photos by Robin Song
This week’s Earth and Beyond program is about Talkeetna’s best known cat, Stubbs, who has a unique personality to go with his fame (and fortune!) Robin Song writes and produces Natural Observations. Audio is 6:15.
Talkeetna has a very unique “Mayor”. His coat is beige, he walks on all fours and he’s a cat. This year, on April 12th, he will turn sixteen years old. His name is “Stubbs” and he can be found residing at Nagley’s store in downtown Talkeetna. The part Manx was born with a stub tail, which gave him his name. The box of kittens was brought to Nagley’s parking area one spring day, and Lauri Stec, who was working at the store, picked the tawny kitten out of the litter because of his stub tail.
Almost sixteen years ago Stubbs won the write-in election for Mayor of Talkeetna and has been the honorary Mayor ever since. Last summer he reached celebrity status when the media discovered Stubbs. When an interview about Stubbs “went viral”, articles appeared on the Internet, including videos on CNN, You Tube, NBC news, and the NY Daily News. Stubbs is also on Facebook and Wikipedia.
Lauri kindly granted me an interview recently, and gave me a few more details about Mayor Stubb’s illustrious life.
Four years ago- going on five- Stubbs was shot by two teens with a BB gun. Nagley’s paid for the trip to the vet. He still has the bb in his butt.
Three years ago, or so, Stubbs took a ride on top of the garbage truck. He jumped off when it stopped to cross the railroad tracks, and ran off. Lauri put an ad over KTNA radio saying: “Stubbs just took an unplanned ride on the garbage truck. If you see him, please bring him back to Nagley’s.” Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the Mayor was back where he belonged.
Almost two years ago Stubbs fell into the West Rib fryer. It had been shut off and was cold. They were closing up and getting ready to put the lid on the fryer when someone’s back was turned and Stubbs slipped and fell in. They fetched the “Dawn” grease-cutting dish soap and washed him in the sink. Lauri said: “He screamed like a baby!” They couldn’t get him as clean as they wanted, so they took him to the Wasilla vet. There he was washed and stayed overnight. He went into mild shock from the trauma and was kept on intravenous fluids. He came home the next day and $900.00 was extracted from “The Stubb’s Fund”.
Stubbs goes outside, in warm weather, and has been occasionally chased by loose dogs. He hasn’t been caught, and apparently doesn’t hold it against the canine species. Lauri allows dogs to come into Nagley’s in the wintertime to get dog biscuits, and Stubbs ignores the dogs he knows. When a strange dog enters the store, Stubbs sits on the counter and watches it. With puppies that get a little too pushy, Stubbs swats them to let them know just who is Mayor.
There are two large cages of birds in the store- one containing parakeets, the other containing Zebra Finches. Stubbs ignores them. He could often be found curled up asleep on his bed pillow next to their cage before the birds were moved upstairs.
I asked Lauri how Stubb’s Internet celebrity is going. She replied: “Really well. Too well. After his story went viral I began to get cards, letters, and money from all over the world. I started an account for Stubbs, and I draw from it whenever anything comes up- like the fryer incident.” She said tourists come into the store and ask to see Stubbs the Mayor. They like to get their photo taken with him. Sometimes he’s available, and sometimes he’s off somewhere, being… well, a cat.
I went to Stubb’s Facebook page and found it full of friends from all over. Photos of people with – and without – Stubbs, fill his pages, along with photos of dogs and other pets. It’s a busy place, and I wonder if Lauri reads all the poetry, letters, quips, etc., to our Mayor.
The newest addition to Nagley’s is a fishbowl. I talked to it’s owner, Autumn, and learned that she brought it in a year ago last fall when she was worried about her goldfish, “Finnigan” getting too cold when her woodstove died down in her cabin when she was at work. She set the bowl on the counter near the cash register. Stubbs started drinking out of it. Soon he wouldn’t drink out of anything else, except his special glass on the bar in the Pub behind the store.
One day Finnigan died. Stubbs was mad when the goldfish died. Autumn said: “He sat by the bowl. We’d put his water dish next to the bowl and he’d swat at it and knock it over. He wanted his friend back.”
So Autumn and two of her co-workers, Skye and Amber, drove to a pet store in Wasilla and brought back three goldfish: “Harriet”, “Finnigan 2”, and “Lou”. Autumn continued: “Stubb’s thinks it’s his own personal drinking bowl. The fish will swim up to him while he’s drinking. He’ll even lick them and the fish will keep swimming up to be licked again. They’re Stubb’s new best friends. They just happen to be fish.”
I learned on a Nature program that goldfish have a memory span of three seconds. There is a plastic plant sitting vertical in the fish bowl at Nagley’s . It could be that by the time one of the goldfish swims around the diameter of the bowl and meets up with a fish on the other side of the plant, it would have forgotten having met it three seconds before, so it would have a brand new friend each time it saw it. That could be fun.
Talkeetna’s Mayor hocks up hairballs, likes his water flavored with fish poop and his closest friends have a 3-second memory span. Political aficionados, read into that what you will!
By Robin Song