Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Old Ray Dead

Today, glancing online at the Corvallis newspaper, I spotted a familiar name, in the obituary section.  Old Ray.  Memories rushed through me.  The obituary is a glowing commentary on his life.  Was it really the same Old Ray I knew? The following link to his obit probably will not remain active.

Check out Ray's obit by clicking here.

I met Ray along the Willamette River in Corvallis during the early 90's.  I haunted the river banks, an unwanted soul, sometimes homeless, living in misery and poverty within the controlling brutal disgusting mental health system.  Old Ray would ride his bike down to the river and strip naked on the flat rocks down from Mater Engineering mornings and take a dip before feeding the river cats.  He never got any of the river cats fixed, just fed them.

I finally got them fixed, despite my poverty and lack of car.   I trapped them, with a donated trap and carried the cat in trap more than half mile back to the crappy low income hotel, where I then lived, and then hitched a ride out to a vet clinic where they were fixed, once I had enough in the wild cat fund.  I got over 20 cats fixed in that manner and found homes for many of them.  It's how I got my start helping cats.  The river cats became the family I never had, gave me the love I found nowhere else.

Ray never donated a dime to that wild cat fixing fund.    You wouldn't think that reading the glowing obituary.

Vision is the only living river cat.  She is the grand daughter of Captain Courageous, the cat I dubbed the angel of the river.

When Captain Courageous was failing with the difficulty of her life, I pleaded with Old Ray to take her home with him.  She was tame to him and he'd fed her since she was a kitten, but he would not do that for her.  By the time he called me saying she was failing, it was too late for her and I never her found her.  I cursed Ray for weeks for not helping her out of that life.  I called Ray a man of inaction.  He left the action to women like me.

I helped him out on multiple occasions, like when his back was in terrible pain.  I took him to the doctor and they'd say to exercise and I'd finally had it, and had it out with one of the nurses in the end and told her for christ's sake,  this was not ordinary back pain and they needed to find the real cause.

I was nobody,  just a mental, but someone listened.  This had gone on for some time, and always he'd get a five minutes appointment or so, and they'd tell him it was just back problems and to exercise.    Ray actually had an incredibly high fever and his back pain was infection that had traveled to his heart finally, after a prostate exam.  He had to have a heart valve replaced and intravenous antibiotics for a long time.

At the same time my neck was failing due to the beating I had endured on the psyche ward, but I'd been told my symptoms were all mental.

Before this happened, my bus driver friend and I also ended up moving Ray and his wife, who was an elderly recluse and anorexic.  I'd never met an adult anorexic before and thought Ray's claim to be married was fictional, that his wife was imaginary.  Why would I not have met her, I thought.

Their house was taken by imminent domain by the university who turned the area  into a parking lot.  Typical of Ray, the procrastinator, they did not even pack, and it was only a week or so before they had to be out.  They'd been given a large amount for their house, way more than it was worth, so they could buy another.

They turned down moving help from the OSU football team.  In the end, it was myself and my bus driver friend who helped them not just move, but also pack.  Ray wanted to talk about every little item, tell its story, before it would go in a box.  They were hoarders.

No wonder they'd turned down the football team.  The place hadn't been cleaned looked like in decades either.  Black mold filled the bathroom.  No wonder he never wanted to be home, crammed in their own junk and filth.

Their new place was out near where I would end up, living in the slum shack after the duplex where I'd lived, after I lived in the low income dive hotel, failed multiple HUD inspections.  He never visited me there.  I went over to their place a few times, it was only about four houses from my shack.  His wife finally died from complications of the long term anorexia.  No one was surprised.

Then I was evicted from the slum shack and had just a month to get out, it was a terrible time for me.  He avoided me like the plague then.  It was the way he dealt with things I guess.  I never saw him again after the eviction or heard from him again after I left the slum shack.

When I read his obituary if his name were not attached, I would not recognize the person described therein.

 I only knew him as Old Ray, the supreme bullshitter, a talker not a doer, a likable guy unless you needed something done and another character I met along the river.

They're all dead now, all the people I met along the river, associated with the cats.  Elizabeth died in a nursing home down near San Francisco.   Her sons put her in it, after she began misplacing everything, even her car.  She fed the alley cats between Mater Engineering and Allan Brothers coffee, when they were there.   I got them all fixed through the wild cat fund.  They included Halfnhalf, who just died, at 19 years old.  She was adopted by my bus driver friend, along with Scratch, a true river cat.

Dorothy, a British woman, who married an American soldier after the war, fed the cats down along the Marys River.  She, however, got those cats fixed and tried over and over to get Ray to fix the group he fed, before I came along.  Dorothy died of lymphoma.

Myrtle was an old woman who lived on 2nd st. and fed the cats behind the Post Office who also frequented the Willamette's banks.   She ended up dead too shortly after being forced into one of the worst nursing homes in town.  I took her last two river cats, Splash and Scully.  I'd gotten them all fixed through the years and kittens born out of there and into homes, at a great cost to myself.  I was harassed by police routinely and had run ins with drunk college students on multiple occasions who wanted "to fuck with me", in helping the post office river cats.  I had no standing, you see, as a mental.  But these hardships gave me strength.

Vision, you and I are the last living river runners.  Our days too are numbered.

Blessed be the river and the souls living along the river.  Blessed be the caste offs of all species on earth.  Blessed be my river cats who saved me.


  1. You tell quite a story about the River People. I'm happy that you've been able to move on to a better life and continue your mission. I read Ray's obit. Boy, that's one of the nicest obituaries that I've ever read. I wonder who wrote it? It sounds like he used to function better before you knew him. He does indeed sound like a different person than you knew.

    1. It's possible before I met him he was someone else entirely, than the man I knew. But then I didn't believe that he had a wife either, until, when I helped him move, I met her for the first time. By that time, I'd known him along the river several years. The obit is professional and detailed so I do wonder who wrote that.

  2. Sometimes I think the reason for an open coffin is so that the people attending the funeral can check that they are in the right place. The person described in the eulogies is often so very different to the one that people knew.
    Ray sounds like a taker.
    You are a giver. And I know which way I would rather be remembered.

    1. Life knowing him was a frustration at best. Especially regarding the river cats. His refusal to help Captain Courageous when she needed him sealed the deal on my opinion and I never could really be around him after that. He was a character, but he exerted the least possible energy required.

  3. I have struck that a couple of times, where the obituary doesn't really match the person. People who talk a lot and self aggrandise are often as you describe. It was an interesting little history of people you have known.

  4. Interesting about the river least you can recall their names..

    1. They were my beloved friends, especially Dorothy and Elizabeth.

  5. Wow! Your story really puts some minor complaints of my day in perspective. Bless you and your good works.