Cookie was the family fire siren. Black and white, some mix of collie, or shepherd or whatever, she never amounted to anything except a big nuisance and a siren. She’d stand at South end of Big House’s back porch, doing her imitation of a coyote howling at the Moon. “Wooooooo” every time Wardensville fire siren blew. Mom seemed to appreciate her alarm. Of course, Cookie was a gift from Mom’s home in Chillicothe. That might have been part of the attraction.
Uncle, Miller Frye, had a big fat grey and white cat roaming his general store. It caught mice from between bags of flour and dried beans. Health Department would throw fits today at thought of a cat roaming a grocery store, but years ago it was a practical solution to a common problem.[private]
Uncle Miller’s cat had a litter of kittens. Big Kitty was one of that bunch. Legendary Big Kitty. All grey, never spayed, never had a kitten, never let anybody touch her tail unless they wanted hooked by her claws. I’ve seen her kill and lay aside as many as six mice when we cleaned last of ear corn from granary crib. I’ve seen her emerge from banked, falling corn in front of my scoop nearly unable to walk, with a mouse clutched in each front paw and a third in her mouth.
When Big Kitty thought I’d sat too long reading a book, in a rocker on Big House’s back porch, she’d stand in my lap and tramp me with unsheathed claws until I got up and got moving again. I swear Pap sent her. Sixteen years old, Big Kitty took a nap in shade behind a pickup tire and didn’t move fast enough when truck started and backed out.
Dogs and cats galore. Hounds of all descriptions. Nobody hunted them much. Mostly they just howled, ate prodigiously and pleased Pap. Several herding dogs, collies, shepherds and the like, that never learned to herd. Nobody taught them. After having seen good herding dogs at work, I nearly cry at all the hours I spent in our bottom pasture rounding up sheep for one tending chore or another.
Jack is memorable. Smartest dog we ever had. I’ve written at least one column about his hunting prowess and subsequent demise under wheels of a fast Chevy Impala.
Pap fed cats warm milk at the barn every morning and evening. Straight out of the cow, bucket and a couple of Mom’s old pie tins. I swear those cats would beat Pap back to the house from barn chores and beg Mom for more food.
I remember more than twenty, maybe thirty nondescript, hungry cats swirling around my feet when I stepped out back door. Nothing spayed or neutered, all producing. Mom got her feet tangled up in meowing cats. Fell. That did it. A half box of .22 shells later we had four left. Peace and quiet and a clear conscience.
But now. Beware of the mighty Black Panther peering from bushes near Big House’s back door. Yellow green eyes shining between Marigolds. Scoot will jump out and chase you to back door if you aren’t careful.
A stray, perhaps dumped out at my mail box. Just a kitten. Not old enough for shots, worming and spaying. Been played with. Friendly. Hungry. My friend Mary opened a can of Vienna Sausages and gave her one. She gobbled it.
I have a cat now. A pet. Thinking about it, Scoot is first pet I’ve ever had of my own. Always somebody else’s selection for pet animals in my life, but I guess I picked Scoot when I nodded “yes” to Mary’s inquiry about opening those sausages.
No pet has ever lived in Big House during my lifetime and Scoot won’t. Big Kitty earned the right to spend several sub-zero nights behind Mom’s kitchen stove when she became a teenager. I doubt if Scoot or I, either will make it that long.
My Marigolds are becoming a broken mess, but I still grin every time I come through the breezeway and see those eyes peering out at me.[/private]