Unlike most of my family, I’ve always been an animal lover. We traveled a lot for most of my childhood, so we never had any pets. That is until one of my older brothers fell in love with a Midwestern beauty and Dad decided to buy a farm, giving my brother a chance to stick around and court his new love. They eventually married, but that’s another story.
Once established on this large farm, Dad adopted a stray dog, a big, yellow male he named Ring because of a distinctive darker ring around his neck. Not long after, a large tomcat sauntered into the barnyard and Dad adopted him as well. Voila! We had pets, only the first of many we’d have over the years.
Mom never liked animals in the house and she didn’t have to worry about Dad, as he abided by her wishes and kept them in the barn. My siblings weren’t a problem either, as they weren’t particularly fond of any kind of pet. I, on the other hand, was quite a trial. I’d bring home not only everything I could catch, but also any critter injured on the road. They’d end up in a box in my bedroom where I’d nurse them back to health. This included many snakes, lizards, birds, kittens, puppies…you name it. Mom threatened to throw me out of the house once if I didn’t get rid of the healthy green snake I’d been keeping as a pet. I loved my Mom, so I returned it to the woods where it belonged.
I believe Dad may have liked animals almost as much as I do, even though he pretended otherwise. His excuse for having cats was to rid the barn of mice. And he only had dogs to protect the property. Yeah, right. I think he especially had a fondness for cats because every time winter temps would fall below freezing, he’d bring Tom into the kitchen. Tom was that very first cat Dad had adopted. Mom wasn’t crazy about having the cat in the kitchen, but she was kind hearted and didn’t want the cat to freeze. Unfortunately one winter night the temps fell well below zero and when Dad went to get Tom, he was no where to be found. Every hour on the hour Dad would go out and look for him.
About three in the morning he finally found him. Frozen stiff. He came into the kitchen with Tom in his arms. It was the saddest thing I’d ever seen. The cat was rock hard. Dad lined a cardboard box with soft rags and put Tom in. Then he set the box on top of the large wood stove in the kitchen and built a small fire. I was horrified, thinking he meant to throw the cat into the fire. He didn’t. He just left the box setting on the stove. Mom asked him why he’d brought the dead cat in the house and he answered, “I have hope.”
At the time I hadn’t a clue what he meant, but understood later as Tom sat on the floor lapping warm gravy–gravy that Mom had given him in one of her best dishes. Maybe Mom didn’t dislike cats as much as I’d thought. Old Tom had a very long life or maybe it was two lives.
I still love cats, but hadn’t had one for many years. Recently someone dropped a half grown Havana Brown near my house. After watching him for a week or so and realizing he was starving, I brought him in the house and adopted him or he adopted me…something like that. He’s a little sleepy here with his large, green eyes half closed, but beautiful, huh?