I realize that Buddy is not an original name for a cat or any other sort of animal, but "Hey, Buddy!" was my involuntary response each day when I found him waiting for me. Buddy was one of the "originals", I believe he and his siblings were the second litter to be born. All the kittens of that litter (there were four) were black and white tuxedos, but Buddy's coloring was more smoky, like his mom, whereas his two sisters and brother were completely black and white.
His twin sisters were terribly shy, always staying in the brush until it was clear I was leaving. His brother, who I referred to for a long time as "A-hole", but whose moniker has since been relaxed to "Bully", hisses constantly at me but refuses to back away in the presence of food. Buddy used to be there everyday waiting for me and underfoot the entire time I was feeding. He never let me pet him, but I had such a tender spot for him with his expressive face and unique coloring.
He managed to get caught nearly every time I went trapping. I even trapped him twice in one evening, such was his excitement for the spoonful of tuna sitting on the lever. (The picture above was taken the last time I went trapping and caught the cow kitten. I had decided to bring my camera to try to catch some of my ferals on film before moving away. As usual he was front and center in the process and I had to shoo him away from the trap several times.) He would pick at the sides of the trap, trying to scoop out the food through the bars until his impatience took over and he ran into the trap. The last few times I was so familiar with his routine that I managed to chase him away before the trap sprung, avoiding scaring him and all the others.
A month or so before I went away for the summer, Buddy stopped showing up for dinner. I had assumed he either wandered away to another feeding site or was killed. Disappearances always leave me uneasy (it has happened more times that I care to think about) but I try to understand that it's a tough world. I can only keep watch over them for a small fraction of the time, and they are wild animals after all. Then, several weeks after returning from my internship, Buddy came limping back like a feline Lazarus, a little rough around the edges and looking more like a true alley cat than ever. He was back nearly every night since then, again a fixture and always up for a good trapping.
Friday afternoon one my cat friends called me to let me know that she had found one of my kitties hit by a car. Judging from her description, it was Buddy. Even though I have been gearing myself up for some time to say good bye to these guys forever, this was a tough blow given my affection for some some of the older originals. She told me she had buried him under a tree near the edge of the woods by my complex and said a couple words. When I went to feed that night, I wandered several of yards away and easily found the disturbed earth where he had been laid to rest that afternoon. "See ya, Buddy," was all I could choke out.