Once and Future King
Amber eyes like a topaz fire ablaze, in his thick grey coat from under a crown of gold and jewels, his glorified portrait hangs behind the counter of his palace. Jingles is definitely descended from royalty and though ancestrally his Russian Blue breed is rumored to have wandered the palaces of czars and queens, he prefers his adopted grounds, the True Value hardware store and gas station in Crested Butte.
He is the unofficial mayor of this town, according to 9 News, and adored and loved by all his subjects, who are pretty much everybody.
The now nine-year-old cat showed up at the store eight years ago, slipping through a vent in the outside wall, which has been since modified into his own private entrance. True Value owners, the Sweitzer boys, Trent and Ben, along with co-owner Mikey Strauch, started feeding him fresh tuna and Jingles wisely chose to make the shop his new home. His original owners had named him Bodhi but the kids at the Crested Butte Academy next door crowned him Jingles and now he’s Mister Jingles to you.
This past Tuesday, as the Pro Challenge bike race screamed through town, the famous feline was featured once again (for the third time) on 9 News and his fuzzy face was painted larger than life on the mountain highway for the cycling event challenge. Over his caricature were the words, “Jingles Drinks Bud Light.” Although Jingles is already a town icon, the Whatever USA event could be his big break nationally, maybe even internationally.
Jingles can be seen napping in various favorite spots throughout the store, depending on how social he feels at the moment. He’ll curl up ten feet above the melee on top of the paint shelving when he wants to get away for some serious nap time in the warm zone close to the ceiling. When he’s feeling more social, you’ll find him pretending to snooze on the lotto machine on the front counter.
As one of his caretakers, Mikey Strauch, notes, “He may look like he’s sleeping but he’s down there for a reason. That’s where he wants to say hello, see people, and talk to the employees.” Jingles is quite vocal but unlike many other politicians his conversation is to the point and usually involves tuna. Another favorite spot to find him is in his hammock where he oversees his kingdom, sometimes through drowsy eyes, from his window on the world.
The cat that has his own Little League team (Team Jingles), Facebook page, a rager birthday party and his very own brand of bottled water bearing his portrait is no slacker. In the summer, Jingles is a superb predator and Mikey boasts, “He kills everything. It’s a bloody mess everywhere when we open the store. He wants to show us he’s capable of keeping the grounds free of varmints. I’ve never seen any mouse inside of True Value, which is amazing with this much square footage… not one mouse ever. Jingles is on top of it. Upstairs and downstairs, that’s his palace.”
In the summers, Mr. Jingles is a free range cat, hanging out on the tellers’ counter at the Crested Butte Bank, under the bikes at the Alpineer or showing up impromptu onstage at the Crested Butte Center for the Arts. People, especially his caretakers at the shop, worry about him. Mikey feels, “Yes, but he’s been an outdoor cat his whole life. He knows what he’s doing out there for sure.”
In winter, Jingles is cooped up inside for his own good and can’t go out to kill, so he complains a lot… he wants more tuna, of course, and he’s insistent.
The entire town celebrates Jingles’ birthday every year on Cinco de Mayo (May 5) and it’s an open invitation. This year he had more than 500 guests who were served six and a half kegs, 600 hamburgers, 250 hot dogs, two piñatas and a bouncy house for the kids, and everyone grooved to a live band in front of the True Value store.
Next year will most likely be an even bigger shindig as the honored one turns an auspicious ten years old. And since it’s off season, locals turn up for free beer and food and it’s a purrfect time for a party since the town is in relax mode before the busy summer onslaught.
Ironically, Jingles usually bolts from his own birthday celebration, making only a brief appearance and then ditching the throngs of fans and paparazzi.
There are some legends that say Tsar Nicholas II brought the Russian Blue to his palace. In a different story, Catherine the Great gave a Russian Blue to the British Royal Family, and Queens Elizabeth I and Victoria both supposedly had pairs of the breed.
Many people believed these cats to have magical powers that would protect against evil spirits and they were even placed in cribs of newborns for protection. They are also sometimes called Archangel Blues because it’s said that sailors took Russian Blues from the Archangel Isles to England and Northern Europe in the 1860s.
There’s no doubt that Mr. Jingles is Crested Butte’s archangel and that he is, in essence, the embodiment of the spirit of Crested Butte—free, wild, and loving. Like all Buttians, Jingles loves his costumes and has a trunk full for all those many occasions we like to costume-up here.
As the unofficial Mayor of the Shire, this weekend Jingles plans to outshine and outrank Mayor Whatever—and he now has the threads to prove it with his spiffy new mayoral costume. Not only does Jingles rule over Whatever, he kicks the old 1980s Bud Light mascot to the curb. As Hank Williams and George Thorogood sang, “Move over little dog, ‘cause the big dog’s moving in,” …except he’s a cat. You’ve been outmatched, Spuds MacKenzie. All hail Señor Jingles el Gato Perro—yes, the dog cat.