(10 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River. It was a redneck sort of place, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.
When I was around four or five years old, around 1961 or 1962, I begged my parents to get a cat for me. I have always been more of a cat person than a dog person, but I really have nothing against dogs. Cats and I just understand each other than dogs and I do. That is while were still living in North Little Rock.
My grandmum had been ill with a thyroid condition that required surgery, so my parents hired a very nice black lady by the name of Sadie to look after us during the day until my grandmum recovered from her surgery. It just so happened that Sadie new someone who had a couple of kittens to give away, so we drove over to their house one Saturday and got Lucy.
Actually, her name was properly Lucifer but we always called her Lucy. I named her, and I do not know what I was thinking when I came up with that moniker. It turned out to be apt, though, because she had quite the temper and when she did not want to be petted she would let you know by a tooth or a claw.
Lucy, once she was grown, was a very large tabby cat. My parents had her spayed early on as they did not want a bunch of kittens all of the time. I have a very nice picture of her that my mum took, but it is back in Arkansas with the former Mrs. Translator. However, I can do the next best thing:
This is a picture of The Girl holding Jace, her tabby cat, that I took this morning. It was a rare warm day today, so we were wearing only light jackets. Jace’s markings and coloration are remarkably similar to those of Lucy’s, even to the length of the fur. If you were to see them side by side, unless you knew them personally you would not be able to distinguish them.
As a kitten Lucy was playful, doing all of the kitten things that kittens do, running after a piece of yarn, pouncing at you, and all of the rest. One thing that we would do which in retrospect was probably not so kind was to put tape on her feet and laugh as she would shake one foot after another until she was able to use her teeth to remove t. She did not seem any worse for wear for it, but I probably wound not do that now.
Lucy had an uncanny ability to read people’s moods. As I suffered through the usual childhood illnesses, I would lie on the couch with fever. She would always come and lie down on top of me and go to sleep. Maybe it was just because I was being still, but she normally would not do that if I were merely napping rather than ill. Maybe she liked the warmer temperature when I had fever.
There was another cat in the neighborhood that did not like Lucy at all and would come over and fight with her now and then. She would make a horrible mess on the front porch (that is where her cat bed was) and my grandmum would have to take the water hose and wash the porch the next morning. I do not know what happened to that cat, because after a few months it stopped coming to fight with her. Maybe she was big and strong enough that the other cat took a licking.
When we moved back to Hackett in 1964, she made the transition well. Now, instead of a little lot in a crowded neighborhood, she had acres and acres to roam and hunt. She really took to that. We had a martin house on the property in front of the barn, and when they were nesting they would dive bomb her as she went to the barn. She liked the barn because of the rats.
That reminds me of her habit of always bringing rats that she had killed to the house before she ate them. I rather think that she was bringing them to us as trophies to show what a good ratter she was. She would not bring mice, only just the really big rats. After she caught and killed them, she would come to wherever we were in the house and proceed to eat them.
Lucy could be affectionate, but she could also be sort of mean. As I said before, if she did not want to be petted she would let you know. I am not talking about a gentle nip or light scratch, but rather some pretty serious clawing and biting. We all learned to leave her alone when she was in one of her moods.
My Great Aunt Edna, who I have discussed before, did not like Lucy at all. One time Ednie, as we always called her, had been petting her when she was in one of her moods, and Lucy did a number on the back of one of her hands. From that time on, Ednie would give Lucy wide berth whenever she came into the room, going so far as getting up and moving to another chair if Lucy came to sit by her.
I have told this story before, but please bear with me. One holiday dinner, I remember not if it were Thanksgiving or Easter, we were all at the table in the formal dining room and Lucy was doing as she always did, beg for food by giving a gentle tap on the side of people’s legs with no claws (she was smart enough to know that clawing people was not very productive for getting food). She made the mistake of tapping Ednie on the leg, and Ednie was eating something with a spoon. In one fluid motion, Ednie beaned Lucy right betwixt the eyes with the convex side of the spoon, then went right back to her food. Lucy kind of staggered away, but was back before long begging from others. Never again did Lucy try to beg food from Ednie!
Lucy knew when she intimidated people. Alice, my cousin Charlie’s wife, was deathly afraid of cats. Anytime that they would come to visit, Lucy would make it a point to jump up on her lap. Alice was too terrified to try to move her, so she would sit there with this really uncomfortable look on her face until Lucy decided to get down or one of us moved her. I am sure that she did that just to torment Alice.
We had other cats from time to time during Lucy’s reign, but there was no doubt who the alpha cat was. She would tolerate other cats, but she suffered no nonsense from them. When the food bowl was filled, it was Lucy who ate until she was full, and then the other cats could eat. She was big enough to intimidate the other cats, and knew it.
Once she got hurt, cut on her shoulder by something. She came home limping a little, so my dad took care of her. He cleaned the wound and put some alcohol on it. She did not like that at all, but my mum and I had her secured inside of a heavy towel. Then my dad gave her an injection of Combiotic, the staple for farms and ranches at the time. We always had a bottle of it in the refrigerator for the cattle, dogs (my dad kept bird dogs), and the cats. When we released her, she took off for a while but came back soon. She healed up just fine, but any time someone would open a bottle of rubbing alcohol she made herself very scarce.
My dad always gave the animals their shots, it being legal to buy rabies vaccine OTC at the time (as a matter of fact, is was at the time that I left Arkansas in late 2004, and I gave all of the family pets their shots). Lucy was not too bad with that, but my dad used small gauge and very sharp needles. If you have never given pets shots, it is amazing how much tougher a cat’s hide is than a dog’s hide. My neighbor across the street tells me that his father would always scoop up road kill cats, skin them, and then use the hide to build banjos. Elmer says that his father said that cat hide made a more durable and better sounding banjo than any other.
One day, Lucy failed to come at feeding time, and actually just did not show up at all for days. We all figured that she had gotten hit by a car, but we never found a carcass. I kept looking for her, and on as I remember the third day found her in an old building on the north side of the house. She was hungry and thirsty, but otherwise was OK. I am not sure what caused her to do that, but I suspect that she was sick and just wanted a quiet, dark place to recover. She never did anything like that again.
Lucy lived life of comfort, but was more of an outside cat than an inside cat. It was only when she got quite old that we even had a litter box, as she knew to beg for the door to be opened and spent the nights outside. For a while we had a collie dog that slept on the front porch in her bed, and out of the wind. Lucy would tolerate the dog well enough to lie next to her when the weather got cold.
Lucy lived to be 18 years old, in good health up to very near the end of her life. The former Mrs. Translator had married and moved away when she finally departed, my mum holding her as she painlessly died of kidney failure. I have had other cats off and on, but none with quite the personality of Lucy. It is 8:22 PM as I write this, and fewer than ten minutes ago I agreed to let The Girl’s cat sleep in my spare bathroom when the weather gets really bad this year. She is going to bring a bag of cat litter and a litter box after the next time she goes to the store to leave with me, and some food as well. For the cat; not for me! Her parents will not allow Jace to sleep inside at night, and since they have only one bathroom and lots of traffic it would be a problem anyhow. I certainly do not mind having a housemate when the weather is bad.
Please feel free to add any recollections that you have from your childhood in the comments. I know that I like to read them, and from comments that I get I take it that everyone else does as well.
Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith