Friday, January 31, 2014

Meow!

IF you will read this whole writing I will give you a gold star! My mother wrote about her memories as she aged and I have saved them in their original form - typed on onion skin paper with an OLD typewriter. After scanning and then re-typing her stories I know why I like to write memories and I know why I love animals.  The cat named "Goldie was my first gift from my dad. Mother is very descriptive and writes truthfully - and writes long stories. She was never publicly published except in church and a senior retirement home newsletter.  This is just one of many. It's my favorite! (I haven't changed a single word or any thing else.)

  1. Tootsie
  2. Teddy
  3. Peter
  4. Goldie
  5. Lucky
  6. Topaz
  7. Sandy
  8. Patty
  9. Frostee
  10. Boxer
  11. Dusty
  12. Velvet
  13. Friendly
  14. Rusty
...........................................
Pauline F. Nulton   (b 1914 - d 2005)
Budd Lake, NJ
Written 03-14-91

FOURTEEN CATS AGO

It all began with “Tootsie.” A lonely little girl recovering from pneumonia in the mid-twenties had little to occupy her time. She was not allowed strenuous physical activities, couldn’t yet go back to school, and lived in a small country town with few playmates her age.
She pleaded with her parents many times to please let her have a pet of some sort. She had come into their lives rather later than was usual and it was understandable that they did not want the bother of having to look after a pet even though they wanted so much to please their daughter.
After many weeks of indecision, however, they relented and brought home a small gray kitten with four white paws for their daughter’s enjoyment. Of course what happened after that was not unexpected. The kitten grew up, did what all lady cats do, and one bright morning the family awoke to hear tiny squeals coming from the padded box in the hall. Of course the little girl’s mother was in on the secret, and was prepared for what was inevitable. What she wasn't prepared for, though, was the intense excitement and happiness of her daughter when the child’s attention was focused on the four little balls of fur lying in a tight and precise row beside their contented mother.
The little girl spent hours and hours watching the care and attention that the new mother gave her charges. A rough tongue washed four faces, cleaned sixteen paws, four tails and smoothed four various colored backs. This she accomplished, as well as cleaning herself, with a loud and constant purr. Time flew by and homes were found for the four little kittens, but the memory of her first love of cats stayed with the child for all the rest of her life.
Toward the end of the nineteen-twenties the parents, and their now fully recovered daughter, found it necessary to move to the city where the father might find work. They had to leave Tootsie in another loving home, but not without a few tears along the way.
Once settled in the new city apartment, the longing for a pet was again very apparent. All the daughter, who was by this time a busy high school student, could think of, was the love and friendship she had known and enjoyed and was so sorely missed. Certainly another cat had to be found.
A distant relative who lived in a nearby town raised Maltese cats, and they had a new litter they were willing to share. This time “Teddy” arrived on the scene. No more kittens could be accommodated in the new setting, so a boy-cat seemed to be the answer. Teddy grew fat and sleek in the small living quarters, but wasn’t allowed outside to roam near the busy streets. He spent many hours sitting by the window and voiced an occasional complaint when something outside caught his fancy.
Luck was with him, however, and before many years went by, the family returned to the country and once again occupied the cottage where the young woman had grown up. Naturally Teddy went along and he was delighted with his new freedom to explore the fascinating countryside. Alas, though, this was to be his undoing because one summer night after he had been several anxious days, he returned home dragging a hind leg. Close inspection revealed a small hole right through his leg but the bone was not broken. It was obvious that a shot had ended some midnight serenading. Proper care, and good nursing resulted in a satisfactory recovery though Teddy never could quite bend his leg as before, especially when he tried to scratch that itching ear. In his travels he must have picked up a germ or two and several years later he died of what was probably some kind of cat “pneumonia.”
Again the loss was keenly felt by the young woman. She had a rewarding job by this time following her graduation from high school and this seemed to adequately fill her days. But, lo and behold, something new and wonderful was suddenly added to her life in the person of a tall, dark and handsome young man. As luck would have it, the work that he did took him to many farms in all parts of the state. It wasn’t long before he realized how much the family, especially his girlfriend, wished for another kitten.
One bright and sunny weekend he made his usual visit…and, you guessed it, brought with him a very small tabby kitten with beautiful black tortoiseshell markings. Joy was once more evident as “Peter” grew into an affectionate, one-man, or rather one-woman cat. The only trouble was that he had taken to, not the young woman as has been expected, but to her aging mother. Peter’s favorite perch was wrapped around the older woman’s shoulder and neck as she sat at her sewing machine. Very likely she was hunched over her work more than was really necessary so that she would not dislodge her purring live fur-piece.
This pose, Peter had adopted only after carefully removing the required number of pins and needles from the nearby pin cushion. No one ever figured out why he did this, but it was a daily routine and the evacuated pins were all over the floor as well as on the side of the sewing machine. How he picked up the head of each pin with his tiny front teeth, then gave a quick jerk of his head to toss it away, was a lesson he must have taught himself. Needles were another matter, but the principle seemed to be the same. He never got one caught in his mouth or tongue.
When Peter was not occupied with this fascinating pastime, he would follow the older woman as she went into the vegetable garden to begin the spring weeding. She sat diligently on an overturned wooden box so she could reach the ground more easily. The box would also always be occupied by the tortoiseshell cat while the sun glinted off his sides and turned the black markings into jewel-like obsidian. He seemed to make it his particular responsibility to monitor this most un-cat-like procedure. Just a few years before the parents of the young woman left for a warmer climate, he disappeared and was never seen again. The chances were that his nightly serenading at some unknown location somewhere had resulted in a more accurate response than that of his predecessor, Teddy.
