We had both dogs and cats when I was growing up on our dairy farm. Our dogs were usually mixed-breed mutts that arrived gratis from a friend or a neighbor. Our supply of small furry felines was perpetually replenished by cadre of mother cats who birthed kittens on an industrial scale.
I was a little kid when I first discovered that cats are sneaky shape-shifters. I recall espying a cat who was cleaning itself in the manner peculiar to that species -- one leg extended high up into the air, his head thrust deep into in his personal region -- and thinking, What kind of animal is that?
The creature, perceiving that I was staring at him, looked up and stared back for a long moment before slowly unfolding himself and resuming the shape of a cat. You would never see such shape deception in a dog. I have been mesmerized by cats ever since. I also don't trust them.
But that didn't diminish my enjoyment of cats. On the contrary, knowing that cats possess mystic powers only amplified my fascination with the critters. This pattern would repeat itself when I discovered girls.
Mark Twain was a cat enthusiast and gave his cats such names as Sour Mash and Pestilence. We never named our cats when we were kids, mainly because our dairy farm had such a huge oversupply of felines. If a cat earned a name it would be along the lines of That One Gray Kitty or The Brown Mother Cat.
When our kids were small we had a menagerie of pets that included a Golden Retriever called BJ, a smallish mixed-breed dog named Keshia and a calico cat the boys named Calico Kitty. The flair for creative cat naming obviously runs in the family.
We've all heard the expression fighting like cats and dogs, but those three never received that memo. On cold days they would make a pile on the front steps, BJ at the bottom, Keshia on top of him and Calico Kitty on top of her. The United Nations could have taken a lesson from that trio.
One winter's day we decided to take the boys to our local pizza parlor, located about 20 minutes away. We were walking out to the car after we had finished our pizza when the boys exclaimed, Look! It's Calico Kitty!
We began to explain to the boys that they were clearly mistaken because Calico Kitty was at home. But we were wrong! It was Calico Kitty!
We surmised that the cat had crawled into the engine compartment and was taking a nap when the car started up and began to move. We could only imagine what went through her mind as she clung to the steel frame with the road whipping beneath her at 60 MPH, mere inches from her whiskers. We let Calico Kitty ride with us in the car on the way home.
It's been some years since we've had any cats at our place. A few signs of visiting vermin have appeared -- and not just sales brochures left by traveling salesmen -- so we decided it would behoove us to find a tom or a molly to handle the situation.
I called some dairy farmer neighbors of ours and asked if they could spare a few barn cats.
How many do you want? they replied, A dozen? Two dozen? Take all you want! They might be a little bit wild, though.
A cat being a little bit wild is like a woman being a little bit pregnant. Even so, we managed to catch a couple of barn cats which I then transported home in a cage.
I took the first cat to our barn and opened the cage. The furry feline shot out of the cage like a hissing missile! It occurred to me that semi-wild cats could be turned into a weapon system that might be named something such as The Catapult or The Catling Gun.
So now we have a couple of semi-wild cats living in our haymow, an ideal place for them to hang out and make such comments as hey! or meow. I don't see much of the puddy-tats, but when I do catch a glimpse of them they swiftly and silently melt away into the shadows.
Shape-shifting assassins! Just so long as they only target the population of rats and mice and sparrows. But who knows what plans are being honed behind those mysterious yellow eyes?
If you'd like to contact Jerry to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org