Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cats and More Cats

Cats: they’re fun, they’re pests, they are useful…. and their numbers increase faster than you can give them away.
Three years ago, a stray, perhaps alerted by a cat style hobo mark, stopped by, ready for her handout. Skinny and obviously carrying kittens, she received her expected daily handout of table scraps.
These were placed in a worn-out birdbath, and if you have never heard of a birdbath being worn out, let me assure you that it can happen! Not from the flapping and fluttering of wings, however, but from a flaw in the concrete, which caused it to deteriorate until huge holes appeared, and it could no longer hold water.
Now that it had become a convenient feeder for the cat, other wildlife took notice. There were four crows, jays and cardinals, and one evening we glanced out the window and spied a fox crouched n the birdbath, happily enjoying the remains of our evening meal.
At about this time, the cat with no name, retired to have her kittens. Happily, there were only two; identical black and white ones, a male and a female. They were a joy to watch as they jumped and wrestled in the late evening twilight. As half grown cats they seemed not to notice that their no-name mama had deserted them (and us), and one night the male also decided to roam and like his mama, never returned.

The little female grew tall and leggy, but remained as wild as her mother and no amount of food put any fat on her lean frame, but her fur was jet black and glossy so she officially became Pretty Cat, as we are not imaginative folks. Soon I renamed her Mighty Cat, after watching her frighten the fox away from her dinner table. Occasionally, she would deliberately lengthen her meal time, while the fox waited patiently a short distance away.
Once the fox must have been extremely hungry, for he got to the feed early, and established himself firmly over the goodies before Mighty Cat arrived. It was a standoff. He ate, She watched. She even swatted that long bushy tail hanging over the edge of the feeder, with no results.
Naturally, when putting food out it was not always entirely eaten and other animals sense that the welcome mat is out. We were not surprised to see a huge coon appear for his share of the free , easy to get, food. He soon established his position as boss over the other animals and left not a crumb if he was hungry. He never seemed very disturbed by my yelling and stick waving.
Late one evening, we were startled to see two foxes enjoying the bounty that the birdbath held.. Cantaloupe rinds, overripe fruit, left over veggies from the dinner table…they cleared their dish. They did not eat broccoli. One night, the old coon also brought his mate along . There were more to come. The evening the entire fox family arrived, I could not tear myself away from the window. The pair of fox were both in the birdbath, chowing down, but constantly watchful for danger.The almost grown young ones were playful, wrestling and snapping at each other. Occasionally, they would snatch a bit of food, which bothered their parents not at all.
Not to be out done, the old coon brought his family up for a free meal. In the coon family, the rules were different. The he-coon first had his leisurely meal while his family waited impatiently. His mate or one of the three young, would sometimes reach a tentative paw toward the edge of the bird bath, only to be swatted away. After observing the foxes’ congenial behavior, I was shocked by this old fellow’s selfishness. In fact, I was so annoyed that I chased the entire family away.
There may be a moral here about freebies, because from the first give-away to one cat, we now were feeding a cat, a fox family of five, and a coon (the entire family never appeared again.)

In the naturally progression of cat life, Mighty Cat soon presented us with her own litter of five kittens, a beautifully marked brindle, a grey and white, and three ugly tortoise ones because of their strangely marked faces. Following in the footsteps of her mama, she also disappeared, returning occasionally to swat her brood away from the feed pan. By this time, we were buying cat food in 15 lb. bags. The foxes had left, deciding they could feed elsewhere with less hassle.

Of the five kittens, all females), we managed to catch two and sent them to a new home in a barn reported to have an over abundance of mice and rats. Their yowls of protest as they were placed in a carrier were impressive and the remaining three cats became even more leery of a human touch and strange vehicles sent them streaking for shelter. Their appetites were never diminished by their nervousness.
Suggestions about what to do with three female cats were plentiful. Suggestions don’t tame cats and the wild gene remains strong in this group of cats and continues in a new, fourth generation of eight darling blue eyed kittens. A direct look sends them under the nearest bush. A movement of a single hand sends them streaking for distant safety. Regardless, now that there are eight new, wild little critters creeping up to join their mamas at the feed pan, somehow, a cat-snatching must be arranged..
Any one want a kitten?

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Call of the Road

I read once that we, as a nation, are fascinated with the names of places, as used in songs, more than any other people in the world. True or not, it started me thinking about songs of this type…..and there are different types.
Early ballads provide a musical history of the longing for home, and songs of the Civil War period also sang of home and of a lost way of life.

Our modern day “On the Road” type of songs could have their roots in the old Route 66 highway that crossed 2448 miles of the nation, reaching from Chicago to LA. Migrants traveled this route during the dustbowl days, their ordeals immortalized in john Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Although travel was exceedingly tedious in the days following the opening of Route 66, in 1926, other daring travelers began to undertake the trip.

Route 66 saw every kind of traveler: The more affluent, traveling to see the sights, and worn-out vehicles and trucks such as this museum item,piled high with household goods, their owners hoping to find a better life.

Perhaps it was Bobby Troup’s lyrics to Get Your Kicks on Route 66, that first captured the spirit of traveling through the cities and states along this legendary highway. Written soon after WWll, it quickly became a hit, and as Route 66 became improved and other highways were built, cross country travel became more common.

There is a bit of loneliness as well as excitement in the multitude of trucking songs such as Six Days on the Road and 500 Hundred Miles Away From Home. Then there is Kansas City, a rollicking piece that quickly filled many dance floors with it’s first notes.
Songs about Alabama, California, Oklahoma, and Texas appear to be in the majority, and cities such as San Antonia, Tulsa, New York, and San Francisco head a long list of many more. The names seem to hold a special mystic … one of the excitement of the wild west, or being on a mountain top, looking down on a misty valley, smelling the scent of the pines the ocean on a damp breeze.
In retrospect, it seems that it has been our highway system that has spawned so many songs about being on the road.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Question

A question occurred to me while writing the Rationing blog: What would be the reaction today to such a restriction? A reader commented along the same line.

There are great differences in the generations of the 1940's and that of today's generation lifestyle and expectations. The “Silent Generation” of those years had endured the difficulties of the depression years; in fact, the nation was not fully recovered making the citizens accustomed to continued hardships.

1932-getting ready for work >

In President Roosevelt’s efforts to remedy the problems that created the depression, had passed laws that were extremely controlling, and although there was grumbling and even a few Supreme Court reversals, there was no widespread coverage and discussions of the pros and cons. At that time, there was not a continuous media coverage of each day’s happenings, nor were our leaders' qualification continually under scrutiny.
Today, we have a society used to many comfort: Running water, light at the flip of a switch, refrigerated food, and cars that purr instead of chug. We also have almost continuous TV coverage of events and issues, compared to the meager radio and newspaper coverage of 68 years ago.

What would create such a necessity? How would we react? How would we cope? What other restrictions would be necessary under such conditions? Would someone start a “Bread Party” in protest, or would we tighten our belts and show the grit that built this nation?
Like Scarlet O’Hara, in Gone With the Wind, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

1928 swimming party in water storage tank