By now a whole new chapter was developing in the country cottage. The young woman had married her “tall, dark and handsome” young man. She continued her fulfilling job while her husband continued to visit the many farms in his regular schedule. Their lives were dramatically changed one cold spring day when a baby girl arrived to accent the love and affection of the new family. Cats were put on ‘hold’ while the young couple took pleasure in their new role.
Again a move, this time to their own home a few miles away, was the start of a whole new life. Busy with a growing family which by now included a baby boy, there was little time left to think about kittens or cats. But, as always, the desire for a pet was still in the back of their minds. The husband who still traveled to farms around the state, came home one evening with a tiny golden yellow cat with a crooked tail. He explained to the family that its tail had been run over by a farm cart and the workmen had threatened to dispose of the kitten. The very tip of its tail had been broken and apparently dropped off leaving the remainder of the tail in a permanent crook. “Goldie” soon became the beloved pet of the two children as well as their parents. A litter of kittens every so often didn’t seem to cause any major problems. There were always neighbors and friends who wanted a furry kitten, all the while teaching a valuable lesson to the small children emphasizing compassion, caring and responsibility for animal friends.
At least this was the case until another major change took place in the expanding family. This time the arrival of twin girls caused adjustments of a tremendous nature. The mother was so busy with her children that she made no protest at the father's suggestion that they find a new home for Goldie and her newest contribution of four kittens. Unceremoniously, the golden cat and her family were bundled off to a farm many miles away where the hunting for mice would be good and she would be sure to stay with her newest litter, all the while enjoying the abundance of farm fresh milk.
The months went on and the oldest daughter started to attend school not far away. They all missed Goldie but were sure it was for the best. On a warm summer afternoon, the young first-grader came racing home screaming at the top of her lungs. “There’s a cat up at the corner and I think it’s Goldie!” She was absolutely right since the crooked tail was undeniable proof that it was the same cat. It was hard to believe that she had been away nearly a year, so quickly did she settle back into her former home. She never did have another litter of kittens and for more than ten years she shared space and affection with the four children and their parents as well as with "Taffy" a mixed-breed puppy, who became the special companion of the boy.
Goldie liked the outdoors, but never went very far from home. One day she was seen standing on the sidewalk across the street, and was heard meowing loudly and pitifully. She seemed not to know exactly where she was, and appeared hesitant to attempt to cross the street toward home. One of the girls went to her, picked her up, and carried her into the house. From then on, it seemed she was having difficulty in getting around. She would run head-long into the baseboard of the walls in the rooms. When, eventually, she could not find her litter box and had several accidents, it was time to make the decision to take a trip to the veterinarian for a final visit. Once the sad deed was accomplished, the family settled down to life without a feline pet.
A series of strays and contributions from friends filled the gap and became a constant stream. The father and mother drove home  one afternoon from an assignment at a distant farm, and nestled in  her lap was a soft yellow kitten. Its long orange colored fur was reminiscent of the never forgotten Goldie. Everyone remarked how lucky it was to have a good home provided for it, so naturally its  name became “Lucky.” Unfortunately, its name did not hold up for very long. After a worse than usual neighborhood fight, it received a serious bite right at the base of its tail. No effort of good nursing care and the attention of a caring vet was enough to overcome the fatal infection that resulted.
          Once more another yellow cat arrived upon the scene to be called “Topaz” because of his jewel-like coloring. No one ever recalled how the family came to have him. What they did remember, however, was that he loved to ride in the family car. The mother was working nearby but was without a car of her own most of the time. The twin daughters were old enough by this time to drive, so each afternoon one of them would go pick up their mother from work. The minute the car door was open, Topaz would jump into the front seat and perch up on the back of the seat calmly surveying the countryside. No one remembered what became of him, but he was no longer around.
While wondering where the next cat was coming from, a next door family kindly offered one of their litter of kittens. This time a light colored one was the choice and because of his color, “Sandy” seemed to fit him perfectly. An unusual personality trait developed in Sandy. His favorite occupation was to retrieve anything tossed in his direction, preferably a rolled-up piece of foil. He soon became especially attached to the son in the family and followed him about the house waiting for a chance to have a slapping fight. He slept on the boy’s bed most of the time, and in the morning he would use a gentle tap of his paw on the boy's face to wake him. After several happy years, he refused to eat and was indeed very ill. The kindly veterinarian was sure he had been poisoned, but it was never discovered how this had happened. All efforts failed to reverse the tragic circumstance and the end could not be changed. Hius loss was felt by all, especially by the son, as Sandy had never endeared himself to the female members of the household.
“Patty” was next in line and stayed with the family long enough to have several litters of kittens. The first she had were apparently when she was too young as they were born dead…right in the middle of one of the children’s beds! One can hardly imagine what a commotion this caused. She soon redeemed herself by having another four, and the family tried desperately to find homes for them. One kitten was pure white and quite a surprise as no one had ever seen a white tom in the area. The mother's fondest wish for many years had been to have a white cat, so “Frostee” stayed, to the delight of everyone. His china-blue eyes sparkled in the snowy white cotton of his fur. His mother had trained him very well to use his litter box, but he soon developed a rather unique habit. As a very young kitten he decided he would invent his own private litter box. The bathroom seemed to be the logical place to establish his own personal accommodation. The bathtub with its convenient drain hole, never needed to be excavated or covered up. Anyone present in the room could hear his little contribution trickling down the handy receptacle. When only a year old, Frostee became very weak and it was soon discovered that he had feline anemia, fairly common to many white cats. The vet could do nothing for him and he soon became history, another page in the book of the fourteen cats.
