Once I lived in a small bungalow in rural Beaty town on Route 68. Route 68 is a two lane highway that cuts north-south, straight through what was once the center of Tecumseh’s Shawnee nation. The houses in Beaty are close to each other and close to the road, leaving about an acre behind each house for a garden or orchard.
My neighbor to the immediate north, I called the “cat lady.” The name was well deserved. I could say she owned fifteen to twenty cats, but the truth is she fed fifteen to twenty cats; the cats did entirely as they pleased.
Cats, I learned, have their own notions of property, which simply do not conform to ours, as I shall explain momentarily.
But first I want to relate an experience that happened to a colleague of mine. On behalf of a client, whose business had been besmirched by a porno-pandering internet cybersquatter, he sent the sleazemonger one of your standard cease and desist letters:
Dear Mr. Sleazemonger:
(in so many words)… Quit infringing our client’s exceedingly valuable trademark or we’ll sue the Pentium right out of your scum-soaked, sleaze-encrusted motherboard.
What followed, B.Goode had not anticipated. Sleazemonger published the cease and desist letter on his web site, with certain, rather pointed anti-lawyer hyperboles added for good measure.
You may think Sleazemonger’s actions futile, but I can assure you, they had a chilling effect. Although B.Goode’s legal position was sound, and Sleazemonger had no valid defense, B.Goode thought twice before sending any more letters to Sleazemonger.
When you can’t argue the facts, argue the law. When you can’t argue the facts or the law, attack the other side. Sleazemonger had simply applied this old adage to cyberspace.
But if I may jump back to Beaty town, I should explain that we had rather primitive surroundings. My neighbors and I had well water, which means we had flush toilets only when the electricity was working. No longer used, my neighbor had a decrepit, gray outhouse on his back forty. Tecumseh had probably used it for all I knew.
One mid January, a freezing ice storm bit through our power lines, reducing my flush toilet to a useless art object. Not much of an art fan in those days, I donned my coat, hat and boots, and tromped through deep snow in my neighbor’s back forty to use the outhouse. The tromp took considerable effort, leaving me quite out of breath when I finally arrived.
When I creaked open the outhouse door, what I saw, Alfred Hitchcock could not have staged better:
The ancient, moldering outhouse was filled with fifteen to twenty dour-looking cats, staring down at me, eyes glowing and loath to leave their space which I had so rudely violated. Urged by cold and other natural forces, I shooed the cats out so I could enjoy a moment of peace.
I don’t know if Atty.B.Goode had this realization, but sitting in the outhouse, it struck me that while I regretted shooing the cats into the cold, some spaces simply cannot be shared.
Our power came on the next day and I didn’t give the outhouse further thought until a month later when I happened to venture out onto my front porch to change the light bulb after the spring thaw.
It was then that I discovered the true measure of a cat’s well developed sense of revenge. The cats-fifteen to twenty of them as best I could figure-had for the last month been using my front porch as their personal outhouse.
Loathsome creatures, I vowed to get even. But I soon realized there was nothing I could do. The cats greatly outnumbered me and they had all day to plot against me while I was off trying to be gainfully employed.
Cats and porno-pandering cybersquatters are cut from the same fur. Since his encounter, Atty. B.Goode has been placing copyright notices on all of his cease and desist letters. He hopes this will enhance his chances of winning injunctions and attorneys fees against future Sleazemongers.
Perhaps he may succeed. But I rather suspect he is just shooing cats-a battle I know you cannot win.
Copyright 1999 Gregory A. Stobbs