The Story of Magda, Part 1

have never written about an animal before and probably never will again. Janet Peterson, Sandie Rhodes, and others suggested I write an article about my cat, Magda. I named her after Magda Gabor, the older sister of Zsa Zsa and Eva Gabor. That is who I thought of the first time I saw her.

My father died in 2005 and that left my mother living alone in Swannanoa. She had always hated cats. Every time she saw a cat, she would try to scare it off. Around 2006, a cat took up residence underneath my grandfather Ingle’s toolshed, next door to mother’s house. It appeared someone had been very mean to the cat and dumped it out at my grandparents’ house, or it had escaped its tormentors and took up residence there. My mother and I would look out the window, and the cat—50 feet away—would run for its life when it saw us.

To my surprise, my mother started putting food out for the cat. Confused, I asked her why. “I don’t have nothing else to do,” she said. The cat, who became Magda, was so afraid that she would only eat the food late at night. Eventually she began to sneak up the steps and eat the food in daylight. One day when it was raining hard, I opened the door and Magda shot in the door. I thought there would be a dead cat soon, but mother petted her and didn’t throw her out.

Magda started staying on the closed-in back porch at night from then on. She would go down the steps into the basement at night. When she wanted to go outside, Magda would sit in front of the porch door and stare at the doorknob. When Magda wanted back in, she would jump on the step rail and stare in the back-porch door window until mother saw her from the kitchen window and let her in.

One day, I found Magda lying on mother’s couch. I thought the world had finally come to an end. “You let an animal inside the house? I asked. “Kitty won’t hurt anything,” she said. From then on, the cat was allowed in the house but had to sleep in the basement. Magda also started letting me touch her. She would tap me with her paw and want to roughhouse.

Mother wanted everything done fast— eat faster, walk faster, read faster. She would pet Magda so fast you could barely see her hand. Magda soon began to like me better because I would take time with her.

Mother battled a shingles infection for 25 years, and eventually told me she could no longer live alone. She moved into a room at Mayflower Rest Home in Reems Creek, owned by my first cousin Evet Trantham, and brought Magda along.

By this time, Magda had confidence and was used to ruling the roost. Evet had a cat, but Magda made it clear she was in charge. The other cat was limited to the dining room and the kitchen. The rest of the place, including the deck, belonged to Magda. If she was lying on the deck, she would recognize the sound of my car and go lie on the bed to be petted.

One night, not long before mother died, she had a bad night and Evet stayed up to tend her. Magda must have thought others were hurting mother, and somehow she escaped the building. I hunted for her everywhere. Three weeks later someone saw her near an abandoned trailer and I rushed out there and rescued her.

Evet told me to take Magda home with me. Mother was near the end and couldn’t pay her much attention. I brought Magda to Fairview, where she would run things for seven or eight years.

Local historian Bruce Whitaker documents genealogy in the Fairview area.

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