Patty came to the rescue again and presented the family with two more mackerel-striped tabby kittens, both females. She was an excellent provider and would often bring home mice and other delicacies. Of course the kittens were too young to eat this grown up food so the family quietly disposed of her well-meant supplies. One day she failed to come home from one of these forays and her two tiny kittens were left squalling for food all morning. When the children came home from school they brought with them some very sad news. Patty had been found on a nearby street, obviously run over by a passing car. She had a tiny baby rabbit in her mouth, a good provider to the end. Now the problem became what to do with the little orphans. The mother in the family decided to try her hand at feeding them with a medicine dropper full of diluted milk, and later with tastes of strained baby meats. This was very successful and the kittens continued to grow and develop.
One of the kittens had extra toes on her front paws so naturally she became known as "Boxer." Her sister, by far the prettier of the two, had the misfortune to be under the family car when the father hurriedly backed out of the driveway one morning with no suspicion of the presence of the little cat sleeping under the car. With suitable ceremony the little one was laid to rest beside Patty in the family's flower bed. 
Boxer stayed with the family for several more years and a litter of new kittens arrived on schedule every so often. When it got to be a problem to find homes for all of them, another farm was called into service. Boxer and her latest family were moved to a large dairy farm where she was needed and wanted for her ability to catch mice and where there would be plenty of good rich milk.
Though her loss was felt by everyone, there were new and other interests gaining attention. The children were nearly grown up, had boy-friends and girl-friends and the time soon came when they would leave for their own homes not too far distant. First, the oldest girl left and was followed very soon by the son who was to serve sic months in the army following his graduation from high school. While he was away, the puppy Taffy, of his childhood, had died. the first thing he did upon arriving home was, of course, to find another dog. The bird-dog puppy he brought home was so small it fit in the palm of his hands. “Queenie” grew into a large and beautiful black and white English setter and a true member of the family.
Queenie didn’t quite take the place of the cats of so many years, but she was a loving and faithful family pet. The three children still at home were busy with their own plans. First one of the twin girls was married and moved away…then the very next year, both the other daughter and the son were making plans for their coming marriages and homes of their own in new locations.
Until Queenie could be settled in the son’s new home, she was left in her run at the rear of the home of his parents and in their tender and watchful care. The mother fed, watered and enjoyed the company of the lovely big dog. One Saturday afternoon she came home from a half day’s work, looked out into the dog run from the dining room windows, and discovered that it was entirely empty. Her son had said something about taking the dog with him to his new home, but hadn’t said just when that would be. It had happened now, though, and the mother turned away from the windows, and burst into tears. It was truly an “empty nest” for the first time.
The oldest daughter was well established in her own home with a daughter of her own, but she sensed her mother’s unhappiness and knew she missed having a pet of some sort around to ease the loneliness since the father still travelled around the state. She came to the rescue one cold winter afternoon and left a small gray kitten on the living room couch for her mother to find. Such a beautiful solid gray kitten needed to be called "Dusty" and soon she settled into the parents' home. By this time the couple felt that since no more kittens were needed, they would carefully keep their companion in the house at the crucial times.
This worked very well until they moved to a new home further out in the country. While they were busy getting the house in order, Dusty had her own ideas of how to spend the day. In the usual course of events she decided to have a family herself! The weeks went by and soon the indications became apparent that she would soon become a mother cat, but strangely no kittens arrived when the expected signs were observed. In a hurried visit to a new veterinarian in the area, it was determined that a cesarean operation would be necessary at once. The mother left her pet in his capable hands and went off to work in a very worried state of mind.  Upon returning from work that evening she stopped at the animal clinic and brought Dusty home with two tiny kittens. Three others could not be saved, but two were enough for the new mother cat to handle, especially since she had had such a trying experience. 
Though these two kittens were Dusty’s first and only family, she instinctively knew just what to do and they grew fat and playful. Soon a friend offered a home to one of them and the couple decided to keep the other one with its mother. This one was a solid glossy black cat with a white star on her throat. The sleek and velvet-like coat left no doubt as to what her name should be. “Velvet” seemed a most appropriate name. It wasn’t possible to keep both cats inside all the time and since Dusty would never have any more kittens and Velvet was too young yet to have an operation, they were allowed to roam at will. this turned out to be a big mistake as Velvet, before she was a year old, ventured on the busy road and met the predictable end. dusty was left alone but offered many hours of pleasure and companionship to the couple who were getting along toward their older years.
Then, wouldn’t you know it, another chapter in the cat chronicle was soon to unfold. It was a bitter cold night in February that the woman returned home from a too-long committee meeting. The blue station wagon was comfortably warm and she was extremely grateful for the electric garage door opener. Just a press of a button and she would be able to drive right into the basement without having to get out in the freezing wind and snow to fight with a stiff and heavy garage door.
Once under the porch overhang, she pressed the spot on the electronic box and the heavy door rose obligingly and effortlessly. The car slid quietly insihouse earlier. Perhaps that was a mistake and she had somehow sneaked out unobserved. The “meow” was then repeated, this time a little louder and distinctly plaintive. Sure now that it didn’t sound quite like her Dusty, she turned and headed back toward the still-open door calling, “Well, where are you?”
