, I asked my grown-up neighbors and they all said they never wrote to Channel 9. So, I’m sure the whole “chosen by popular demand” claim was a big hoax.
At any rate, “The Million Dollar Movie” was a must-see thing in the Mabey household. I can’t emphasize it enough how much Dad loved the old movies. You see, before Dad left his home and family to join the Seventh Army Air Corps during World War II, he worked as an Usher in the famous Majestic Theater in Paterson, New Jersey. My dad was pretty smart. He got a paycheck each week and got to watch all the newest movies for free.
After eating supper, Dad would walk into our living room. Mom always had an afghan on the back of the couch. Dad would remove the afghan from the back of the couch, carefully fold it up and put it down next to him on the couch. Dad would then hit the afghan once or twice and then out of nowhere, little Tuffy would come running to sit next to dear old Dad. Even if Tuffy was upstairs, sleeping on one of the beds, in a flash you would see Tuffy come running down the stairs immediately after Dad hit the afghan a couple of times.
Tuffy would sit up next to Dad, in great anticipation of getting his treats for the night. Dad would open up a bag of pretzel sticks and Tuffy would hit Dad’s forearm with one of his front paws. It was really something to see. Then Dad would take out a pretzel stick, break it up into tiny bits, and put the broken pretzel sticks on the afghan. Tuffy would then devour them up in less than a minute.
The thing of it is that Tuffy would then purr really loud, his way of asking my dad for more pretzels. Mom, would be in the kitchen with my sister, washing dishes. Mom would hear the crinkle of the pretzel bag, she would hear Tuffy’s purring. Mom then knew what was going on.
“Dick, you’re not giving that cat pretzels again are you?” Mom would call out from the kitchen.
“Janet, would I do something like that?” Dad would reply. It is important to note that my dad never lied because not once did he ever tell Mom that he was not giving Tuffy pretzels.
Oh, I know that pretzels aren’t good for cats. I know a lot of you reading this blog care about the welfare of animals. So do I. But, really and truly, Dad never gave more than one or two pretzel sticks to Tuffy each night.
Dad loved animals. He had such a soft spot in his heart for them.
I often reflect upon those days of innocence. It really was something to see, Dad sitting on the couch at nights, watching an old black and white movie, with Tuffy by his side. I think that I’d give up my entire comic book collection to once again see that scene before me, for even just five minutes.
Peace and harmony,