Husker Cats ‘walk on’ drawn to tractor museum

Nov 19th, 2009 | By | Category: Campus News, Issue, November 19, 2009

The Lester F. Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum is home to a purring Allis Chalmers.

But forget fieldwork and gleaming red metal. Think mouse chasing and gray fur.

For the last three years, the tractor museum has been home to Allis Chalmers, a stray cat who was so hungry she wandered repeatedly into the East Union.

“We got a call from a worker in the bookstore asking if we were interested in a cat,” said Jeremy Steele, educational associate with the museum. “She was just skin and bones, but a super nice cat. So, we took her in.”

Allis quickly accepted the museum as her new home – regular food, water, heat and affection helping speed the transition.

“She’s not officially one of those Husker Cats,” Steele said. “I guess you could say she’s a walk on.”

Allis the cat
Allis Chalmers, the stray cat adopted by the workers at the Lester F. Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum, sits on the wheel cover of a tractor she is named after.

Allis has all her shots and is licensed with Animal Control. And, she’s also become a prime draw for museum visitors.

“Most everyone is pretty surprised when they first see Allis,” said Steele. “But, now we have people that come in just to see the cat. And she’s really popular with the kids from the Ruth Staples Child Development Laboratory. They come visit Allis all the time.”

The feline is also popular among the museum workers – especially with 11-year volunteer Mark Nickolaus.

“She’ll climb up on my shoulders and ride there,” said Nickolaus. “It’s really nice to have Allis around. I think she helps people remember what it was like on the farm. I know she makes me think of growing up on my family farm near Aurora.”

Along with the tractors and other museum displays, Allis is helping the museum link to the past. Steele said the museum building was home to cats when it housed the tractor test and power facility.

“We’ve found some old photos with cats in the test facility,” said Steele. “There’s also a door in the wall that allows Allis to come and go from the building. It was put there 50 years ago for that exact purpose.”

Allis also draws attention while on her outdoor adventures.

Shortly after she came to the museum, Allis disappeared for nearly two weeks. A landscape services employee eventually found her, trapped in a building window well.

“She came back to us all skin and bones again,” said Steele. “She also lost the tip of her ear to frostbite. She was pretty lucky.”

In June, Allis was found near Claremont Apartments, east of City Campus.

On average, Steele fields one call a semester asking if the museum is missing their cat.

“We got a call from NET last week asking about Allis,” said Steele. “We just tell everyone to let her go. She always comes back home.”

— Story and photo by Troy Fedderson, University Communications

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  1. My sisters, a brother-in-law, and I met Allis on a visit to the Tractor Museum this past June. She IS a very nice cat, but also rather obviously supervises visitors. A nice visit. M. C. Tyler, UNL MATH LIbrary

  2. What an absolutely great story!

    It reminded me of the story of Dewey Readmore Books popularized in the book: Dewey-The Small Town Library Cat The Touched The World about a cat at the Spencer, IA library….

    Another place to visit in Lincoln the next time I am in town for a Husker home game!

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