TUPELO • Stephen and Patti Thompson are on a mission. They are determined to give away hundreds of copies of a specific book.
Both – the book and the mission to give copies away – are a labor of love.
The book, “Cat Hymns,” was published by Quail Ridge Press in 1997. It was written by the Thompsons, who’ve been married 26 years.
The animal-loving Thompsons got the idea for the book one long-ago Sunday after church.
“We came home and one of our cats was up in a tree,” said designer/decorator Stephen Thompson. “Patti looked up in the tree and started singing to the cat.”
The tune? “Just as I am.” In many Baptist churches, the hymn is sung as the invitation at each service’s end.
But the lyrics on that particular Sunday came from Patti Thompson’s creativity.
”Just as I am alone in this tree.
The bird got away, o woe is me.
I hear you calling, come to me.
O Lord, I can’t. I’m stuck. I’m stuck.”
Stephen Thompson was awestruck by his wife’s off-the-cuff musical offering to the stuck feline whose name, ironically, was Rev. A Jax.
“I thought it was golden,” he said. “I immediately thought we should be doing something with this.”
His wife downplayed his excitement.
“I always sang to the cats,” said Patti Thompson, a jeweler and longtime owner of Way-Fil Jewelry. “But Stephen started stalking me with paper and pen, writing down everything I’d say or sing.”
The two began working on “Cat Hymns” in earnest finally and in less than a year, it was published.
“It took off and took off quick,” Stephen Thompson said.
Not only was the book a success, but “Cat Hymns” was also turned into a stage play.
“Dianne Ludt wanted a musical, so Patti wrote one,” Stephen said.
It was staged several times by Pied Piper Players. In fact, 100 kids showed up at one point to audition for 30 roles, so the show was double cast – each cast got to do a performance of the show.
“The whole idea behind the book was always meant for kids,” Patti Thompson said. “But adults loved it, too, choir directors, teachers.”
A CD was included with “Cat Hymns” and had folks from the community singing the hymns, like Zell Long, Mark Maharrey, the Lane Chapel Quartet, The Gusmus Grass and lots more.
A few of the hymn titles in the book are “There’s Chow in My Bowl (There’s Power in the Blood),” “Row of Cages (Rock of Ages),” “We’re Climbing the Bedspread (We’re Marching to Zion).”
About 10,000 copies of “Cat Hymns” were printed and a little more than half were sold, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society.
The Thompsons received a call recently from Gwen McKee, who with her husband, Barney, owned Quail Ridge Press. Barney McKee died in 2018.
“The business closed and Gwen was selling the warehouses,” Stephen Thompson said. “She called to ask if we’d like the books still stored there. We thought there might be 25 to 30 boxes in the warehouse, but there were 96 boxes containing 50 books in each.”
Since friends hauled the 96 boxes from Brandon to Tupelo on a trailer behind a truck, the Thompsons have been giving them away.
Nine cases were delivered to Mantachie school, three cases to the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society and the rest, for the moment, are in storage at Building Blocks, beside the Learning Skills Center in Tupelo. Any teachers or others who would like to get copies of “Cat Hymns” for students and others may call Toni Bew at (662) 844-7327.
“We are on a mission to get these books out to teachers who can use them,” Patti Thompson said. “We want them to be put to use, to let someone get some joy out of them. I wouldn’t take anything for the experience we’ve had with this book. If it helps one child learn to read, it’s worth everything.”