Not many animals on our farm have caused as many stories -- both dramatic and humorous, or as much joy and pain -- as our farm cats.
They are a lesson in survival, but also a lesson in nature.
Growing up we had cats. In fact we bought (and paid good money) for two of them from a local pet store. I'm not sure how I was able to convince my mother that Groucho and Whitey were a good investment. Perhaps there were no other options. Animal shelters were few and far between.
As city cats, however, Groucho and Whitey were anything but citified. They found a way outside through a basement window and routinely wandered the neighborhood picking up mice and birds along the way. My sister, aroused by a thumping noise, once came downstairs to observe Groucho killing his latest conquest -- a bird-- by swinging it back and forth into our kitchen wall.
She was not impressed.
So when I came to the farm, I thought I knew all about outdoor cats and their habits. However, I wasn't prepared for some of the surprises I was to face, especially from one particurlary adventurous cat named Taco. (Before you ask, I have no idea how she got her name.)
Taco was a beautiful calico, who roamed the yard and farm near our first home. One night, in a rainstorm, we drove to a meeting in Blackburn, at least 30 minutes away. Leaving the meeting a few hours later, we noticed a soaking wet cat standing outside the building. It meowed at everyone as they passed by.
"That's Taco," I said to my skeptical husband. He disagreed, but somehow I convinced him to let me take the soaking cat home, riding on my lap in the truck cab.
"We are going to have two cats that look just alike when we get home," he grumbled, convinced a cat couldn't have ridden and held on under our truck for that long.
But, alas, there was only one Taco.
She continued to live on the farm, hunting birds and mice to supplement the cat food we gave her.
One morning she gave us another surprise.
Our 100 year-old home was built on a rock foundation. A century of wear and tear had taken its toll on some of the rocks.
It was early, and I was cooking breakfast when I heard --and then saw-- a furry paw thrust it's way through two cabinet doors under the sink.
As I screamed, the paw began to feel for a solid floor beneath, and out popped Taco, pushing the the two cabinet doors wide open.
Apparently, while hunting prey she managed to find her way through the rock foundation, underneath our crawl space and up through the boards next to the sink. (The boards were made to pop out in case we needed to get under the crawl space to thaw frozen pipes. Did I mention it was a very old house?)
Needless to say, the whole incident was shocking -- and funny.
Through the years, we have had many farm cats. They have provided us with laughs, cuddly kittens, several adventures and more than one tear. As animals go, the farm cat's place -- and her job of keeping rodents away from barns and equipment -- is held in high-esteem at our house.
But I have to say, of all the cats we have had and probably will have, I'm glad Taco was the first.