He battled the Leaping Toilet Spider of the Amazon.
He fished for sharp-toothed piranhas, probed murky depths for crocodiles and danced around crackling campfires with bare-breasted tribal women.
Jungle Joe Blumel explored the steamy, snake-infested South American wilds for a month, returning to Spokane the other day with nary a scratch.
Only to be carried to the very threshold of death by the dreaded felis catus.
That’s “a 2-pound pussycat with a pink collar,” says Joe, his voice oozing incredulity.
Joe, 68, still finds it hard to believe he was nearly done in by a thweet little puddy tat. Who can blame him?
The man is a dedicated runner, after all - a robust, tan and lean specimen of manhood whose youthful countenance bears testimony to the benefits of regular rigorous aerobic exercise.
“There I was, fit, on no medication and absolutely feeling like a million bucks,” says Joe, an affable, prosperous guy who owns apartment buildings. “Next thing, I’m in the hospital, hooked to three IV bottles. It looked like a plumber put all those lines in.
“And all because of a little kitty cat?”
Which brings us to the point of today’s lecture - a valuable lesson for the sweaty, smug mass of humanity trampling out yet another street-clogging, boisterous Bloomsday.
Sure, you Gatorade guzzlers are fitter than I am.
You can run farther and faster. You carbo-load. Your pants fit. You probably eat more greens.
But don’t get cocky.
Every one of you vascular wonders is just one intemperate tabby away from being planted toes-up in your overpriced Nikes.
I called a doctor’s office to get the scoop on cat danger.
The doctor was unfortunately out, but that didn’t stop a pro like me. A knowledgeable receptionist confirmed that cats can carry a very scary bacterium called pasteurella, which can turn your lights out if it gets in your bloodstream.
“Cats are dangerous,” the woman told me. “That’s why I don’t own one.”
Joe’s cat-tastrophe happened while showing an apartment to a prospective tenant. A little black kitty wandered into the hall, and Joe, like any responsible landlord, “decided to evict it.”
The pussy nipped the man on the back of his left hand, barely drawing blood. Joe washed the mini-wound with hydrogen peroxide. He covered it with antibiotic salve.
Five hours later, you could have played beach volleyball with Joe’s paw. Emergency room doctors shot him up with enough penicillin to fuel a Patriot missile.
The next day, ominous red streaks crept up his left arm. Joe found himself in a hospital bed, worrying that his final checkout time might be near.
“What a way to go,” says Joe. “I read about a guy on a bike who got hit by lightning, crashed into a tree and got hit by a cement truck.
“I could understand that, but this cat thing is beyond me.”
Mercifully, the drugs grabbed hold. Joe may need reconstructive surgery on his hand, but he healed enough to take me to lunch and show me snapshots of his trip to South America.
Cruising the Amazon, he says, was the fulfillment of a boyhood dream. Nobody, however, warned him about tropical spiders the size of pie plates that spring from toilets.
That happened one morning on a boat. He stumbled sleepily into the bathroom and lifted the lid.
“That got the old heart pumping,” says Joe. “I jumped on it with both feet.”
Little did he know the real danger lurked back home.
So what will he do next time he meets a kitty wandering in one of his buildings?
Jungle Joe grins. “Lower the rent and do anything it wants.”