A report from the South Pole, and a law for your kitty 

Think it got a bit nippy in Missoula last week? Ask prodigal Missoula daughter Eva Gilliam what it’s been like where she’s staying: dead center Antarctica, where it’s actually summertime.

“Temperatures have been between -60 and -11, with windchill taking it as low as -87,” Gilliam wrote us recently. “Never thought I could really handle it, but by now -35 without wind feels pretty damn good.”

Gilliam has been working as a carpenter’s assistant at the South Pole since October. She describes herself as one of the “worker bees” at the Pole, building a new research station with a projected finish date of 2005 under the aegis of the National Science Foundation.

“I have had an exhausting blast,” she writes. “Tons of hard work, and hard play, too.”

Not that it’s all frigid digits under extreme conditions. Gilliam says that the South Pole social scene is vibrant enough to support Fanny Pack and the Nancy Boys, a cover band whose repertoire contains “Cherry” by Neil Diamond and ABBA’s evergreen “SOS.”

“The Neil Diamond and ABBA songs seemed to be the biggest hits at New Year’s and even made it on PBS for the 25-hour New Year’s Eve broadcast. I haven’t ever really sung before and I’m having a blast.”

Nonetheless, Gilliam will be glad to leave Antarctica.

“Eleven days,” she told us last week. “Not that I’m counting.”

•••

Ignore all the swanky hype of that popular 1980s tune by the band of the same name: The life of a stray cat ain’t no picnic. “These cats are really suffering,” says Phyllis Jamison, self-appointed savior of Missoula’s feline down-and-outers. Stray cats will go to such lengths to find warm shelter in winter that in some trailer parks, routine maintenance involves cleaning out the piles of cat bones that collect under the trailers. The health risks posed by wayward kitties are nothing to sneeze at, either.

Still, Missoula has no laws banning stray cats, which means that Animal Control can’t respond to routine cat complaints unless the animal poses an imminent threat to human health. That may soon change, however, if Jamison has her way. After years of lobbying, City Council has finally asked her to draft a cat ordinance.

Now, before y’all go scratching at the screen door, Jamison emphasizes that the new law will be lenient: complaint-based, low fees and no leash requirement. Cats can still roam free, provided they are spayed and neutered. Plus indoor and yard-bound pussies will likely remain unregulated.

Another bonus? If the city decides to go with embedded microchips rather than ID collars, in the not-too-distant future, you’ll be able to locate your lost kitty via GPS technology. And you thought the Reagan-era military expenditures were all for naught.

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