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at Night
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Fireside Stories by Faith Pyle


Momma Tames a Cat

I was eight years old the year we moved back to Tahoe. We 4 big kids started school in September. Momma had Rae who was five then and Shirley, the baby, at home.  It was 1935.

When the big storms came in December, our pipes froze. We had to use the outhouse  way out back. When Momma was opening it up and cleaning up there and putting the wood ashes into the hole she heard this meowing. She told us,” I looked up and there was the big puffed up old cat all indignant. I suppose that old woods cat thought he could sleep up in the outhouse rafters out of the snow. Well when I caught his eye, he ran lickety split into the willow trees. I will coax him back with some food but you children must not run toward him or he will leave forever. “ We did what Momma told us to do.

I guess there is nothing in the world shyer than a cat that has gone wild in the woods

My mother called “here kitty” and put down a dish of scraps on the back porch”. The white and black face of the  wild tomcat stared at her from the willow trees out in the back yard, then ran away

Momma came back in and said, “Well that is really a shy cat. She looked out the window of the back door “Here he comes,” she whispered “now be quiet. Don’t scare him.”

We took turns watching him pick daintily at the dish, then eat the meat scraps. Then he sat and washed his face and paws. With a meow, he turned and walked back into the willows behind the outhouse, and he disappeared.

Every morning at almost exactly the same time he came. Momma said he had a better sense of when we were eating than the hobo’s who also came to our back door. She said, “Well, at least the men that come do offer to split the wood or shovel snow for a meal. That cat acts like a King who has an errant servant who does not have his breakfast ready on time?”

One weekend morning we were in the kitchen and Momma said, “If you will all be very still I will show you something the old cat has been doing for a few days.” So we were all very still and watched Momma put the dish of food down, not on the porch but inside by the wood box. She left the back door open even if it was wintertime. Then she backed up and sat in a chair nearby. The baby was about nine or ten months old and just crawling. Now. she crawled over to  sit  by Momma, and Rae was squished up against Momma’s leg.. We sat very still and stared out the door. We guessed that Momma, Rae and the baby had been practicing this to show us.

Out of the willows he came, proud as a real King. His face was half white and half black and he had a wonderful big head which he held high in the air and looked all around as he approached.  He stopped at the entrance to the kitchen and checked out the crowd of children over at the kitchen table. Then slowly as if marching to a silent dirge he came into the kitchen and right over to the dish of food. He sat down with his back to us and curled his tail around his legs, then proceeded to eat everything on his plate.

He stood and stretched arching his back and giving a little moan.. Then he sat there by the stove, washed his face, and groomed his hair. The baby crawled over to him as if it was the most natural thing in the world and sat there very close to him. She reached out a tentative hand and that old cat put his head right under her hand and pushed it up so that she was rubbing his head. Momma said, “Now you just look at that old faker!. He pretends he can’t see us for dirt and then the first thing he is making the baby pet him”

Now Momma stood up and was about to shut the back door, and she talked to that cat which amazed me because I thought my Momma did not like cats.. “Well Mr. King, did you have a nice breakfast. Shall I bow to you sir? I am going to close the door now and if you want to stay in where it is warm you can, Oh I see you want to get out so go then and enjoy your day. Come back in the morning. ?” And he ran out the door and disappeared.

This old cat lived in our woodshed all that winter.. He would sleep in there in a box Momma filled with Gunnysacks.. Of course, she told us he could pay for his keep by catching mice for us. 

In a few months, he came out of the woods with another cat. Momma said it was a Momma cat and was going to have kittens. This cat was stripped and grey and she went right in the box Momma had made for King cat. The next day she had her kittens in there and in a day or two Momma let us go look at them but she said, “You know we can not keep all those old woods cats so don’t ask me. I can hardly feed you kids let alone every old cat in the woods. 

We watched those kittens grow for a while. They were very sweet and not wild like their father. The mother cat took good care of them. She took them out of the box and hid them over in the stacks of wood. Now we could not find them and she felt a whole lot better her kittens were safe. One day when we went in there Momma said, “The momma cat and her kittens are gone. I had to give them away so don’t go looking for them.”

Well, I do not know who she gave all the cats to, but the old King cat lived in there for the rest of the winter. In the summer, he disappeared and he did not come back again.

Momma said “I wonder if that old cat just was taming me so I would get a place fixed for his girl friend to have her kittens. Cats are pretty darn smart and I would not be surprised if that is all he wanted out of us. But we got a lot of fun too watching him and who knows he might come back some time.”

However, he never did come back.

The End


Written by Faith Pyle ©All rights reserved





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