Immediately came the answering “meow,” louder and much more insistent. Following the direction from which the sound seemed to come, she then saw a pair of glowing eyes reflected by the garage light. The source of the cries was now apparent. A cat sat hunched on a pile of old used burlap bags which were kept handy for various garden and household needs. The woman ventured closer, talking all the while, as she was uncertain what sort of reception she might receive from her midnight visitor. 
Would the cat flee at her approach or flash out a claw-raking paw toward her outstretched hand? With still no sign of “flight or fight,” she reached out to pat the pure white head, out of which a pair of china-blue eyes gazed intently at her. At once another sound became audible–the loudest purr she had ever heard! It seemed they were fast friends already. As her fingers stroked the ears, down the neck and shoulders and along the back, the woman could feel each back bone, covered only thinly by the once white fur and skin. She was appalled by the extreme thinness of the body. The hair was matted and dirty as well. The cat continued to purr loudly and stretched up to rub along the woman’s arm. It seemed to be an adult cat, but was the scrawniest one she had ever seen.
She thought of her own sleek and plump lady upstairs, and just did not have the heart to shoo her new friend away and out into the bitter cold night. Gathering her up on one arm she carried her to the kitchen. The little waif seemed unafraid and when put down, wound provocatively around the legs of her benefactor. Some warm milk was soon fixed for her which she lapped quickly but daintily. She wasn't given too much at one time, as total starvation had not been very far off, and it seemed to be the order of the evening.
A new problem had to be confronted. Could the woman possibly put this friendly transient out in the winter night? One could not be sure what her house manners were, or how she would be received by the resident cat. On a sudden inspiration, the woman carried “Friendly” back to the pile of burlap bags and left her with a saucer of warm milk and bread. In the morning, if the cat was still there, she would have to decide what to do, but she was pretty sure already what that decision would probably be.
Early the next morning the woman went to see if her visitor was still there. Of course, Friendly was, and now her short white fur seemed neater and cleaner, and even appeared to cover her bony frame a bit more. A quick trip to the refrigerator produced a few bites of leftover chicken which she devoured hungrily, but still very politely. With many more weeks of careful feeding Friendly would be quite a beauty when she filled out a little more. Her bright blue eyes were clear and sharp, offset by the stark white fur; she would be a delight to any artist. The chicken tidbits were polished off without delay, and the cat at once sat down by the woman’s feet and began to wash her face and paws carefully and deliberately. When she was finished she began a tour of the rest of the house.
The living room couch seemed to draw her to it, or perhaps it was the spot of warm winter sun which shone strongly through the east-facing picture window. At any rate, Friendly jumped gracefully upon the couch and continued her morning cleanup, still purring loudly. She acted as if she had always lived in this particular home. When she finally finished with her thorough grooming, the grey cat moved warily toward the newcomer and gave her a complete once-over. At last they touched noses and Dusty went archly back to the kitchen and to her own bowl of food.
The two cats seemed to get along quite well after each had established her own domain. The big black Labrador Retriever, who had joined the family just a short time before, seemed to enjoy the pair of cats. While the dog, “Gemma,” had not played with Dusty very much, she seemed to find the younger cat more to her liking and romped often with her.
The humans occupying the house didn’t really feel they needed two cats, so Friendly was reluctantly given away to a new family where she would be with other animals and where the mistress had expressed a desire for a white cat. Not many weeks after this, Dusty failed to aband had known they would soon lose Dusty, they would never have had to find another home for Friendly and she would have been able to spend the rest of her life in the surroundings that she had chosen that cold winter night.
The saddened couple resigned themselves to a home without a pet cat, relieved only the presence of the glossy black dog, who also seemed to miss her companion and playmate. She, too, was getting along in years, but continued to be the loving third member of the household.
Fate again had another chapter in store for the three of them…man, woman, and dog. One dark and blustery evening the woman parked her car in the lot behind her church in preparation to attending a meeting of the women's organization. Out of the darkness she saw a shape at the top of the metal stairs along the outside wall of the church. Upon closer investigation, a young, long-jaired cat tripped down the staircase meowing a "hello" at every step. When spoken to, it came quickly to her side and rubbed affectionately around her ankles. She picked it up, surprised to see that it was a dark orange color, so reminiscent of the Goldie of long ago.
With a distinct feeling of nostalgia, she put the cat down and went on to her meeting. She didn’t see it again that evening, but a few days later she learned that a young woman had also seen the cat, took pity on it, and was feeding and giving it shelter in the warm kitchen of the building. It hung around for several weeks and all efforts to find its owner with newspaper ads, telephone calls, and word of mouth, failed to discover where it belonged.
One Sunday morning after church service, someone remarked that the cat was staying in a nearby storm drain to avoid some thoughtless children who had been pelting it with stones.  This was too much for the couple! With the aid of the younger woman, they coaxed the cat out of his hideaway. The question was not what to do with it. The man and woman offerred to take the vagabond to a shelter not far away. They, themselves, had decided not to take on any more cat responsibilities. The decision was agreed upon and the woman held it in her arms while the man drove in the direction of the animal shelter.
On the way down the busy highway with the cat held firmly against her, the woman soon discovered that this cat must have had some special care and attention and it appeared to be quite valuable. Its front paws had been de-clawed and it was altered. Its long, rust-colored hair was smooth and clean with no mats. The beautiful fluffy tail had no tangles either. How he had ever become a stray couldn’t be imagined. It seemed that someone must have spent quite a bit of money on him and why his owner could not be found was a decided mystery.
