September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
When I was young, like most farm children, my ears were always on the watch for the sound of little meows when we were playing in the haymow. My siblings and I were lucky enough to find more than one batch over the years tucked among the haybales up high in the loft. We would convince mom to buy bags of Meow Mix and we would get dad to cut pill containers off short enough for the kittens to drink milk. For some reason, we were always positive the mother couldn't do it without us and we had to help her out. It didn't seem to matter there were plenty of cats roaming the farm we hadn't helped the mother raise. Stacy, Peter, Thomas, and I would haul our kitten feeding supplies up the haymow ladder daily to play with our newfound friends. I know part of our reasoning was if we don't play with them, they will always be wild. Every child wants tame, loving, purring kittens to snuggle-not the wild, hissing, all-claws-out scratching crazy ones.
When Tony was little and had a slight obsession with watching Beauty and the Beast we had a loving cat named Belle. Belle was very tolerant of some extremely rough kids. He (you see, we thought he was a she when we named him/her) would let us drag him around by his tail anywhere. He was also somewhat dog-like in that he would come when I called his name, not, "kitty, kitty" it was yelling, "Belle" at the top of my lungs.
That tiger-striped cat was a staple on our farm as we grew up, so snuggly, the perfect friend for the dogs and us kids. He is buried in a special spot behind the house under the lilac bush.
When I was in college we had a big gray tomcat that made his home on the farm. He never had a name. He had just wandered in one day and decided it was a good place to stay-plenty of females, and plenty of food. He was tame, so who knows where he came from. I was milking cows in the stall barn one morning when I glanced down and saw the smoky gray cat sitting in the barn walk with something very strange between his paws. It was a duckling, a very much alive, unharmed duckling. I reached down and grabbed the little fuzzy thing. The big tom didn't seem to care. It was as if he had done his job. I put him in a pail with a bit of water for the rest of chores until I could find Thomas (the duck guy). He figured it was from a newly hatched batch that was seen swimming in the pond nearby. We took him up there and as soon as we hit the weeds near the edge, out swam the mother and nine other ducklings. In no time he was back with his family.
Then there was Porkchop, a huge black and white cat that loved to ride around on my shoulder while I milked cows. He was a lover not a fighter, just wanted attention constantly. But, to date one of the sweetest cats we have ever had on the farm was Big Wussy. I rescued him once when he fell out of the haymow chute, and put him back by his mother. A few days later I heard his cries as I was walking outside past a pile of machinery, and took him back to the haymow. The third time he was meandering down the barn walk, which everyone knows is not a safe place for a kitten to be. Then he found a home in the basement, and lived without a name for years until it was observed that any change in the weather sent him scurrying to the basement for cover. Thus, Big Wussy was his name, and a big snuggler was he. He is in so many pictures of both Ira and Dane when they were young crawling across the lawn, them chasing his fluffy tiger striped tail, and when caught he would just lay there and tolerate the loving abuse. He was a part of our parade to the barn until about a year or two ago when he just disappeared. Big Wussy lasted far longer than most any other farm cat we had ever had, I found him when I was in college, and he made it through two rough little farm boys, quite a life for a cat.
Nowadays, we have Dharma, the fuzziest farm cat we have ever had. She is lovable, obnoxious, curious, a good mouser, all of those things that cats are supposed to be. Dane and Ira love her dearly, and fight over who gets to hold her. Ira can barely carry the ball of fur by himself, yet drags her all over the living room, making her sit by him so he can read her books. No doubt, as they grow, they will add to the collection of cat memories on our farm.
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