So, around noon today I wandered through the cat door into the house. Judy greeted me with a shriek, grabbed me, kissed me all over, and then scolded me, asking where I have been. As I’m sure all of you know, it’s pointless to ask a cat where he’s been. Mystery is part of our mystique (or is that redundant?). I guess I had been gone a couple of nights. I’ve done this a couple of times recently since I have started hanging out with Dick Donkel, or “Donk” as he likes to call himself. The first time I went over there I had to straighten things out with his dogs. As I have mentioned, he has this dog, Joker, who he had entered in the ugly dog contest at Happy Meadows, and who won hands down. Joker is a mixed-breed dog with a sweet disposition, and he and I get along just fine. Donk also has four white German shepherds named Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs. These are stupid names for dogs in my opinion. But the dogs are not that bright either. He has this huge privacy fence around his estate which he had built on the far lot in the subdivision and into the swamp that he had drained and turned into a golf course. He also built a tall archway across his driveway with the word “DONK” in big capital letters across the top of the entrance. Of course, there is a security gate across the driveway, but it is designed to keep out cars and people, not cats. So I slipped right in and decided to look around. After sniffing around the entrance a bit I headed across a broad expanse of lawn which formed part of the golf course. Pretty soon I heard a pack of dogs barking, and I looked up to see four white German shepherds racing towards me, their eyes glowing red with rage. It all happened very fast, and I hope they got it on the security camera, but in a flash I had nailed the first dog with my claws right on his black nose and drew blood. He leaped straight up in the air howling and backed off a couple of paces. Wham! Wham! 2 more dogs were holding their noses and squalling. The least aggressive of the four managed to keep his face intact. My tail was huge and my back was arched, pupils dilated, and claws ready to go back to work. I hissed at them and I meant it. After a while they surrendered and trotted off whimpering, and I made my way up to the swimming pool where there were a couple of people hanging out, Donk, and I think his wife. Apparently they had not witnessed my magnificent self-defense exhibition, and it seemed they may have been a little surprised to see me there, unmolested by their security team.
Donk was talking to someone on the phone. “Dzien dobry, Waclaw”, I heard him say. Then he said “Jak sie masz dzisiaj?” Then he grunted. “Jaki jest koszt za funt pomidorow?” He paused to listen. “Kup teraz sto funtow.” Another pause. “Dobrze jest twoja a redzina?” Another pause. “Pat twoja zona na posladkach dla mnie.” Another pause. “Hahaha. W porzadku. Do Widzenia.” He hung up and scratched himself. He was wearing a polo shirt and shorts, sandals, and a white baseball cap with a Donkle logo on it. He had the same logo on his polo shirt and on his shorts. After a bit he looked up and saw me staring at him. “Well, hello, Sambo,” he said. I may not understand Polish (I DON’T understand Polish), but I know English, and Sambo is definitely a pejorative term as applied to dark-skinned humans. It is also a particularly violent Russian martial art form, but I’m sure he wouldn’t have meant it in that context, even if he had witnessed my performance a few minutes earlier. No, he was definitely referring to my melanism. As I referenced in an earlier post (Nevermore, posted 2/5/17) black dogs and cats, not to mention people, have a long and painful history of being feared, reviled, and persecuted by white people in power, and their ignorant minions. So, I don’t take well to a Sambo reference. I would prefer to be treated by people with respect, just as I now expect the same from the white German shepherds I had a brief interaction with a few minutes earlier.
Sambo as a term has had various shades of meaning, especially in the USA, referring to a dark-skinned man of African descent. A Sambo has been thought of as a loyal servant, but with a tendency towards laziness, mostly contented with his existence, but given to poorly thought-out schemes typically landing himself in trouble, either with his white master or with his own wife. (A classic example is “Kingfish” in the old Amos and Andy show.) Unlike Anansi, the trickster of Caribbean mythology, who always gets the upper hand, Sambo winds up in the doghouse looking foolish. The term came into popular usage with the publication of “Little Black Sambo” in 1899 by Helen Bannerman. This story is known to all American children who were born before 1950, and many since. Mike had the book when he was a little boy. In 1950 Little Black Sambo became Little Brave Sambo in response to outcries about the unflattering racial portrayal of Sambo, drawn as he was with exaggerated large lips, nappy hair, and bugged-out eyes. His parents were given the unflattering names of Mama Mumbo and Papa Jumbo, but I can’t remember if they were renamed when Sambo went from Black to Brave. You can look it up if you are interested. By the way, you might be interested to know that Helen Bannerman’s story is situated in India, not Africa.
A new chapter in the Sambo story started in 1957 when a couple of men in Santa Barbara, California opened a restaurant. They combined their own names into Sambo, and covered the walls with jungle-themed pictographs. They franchised their formula until at its height stood at 1117 locations in 47 states. But the bigger they got, the more antagonism they aroused with their insensitively drawn characterizations of African natives. While this cost them some business, it was more mismanagement that led to their bankruptcy and grand collapse in 1982. And so did Sambo’s revert to 1 location, the original store in Santa Barbara, which is still in the family, run by the grandson of one of the founders.
So, don’t call me Sambo. I gave him a fierce glare and walked through the open patio door into the house.