The woman took one look at her husband, announced what her discovery had been regarding the stray’s condition, and asked the question, “Shall we?” Without another word, he turned the car around and they headed for home. Upon arriving home, “Rusty” was introduced to the Lab who really seemed glad to see him. That evening when Rusty was settled confidently on the woman’s lap the Lab came near to get better acquainted, sat down beside them, and put an inquiring nose beside the cat. Rusty gave her a no nonsense pat on her muzzle and proceeded to ignore any more overtures of friendship. Without claws no harm was done, but it certainly served to announce who was boss in that establishment.
Rusty was taken to the veterinarian for the necessary inoculations and he observed that he thought the cat was a very young adult, perhaps about a year old. It was felt that he was very likely a Maine Coon breed, as he did not have the usual Persian head, but did have quite long hair. One thing was discovered, though, was that Rusty did not like to ride in a car for any distance whatever. From then on, the dog and cat got along very well, and it seemed obvious that he had been raised with a dog in the same way that the Lab had been raised with cats.
In a few years, Gemma, the Lab, died after giving fifteen years of pleasure to the man and his wife and their many family members. Rusty was all that was left to share the home with the aging couple. Bereft of his claws and his interest in the lady cats, he was happy to be an inside cat and seemed content to watch the squirrels playing on the lawn. He often saw all kinds of birds as they flitted to and fro in their never-ending search for food and nesting materials.
Because he, himself, was originally a stray, had found sanctuary first in the storm drain of the local church parking lot, and later in the home of a loving couple of older folks, he didn't seem to miss the pleasures of mouse-chasing and bird-catching. He was content to eat, putt and sit around getting plump. During daytime, he followed the woman wherever she went and evenings were spent curled upon the man's lap while television programs were enjoyed by the adults. 
For several years a little slate-colored phoebe with its darker colored head had made a nest over the automatic door under the screened porch that led into the spacious basement garage. On a dark and windy March evening the couple arrived home and prepared to put the car away for the night. The minute the electronic button was pushed, the large and heavy door began to rise promptly and they headed into the area. All at once a bird flew ahead of the car, not out into the black night as it should have done, but went directly ahead of the car and into the cellar.
The man and woman parked the car, but left the door open hoping that their unexpected visitor would go back outside. Instead, it flew wildly and frantically around in the large area. It banged against the wall, first on one side, then on the other, alighted momentarily on the winter clothesline. It defied all efforts to shoo it outside. At one time the woman thought she would be able to surprise it and catch it when it landed for an instant against a prodtruding light fixture, but to no avail. After about fifteen minutes of fruitless attempts to catch the feathered creature, all became quiet with no more fluttering, and the couple assumed the little bird had finally flown out the big open doorway.
When the garage door was finally shut, they went upstairs where Rusty had been complaining bitterly at the delay in opening the kitchen door which led to the main floor. Bedtime came and everyone settled down for the night. The woman carefully put away the crystal gift which she had received at the evening's festivities, and decided she would examine it more closely in the morning. Rusty curled up in his usual spot on the bed and purred himself to sleep with the human occupants.
Just about dawn the woman awoke to make her usual early morning trip to the bathroom. She glanced down to where Rusty was sitting so quietly beside her. As her eyes became more accustomed to the brightening light, she noticed a dark area beside the cat. Oh, no, she thought–he had either had an accident or had been sick! When she gingerly touched the spot, it suddenly moved, fluttered toward the window, and became entangled in the sheer curtain. Guessing immediately what had happened, that the bird had been in the house all the time, she carefully got out of bed and approached the window with its curtained prisoner. With infinite care, she held the little bird in one hand and slowly but carefully disentangled the surrounding material. She was not sure if it was injured so held it securely, but not too tightly. She then padded barefoot across the cold linoleum kitchen floor to the back door.
Very slowly and quietly she opened the door, and one by one raised her fingers to release the tiny thing. Instantly it flew out and into the early morning sunlight, apparently unharmed. With a sigh of relief and a slight shiver, she turned and climbed back into bed where Rusty was still waiting. Then, suddenly, it hit her! How was it possible that the bird was still alive even though the cat most surely had caught it and brought it to her in the night.
Cats are known to frequently bring their treasures home, but usually more the worse for wear! This was indeed a small miracle. Could it have been because Rusty, himself, had experienced the small miracle of a good home so many years ago and his natural instincts were somehow sidetracked in appreciation? Instead of killing the bird, had he brought it where it might receive the attention he had known?
Now something else caught the attention of his mistress. Something glinted on the bed-cover and she then looked more closely to see what it was. A tiny gray feather lay smooth and undamaged beside the cat. She retrieved it, lest it be lost amid the blankets and she would save it as a token of the incredible experience.
Later that morning the couple looked again at the gift from the evening before. The object was a little crystal box in the shape of a miniature chest, and of all things, the lid was adorned with an amazing, perfectly formed, little bird. What better place in which to preserve the reminder of such a small miracle, so the tiny feather was carefully laid in the box.
Rusty never learned to enjoy riding in the family car, and howled dejectedly on the few times he was forced by circumstances to take a trip in his own comfortable carrier. Most of the time he stayed at home and a good neighbor was willing to come and feed him and replenish his water as it was needed.
Rusty always enjoyed the big screened and glassed-in porch of his home. He spent hours on the lounge chair in its corner and sometimes on the woman’s lap. Evenings were also spent on someone’s lap only this time it was on the man’s lap–the only cat that had ever accomplished this feat.
Of course the time had to come when as an older cat he became ill and several spasms happened which the veterinarian could no longer do anything to help. After one very severe convulsion the final step had to be taken.
As this ended the saga of the “Fourteen Cats” the aging couple reluctantly said “NO” to any more pets, much to the regret of the man and especially of the woman.

