ROANOKE, VIRGINIA – Hammerhead Hardware has been the nuts and bolts of the Salem community for about 40 years, but for the last decade or so, the store’s mouser Homer has been the cat’s meow. Sadly, after a season of kidney trouble following a period of not eating, Homer crossed the Rainbow Bridge back in November 2014.
“We have been here all these years, and nobody knows our names,” said shop co-owner Bucky Wampler, with a laugh. “But they all knew Homer!”
Brothers Dennis and Bucky Wampler, who together own the hardware store, got Homer approximately 11 years ago after the wife of longtime employee Bill Chancey helped to rehome the cat for an allergic friend. They thought it might be a good way to help keep mice at bay — you can imagine the potential for mice infestation in a store that sells so much feed and seed.
“This is a mouse haven,” exclaimed Dennis.
Homer, who never left the hardware store (except for that one time he escaped), made quick work of getting rid those pesky rodents and catching the hearts of the customers in the community, many of whom came in just to bring kitty treats.
“We had people come in here just to see Homer,” said Chauncey. “One lady was visiting here from Texas and called after she had returned home just to see how Homer was getting along.”
The well-loved feline was quite a rascal, too.
“You wouldn’t believe how smart he was,” said Dennis.
He told the story of how Homer’s leftover cans of food, tucked away in the refrigerator overnight to be served the next day, but somehow mysteriously appeared empty the next morning. They finally figured out that Homer was opening the fridge door with his paw when the store was closed and helping himself to a midnight snack. A child-proof lock fix that.
That wasn’t the end of Homer’s snacking, however. The Wampler brothers thought meat sticks and also different varieties of jerky would be a good idea to have at the register for those working folks who just might need a mid-day pick-me-up.
Homer was also fond of that idea!
“One morning, we came in and there were wrappers all over the floor,” said Dennis laughing. “Come to find out, he liked the spicy flavor better!”
Homer’s loss was deeply felt by Hammerhead’s owners, employees and faithful customers.”
“It really took a while to get over being without him,” said Bucky.
It didn’t take very long for the mice to realize their adversary was no longer there, though. By summer, there were signs that the pests were once again feasting and nesting within the store. It was not only obvious that they were getting into birdseed and the like but they were nibbling on the brown paper bags.
“They were even chewing up our books and paperwork,” said Dennis.
At the coaxing of their veterinarian niece, Dennis and Bucky went to the
Regional Center for Animal Care & Protection to meet two sister kittens who have similar black and white coloring to Hammerhead’s beloved cat Homer. Of course, it was love at first sight, and the feline sisters, Twitch and Grey, were both adopted together!
The new additions were kept in a back room for several weeks to acclimate them both to their new surroundings. Once free to roam, they were still quite shy and standoffish.
“Twitch stayed hidden for two weeks,” said Bucky. “We never thought we’d ever see her!”
The owners made certain the new just j make sure they are fed.
Twitch and Grey are now right at home and patrolling the store on their mouse duty. They are even warming up to the customers who offer to scratch their ears while waiting they are waiting for their change. The mice have once again been evicted from the store, and Twitch and Grey spend their mornings stretched out in the warm sun shining through the front store window.
“Now, they own the store,” Dennis admitted laughingly.