Yakima Valley Museum
Thu, July 22, 2004
Published on Sunday, July 18, 2004

Take Note -- That's One Cool Cat


JEFF HALLER/Yakima Herald-Republic
Kabuki settles down sleepy-eyed on the desk of Yakima Valley Museum director John Baule as he continues to work.
One cool cat.

So thought Yakima Herald-Republic photographer Jeff Haller, noting the large, white cat that appeared before him one day last March when he was on assignment at the Yakima Valley Museum, 2105 Tieton Drive, in Yakima.

"It was almost like he was giving me a tour," recalled Haller.

"He was sitting by the front desk when I got there. Then he'd get up and walk to another place. We went to all these different places like that.

"He was one cool cat."

Cool enough that Haller wanted to get better acquainted. The cat was a class act, he thought, a natural for the camera.


JEFF HALLER/Yakima Herald-Republic
Kabuki walks by an exhibit in a hallway of the Yakima Valley Museum.
"Kabuki," as the cat is called, deigned to oblige, leading Haller about the premises over the next few months, posing like a proprietor in his domain. At times, says museum director John Baule, Kabuki presides at staff meetings like it is he, not Baule, who is the boss.

"He lives in the lap of luxury," quips Baule.

That's the way it's been ever since that spring day in 2002 when Kabuki was found asleep in the museum furnace room.

"We found him on one of the last days of our recent building campaign. The back (of the museum) was torn open and he'd wandered in out of the park (Franklin Park). He was probably 4 or 5 months old at that time."

He wasn't scared at all, says Baule: "He kept hanging around, then he kind of took over, and he's been here ever since," he said.

The staff came up with a name, Kabuki. That's because the cat's color is reminiscent of the white face paint worn by actors in the traditional Kabuki plays of Japan.


JEFF HALLER/Yakima Herald-Republic
Kabuki gets playful with Jose Garcia, 15, of Grandview while Garcia attends a GEAR UP workshop at the Yakima Valley Museum.
Museum visitor services coordinator Vicki Schluneger says Haller is not the only one to be captivated by the cat.

"I call him the 'Staff Psychiatrist,' " said Schluneger. "When things get stressful, people pick him up and pet him and everybody gets a little calmer."

It's like a "kitty fix," added Baule, noting for the record that Kabuki is one kitty that has indeed been fixed.

It's ironic, though, said Baule.

"I was one who was not interested in having pets. Of course, where does he sleep but on the table in my office."


JEFF HALLER/Yakima Herald-Republic
Kabuki has his run of the museum hallways for a couple of hours before the museum is opened to the public. During the day and night, he spends his time in the office area.
Schluneger says a Kabuki favorite is the big wingback chair in Baule's office. Another Kabuki favorite is museum maintenance man Michael Murphy.

"He likes Mike to vacuum him," said Schluneger. "The cat lays there and Mike runs the sucky wand thing over him. He likes the feel of it. That's why I say, he's not your normal cat."

However, Kabuki does not have free rein of the place, notes Baule: "There are people who are allergic, so we try to keep him in the office area," he says, then admits that Kabuki occasionally steals out for a museum prowl.

"He likes the carriages," says Schluneger, referring to the museum's vintage vehicle collection.

"He mostly hides under the 1939 International pickup where nobody can get him. He looks at you like, 'Huh! Here I am. So what are you going to do about it?' "

© Copyright 2004 Yakima Herald Republic
Reprinted with permission


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