Tuesday, August 13, 2013



            My cousin Gary McDaniel is preparing for the last journey of his life. This time he is not getting his gear ready for fishing, or hunting. This time he is not cramming four adults into the cab of his truck so their physical closeness will comfort one another as they drive to his sister Dorothy’s funeral in Montana, all the way from Lake Stevens. This time he’s not packing his beloved grandchildren into the vehicle to take them to the McDaniel Family Reunion down by the Pilchuck River (though we’re hoping he’ll miraculously make it there on August 18th.) Oh, he is preparing for a family reunion all right, a celestial one where he will be reunited with the ones who have gone before. And of course, there will be a river of living water.

            I could talk on and on about how Gary is now a patriarch of our family. About how he built a retail empire and how all of his children now have a store that serves its neighborhood. Somehow we McDaniels seem to have Retail in our genes. I could tell you of Gary’s generosity to the community, and to individuals, but he wouldn’t be comfortable with me talking about that; he never wants anyone to know. But I have seen it, out of the corner of my eye, his gifts of money and of support and of helping people, related or not. I only know that when my own dear mother felt threatened, she said, “Don’t make me have to call Gary McDaniel.” My sister Sally and I knew that meant Gary would be there if she needed him. She knew it, we knew it. Luckily it never got to that point.

            But this little blog isn’t about how the pioneering McDaniels love God, and family, and getting together to share food and tell stories that bring laughter or tears to the listeners (and the best stories do both.) It is about how Gary McDaniel fell in love. With a cat.

            Cats were not a lifelong passion for Gary. “Who knew after all these years of living with me dragging home every stray, that only in the last few years he would become so attached to a cat!” his daughter Tami Bloor said. Gary had nearly 7 decades of life under his belt when he found an abandoned kitten on a fishing trip to Wapato. He named her Rose Wapato. She wrapped her paws around his heart:

            “A few years ago, she came in the house, full of pain, with a broken back. He didn’t bat an eye to pay out a lot of money to get her fixed up and put back together,” Tami said.

            Rose Wapato hung out with Gary as he worked in his yard, cutting and stacking wood, recreational therapy for him: it is how he regained his health and strength after open-heart surgery a few years ago. “I figured it would either kill me or cure me,” Gary said.

            But now Gary was in the hospital, marveling that he had been chopping wood only two weeks previous, “and now I can’t even support my own weight with my legs.” Dozens of visitors came, and Gary told story after story, shared inspiration and jokes and history as he held court from his hospital bed. Yet he missed Rose Wapato. He told Tami that his idea of a good time is petting his cat.

            “Actually, I talked to him about his cat when we visited! He said he used to hate cats….until this special one came into his life! I wish there were a way his cat could be brought to him….I think it would do wonders for his spirits!” Diane Carlson Williams wrote on Facebook.

            The idea tickled Gary, but everyone knew it was impossible. Even if the hospital would allow it, Rose Wapato was the wild card, the loose cannon: she was unused to cat carriers and riding in cars. Not fond of crowds. And would usually not let herself be petted for more than 15 minutes at a time. But Gary’s daughters Kris and Tami had to try it.

            Rose Wapato had been looking for Gary the whole time he is in the hospital. She went to “his usual haunts,” according to his daughter, “from woodpile #1 to woodpile #2 to woodpile #3.” Even though it was probably going to be a failed experiment, they had to bring her to Gary.

She wasn’t crazy about the carrier. Didn’t really enjoy the car ride. Found the hospital smells distasteful as she was carried up to the seventh floor. But then: she saw him. And the love fest resumed. Yes, he looked different than even the last time she had seen him. Much thinner. Now wearing a gauze bandage over a goose egg in the exact center of his forehead, a result of falling in the night. The bandage looked a little like a miner’s lamp, and she was used to seeing him in a baseball hat. Most unusual of all was that Gary wasn’t up and moving. He was flat on his back.

None of that mattered. She had found him! She crawled up on his bed and hunkered as close as she could get. Her paw found his hand. She stayed there, holding vigil, for three and a half hours, till it was time to go home. She came the next day and held vigil, again, holding paws with her beloved companion as visitors came and went.

            This isn’t the first story a pet’s supernatural intuition, and the inexplicable bond between the animal and the human, and it won’t be the last. But because we’re McDaniels, this story will be told for generations to come, often accompanied by Grandma Mac’s homemade bun recipe, with the finest strawberry freezer jam on the planet. It is the way of our people.

o    Michele Kane This picture brings back so many memories of the homes i went into. I would give care while leaving the animals on their bed. There is a bond between a human and their animal that is so powerful. We really never see the depths of it until we see what is going on with your father and his loyal companion kitty. your fathers cat is holding a vigil while you father takes his journey. Kitty has a big part in this process :)
It will be very spiritual to witness this union of these two. I pray for comfort and peace in all your hearts.

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