Browser went over the "rainbow bridge" last week. He'll be missed in Pine River.

Browser, for those of you who don't live in the Pine River area, was the town's mascot cat. He was a black beauty and he knew the streets and alleys of town like the back of his paw.

One never knew when he would dart out of a side street and dare the oncoming traffic to commit a hit and run. I personally had a few close calls with Browser, but luck was with him as I hit the brakes or swerved to allow him to pass.

Browser was known as the "library cat." He lived most of his days in the Pine River Library, where he called the shots as to who he would visit and when. A library reader might be in the middle of a book search when Browser would suddenly appear and strut across the top of the book case.

Or a human using the computer might suddenly have a purring cat sitting next to him or her, seemingly interested in what the computer user might be looking at. But, I'd bet the cat wasn't really interested at all but simply letting the human know that he was watching.

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The cat was popular with the kids who visited his office frequently. It was a highlight of their day to have Browser plop down among them during a reading session and invite eager hands to stroke his black fur and tweak those black ears.

Then just as suddenly, he would depart with kids in pursuit. A cat has to maintain his or her sense of dignity and independence lest they be mauled by gripping little hands.

I was yet the executive director of the Pine River Chamber of Commerce when one year Browser won a chamber grand prize drawing. Somehow he had purchased a raffle ticket (with the help of his owner, I'm sure!) and sure enough, his number was drawn for the big prize.

I prepared to award him the "big" check when he was brought into the office after being notified. He dutifully had his picture taken with somewhat of a smile on his face. I think he donated part of that check to the library and used the rest for premium cat food. You got to buy 'em to win!

A community can come together and relate to a cat like Browser. For a number of years he was featured in the local Pine River Journal and actually wrote a column outlining his daily activities. He had a ghost writer who put his thoughts to ink. I think his column was read right after the obituaries and my column most weeks.

One of the fun things small towns are famous for is having a live mascot cruising the streets, be it animal or human. Sometimes it's a cur dog, sometimes a unique human being and sometimes a cat like Browser.

Everyone in town looks out for these special enhancements and is careful not to harm them as they do their daily rounds. I'd hate to be the one to run over one of these beings. You would be looked on forever as the guy who ran over the cat or dog or human.

In small towns we pay attention to such things.

Cats are said to have nine lives and in his late teen years, old Browser used every one of them. He was known by many and loved by all. Isn't that about the best thing you could say about any living thing?

RIP Browser, the Library Cat! I'd bet he did somersaults over the rainbow bridge and then strutted, tail held high, into cat heaven.

See you next time. Okay? And, Happy New Year! Stay safe!