Farewell To Seven-Toed Henri

Originally posted October 17, 2008

I was going to write about the autumn of 1971 today, a time that was unexceptional for the most part. It did mark my first quarter of college, and I guess that made it a time of major adjustments. But I’ll write about that some other day.

We lost another cat yesterday.

This summer, shortly after we had to let go of the Texas Gal’s beloved Smudge, one of the Texas Gal’s co-workers said a kitten had found its way to her mother’s place. The kitten ended up with the Texas Gal’s co-worker, who then learned that her husband and son were allergic to cats. For two days, the kitten was alone in their basement while they figured out what to do, and there was talk of letting it loose in a field to fend for itself.

Given that we were in the middle of the difficult (and expensive) process of moving, I was reluctant to bring in a kitten, but I’ll never let a little one be let loose in a field; I can’t imagine anything more terrifying – or more practically lethal – for a small animal. So one evening, the Texas Gal brought home our new little guy, black with some white trim . . . and seven toes on each front foot.

I’m not sure where the name came from, but after some hesitation, the Texas Gal named him Henri Matisse, after the artist. But we pronounced his name “Henry” instead of the French “Ehn-ree.” And we took him to Dr. Tess for his standard kitten care. He had worms, which we expected, and we treated him for that. A few months later, not long after we moved, we had him neutered and had his front claws removed.

Even after treatment for worms, Henri’s digestive problems continued. When we organized the empty boxes we’d thrown off to the side of the basement during the move, we discovered that he hadn’t been using his cat box regularly. We thought his continued digestive problems might be the reason, so we changed his diet, kept an eye on his trips to the basement and gave him a supplement for two weeks.

Nothing really helped his digestion, and once the two-week regimen of the supplement was over, he began to lose weight and he didn’t always seem comfortable. And one evening this week, we discovered that his cat box behavior in the basement hadn’t changed. In some ways, it’s no big deal. We’ve cleaned up worse messes over the years. But the vet said yesterday morning that it was unlikely Henri’s behavior would change, even if we could correct the problem with his digestion. And we knew we couldn’t continue.

Henri went peacefully. And we have another cat-shaped hole in the house. The Texas Gal and I both spent a little bit more time than usual last evening playing with Oscar and talking to Clarence, our two remaining catboys. That helped, at least a little.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1971, Vol. 4
“Tell Me Why” by Matthews’ Southern Comfort, Decca 32874 (No. 99 on the Billboard Hot 100 as of October 16, 1971)

“Theme from ‘Summer of ’42’” by Peter Nero, Columbia 45399 (No. 91)

“Respect Yourself” by the Staple Singers, Stax 0104 (No. 82)

“It’s a Cryin’ Shame” by Gayle McCormick, Dunhill 4288 (No. 60)

“Two Divided By Love” by the Grass Roots, Dunhill 4289 (No. 55)

“Women’s Love Rights” by Laura Lee, Hot Wax 7105 (No. 37)

“You’ve Got To Crawl (Before You Walk)” by 8th Day, Invictus 9098 (No. 36)

“One Fine Morning” by Lighthouse, Evolution 1048 (No. 32)

“Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” by Kris Kristofferson, Monument 8525 (No. 27)

“Stick-Up” by Honey Cone, Hot Wax 7106 (No. 19)

“I’ve Found Someone Of My Own” by the Free Movement, Decca 32818 (No. 15)

“So Far Away” by Carole King, Ode 66019 (No. 14)

“Smiling Faces Sometimes” by the Undisputed Truth, Gordy 7108 (No. 12)

A few notes:

The Matthews’ Southern Comfort track is a cover of the Neil Young tune from After the Goldrush album, which came out in 1970. Southern Comfort was headed by Ian Matthews, who had been a founding member of Britain’s Fairport Convention. Matthews’ career is a fascinating series of stops, starts and sudden left turns, but his music has always been listenable and sometimes inspired.

One evening during the summer of 1971, after a day of unpacking file cabinets in the new Education Building at St. Cloud State, I wandered off to the theater and took in The Summer of ’42. The movie touched me, with its tale of a young man’s beginning to grow up, of his crush on the older woman played by the luminescent Jennifer O’Neill (looking impossibly young from where I sit now) and of the tragedy and confusion of wartime. I was also blown away by Michel Legrand’s Academy Award-winning score, which was sweet and sad and over-the-top – all of the things that we are at sixteen. I never looked for the soundtrack LP; I’m not sure why. But when Peter Nero had a hit with the main theme later in the year (the single went to No. 22), I was pleased to hear the song coming out of my radio.

Gayle McCormick was the lead singer for Smith, the group that had a No. 5 hit in the autumn of 1969 with a cover of “Baby It’s You.” “It’s A Cryin’ Shame” was a pretty good single from her first solo album – she recorded two others in the early 1970s, and after that, I lose track of her – but it didn’t do very well. Nor did her follow-ups. She never cracked the Top 40 as a solo artist.

This selection includes three more good singles (several showed up in previous Baker’s Dozen selections) from Hot Wax and Invictus, the labels launched by Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland after they left Motown. The singles weren’t as successful on the pop chart as they were good. “Women’s Love Rights” peaked at No. 36, and “You’ve Got To Crawl” topped out at No. 28, but the Honey Cone single nearly got into the Top Ten, stalling at No. 11. (It spent two weeks at No. 1 on the R&B chart.)

This version of Lighthouse’s “One Fine Morning” originally linked with this post was from the album. Since then, I was able to find a video with the fairly rare single edit. Either way, once I saw the title in the Hot 100 for this week in 1971, I had to post the song, even in the wrong version. It’s just too good to ignore.

The Undisputed Truth’s “Smiling Faces Sometimes” was a pretty grim and tough song, talking about the perfidy surrounding all of us, wherever we go. Some folks saw it as a political allegory, and the theme of betrayal makes that at least a little bit plausible, given the realities of 1971. Whatever the message, the record had a great groove.

Edited and rewritten slightly on August 6, 2013.

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