The bird box with the feather!




Thursday, January 30, 2014

Leenda



Today I found an old photo of me on a horse. Well....this story is what it triggered. I wrote it several years ago. Here is the photo that started the whole memory to return - again.

Please click on image to enlarge

LEENDA

Memory Story #2
Linda is a female given name. Someone told me to pronounce it “Leenda.” This may have come from the Spanish word linda, which is the feminine form of lindo, meaning “pretty, beautiful.” When I researched in a publication called “Spanish for Beginners” under the section “Pronouncing Vowels” it told me that “i” is pronounced similarly to the “ee” in “feet” and the “e” in “me,” although usually a little briefer. Therefore, my story is about a little girl thinking she had a horse with an exotic name! She called her horse “Leenda.”

Chapter 1
Ok, now on with my story. My dad was a dairy tester. He regularly traveled to every dairy farm throughout our small state taking small samples of milk from each cow as she was being milked. The samples were brought home to be tested in our cellar by the use of a centrifuge and acid and calipers. I’m not sure of just what tests he performed but the final written reports, showing all information and a diagram of markings of each cow, were sent to the state university for (I’m guessing now) records of butterfat. This would then reflect herd production and values of the cows. Forgive me if I’m not 100% accurate about his job.
There were quite a few of the dairy farms that were very profitable businesses and many had horse stables. Some had working horses, which they used regularly, and some had riding and show horses. I remember that at least one was a horse breeding farm. This is where I was exposed to those wonderful creatures at a very young age. When I was a bit older, maybe around 10, Dad took me with him and I roamed free, mostly throughout the stables. I dipped my fingers into the barrels of sticky molasses. I touched and smelled harness and tack. I ran my hands through the oat grain bins. I made friends with the stablemen and boys and the grooms. I made friends with the horses. I soaked up knowledge. My love grew and GREW! There was usually a package of hard Charms candies in my pocket. These were for the horses. A special one, “Jiminy,” would see me coming and whinny for a Charm. He'd take it ever so gently and lick my palm for a long time after. Wow! What a feeling!
One time, “Scotty” the groom with a heavy brrrr accent, found me sitting cross legged in the straw in a corner of a stall which housed a “cantankerous” stallion! The tongue lashing I got after he coaxed me out into the aisle was memorable. His face was scary red and he was shaking. It seems that the particular stallion had already kicked, bitten, and struck out at everyone who came near him. He was stalled most of the time and only used for breeding. I knew nothing about him and wasn’t a bit afraid to pet and admire him up close. I had opened the stall and gone right in! I learned later that it’s a good thing I hadn’t started menstruating yet because I might have been in real trouble.
Soon after that episode, Dad decided to find a horse for me that I could call my own. We were very poor, but there are always ways...........
One of the wealthy lady horsepersons on a farm had loaned her old (24) retired hunter to a lady in a village near our home. Now after a talk with my very convincing and concerned dad, she decided to re-loan this particular horse to me because she was “safe for a child.” A small and vacant horse barn (no water supply or electricity available) nearby our home was rented for $5.00 a month and we were “horse ready.” Oops! I didn’t even know how to saddle up no less ride! My uncle, who had older girls with horses and horsemanship experiences gave us an old English type saddle, rubber pad and bridle with a bar bit, double reins. The local feed store gave us a credit account for straw, oats, salt and hay. Shovels, a pitchfork and pails were found - I don’t know where. An old wheelbarrow was found, too. I had a horse!!! Her name was “Leenda.” She WAS beautiful, to me.
She was solid chestnut with a chestnut wispy mane and tail and only a small star of white. Beautiful! to my eyes, an elegant and graceful package. Her breed was never discussed and I don’t know it. She was 15 hands high, and lean. The facts that I today understand, is that her neck was ewed, her hip bones protruded, her front tendons were bowed and she had a sharp wither spine bone with a swayed back. That was age, of course, but I never saw any of it then.
I carried water in two tin pails from a firehouse down the road to the barn two times a day, before school and after school. When I ran out of straw for bedding, I had to collect leaves in burlap bags to use. I gave “pony rides” around the ball field down the road for 10¢ around the bases three times. That earned money for the needed feed and bedding supplies. I babysat as often as I could. A full set of hot shoes cost $5.00. The blacksmith said her hooves weren't very strong. He showed me how to clean and dress them. He gave me feeding and health hints. I had to pay for everything myself and soon learned the lessons of earning and spending.
Once I had learned to tack up (she always blew up when I tightened the girth) and mount, the rest was easy. She taught me how to ride and the fun began.
Chapter 2
I didn’t know the word “post” or “diagonal” but sure knew it was either stand up in the stirrups or sit and jounce until I got a terrible pain in my side and then had to go back from the trot to the walk. After a while, I just naturally picked up the “up-down, up-down, up-down” trick of rising and sitting in a rhythm when trotting. I also learned how to “sit-a-bump” just to break up the monotony of the post. I set up rocks in the pasture and wove in and out around them until I felt secure enough to drop the reins and just use my body and seat and legs to steer while trotting. Powerful feelings went through me with this accomplishment. Sometimes she'd break into a singlefoot gait, only at her decision. It was a comfortable and smooth ride while it lasted, even though I didn’t think it unusual for a retired hunter to rack because I didn't know what a rack was!
I didn’t know what a canter or gallop were either, except that Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy and Gene Autry seemed to go lickety split when chasing the bad guys, and I also wanted to go full tilt. I remember that it came as a complete shock and surprise one morning as I leaned forward at a snappy trot and Leenda leaped into a transitional canter! Whoa! What the heck was that?! It happened! It almost unseated me! It scared and thrilled me too. I was learning to ride. She was very kind to me, never balking or fighting my inept cues.
There were many riding trails throughout the countryside and as my confidence grew, so did my traveling explorations. On a lovely autumn day, I encountered a gentleman driving a a flashy pony in an open carriage. He waved me down and asked me who I was and what my horse's name was. Then he introduced himself as the owner of the property where I was riding and gave me permission to go on, but to be careful not to get lost. This 12 year old girl would never get lost, right? Well I did. Leenda found our way home with me hugging her neck and crying all the way. She sure had horse sense. I learned later that the pony was a Hackney and the dapper driving gent was one of the wealthiest breeder/trainers in the state! He also was a nice and generous person.
