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  • John M. Campbell

The Cat Herdsman

Dave Harsch was the Phoenix program manager who was in charge of coordinating the efforts of several contractors to deliver an integrated update to our customer's system. As the title of this post suggests, that job was like herding cats. Each contractor had their own ideas of what capabilities to implement when, and the System Engineering Technical Assistants (SETAs) who advised the customer seemed to have their own agendas as well. The job was complex and thankless, but he ultimately prevailed. He retired, and now lives in Costa Rica.

The Cat Herdsman

Careers have many twists and turns.

And likely you’ll wear many hats,

But Phoenix Program Manager

Is two full years of herding cats.

Dave heard the call and took the job,

To lead a kitty drive around

From Garland, Texas, heading north

And ending in Aurora town.

He mapped the route, first going west

To Amarillo, dry and flat,

Then north until you hit Lamar,

And then northwest to meet the Platte.

A cast of motley cats were they:

With calicos and Siamese,

Plus more assorted breeds, and stray

Barn cats infested with their fleas.

The Texas cats were gathered from

A High Point nearby Dallas, and

Some Pennsylvania cats were there,

And some had a Durango brand.

Dave’s mission started happily

With things progressing well in hand

Until the courier arrived:

The boss had had a change in plan.

A detour through Dodge City, where

You on-ramp yet another passel,

And bring them all to market safe,

But never mind the schedule hassle.

The change required the cats to cross

A river into Kansas, yet

The Texas cats just sat and yowled

To have they kitty paws get wet.

The feline Sentinel brigade

Just marched up to the water, then

They jumped into the muddy stream

And taught the other cats to swim.

And Dave, upon his trusty steed,

Surveyed the river that they crossed,

To rescue those that fell behind,

So not a single cat was lost.

But as the northward trek progressed,

The SETA wolves were circling.

These cats are easy to distract:

They’ll follow any piece of string,

Or pause to chase a butterfly,

And then go wandering away.

So David had to be alert

To stop his cats becoming prey.

And just when things were going well

A hissing, biting, clawing mass

Would burst forth from within the herd

So Dave would have to kick some ass.

But after countless, dusty days

The herd reached Limon for the night,

And as the cats bed down to rest,

Dave saw that now the time was right

To doff his sweat-stained catboy hat,

Retire his catboy boots and spurs.

He’s had his moment in the sun,

And now it’s time that she had hers.

Serrina is the PM now.

She’ll lead these kitty cats on home

To their Aurora destiny,

And Dave can rest his weary bones.

So now, in times of calm reflection,

He might admit that, truth be told,

He had a cat-hair allergy,

And he was really more of a dog person, anyway.

Best wishes from the Phoenix team.

John M. Campbell

6 July 2011

Click here to read my previous poem, There's Something About Theresa

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