This is a collection of family stories that are told repeatedly anytime the Smith clan congregates during a vacation or a holiday. I’m sure some of them are told more from my perspective than others but I welcome added insight from those involved. These stories are part of who we are and I want them recorded. Not all of them are pretty, but that is ok.
Young ones growing up on a farm had an important job. It was taming the kittens.
Cats are an essential element on a farm. Barns and other farm buildings are like hotels for mice if there are no cats around to keep them in check. Most of our cats were not the pampered, brushed and combed, vaccinated and neutered kind that are fed fancy food. Barn cats were and are excellent hunters who feed on small rodents almost exclusively and travel around the farm at will. And even if some cats were neutered or spayed, there was no guaranateeing that the neighbors cats were, therefore … kittens abounded.
You found them in the hayloft. You knew to look because a cat who had been looking kind of hefty for a while was suddenly skinny. We loved going into the loft to look for kittens because it was the ultimate scavenger hunt. You could follow mama cat if you were wiley enough to not let her know, otherwise you just had to start searching the crevices between the bales and hope you got lucky. The prize was finding that sleeping pile of gorgeous kitten fur, four or five of them most of the time. They were often a variety of colors and patterns, tiger stripe, calico, orange tiger, black and white, or maybe even solid black. It was best to find them when they were very young and let them see you often as they grew, but sometimes the mother would be skeptical of motives and move the family to a new hiding place. So the hunt would resume.
Older kittens were more difficult to deal with. They would instinctively hide and bite and scratch, but if they weren’t tamed they would grow up wild and too many wild ones would result in a cat population growing way out of bounds. Our job as children was to find, tame and help the kittens be people friendly so they could possibly go to a new home.
One time, my brother Stubby (we don’t call him that anymore) had been working on an older kitten and was making some headway when he heard of a family in need of a cat. He very much wanted them to take this kitten and was able, with difficulty, to get it into a box. With glowing reports of how pretty this kitty was he took them to the barn to see their new pet. Unfortunately, every time the box was touched it exploded into a shaking, jumping, growling, banshee shrieking package that was not very inviting. Amazingly, they took it.
As a young mom, I was able to live once again on the farm where I grew up. My own children learned the art of cat taming just like I had. They carried kittens in their arms, dressed them up in doll clothes, put them to sleep in dresser drawers (which was the first place we looked when one was missing) and in general subjected them to all sorts of handling. They were gentle and bomb proof by the time they were grown. Caring for them provided many lessons and so much fun for my own two cat tamers.