Monday, May 23, 2005

The Cat Coyote

I think I'll write about what happened, recount a bit of the zany trail of breadcrumbs that led to now, to "How We Got Where We Are".

In Intra-Border parlance, a "coyote" is not a marauding scruffy canine looking for a free meal but one who transports people clandestinely across the border....usually INTO the United States. A CAT Coyote would be one who performs that service for cats, if such a person existed, and we, being who we are, naturally had to do this in the opposite direction.....sneaking cats INTO Mexico.

So two years ago last July we left the beautiful, Green Mountains of Vermont for the dry, once volcanic mountains of Michoacan, Mexico. There were my husband and myself and our Wolf Dog Daisy in the bright red Firebird convertible, towing a homemade trailer like a bunny hutch on wheels. This trailer was divided down the middle and even carpeted in bright red berber from the Carpet Barn's remnant bin. There was room on top for a luggage carrier. Inside the carrier were 8 cats. Yes, dear one....8 cats.
Two cats were "mine"....they were the Montpelier cats, both gray, one a shelter kitty and the other a fancy pants papered long fluffy haired Maine Coone cat. The other 6 were my dear husband's cats from before we met, all but one related to each other, the hugest, fattest, black and white farm cats I've ever seen. These were the Morrisville cats.
So there we were, a happy caravan, fresh on the road, full of dreams and even higher hopes! This is not the story of everything that happened on the road but a story about the Cat Coyote and smuggling cats into Mexico.
Before we left Vermont we read up on bringing animals into Mexico and everyone we spoke with, everything we read, seemed to tell us that as long as we had documentation of the animal's clean bill of health,and records of up to date didn't seem to matter. Dogs and cats...nobody cared.Sounded good and EASY! That should have waved a flag as red as the carpeting in our dream sodden eyes...but of course, it didn't.

So....several weeks later we meandered into our Texas border town to meet the BIG Moving Truck and orchestrate the MOVE. In tow were the 2 gray cats and the now pink and black cats. These cats did NOT appear to be happy to be pink....these cats are big, fat bruisers.....these are ruff-tuff macho kitty cats, who, when they jump off the kitchen counter, the floor rumbles.
The culprit was, obviously, the crimson carpet. Bowls of spilled water in the hot summer sun, through New York and Pennsylvania, Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and through the great expanse of Texas.... water that slowly seeped into the alizarin remnant, bleeding it's pigment onto the white bellies and legs and paws of black and white cats. So one hot as habaneros, dry as paper bags, sunblasted afternoon we ripped up the carpet and threw it in a dumpster behind an HEB store.We hosed out the trailer and a good thing it was it must have been over a 100 degrees out. The poor cats were panting like lions on the Savannah under the shade of a lone Thorn tree......We hosed down that trailer and we hosed down those cats and drove that dripping trailer back to our motel where a kindhearted young desk clerk let us park it under the entrance portico in the shade. Kind indeed as we probably, at that point, looked like the wrong side of town come to visit. We'd watch curious people walk by, stop and nudge each other and point. It's not every day that you see a bunny hutch on wheels full of 6 sopping wet enormous pink and black cats and 2 dripping much smaller gray ones....and all meowing loudly in indignation.
So.....the next important and pertinent thing that happens is that we try to cross the border into Mexico. Now we were the greenest Gringos to come down the pike. We knew nothing. We didn't about red lights and we didn't know about green lights, which lane was which....we didn't have a clue. So.....there we were and there was a big flashing RED light and a large man with a larger mustache motioned for us to go park off to the side, where we were joined by 6 more Mexicans in fatigues with great big, visible guns who were not smiling!
They did not care about Daisy the wolf dog who was barking at them. They cared a lot about the 8 cats in the trailer.
Our Spanish is not great now....but two years ago it was not just bad, it didn't exist....we had no Spanish. Finally after about half an hour,it was finally explained to us that the regulations had been changed...that a week prior, a small circus had attempted to smuggle a sea lion and an elephant and a tiger into Mexico and since then, there were new, strictly enforced RULES. We could bring in only two animals. 2 dogs, 2 cats, a dog and a cat but not a dog and 8 cats. I wanted to ask if one could have an elephant and a tiger...2 sea lions.....a sea lion and a tiger...2 elephants....but I kept my mouth shut. Somehow I intuited that the man with the big black boots and the gun wouldn't laugh at my joke.
We were told to turn around and we drove sadly back to our Texas border town motel and our sweet young desk clerk looked a bit alarmed to see us back again but he gave us a room, and a shady spot for our cats. We headed for the bar next door to come up with Plan B.
Now I know that at least half of my dear readers will be shaking their heads in bewilderment that one could be travelling with, let alone changing their plans and their lives around for 8 cats. I know a lot of people would have booted those cats out and been down the road. That seemed awfully heartless to me. I like cats okay.....enough to have had 2 cats, but I am not mad about cats....I'm not what some people would call a "cat person", really but I especially am partial to Stella CaraBella, my fluffy gray Maine Coon cat because she's so very pretty. That cat is a joy to look at! I never lived with the Morrisville cats...they have their own story.My husband is the cat person. So I was as perplexed as anyone would be to find themselves on the Texas/Mexico border with 8 cats and a dog and no idea what to do next.

