SLEEPY HOLLOW, NY — Tom Clemmens found plenty of rot, but no rodents, when he started to renovate the gristmill at Philipsburg Manor in June.
“I was surprised because usually when I go into crawl spaces like this there’s at least a bunch of rat skeletons, especially on the water, because rats love to be by the water,” Clemmens said this month as he stood inside the gristmill, along the Pocantico River. He was hired to replace the building’s flume and waterwheel.
The absence of vermin was due to Fred and Ginger, a brother and sister who patrol the 18th-century site 24/7 and almost 365, depending upon the weather.
During the three-day CORNucopia festival, which was held Labor Day weekend, the siblings attracted as much attention as Philipsburg Manor’s costumed interpreters. The cats also caused confusion. Their similar orange and white markings led to instances of mistaken identity.
Fred and Ginger were assigned to the site in the summer of 2010, when they were less than a year old. They lived in the barn while their colleague Moses occupied the gristmill. He passed away in 2013. Fred and Ginger were preceded by Mischief, Pumpkin, Samantha, Suzie and Vixen.
Earlier this year, Philipsburg Manor’s operations manager, Rob Yasinsac, wrote about the cats for the website of Historic Hudson Valley, the nonprofit that owns and operates the property. On Facebook, a link to the story garnered 166 likes.
Yasinsac is among the two-legged staff members who care for their four-legged coworkers. Last winter, and the winter before that, he brought Fred and Ginger to his home during especially cold periods.
Yasinsac describes Fred as laid back and soft-spoken, and Ginger as daring and talkative. This summer, Ginger displayed her daring as she stowed away in Clemmens’ van.
“I got home, and I heard a cat meowing, and I was like ‘What the heck?’” recalled Clemmens, who lives in Ossining. “Looked in the back and there’s Ginger. So it was a long day. I came all the way back to bring Ginger home that night.
Tim Lamorte is an award-winning journalist who has spent almost two decades documenting life along the Hudson River.