Gifting the ‘Cross-Country Cat’; Learn Life Lessons from Mary Calhoun’s Stride-and-Glide Feline

FasterSkierDecember 19, 2018

As FasterSkier staff stroll into an upcoming weekend with no cross-country World Cups, it’s time to scramble and score some holiday gifts for friends and loved ones. Christmas is around the corner. It’s never too late for Hanukkah  (Hanukkah ended on December 10). We’re keeping with the cat theme in this second gift idea for the season. It’s from one of Bend, Oregon’s iconic cats, Dave Smullin. This is how Smullin helps spread the love of nordic sport.  



2018 gift guide – Cross Country Cat

If you’re a family that cares about Nordic skiing, you’ll like this simple kid-friendly book.  Cross Country Cat, written by Mary Calhoun and illustrated by Erick Ingraham, is a story of intrepid fortitude and grit that illustrates both the joy and effort required to become a proficient cross-country skier.  I recommend this book as a great read for “Nordic” families and as an inspiration and celebration for all skiers.

Henry, the hind-leg-walking Siamese cat, is accidentally left behind on a family ski trip to a mountain cabin in Colorado. Locked out of the cabin, he finds the wooden skis and pine-bough poles that “The Kid” had made for him. He packs a bag full of mice, straps on the skis, and heads for home and family in a snowstorm. Henry’s progression as a skier from plodder to skating cat mirrors the progress we see in beginning skiers, as he is eventually skating and gliding effortlessly down the hills. The understated illustrations evoke a real feeling for kicking and gliding through winter solitude.

Of course, there are fears and obstacles to overcome:  he is out of his element and alone in the wild; his interactions with elk, blue jays and snowshoe hares are unsettling; and he must escape from the jaws of a coyote!  Wonderful metaphors and lessons to apply to skiing and life.

Cross Country Cat became a favorite of our family when my then four-year-old son Josh received it as a Christmas present from Grandma Jeanne. Josh (current SSWSC Nordic Coach) and my daughter Emily loved it, and still, love skiing.

Dave Smullin (center), Josh Smullin (no shirt), and Emily Smullin (right). (Photo: courtesy Dave Smullin)

But this book brings tears and cheers from more than just children. In the early 2000s, as coach of the Redmond High School Nordic ski team, I began giving it to graduating seniors at the annual awards ceremony. Every year, those skiers and their parents and siblings – who have been introduced to and become so dedicated to team and sport – have tearful moments receiving their books and reflecting on how XC has transformed them as people and as a family.  It’s crazy cool to see the impact that XC has on these young people and their families.

I hope that this book brings much meaning and joy to you, your family, and your Nordic community.  

Dave Smullin

Seasoned cat Dave Smullin (left) with new cat and grandson Simi (right). (Photo: courtesy Dave Smullin)


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