The Cat On The Mat

After living in the city my entire life, in 2003, we decided to give country living a try.

The transition wasn’t too different from Eddie Albert’s Manhattan to Hooterville move on the TV show, “Green Acres.” The only difference was that I wasn’t a wealthy New York attorney and our move was from Tyler to South of Whitehouse. Other than that, it was exactly the same.

I grew up in rural Arkansas, so I’d been around country settings in my youth, but I’d always lived where there was city water, and other infrastructure.

My great grandparents were still homesteading in the mid-60s. I remember visiting them. They had running water in the kitchen, but it was in the form of a hand pump over the kitchen sink. Restroom accommodations was an outhouse stocked with the previous year’s Sears and Roebuck catalog that hung on the wall.

I believe that they had electricity, but I don’t remember for sure. I do remember what we called coal oil lamps being in most rooms.

They raised hogs, chickens, and had a large garden. I remember my great grandfather warning me to stay away from the hog pen, and to check for snakes and spiders in the outhouse.

I learned at a young age that living in the country was hard work and not for wimps. Only the fittest survive.

You would think that I would have embraced the advancements made by mankind, such as plumbing, electric heating units, and canned beans and corn, but as I aged, I felt an urge to move to the country.

Even though I was raised a city boy, I had dreams of going back to my family roots. Chopping wood for a wood stove, growing our own food (my wife’s the family gardener), and planting fruit and nut trees were just some of the things I wanted to do. So, off we went.

My wife found a house on five acres at the end of a dead-end road in the middle of nowhere. This was exactly what I had requested, except for the acreage. I asked for 10, but I would later be glad we only got five. Five is plenty.

When I arrived at our new house with the first load, I began to unload boxes in the garage. I was greeted by a mouthy black cat. I had no idea to whom this cat belonged, but she wound between my feet and acted as if she owned the place as I tried to put things in their new places. Thinking the cat was hungry, I finally drove to the store and bought cat food.

When I returned, I put some food and water out for her. After she ate, she finally sat down on a door mat, licked her paws, and watched me work. I figured that she was either a stray or belonged to a neighbor down the road. Regardless, I had work to do.

Days went by, and I quickly realized that taking care of land and trying to live off of it, would be tiring, hard work.

That cat followed me wherever I went.

About two weeks after we moved in, the doorbell rang. There was a little girl who asked if we had her cat. Turns out, the cat’s name was Spooky, and she did own the place. She belonged to the people from whom we bought the house. They moved, but the cat found her way back.

We gave her the cat and she left.

Two days later, the cat was back. The next day, so was the little girl. She took her cat again. The next day, the cat was back.

She never came back for the cat.

Over the next several years, I came to realize that the cat was a lot like my great grandparents. She liked the country and knew how to survive there.

We had another cat that showed up later. It was a kitten and we kept her for about a year. But, there are predators that also live in the country. One day, that cat never came home.

Not long after that, late one evening, I heard a ruckus. It was coyotes, and they were close behind the house. The next day, Spooky was nowhere around. At first, I thought the worst. But I decided to go look for her.

I roamed the nearby woods calling out for her. After a few minutes, I could hear her. There she was, about 25 feet up a pine. She had escaped the coyotes, but now was too far up to feel safe coming down.

I got an extension ladder and climbed to the top of it. I then climbed the tree the rest of the way up.

She was as terrified as I was. By the time we got back safely on the ground, I had the scratch marks to prove it.

The years have ticked by, and as I work she still winds between my feet, sits on the door mat and licks her paws, and oversees day-to-day operations.

Today, I’m splitting wood for next winter. I’m sure she’ll join me.

Some folks and creatures are meant for the country. Spooky and I certainly are.

And I’m quite appreciative that she lets us live on the homestead. After all, it’s hers. We’re just guests here.

©2017 John Moore
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