There were several different types of horse shows held each year that were within traveling distance for me. I used to ride my “nag” to the shows, pull up ringside, watch and remember as much as I could. The weeks following my venture to a show were filled with attempts to duplicate what I saw. Most of all I wanted to jump! So, of course, I set up jumps in the pasture with bales of hay, wooden milk crates and tree branches and small logs from the pasture boundaries. Over we went. I saw ears beneath me many times but I never fell off. The obstacles were made higher and higher until confidence waned and common sense ruled. Then wide jumping was attempted. The stream that ran through the pasture was both narrow and wide, depending on where you were. The banks leading down to it and up after it were fairly steep. It was a challenge. I didn’t know it was so potentially dangerous and back and forth, over and over them, we bound. Poor Leenda. I had no mercy.
I remember that the summertime flies were always bad and my dad put together an insecticide mix to fill a tin sprayer. The filled can was attached to a plunger type hand pump. She hated being sprayed, rolling her eyes and pulling back and I had to tie her tightly to the fence post. Vaseline was applied to the inside of her ears and under her belly. I really injured her with kindness once by rubbing her swollen bowed tendons with my grandma's wintergreen oil and then wrapping her cannons with gauze. When I removed the gauze a couple of days later, the hair and skin came off too. No one told me to do this. It was my own idea. The tendons were actually better after my amateur vetting. Unfortunate Leenda. She was a victim of my learning process. I meant well.
Chapter 3
I was an accomplished bareback rider at age 13 and my girlfriend could hop on behind me and share the adventures. We rode together often and sometimes all three of us “girls” went into the pond. It wasn’t long before her dad decided to buy her a horse of her own too and “Lady” was stabled in a stall next to Leenda. Lady was younger and regularly came into heat, kicking out. We tried not to pasture them together when she was so moody.
Age was taking its toll on my equine companion. She was loosing weight because her teeth were worn and chewing was difficult. Grass was more tender but I noticed that she often spit out wet wads of hay. Her oats were being eliminated whole and I knew something had to be done. My grandpa, Daddy's dad, suggested that I feed her a mash concoction. I mixed crushed oats with bran, shredded carrots, a whole raw egg, molasses and warm water in a bucket. This was carried twice daily to the barn. The barn was about a half mile up the road from our house, but I had to mix it at home because of the need for warm water. She began to thrive after a couple of months and it was well worth my effort. I never thought about the financial costs to Mom for providing me with so many carrots and eggs until I was much older.
Now this is the tragic part of my story. Leenda and Lady were both in the pasture and my girlfriend and I didn’t know Lady was in heat. We went one morning to go riding and found Leenda standing on only three legs with the left rear hind leg dangling and shaking violently. There wasn’t much blood, but the shattered bone was sticking way out. I wanted to die on the spot! We both knew what had happened and were overwhelmed at the sight. Lady kicked Leenda and broke her leg. Today, I’m not so sure that’s what happened but back then we were positive and horrified. What a sight we must have been! Two hysterically screaming girls racing home to get help. Dad was there and we explained what we saw, between sobs. He told us to stay home and he'd get a vet to go right over there. Dad jumped in the car and disappeared down the road. We clung to each other and made a decision. We HAD to go back! We went back.
We stayed hidden. The deed was done and the vet was just leaving, walking slowly and bent over with his head down and the big gun in his hand. There was only a crumpled mass of horse, lying by the gate. When we had last seen her she was not close to the gate. It only took a moment for us to realize that he
must have actually led her there on three legs to take care of the matter. That way the dead wagon wouldn’t have to drag the body from the pasture. Dad was nowhere in sight. He was grieving privately, I know.
With macabre curiosity we both went to see the body. There was a small hole in her white star. Her eyes were open and her tongue was hanging out to the side. The broken leg was a terrible sight. This was a merciful death and a lesson for my lifetime. Love can hurt.
Dad soon found me another loaned-out horse, a showy polo pony that could spin and turn on a dime, but I couldn't let myself love any horse ever again (until my “Bobbi” 35 years later).
My throat seized up with a huge lump and tears flowed as I wrote the end of this story. I've held this pain in for 60 years and just had to get it out. Sometimes memories aren't pleasant. Now I’m going to bury this one.
GMR August 23, 2007  
•Note:
Singlefoot, is an old time term used to denote a horse that traveled in a gait other than the standard walk, trot, lope/canter. The term, “singlefoot‚” is intended to describe an instant in the sequence of footfalls where there is only one foot on the ground. Old waddies (cowboys) had their own term, “sop n’ tater‚” which was used to refer to the singlefoot gait. If you ride a singlefoot, you can hear the same even four beat gait, just as “sop n’ tater‚” is evenly timed if you say it aloud. In some references, singlefoot is used interchangeably with “rack.” Other terms that are and have been used, usually varying with the geography include:  running walk, pacey, ambler, stepping pace, traveler, soft gaited, fox trot, paso, and probably some more. This intermediate gait occurs in between a walk and a trot. I’m talking about natural intermediate gaits, not artificial show gaits. It can be performed at a range of speeds from a relaxed trail speed of 7 to 9 mph, to a ground-eating road gait of 12 to 15 mph, to the breathtaking racing single-foot (the speed from which the name “single-footing” was derived) of over 20 mph. The singlefoot gait is very easy on the rider. Many breeds of horses, including Morgans, are capable of producing this gait, as it’s thought to be genetic.
American Saddlebred
Icelandic horse
Missouri Foxtrotter Paso Fino
Peruvian Paso
Racking horse
Rocky Mountain Horse
Spotted Saddle horse
Tennessee Walker
In most "gaited" breeds, an ambling gait is a hereditary trait. However, some representatives of these breeds may not always gait, and some horses of other breeds not listed above may have ambling gaited ability, particularly with training. 
Why is it that when I venture into something new I actually relive something old? Am I a person so attached to the past that whatever path I take, leads back to it?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Time has Passed...

