© Copyright 1999 by Arnetta Baugh
I was four years old the warm spring day my little sister was born. I spent the day on the farm with my grandmother. That same morning, grandma's big gray tabby gave birth to four kittens, two black and white ones, one gray marbled one,and the last one yellow and white striped.
"Do you think I can have the yellow striped one, grandma? He's so cute."
"We'll have to ask your mom when she gets home from the hospital, Lindy."
Grandma lived on the farm next to ours, so every day I walked to her house to play with the kittens and watch them grow. When the kittens were weaned, I brought the tiny yellow one home and named him Tom-Cat.
Mother reminded me, "No animals in this house, not even a kitten cute as this. You can keep him on the back porch. I put a box out there for him to sleep in. I have baby Sarah to take care of, Lindy, so you'll have all the responsibility for its care."
"I will, I promise, Mama, I will. I'll take really good care of him."
I tiptoed into the house, past the sleeping baby, to find my favorite doll blanket, the one with teddy bears on it, and tucked it in the box. Three or four times a day, I carried out a bowl of warm milk and some table scraps for him.
After I started kindergarten, Tom-Cat became so lonesome he took up with the chickens. He slept with them at night, often scaring away the skunks that came there looking for eggs.
Tom-Cat let me carry him around for hours. His lanky body hung out both below and above my arms. When he decided he'd had enough of my play, he'd lick my hands and face with his sandpaper tongue, make me weak with laughter.
I could never ride my favorite Appaloosa, Blossom, without Tom-Cat pressed between the saddle horn and me.
He never killed any of the robins or sparrows that nested in our apple trees. He was, however, good at catching mice. He would play with them, toss them in the air, let them go and tackle them again and again; finally, by the tail, he would drag them under the porch out of sight.
I gave up playing with dolls, because I had Tom-Cat to dress up in my doll clothes, complete with bonnet, sweater and socks. I'd put him in my doll buggy and away we'd go.
"Ooh, Tom-Cat," I'd croon to him as he lay back on the pillows and blankets. "You look so cute all dressed up. You really are my `baby,' aren't you?"
One Saturday afternoon in August when I was seven, two of my friends and I were running through the sprinklers when mean old Mr. Larsen came rushing into our front yard yelling, "I'm gonna kill that damn cat of yours. Been eatin' my chickens. Scatterin' feathers from hell to breakfast."
I ran into the house. "Daddy, Daddy, come quick. Stinky old Mr. Larsen's out here and says he's gonna kill Tom-Cat."
My father jumped up from the table where he was reading the newspaper. "No one's goin' to kill Tom-Cat, Lindy." He pushed up his shirtsleeves past his elbows and charged out the door. "What's this all about, Fred?"
"Your cat killed some of my chickens."
"That's not possible and I'll show you why."
Daddy hugged me, held my hand as we walked toward the chicken coop. Mr. Larsen followed us into the back yard, into the cool of the shaded chicken coop. Just as my father expected, there, sound asleep, was my precious cat all snuggled in a nest with one of our chickens. Daddy reached for Tom-Cat and scratched his ears, waking him. Tom-Cat stretched, jumped out of the nest and came over to me. I picked him up and gathered him in my arms.
Mr. Larsen hung his head, laughed, "I guess you're right, Ray. That can't be the cat I saw. This here cat's a chicken lover."
Dad and Mr. Larsen strolled away from the coop. Mr. Larsen slapped my dad on the back, "Where'd you ever find a killer cat like that there?"
knew you couldn't hurt any of them chickens, Tom-Cat." I hugged
my best buddy. He gazed up at me with his large green eyes, purring
was born in the Teton Valley of Idaho during the Depression. I
moved with my husband and four children to Wyoming in May 1976.
I've been an usher and cashier in a movie theatre, a fry-cook in a
drive-in hamburger stand, a bank officer, and my last position was
office manager for a trucking firm. I retired this past April. My
husband and I enjoy traveling in our small motor home. I write
both poetry and fiction. Currently I am Vice-President of the
Wyoming Poetry Association.
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Another Story By Arnetta:
The Passing Of Michael