Senor Don Gato
By way of explanation, I attended two different schools in the 5th Grade. Not because we moved or anything like that, I was “bussed” as a result of Court ordered desegregation of Denver’s public schools. So for half a day I left Doull Elementary School and rode a bus to downtown Denver to Eagleton Elementary, which – at that time – still resided in a building built in the 1890s. It might have been one of the coolest things ever. Not only did we spend half the year in the original building, but we also got to break in the new building.
We formed the “Wolves of America” Club, but only for those of us that had winter coats with that bit of fake fur around the edge of the hood, and after the move to the new building, we were allowed to throw rocks and break windows in the old building. Stuff they’d never allow today – exclusionary clubs and rock throwing. School was great! Plus, we got to meet the legendary Pat Haggerty, who came to visit on career day, which was funny in that we were 5th Graders, and the only idea we had of “career” was that someday there would be a time when we would not be able to howl at each other like wolves or throw rocks at eighty-three year old windows.
I don’t say this lightly, it was probably my favorite year of school.
Sitting in the music room at ancient Eagleton, radiators hissing in the background, a long forgotten name of a teacher handed us music books with children’s songs and led us in singing songs. Three of them I still remember at least in bits and pieces: a propaganda song about coffee, something about fifteen miles (or as it turns out “years”) on the Erie Canal, and a song about some damn cat named Senor Don Gato, who fell off a roof.
For some reason, driving home a few weeks back, I could not get Don Gato and its catchy melody out of my head. Singing while driving with half remembered lyrics, it just would not go away.
But, I said to myself, I live in the 21st Century. The era of Google, Youtube and the interwebs. And iTunes. Surely, I thought, if this song exists, it will be out there, somewhere, right?
Now I haven’t had as much luck with other remembered childhood songs and the interwebs. The one I want to find more than ever is a story album about American Indians and how they lived their lives on the plains until the world changes and they lose their way of life. The partial lyrics of one of the songs are:
River roams, west wind blows, Rain and sun, make the green grass grow.
But for the life of me, I can’t find that anywhere (or remember any more lyrics). We even found the original recording of The Haunted Mansion, Disney album we loved as kids. But not my Sioux story.
Don Gato, on the other hand, turned out to be rather easy. Not only is it still a popular kids song, it’s become something of a hit song for artists to cover and play with. And for my three year old son, it has been a big hit.
“Daddy, sing the Gato song again,” he will walk up at random intervals and say.
And every time that I do, I am ten years old again on the third floor of an ancient and wonderful building with warm steam heat and all of my friends, old and new, singing our hearts out and thinking about how much fun we are going to have tomorrow.