The Once and Forever King
[ By Dawne Belloise ]
Fame seemed to follow Crested Butte’s beloved celebrity cat, Mr. Jingles, who crossed over that rainbow bridge last week at the ripe age of 18 years. He was the real mayor and ambassador of Crested Butte according to numerous TV news programs, various magazines, tourists, and confirmed by the devotion of locals and the crew at the Ace Hardware store. The cat who was named by the kids at the CB Academy had his own little league team (Team Jingles), Facebook page with 2,300 followers, a rager birthday party every year and his very own brand of bottled water donning his portrait. Mr. Jingles is the only fur-bodied, four-legged local to have ever had his very own profile written for the Crested Butte News.
Mr. Jingles could be seen napping in his various favorite spots throughout the store depending on how social he felt at the moment, curled up 10 feet above the melee on top of the paint shelving for some serious nap time in the warm zone or pretending to snooze on the lotto machine on the front counter. His followers knew where to look for him to shower him with scratches, hugs and treats. As one of his caretakers for many years, Mikey Strauch noted Jingles’ social time was when he was on the counter. “Although he appeared to be sleeping, it was where he went to greet people, say hello and talk to the employees,” the conversation mostly revolving around tuna, one of his favorite dishes. He also spent a lot of time curled up in his window bed, looking out at the world.
Like most locals, Jingles had his own costumes and threw the best parties where the entire town celebrated his Cinco de Mayo birthday with a shindig of pinatas, beer, food and live music that closed off the store’s parking lot for the hundreds that show up. There’d be excellent off-season half-birthday parties as well. As a cat about town, Jingles would often cruise over to the bank for a little socializing, and probably treats and hang out under the trees at the Paradise Cafe. He was savvy enough to use the crosswalk going to the CB Center for the Arts, knowing he had to wait for cars to pass or stop, and the locals obliged him.
One of Mr. Jingles’ pride was Trent Sweitzer of the Ace store. “He spent 18 years of his life living outside all summer, he was a tough guy” he says. Trent recalls a scary story early on in Jingles’ tenure as shop cat. “I thought I lost him once. I took him to my house about 15 years ago when he was still pretty young. I was living at Seventh and Gothic. I wanted to see how he liked it there.” After Trent had fallen asleep, he heard the blinds rustling, “Jingles had jumped out the window and I couldn’t find him.” The marauding cat stayed gone for about a week and Trent thought, “Oh no, I lost Mr. Jingles, and he probably got eaten by a coyote! One night, about a week later, my blinds rustled and he came right back through the same window. I took him back to the store and never brought him home again. The store was his comfortable spot, his home, his castle.”
Trent says when Mr. Jingles was young and crazy, he’d be out hunting all the time. “It was a busy July morning and I was the only one working at the counter at that moment. There was a huge line of tourists and Jingles comes in with this enormous squirrel and ran through all the people in line. He started flinging this thing up in the air, it looked like a whale with a seal, and blood started flying all over the place, pools of blood. All the customers were horrified and I was by myself so I couldn’t go take it away or clean it up.”
Mikey Strauch, who was one of Mr. Jingles pack at the store for years tells, “Oftentimes, there’d be guts on the floor that he’d leave for us. It was a bloody mess everywhere when we opened the store. He wanted to show us he was capable of keeping the grounds free of varmints. I’ve never seen any mouse inside of the store, which is amazing with this much square footage… not one mouse ever. He always left a little something for us. He was proud of his accomplishments.” One of Mikey’s favorite memories of Jingles’ antics was early on. “He was fairly new to the store, about a year, and he was out back and a big black raven swooped down at him. He was smaller but he just stood up on his hind legs and swatted that bird away, because it was his property. He was all over all four corners of that property and beyond.”
Señor Jingles attracted a following for a reason, Mikey feels, “I think partly because of his independence but also his character made people so fond of him. He wasn’t just any other cat, he was a very special feline. He did his own thing but he also loved the attention.” However, he notes, “He always left during his own party. I knew he was getting older. I was devastated,” Mikey says of Jingles’ passing. “He was like one of my kids, greeting me every morning, playing with him every day. He was family to all of us. He manifested his own existence. He chose us. He lived in a mansion really. We’d open at 7 a.m. and he’d be there, jump up on the counters and rub up to say good morning. He brought joy and was a part of not only my life but to many others – people from out of town, out of state, they’d make a point to come into the store just to see him, from locals to second homeowners. The amount of lives he touched as part of community and part of our pack at the store was remarkable.”
As the word spread throughout town, Trent says people came in to show their respect and condolences. “People started bringing in flowers, somebody made a cool metal box with dog tags hanging inside with Jingles’ name and some words, a lot of people are still coming in today looking for him because they didn’t know,” Trent says.
And of course, there’ll be a memorial. “The fire department offered to do a parade with some of their vehicles, and maybe we’ll do a BBQ, but we haven’t nailed down when. He just brought so much joy to so many people’s lives. Everyone from kids to the elderly loved him because he made them happy, happy enough that he’d have 700 people attending his birthday party. He was family. He will be greatly missed by the many lives he touched. He was a special guy.”
Amber eyes like a topaz fire ablaze in his thick grey coat from under a crown of gold and jewels, his glorious portrait hangs behind the counter of his palace. Now, there’s also a shrine to the most beloved feline to ever roam the streets and once empty lots of his town, a cat we will always celebrate.
Good journey to you Mr. Jingles, El Gato Perro.