My story “The Feline Phenomenon (Or Freak),” about a male calico whose rare genes got him knocked out of Cat Fanciers’ competition, was supposed to be a cute one-pager. I figured I’d go to a cat show and write a quick “Talk of the Town”-type piece with characters worthy of a Christopher Guest movie. Sure enough, finding characters was a cinch. I wasn’t two steps into a Cat Fanciers’ event before I met a man who takes the cat show rules as seriously as Stephen Miller takes immigration policy.
But then I made the journey to the Waxahachie countryside to have a sit down with Dawntreader Texas Calboy and his owner, Mistelle Stevenson. In the hundreds of interviews I’ve conducted in my career, I can’t recall ever crying along with my subject. To my surprise, the cat story did me in. That was when Calboy’s story became a feature.
(A shoutout to my editor Kathy Wise: she said this was feature material from the beginning.)
The story went online today. There, you’ll find a cat tale with surprisingly few puns (sorry not sorry), a look at feline DNA (doubles as a decent 7th grade bio refresher), a history on Maine coons (they’re more American than apple pie), a peek inside a cattery (Elizabeth Lavin’s portraits are spectacular), and largely, a story about politics. I don’t think you’d have to squint too hard to find some parallels between Calboy’s plight and that of any marginalized humans in our society.
The one downside to not knowing what I was getting into initially is that I didn’t have a photographer accompanying me in April when I went to a Cat Fanciers’ event at a Hampton Inn in Mesquite. I did have my iPhone though, so below, some snapshots from a cat show competition.