Going for Gold
From miners' haven to gallery, the Hearst Church in Pinos Altos

Unwelcome Guest
The invasive salt cedar, or tamarisk, hogs our scarce water supplies

Cold Case
Former Sheriff Bill Cavaliere is solving the mysteries of Apacheria

The Catfish's Meow
New Mexico's abundant catfish, fun to catchand delicious to eat

More Sounds of Silver City
Meet more of the people behind the performances

Columns and Departments

Editor's Note
Desert Diary
Southwest Gardener
Henry Lightcap's Journal
100 Hikes
The Starry Dome
Talking Horses
Ramblin' Outdoors
Guides to Go
Continental Divide

Special Sections

40 Days & 40 Nights
The To-Do List

Red or Green

River Ranch Market
Dining Guide
Table Talk

Arts Exposure

Arts Scene
Gallery Guide

Body, Mind
& Spirit

Making Adjustments

About the cover


Lights Out?

A cat, a power pole and a plan.


Truth be told, I'm not much of a cat person. Although we usually had one or two growing up, they were barn cats more than anything else. We'd put out food and water for them, but their primary mission was to terminate all rodential activity, from mice to gophers, and they were very, very good at their mission. We gave them names, but it really didn't matter because they wouldn't come when you called. Like all cats, they were supremely arrogant bastards covered in fur. Pretty much like every cat I've ever met.

A recent story, however, involving a cat's poor spatial judgment and a pragmatic New Mexican recently caught my attention.

My friend lives in the unincorporated desert northeast of Las Cruces, and enjoys his little slice of desert heaven. He has a piece of land with a dirt road, a house and a shop to work in. Life is good. He has a couple of cats that travel with him between the house and his shop that are pretty good at hanging around and doing cat things. One night in March, however, something caused one of his cats to go a bit crazier than usual and decide to scale a phone pole. A 60-foot phone pole, with lots of wires and buzzy boxes on it.

The cat was discovered in the morning, perched at the very top of the pole, somewhat distressed about his newfound aerie but not capable of doing very much to rectify the situation except trying to look cool while meowing loudly. My friend was befuddled at why the cat was up there, but equally perplexed about how to reduce the feline's altitude. So he called El Paso Electric and was told that they weren't in the business of cat retrieval. Not to be deterred, he pulled up a large box truck against the pole, put a ladder on it, and tried to compel the kitty to jump down to him. Given the gap was still at least 15 feet, the cat wasn't interested in this plan.

So my friend scratched his head and decided what to do next. He called the fire department, and they weren't able to help, although they too called the electric company and were told about the "no gato" saving policy. So he called animal control, and a lady came out to survey the situation. She said there was nothing she could do, either.

At this point, nobody would help. The animal was cold and distressed, so my friend offered to shoot the cat and put it out of its misery. The animal control officer was appalled by such violent pragmatism. So much so that she called the sheriff's department on him, and a polite young officer advised him on the dim view that his bosses have about discharging firearms into the air. It wasn't so much a concern about the cat's demise as much as it was about errant ammunition.


Well, now. Other than pulling up a lawn chair and watching the cat expire from exposure, there weren't too many options left. When times get desperate, desperate measures will be employed. He turned to the interwebs, and posted a photo of the cat on the pole on Facebook, where he had a grand total of 12 friends. The thing started going viral anyway, and outraged cat people were registering their righteous indignation over the situation. Before long, El Paso news media were on scene, filming the cat, the owner, and any official who had condemned the critter to a lonely pole-mounted death. Attitudes changed quickly at that point.

El Paso Electric finally relented to provide a bucket truck, and agreed to turn off the power to the pole. But they wouldn't send one of their workers up in the bucket, so a Las Cruces animal control officer volunteered to fly the friendly skies and grab the cat. Cameras were rolling as the kitty was secured and a small crowd applauded the feat.

Although hungry and a bit pissy about the entire ordeal, the cat is now happy and on the ground, already returning to its natural state of indifferent arrogance and supremacy. My friend is awfully glad he didn't have to shoot the thing, and was amazed at how hard it was to affect a feline rescue. The story not only made in on the four networks, but also was covered by Fox News and even the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom.

Does this change my opinion about cats? Not really, no. I still contend that they are little more than meaty sacks of anger with five pointy ends, not good for much more than generating hairballs and peeing on my truck. They seem to be pretty happy with themselves as a species, however, and they engender positive feelings among those who like the company of furry, soulless critters, so I don't mind them so much. I'm just glad this particular cat met with a happy ending.



Henry Lightcap scratches the furniture in Las Cruces.

Return to Top of Page