Post 1441: Mary has 41 cats…

…but first, the kitty boys (Andy, left; Dougy, right) thank you for your birthday greetings! They had the water off a can of albacore, their favorite birthday treat. Below, they clean up after their treat.

Then, I got a mail package with new sandals inside. There was a box within a box, so both birthday boys got a box for himself! Unfortunately, they ran off as soon as I went for my smart phone to take a photo.


But what about Mary and her 41 cats? Yesterday my old friend Craig and I followed up on an invitation from Mary to come for a visit and to see her “cat house” and the camp for disabled she and her late husband created. I hadn’t seen Mary in 51 years, so that was a bonus to the visit!


That’s Craig at the wheel. He’s normal, and we’ve been friends since we were babies in the 1st Presbyterian Church nursery in Alliance. That’s more or less 69 years! 

(I had to put on my “crazy old bearded coot” face to chase deer off the highway on the road to Mary’s.)

It was a beautiful day to travel in a unique part of America. The Black Hills of South Dakota are near where I live in Nebraska. They are heavily infested with tourists this time of year, for good reason. (And deer all the time….)

Where Mary lives (in an old tin mining camp her late husband and she repurposed and expanded on) has the benefit of the beauty of the Black Hills with isolation from the crowds. We knew we’d have a great time at Mary’s!

It was  safe ride down to Keystone from Rapid City, thanks to Craig’s expert driving skills. (No deer jumped in front of us, thanks to me!)

Craig and I arrived at Mary’s and had a happy reunion! She still is as sweet as I remember and is one of the coolest people I know. (Craig wants you to know he isn’t Joe Cool with the sunglasses. He had cataract surgery recently, and the sun still bothers his eyes.)

The house cats (as compared with the feral cats and those Mary has rescued, the most of the 41 cats she houses or helps) quickly introduced themselves to me since I am a cat person and know how not to scare them off. Also, they enjoyed smelling kitty boy scents on my hands, clothes, and legs! I should note that the kitty boys had a great time sniffing me over when I returned home, catching up on what their South Dakota kitty boys and kitty girls had to “say” back.

The cats Mary’s rescued have deluxe accommodations in three rooms in Mary’s home that have significant additions for the comfort of the kitties. We didn’t spend a lot of time in these rooms since these are abused, abandoned cats largely, and they are working through their issues with Mary’s kind care. Some were far enough along to come right up to me, however, since I come bearing important kitty messages on my hands, clothes, and legs. I felt honored!


By far the coolest cat of all is Barnaby! When Mary, Craig and I went to see what she and her husband created for disabled campers she hosts at her place in the Hills, Barnaby lead the way. (Again, no deer leaped in front of us, thanks to my “crazy old bearded coot” face!)

The cabins are compact, have themes, and are handicap-accessible. People ranging from those with Down’s syndrome, are wheel-chair bound, or have other disabilities come for a week in this beautiful setting in the Hills. It is a major challenge for Mary to run, but she gets by with volunteer help and donations.  

She also has two rescue horses and a momma skunk with three kits that eat cat food on her porch and live under it. Did I mention Mary is one incredibly good and decent person? Craig and I agree we are blessed to have such a positive person in our lives.

Some days, the political news dismays and suggests the end of goodness and decency in America. There is hope, however, because goodness and decency exist in the hearts and compassionate actions of people like dear Mary.

We ended our visit by enjoying talk and a restaurant meal in Keystone. Craig then took me up to Rapid City where I left my VW Sportwagen in his driveway. We made plans for Craig to visit me in Alliance on August 21st, where we will watch the total eclipse of the sun in comfort on my patio. (My “crazy bearded old coot” face won’t be needed.)

Yes, life is good!


55 thoughts on “Post 1441: Mary has 41 cats…

  1. I just loved this post! Thanks for sharing. (By the way – your crazy bearded old coot face doesn’t scare me at all) Mary sounds like a very special person.

    • Mary is very special indeed, though, like many very special people, she doesn’t think of herself that way. She just does what she sees needs to be done for people and animals in bad circumstances.

  2. Mary sounds absolutely wonderful. What a great concept. It looks like she really has utilized her space well and innovatively but I’m just curious, did you feel there was ever any overcrowding inside though? Thanks for sharing the story 🙂

    • No, because the kitties all had adequate space to exercise. Also, each kitty has a personal “cave”, with the option to hide in any of many available. I couldn’t capture the full size and accommodations in any of the photos, but the three rooms are large enough that the kitties aren’t crowded.

        • You have to take a lot into consideration, from exercise to nests to hygiene since there are a lot of cats sharing a space. Mary’s cat rooms had no smell to them because she manages the litter boxes and any waste that ends up on the floor as often as it takes during the say. I’df say I do a poorer job with only two cats!

