Jeff Jardine

Eight Lives To Go

From the e-mails, voice mails and the headlines:

ONE COOL CAT — As fire raged at the Bonzi landfill in southwest Modesto in June, firefighter Jason Sain returned from a break and heard the sound of a cat's meow. So did other firefighters from the Burbank-Paradise Fire Department. Then they saw a little ball of flame shoot out from beneath a pile of burning garbage.

"One of the guys saw it coming out of a trash pile, and it was on fire," said Sain, 20, who has been with the department about six months.

They extinguished the flaming fur, but not the cat, which turned out to be a two-week old kitten.

"At first, we thought it was dead," Sain said. "Then it started meowing again."

Cradling it in his gloves, Sain carried it to safety. The next day, he brought the kitten to the Coffee Road Veterinary Clinic, where veterinarian Steve Baker began treating it.

"It was badly burned," said Baker, who is donating his services. "(Sain) and I and his fiancée embarked on a mission to save this kitten."

Much of its skin was burned. The tips of its ears were burned off and its tail had to be amputated.

"We turned it into a Manx," Baker said, referring to a breed of tailless cat.

The kitten, a black domestic longhair, is a fighter. The open wound that once covered the back one-third of its body has since healed to the point where it's about the size of a penny, Baker said.

And the cat has a name, courtesy of Sain. He calls it Singe.

"Singe is going to be fine," Baker said. "He's going to be kind of funny-looking, in a way, with the tips of his ears being burned and the scar tissue. He'll be kind of a conversation piece."

Sain and fiancée Kayla Collins have made Singe part of their family.

"It's kind of a hilarious cat," Sain said. "It acts like a dog. You can play fetch with it. We have a wire-haired dachshund, and they get along like buddies. He has a pretty cool personality."

Which is amazing, considering Singe was on fire when Sain found him.

OPPOSING VIEWPOINT — Pearl Harbor survivor Fred McMullen of Gustine wasn't particularly enthralled with the A-1 story on Japanese kamikazes in Monday's Bee.

The story, by an Associated Press reporter, presented a look at kamikaze pilots whose mission was to crash their planes into Allied targets, sacrificing their lives for the glory of their country. McMullen, 88, called The Bee to voice his displeasure.

McMullen vividly remembers being attacked at Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. He was so angry that when one Japanese plane came over low, he threw a splicing tool at it.

McMullen was assigned to the USS Nevada at the time of the attack. The Nevada ran aground while attempting to escape the harbor, and needed extensive repairs. McMullen was reassigned to the USS St. Louis and spent the remainder of the war on the light cruiser.

During the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944, the ship took two hits from kamikazes. But many of the kamikazes, he claims, ditched in the ocean rather than die a fiery death by crashing into the American ships.

He remembers one plane and pilot in particular.

"I ran out of ammo shooting at one of them," McMullen said. "I looked him straight in the eye, and he was still flying that plane. He wasn't hurt."

Yet, the plane went into the water, well short of its supposed target.

"He chickened out," McMullen said. "He didn't want to hit us."

McMullen said he saw several of the pilots ditch their planes into the drink and then jump out into the water. If they thought they were going to get any help from the Americans, they needed to think again, McMullen said.

"We didn't pick 'em up," he said. "We got hit twice and were putting out fires. Nobody picked them up. We were 60 miles off the coast. He (one kamikaze pilot in the water) sure wasn't going to swim to shore."

Not that McMullen was complaining. His ship avoided another hit, and sailors' lives were spared. He simply doesn't buy into the renewed hero worship of the kamikazes stirred by some current Japanese leaders trying to paint their war effort as a noble cause, as detailed in the AP article.

TWO BIRDS, ONE STONE — California State University, Stanislaus, President Ham Shirvani suggested changing the name of Monte Vista Avenue to University Avenue to give Turlock better exposure as a university town.

The city toyed with the idea of having dual names — Monte Vista and University avenues — for the same stretch of blacktop west of Geer Road. The idea won't work, Turlock city engineers said. Two signs, placed vertically, would hang too low. Now the council is considering adding a sign that would read "University Way," but stopped short of approving it Tuesday night.

Here's another idea: Change the name of the school to California State University, Monte Vista Avenue.

The benefits? The city won't have to change the road signs. And the school could sell a whole new line of T-shirts, sweat shirts, jerseys and coffee mugs bearing the school's logo, igniting a spike in bookstore sales.

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at or 578-2383.