Best Boy - “The Pocket Rocket” (1967-1986)Story & sketches by Suzanne Pabst
It’s not hard to like Rocket, he’s that kind of a cat. Being jet black with green eyes is not too unusual, but the fact that he has no tail is - for Rocket is a Manx and being tailless is only a Manx’s prerogative. It’s not just his tail or lack of it that makes Rocket special, but rather that he became, in reality, a desire come true.
Deciding to have a black Manx someday was one thing, but finding one another. And then, as if in an answer to my wish, I read in the paper, “homes wanted for tailless kittens”. I dialed the number and could hear my heart beat as I waited for an answer. Nervously, I asked if by chance there was a black male. Had the answer been no, I would never have come to know how much a cat can mean. He was undersized to be sure, and puny would have been flattery, but “The Pocket Rocket” was aptly named as slowly he grew becoming more cherished each day until at last he simply became “The Rocket”. He’s a bit of arrogance surrounded by a loving appreciative soul.
DANVILLE REGISTER & BEE Friday September 17, 1999
Cat Brings Two Together
The owner of a cat lost in Danville 20 years ago returns to visit the woman who ultimately found him.
DANVILLE, VA. - It was the summer of 1977, and for Connecticut native Suzanne Pabst , it was a summer she and Danville native Jean Terry would never forget.
Suzanne, who was vacationing at her family’s lakeside cottage in Minnesota, ended up in Danville via Memphis, Tenn. The trip ultimately led to the loss of her cat and a recent return to the Dan River Region to thank the person who found him.
“I was an Elvis fan, so I headed to Memphis when I heard the news of his death. I loaded the kids in the truck camper. We arrived the day after Elvis’ tomb had been broken into in an attempt to ransom his body. Because I was traveling I had not heard about the incident. It was raining when we arrived in Memphis. My hair was drenched when I entered the cemetery which was cordoned off with police tape. The next thing I knew a microphone was put in front of me and I was asked my opinion on the kidnap attempt. The interview appeared on the Huntley-Brinkley evening TV news show and that was how my mother knew her rain-drenched daughter had made it to Memphis. From Memphis we headed east to Danville on our way to the Blue Ridge Parkway.”
“When we got to Danville, I took the kids to the old Crescent drive-in movie theater. I was exhausted by the time we got there, so I laid down to take a nap and was awakened by the sound of the camper door slamming. I discovered that the door slamming, was son Tim getting food. It was also the beginning of a week long search. When he slammed the door, it didn’t shut all the way. One of the two cats we were traveling with got out. The vagrant cat had always been very special to me, we even celebrated his birthday each year.”
“The cat, named ‘The Pocket Rocket’, was a black Manx tomcat that had turned 10 years old that summer. Manx cats are a breed of cat with no tail. He had been hit by a car earlier that year, which left him blind in one eye. He really didn’t have any of his nine lives left. Can you imagine the scenario of a scruffy one-eyed cat lost in the blackness of the drive-in movie theater and me knocking on car windows asking everyone if they had seen my cat. I even went to the projection booth and asked the employees to stop the movie and make an announcement about my lost cat. They said they couldn’t do that The next best thing was to convince the owner of the drive-in to let me stay overnight in case the cat came back. He locked me in and said he’d be back at 7 a.m. By 7 a.m. Rocket still had not been found We began canvassing Danville.”
“We literally went door to door. I went up and down each street. If I met anyone walking, I’d ask if they’d seen my cat. I called the garbage men; I called the radio station; I called the Humane Society; and I even called the Danville Police and asked all for their help.”
“Several days went by, and still no sign of Rocket. A classified ad in the Danville Register appeared over Labor Day weekend. There probably wasn’t anyone in Danville who didn’t know my cat was missing.”
“I flew my children home to Connecticut to start their school year. I stayed in Danville to keep looking for Rocket. I was determined to find him dead or alive, but was getting scared that I wouldn’t find him alive. All I had for companions were a painted turtle the kids had found in Minnesota and my other cat, ‘Puddy’”.
In the meantime, Jean Terry and her son had gone over to a neighbor’s to feed the neighbor’s cats. A stray cat jumped off the porch. Jean’s son had seen a ‘lost’ flyer about Rocket and thought the stray might be him. Jean took the cat to her home. Since the cat had a collar, with the owner’s address, Jean figured it would be easy to locate the owner. “Well, I thought, ‘this will be simple,’ The address read Woodbury, CT., which I thought was ‘court,’ and that address was just over the hill. I kept calling the phone number, but nobody answered. The ‘lost’ flyer said to call the Danville Police Department and I found out Woodbury Court was actually Woodbury, Connecticut.”
“Back in the Holiday Inn lobby I was depressed as I made my afternoon call to the Danville Police Department. I was calling the 90 member police department two times a day each day at that point. I called for the second time that day, and the officer I spoke to had a somber voice, and by his tone I thought Rocket had been found dead and started sobbing. A superior officer picked up the phone and asked where I was. I replied, ‘I’m in the lobby of the Holiday Inn.’ The officer said “Stay right there and I’ll send a car to pick you up and take you to the lady who found your cat.” I had a police escort to Jean Terry’s which I will never forget.”
“She was just so happy to get her cat back,” Jean recalled. “We ended up writing letters for twenty two years but we never met face to face until my husband (William) and I were driving through Ferrum, VA, where Suzanne had relocated, and we decided to look her up.”
Suzanne who now runs Old Spring Farm Bed & Breakfast near Ferrum, heard a knock on her door over the July 4th, 1999 weekend.
“I went to the door and there was a couple. The woman’s first words were, ‘Do you remember me?’ I didn’t want to be rude, but in the Bed and Breakfast business, you can’t remember everybody. Then Jean said who she was.”
Suzanne who also runs a cattery, breeding Manx cats, for the past 34 years, saw the visit as the perfect opportunity to finally ‘thank’ Jean.
“When Jean and her husband came, I took them out to the cattery. At the time, I had a litter of little kittens, and I wanted to give them one.”
Bill and Jean looked affectionately at the little, big-eared, black and white tailless kitty. “We already had two inside cats at home and weren’t looking for another but my husband laughed and said, ‘We’ll take it!’ His name is ‘Max’, and he’s just something else. He’s a character. My husband will be tying his shoes in the morning, and Max will sit there and untie them. It’s so cute because when he’s running and playing, he’ll just stop and do a little somersault over,” Jean said.
While the Terrys may not have expected another kitten, it’s obvious they wouldn’t trade Max for anything..
For Suzanne whose
Rocket lived to be 19-years-old, it was rewarding and gratifying to once again
see the couple and to give them a kitten.