A feline regatta

Nurtured by the faithful care of Ned and Kay Uhler, a furry crew of dock denizens thrives in its Baltimore waterfront haunt



The cats were quite hungry

That cold winter day,

But Edwin L. Uhler

Was well on his way.

Ned left Owings Mills,

His wife, Kay, at the wheel,

Driving 25 miles

To deliver the meal.

They got to Nick's Fish House

Where Ned keeps his boat,

And then something happened

That's worthy of note:

'Twas a gaggle of cats

- A feline regatta -

Appearing from nowhere

Upon hearing his auto.

One cat, then two cats,

Then three and then four;

And then after that

There came even more:

Black, tan and gray cats,

They trotted and waddled;

Some long-haired, some short,

Some solid, some mottled.

From the rocks on the shore,

From beneath a trailer,

They crept and they scurried

To greet the old sailor.

Ned wore a cap

- A Greek sailor's hat -

And got out of his car

With a big plastic vat.

With a wood-handled spoon

They laid food on the ground:

Some here and some there

In big heaping mounds.

And no sooner than that

Did the cats start to nibble

On Kay's special mixture

Of canned food and kibble.

Until he retired

A few weeks ago,

Ned, 80, came daily

- Rain, sleet or snow.

Kay joins him on weekends,

And when the job's done

They go out for breakfast

And coffee, and fun.

Kay plays video slots

And Ned drinks a beer;

Then they go home

All filled with good cheer.

They once sailed the bay,

But those days are past,

And their boat now sits empty,

No sail on its mast.

Ned lost a leg

About six years ago;

A stroke left Kay's right arm

Quite weak and quite slow.

But together, Kay said,

They can meet most demands.

It's a trade-off of sorts:

"I'm his legs; he's my hands."

Ned ran a company

That dispatched big trucks;

Kay worked in the office

- Now how's that for luck?

Kay liked him right off

Partly based on this fact:

"He can't be a bad guy

If he has a cat."

They married, years passed

And many more pets they raised,

But the last one that died

Had left them quite fazed.

The death of their cat

Had left them bereft,

So the Uhlers decided

They'd have no more pets.

But not long after that,

At their front door one night

Two cats showed up,

Both of them white.

One they named Blanche

And one Crackerjack,

But not long after that

They were taken aback

To find Jack was a Jill

- Now what's up with that?

Back at the marina

They have even more,

Though the days that they go

They've reduced to four.

It's a long way to drive

And they need to cut back

On the money they spend

On big cat food sacks.

Between canned food and dry

They're paying high rates:

Forty-five dollars a week

Or so Kay estimates.

"Forty-five dollars!"

Ned says with a hiss;

"Forty-five dollars?

I did not know this."

It all got started

Three years ago June,

When the owners pulled out

Of the Dead Eye Saloon.

There were two cats they fed;

One left there with them;

But the one left behind

Faced quite a dilemma.

His name was ol' Smokey

A friendly feline

With no rightful owner

And no place to dine.

That's where things stood

When ol' Ned stepped in

Not thinking that one

would soon become ten.

Apparently Smokey

Had girlfriends, you see,

And one became two,

And two became three,

And three became four,

And four became five,

And the cat population

Continued to thrive.

Now Ned's not Nick's only

Feral cat feeder.

There's a woman, also

Though few try to meet her.

She builds kitty shelters

And lays out more chow

And no one's quite sure

Just when or just how.

Only this much is known

About this lover of cats:

She drives a black car

And her first name is Pat.

Being a marina

And a restaurant, at that

Nick's had some problems

With occasional rats.

Now the rats are all gone,

And some boaters like that,

But still others complain

About the number of cats.

Some even admit

That the cats drive them bats

And soil their boats

With nasty cat scat.

"If they fed them less

It would work better for me,"

Says Nick's general manager

Whose name is Terry.

Boat owner Sue Weeks

Says they look cuddly at first,

"But when you put food out

You're just making it worse."

They leave paw prints on cars

And they stink up the joint,

Leaving stains on boat cushions

They choose to anoint.

One would be fine;

Maybe two would be cuter,

But much more than that

And it comes time to neuter.

Weeks knows that it might

Make the soft-hearted pout

But she thinks the cats' ranks

Need a good thinning out.

One-legged Ned

Doesn't see it that way

And you can rest quite assured

That neither does Kay.

Starving the cats

Is not a solution

(And don't even mention

Cat execution).

Whatever their numbers

The cats need to eat,

And Ned will keep feeding

Come cold or come heat

Ned rose from his barstool

After sitting a bit

He straightened his cap

To secure a good fit.

He pondered a question:

Why not just quit? And he said only this: "

They appreciate it."


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