My first granddaughter was born in January 1977. I was the surrogate birthing coach assisting her mother's delivery at the local hospital. She lived with us for a while when our son was in the Navy and stationed far away. He died in a car accident in 1994. She just found these photos in her mother's things and scanned them and sent them to me. What a surprise! I remember the day well. My mother, her great-grandmother, came to see her and brought a hand crocheted blanket that she had made.

The photos were taken in late spring and when the young family moved out to be on their own, I sent them to her mother, never thinking that I would someday enjoy seeing them in my later years. In those days, we had to wait for pictures to be developed and the negatives have gone among the missing. They are the only copies and seem to be in fairly good condition.
I'm happy that my granddaughter has them now. 

She doesn't live close to us but sends pictures of her four kids quite regularly. She's the mother of offspring ages 20, 19, 16 and 11. Glad I could help bring her into the world!

 #1 Grandbaby and me 1977

 Me, my mother, baby Jen, baby's mother

My middle daughter, me, my youngest daughter holding baby Jen, baby's mother.

Jen

My son, Jen's father

Still Waiting for Spring

-4° this morning at 8am BUT...THE SUN WAS SHINING AGAIN!

I think it's only 51 more days until Spring.

please click on image to enlarge


View through one of the Mister's Bedroom windows..
Yes, there is plastic over the screen!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Sun is Shining...Oh Happy Day!

And it is up to -3°!











The sun is shinin', oh happy day
No more troubles, no blue skies of gray.......

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Walk Through the Hardware Store

Upon entering the new store, I asked the lady at the check out counter if it would be all right for me to take pictures of the displays. She said, "Sure, go ahead." So I did. As I wandered through I couldn't help but think how this wonderful 100 year old business has flourished and kept up with the times in our rural area. At least they have been able to save much of their historical items through the years of fire and so many devastating floods. 

Towards the end of my journey, and believe me, I did not cover it all, a male clerk approached me asking if he could help me. I just replied, "No, thank you, I'm OK." He then asked me why I was taking so many pictures. I told him that I love the store and all of the wonderful displays and will share some of the pictures on a blog I was going to write. His reply was, "Oh! I thought you might be a competitor checking and documenting our displays and pricing." I must have really looked surprised as I never thought I would have been pegged as a spy! I told him I had asked permission from the lady at the counter first and she told me it was OK.  As I was shaken by this, I took two more pictures on the way out (of the bicycle on the wall by the baseball memorabilia) and forgot to take one of the old beautiful Harley Davidson Motorcycle! All I remember was that it was a chain drive model and rosy colored. I hadn't even ventured into the area with the pet supplies! 

Later on, I called the store and talked with the counter lady and told her what happened and asked her if she was reprimanded. She wasn't spoken to at all. Next I talked with one of the owners and asked him if they would like to see the pictures I took and he was delighted. When I explained to him why I was taking the pictures he explained to me that several competitors have been scoping out his displays and pricing. I now understood quite well. Since this business has moved further into town, a large hardware chain has taken over an empty building that is in a closer proximity to where the old store of my story once was. 

The pictures are yellowish in tone and I think it due to the interior fluorescent lighting throughout. At home I have to turn off the two in my kitchen because they make my pictures yellowish too. I mentioned this to the owner and he said they had a difficult time with the Santa photos taken inside the store for the same reason. 

































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