We called our moving agent, who was as surprised as we were. He thought that since we had papers on all the animals.....there would be no problems.Rules are mercurial at the like marital discord,someone being fired,a lowcut, clingy T shirt, a hangover or maybe just Mercury retrograde can all exert a powerful influence on who or what crosses the border on any given day.
One idea was to apply for some sort of "special dispensation" from the Health Department in Mexico City but that would entail boarding the cats somewhere in Texas and going to Mexico City with someone who spoke fluent Spanish and filling out a million papers and forms and making 1000 copies and then going on without the cats and waiting....someone said, probably 6 months, to hear back about if our permits were granted. No good.
Another idea was to go on with one dog and one cat to Michoacan. Then to drive all the way back up and pick up two more cats. And then do this 3 more times. No good either"
Another idea was to pay a "fee" to some guys at the border crossing. This might and might not work. The suggested "fee" was high...about $500.00 US spread amongst a few people. Problem is....we wouldn't be "paying the fee".....someone else would be meeting with them the day before...and if perhaps this person's boss appeared at the moment we were to cross over...oh well, the person couldn't very well let us cross with the supervisor there and our "fee" would be lost. Plus....perhaps there would need to be a "fee" at the 30 mile line in Mexico as well....30 miles over the border there are more checkpoints....once one passes the 30 Mile Line, they're Home Free, so to speak.
Definitely no good.

Yes, I think I'll have another tequila.

Enter the Cat Coyote!!!!!!

Of course, there is no such thing as an actual Cat Coyote. Who else but us ever even Needed a Cat Coyote?
Earlier I mentioned our moving agent. This dear, helpful person came from a family of import/exporters on the border in Mexico and now ran a business in the States. Needless to say, most people move in the other direction but there are those, like us,who swim upstream. It is a motley crew we have come to learn, people, Gringos, move to Mexico for all sorts of interesting and often curious reasons. Our dear and helpful friend had an even dearer and more helpful wife. Now, whether her charity was genuine or she was merely eager to see the back of us and our cats once and for all, is not clear....what is clear is that she volunteered to be our Cat Coyote. She had a mother and sisters and cousins all living on the other side of the border, she had a perfectly average looking white mini van and several small Mexican looking children. She did not look American, or like a jazz drummer (my husband) or an artist (me) or drive a bright red convertible or have a Wolf Dog.
On the appointed day we drove our cat filled trailer to a pre-arranged rendevous spot on the American side and handed off all 8 cats. They ALL went into the back of the mini van where they were corralled by a large net so they couldn't escape and wander about the van. The net was then covered by some blankets so that no cats were visible. Then, into the van went the 2 children and the 4 children of the sister. Finally, our Cat Coyote and her sister. The children were instructed to be as noisy as they could as they crossed the bridge, to sing at the top of their lungs, to goof around, to talk a lot...all at case any suspicious meowing from the rear might be happening.
We were then instructed to meet them at a certain parking lot in a town about 10 miles into Mexico.
Everything went off without a hitch.....easy as pie...come pan bread for dinner.
We met and one by one the gray cats and the STLL pink and black cats were all returned to the trailer. We bid our fond goodbyes and thanked them profusely and drove into Mexico.We drove 20 miles until we came to the little outpost that is the Thirty Mile Line. Three men were sitting eating tacos and barely looked up at us as we sailed by the beautiful green light with our trailer full of Mexican cats.

That is the story of the Cat Coyote and how a bunch of Vermont cats made it deep into the heart of Mexico.
Now....we have to figure out how to get them out!

1 comment:

Amy C. Moreno said...

I love your stories....I'm sure they'll be published along with your illos someday. I haven't read the July 3rd one, but the Cat Coyote is hiLARios! Keep writing! (Your illos of course are fabulous too)