Feral Cat Fridays: The Tail of Herkemina
Herkemina, the mother of the heroes of The Water Tub Monster, appeared one day at the water bowl in back of the house. She returned the next day with a family of 3 kittens in tow.
I was idly looking out the window and talking to Loretta on the phone when Herkemina first appeared. Loretta was visiting her aging father in Abilene, and when I mentioned an unfamiliar cat was at the water bowl Loretta’s father suggested we name it Herkimer. For reasons known only to him, Herkimer was often the hero of the stories Loretta’s father made up to entertain the children. After naming 70 or so cats we were glad for any help, so Herkimer it was.
When Herkimer showed up the next day with 3 kittens, he became a she and Herkimer became Herkemina. (We just didn’t like the way the name looked with an “i” following the “k”.) When we got a better look at her we saw obvious hints of dilute calico that should have tipped us off that Herkemina was probably female.
Herkemina was a long-suffering and endlessly patient mother. She kept her kittens close and was remarkably tolerant of their fascination with her tail. Her relaxation with her family was in direct opposition to her behavior around humans. It took a long time for the cautious, almost frightened, cat we saw at the water bowl to morph into the relaxed cat you see resting on the platform in the final photo. She’d been with us for long enough to be trapped and spayed by the time she could relax like that. Look closely and you can see her tipped left ear, both in this photo and in the feature image on the home page.
- There’s More Light In The Hills Than On The Stage
- Light In The Hills, Part 2
I’m surprised you weren’t familiar with Herkimer. The name was used as a good-natured tease when I was a kid. It came from a cartoon strip created by Eric Ericson in 1946; the strip featured a character named Herkimer Fuddle. There’s not much online about either the strip or Ericson, but this has some detail. It cracks me up that the strip was based to one degree or another on the writings of Sigmund Freud. I never knew that as a kid. I’ll take Herkemina over Herkimer any day.
Thanks for the Herkimer information. It solves a minor mystery for me and a major mystery for Loretta because she heard it from her Dad for years. If I heard it as a child I have repressed it, but if it was a teasing name based on Freud I guess that makes sense.
Do you have any idea if Herkimer as a humorous name predated Ericson and he used what he knew to be a good gag or if his use of Herkimer in the strip popularized the name? I see from the link you sent that the strip only ran during the summer of 1946.
I didn’t know the answer, but now I think I do. Ericson lived and studied in New York City, and at the time — well, read it for yourself, from this Wiki link about Herkimer Village, New York:
“In the 1940s, the pejorative epithet “Herkimer-Jerkimer”—used by some in attempts to disparage area residents—developed some currency among a few city slickers farther downstate—apparently envious of the Upstate area’s more laid-back, tranquil pace of life and natural beauty. Local residents took little umbrage, content in their knowledge of the ongoing lucrative boost to the local economy from the large numbers of these “New York City Pigeons” (as they sometimes referred to them) flocking to the area in droves on weekends every spring, summer and fall—and even on occasion in the winter months—for tourism and recreation.”
Whether Ericson shared the NYC view of the rubes, or whether he was making use of the stereotype for his own purposes, who’s to say? But it’s a fascinating history.
Also: I was born in 1946, so the cartoon might even have been syndicated in the Des Moines Register, which my folks read daily.
Thanks for running that down. It’s good to see another battle in the perennial war between city mice and country mice. The “Herkimer-Jerkimer” phrase rings some faint bell deep in my unconscious, so my repression may be starting to break down. I’ll put myself on the couch this afternoon.