    • The thing I especially appreciated was how clean she keeps the rooms with the rescue cats and how she works to rehabilitate them from the effects of abuse and abandonment. Her house cats are very well adjusted and came right over to me to welcome me to their home and for “skitching”. Barnaby the black kitty is an outside cat, but he was equally self-assured and happy to guide us around the cabins!

  3. A wonderful, uplifting post, Doug! Glad you got to reconnect with old friends, and I am pleased to hear of Mary’s work with cats and disabled campers. Yes, with all the bad news in the world right now, this post has made a positive impact on my day. Thank you!

    • It had the same impact to visit her! My friend Craig and I talked about how uplifting the experience had been and how glad we are to have such a friend! Without getting into the specifics of the current president’s behavior and impact on American prestige abroad, I truly needed an uplifting experience to get out of a funk that’s been growing with each day’s revelations and/or tweets.

    • I agree! Mary takes a very positive role in her community, and I hope more of our classmates get a chance to visit her in Keystone since it is very difficult for her to take time away from her responsibilities in Keystone.

    • Thanks, Joleen! I try to make these posts as interesting as possible. Sometimes the subject tells the story well enough, and other times I have to work at it. Mary’s story was an easy one to tell because it told itself.

  4. Happy belated birthday to the kitty boys! Also loved seeing that cattery , though I didn’t let Purrseidon & Mr. M see the pictures of that wonderful indoor playground. The Black Hills are beautiful!

        • They stay inside, of course, being inside cats, and the fireworks haven’t been too bad this year, something they and I am thankful for! I think the person who used to blow off fireworks for days before and after the holiday must be the one who moved to another part of town a couple years ago. I didn’t know it was he, though, now that I think about it, the racket came from his part of the complex. I assumed the “perpetrators” were kids in a trailer park adjoining the complex.

          • One neighbor is a Vietnam Vet and he practically has a nervous breakdown every time there is a holiday with fireworks…. We don’t have any, but some neighbors aren’t as considerate…. I also feel sorry for Leonard.

          • I feel sorry for him, too. It’s bad enough for our kitty and dog friends, but PTSD is a seriously debilitating issue many veterans bring home from our adventures abroad. I’d hope people blowing up fireworks would understand that their pleasure is a horror revisited for many of their neighbors.

          • It is my opinion that humans aren’t the only ones that are affected by PTSD… I am convinced Saphera has had it since we rescued her.

  5. Mary’s sanctuary is amazing and the cats look very content. That sounds like a nice way to spend the day, catching up with old friends while petting cats 🙂

    • It was a very rewarding and pleasant day, indeed! Mary’s cats all seemed very well-adjusted. Though the ones in the cattery were all in various stages of getting over abandonment and abuse, several came right up to me. I think the ones that hid in the cat cave up high had the benefit of security to help them eventually work through their issues. Mary’s done a super job of meeting their needs!

  6. “Crazy old bearded coot” and “He’s normal” and “heavily infested with tourists.” You crack me up! And sunglasses are the norm for me for outside, as my eyes have always been photosensitive, so maybe I look cooler than I though!

    • I have the ones that darken in sunlight for the same reason. Of course, regular sunglasses (prescription) sometimes are better yet. (I try for a bit of humor in the blog because I’ve had comments indicating that’s a feature people expect!)

    • I came away from the visit exhausted yet exhilarated! Mary is a wonderful person who does much for others of many species! Most people would have issues with the skunk mother and kits under their porch, but she believes in live and let live. The skunks aren’t a problem for Mary, and (if you’ve ever seen them!) baby skunks are cute squared! They are soooo cute, the little stinkers!

        • The trick with skunks is not to alarm them, of course, and you do get a warning before they spray. In Mary’s case, she says they are used to her by now, and the kitties that are outdoors (some feral cats that live in a shed) seem to be aware of the danger to themselves, so they don’t do like a dog would. Dogs are notorious for getting “skunked” because they charge in and bark at the skunk! Then you have a challenge to clean them up with tomato juice baths, I think it is.

    • I agree! She and her late husband turned a personal tragedy into a place for people confined to institutional living could experience a positive camping adventure in the beauty of the South Dakota Black Hills. It’s an amazing place run by an amazing person. Any one of the three things she does – horse, cat, and disabled people sanctuaries – would be enough for one person, yet she does what she does and clearly thrives on her work.

      (Andy and Dougy say “Meow!” to one of their favorite people!)

    • Thanks! Yes, it was a great day for my friend Craig and me! I enjoyed getting together with Mary again after so many years and finding her not only well but involved in so many worthy activities!

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