In a hardworking suburb just south of Milwaukee, one of the mainstays of the local economy is Patrick Cudahy, a meat-processing industry famous for its sweet-apple wood-smoked bacon. In fact, the suburb bears Patrick Cudahy's last name. And last night, July 5, 2009, countless employees of Cudahy's main industry found themselves out of work. A grease fire in the bacon-processing area of the plant burned out of control, forcing evacuation of the entire plant. Twenty hours later, the flames were still reaching skyward through the broken roof. Propane and ammonia tanks were in danger of exploding, so police and fire departments were ordered to evacuate the residences within a one-mile radius of the plant.
Although there were no fatalities during the first 24 hours, the displaced residents faced an alien and uncertain existence inside two area high schools, or they were forced to take shelter elsewhere. Four of these residents were cats. This is their story in pictures.
Faith, Bob, Maddie, and The Black One were slammed into spacious cat carriers, two by two, just like Noah's ark. Portable Litter Boxes, extra boxes of cat litter, and large jars of Gourmet Cat Food were crowded into Jessie's PT Cruiser. There was still some room left in the car, so Jessie stuffed a small grocery bag full of clothes for herself, as well. She headed for her mother's house, an apartment above a small private theater on Milwaukee's South Side. For the next eight hours, a remarkable ordeal of survival - the four of them feasted and napped in the theater's green room, hosted by the ever-gracious Syd, who lives there permanently.
Maddie decided she liked it just fine in the carrier, and never emerged, staying glued to the back wall as if by duct tape.
Ever concerned about security, Syd checks Bob for contraband. Bob's long hair would make it easy to conceal a listening device. What happens at Syd's place stays at Syd's place. Let's keep it that way.
The Black One decides that under the desk is the best place to weather out this ordeal.
Faith hides out next to the mirror, so she can admire herself.
Syd samples some of the gourmet cuisine his guests have brought with them. He discovers a whole new world of unaccustomed flavor. Have they been skimping here on the cat food budget?
An uneasy moment. Syd (r) is gracious but firm.
In the end, the best thing for us all would be to all take a nap, and then when we wake up we can have more of that expensive food.
By 7:00 pm on Monday, July 6, 2009, the residents of Cudahy were all allowed to return to their homes, all safe and sound. The bacon plant will never be the same. The cats all took a nap and forgot the whole thing
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