June 20, 2010
On Hatteberg's People, a visit to Wichita's 'Cowtown' is home to life in the 1800's. It is also home to a cast of feline characters that take their places along the boardwalk of the past. Shirley Hutchison knows them well. She sees them every day.
It's an early morning in Cowtown, its population expecting a warm day.
The re-enactors' are ready.
And so are the Cowtown cats.
"Come on...kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty."
For decades, they have populated the sandy streets, and for decades Wichitian Shirley Hutchison has been their friend.
"I love the cats, yeah. ‘Come on Bandit, come on!’ Sometimes they are a little on the slow side," Hutchinson said.
That's because sometimes you just have to stop and be scratched. Everyone knows everyone in Cowtown.
Every day Shirley feeds the Cowtown cats. There's about a dozen of them spread all over and Shirley knows them all.
"I worked part-time out here since 1986, I just got started feeding the cats and it was fun, so I just kept doing it," Hutchinson said. "I feel like I've done something worthwhile every day, when I come out here with them. I get more out of it than probably the cats do because I enjoy coming out here and visiting and doing something good for the day."
She is also a volunteer with the Kansas Humane Society. All of these cats, that are not feral, have been neutered or spayed. The feral cats also know her...but they don't like anybody...watch the dish.
"Did you see that?" Hutchinson said.
We did see that.
A few are wild and don't like people...but most cats here feel differently. They don't bite the hand that feeds them. Whether they live in the barn, on the boardwalk, behind the buildings or on the dirt street, the Cowtown cats know who their friend is and Shirley is here every day....with food from the heart...for the cats of Cowtown.
"I feel like I'm a Pied Piper in terms of the cats following me," Hutchinson said. "I wish other people could have that feeling."
"Come on, let's go....kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty!"