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Craig Osborne Snow

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Gramps, The Tree, And The Cat

Craig Osborne Snow

© Copyright 2000 by Craig Osborne Snow

Gramps for the most part was pretty smart but I remember one time when he slipped up a little. He had some poplars growing between the house and the chicken yard and decided he wanted to do some serious pruning. With the aid of a ladder, he climbed twenty feet up one of the trees and started sawing away on a big limb. When he couldn't get a good angle, he climbed out on the limb. His plan was to saw part way through and then get back on the ladder to finish the job.

Gramps didn't bounce worth beans when the limb broke off. Busted several ribs when he landed. Even spent a couple of days in the hospital telling them he wanted to go home. The doctor let him out on condition he would stay a few days with us resting. He didn't like it but he agreed.

Now, we had an old red velvet padded rocker with open arms that was really comfortable. That was where Gramps headed like a homing pigeon. But Gramps had no more than gotten settled when Tiger, our silver tabby cat, sat down in front of him and started a stare-down contest. You see, the red rocker was also Tiger's favorite chair. Tiger was the king of the roost. He was not used to having competition for what was naturally his. After about fifteen minutes, Gramps asked what was the matter with our cat. I told him that Tiger usually took his naps in the red rocker and he wanted his chair.

Gramps never said a word, just chuckled a little gingerly and proceeded to ignore Tiger. That was a mistake. After a few minutes, Tiger went to stage two. He got up and padded around toward the back of the chair and off to one side where he had a good view of Gramps' flank. Then ever so carefully he unsheathed one claw and sank it to the hilt in Gramps' rump.

Broken ribs and all, Gramps came up out of that chair like a spring chicken. He turned around and there in the chair staring up at him was Tiger.

Gramps grinned and went over and sat down on the couch. It seems like he had gotten a little smarter since falling out of the tree.

More Than A Furry Friend

Craig Osborne Snow

© Copyright 2000 by Craig Osborne Snow

This is a story I have wanted to write. Marco was the best cat ever and he was mine, or more precisely, we were a unit. Neither of us "owned" the other.

I never realized what I had until I almost lost it from sheer stupidity. But to explain my blunder I have to tell you a little bit about Marco and what made him so special.

Marco, although smart, was not the brightest cat I have known, nor the biggest (though he was the longest). He was your typical run-of-the-mill silver tabby, a bit on the lean side, always inquisitive (but not obnoxiously so).

Marco was also the most gentle cat I have ever known. Generally cats, if you get in their face, will let you have a taste of claw to say the least. Marco from day one never drew blood intentionally unless you happened to be a mouse, a bird or a dog. The first two he would eat; dogs he more or less tolerated.

To give an example of Marco's grace under fire, one time when he was about four years old my cousin Carol came out with her daughters when they were at the doll-playing stage. The girls got hold of a dress my mother had made for the youngest of them and put Marco in it. He was not happy but he put up with it until the littlest one decided to see if his eyes were removable. She was gouging and probing his eyes with her stubby, fat little fingers. Marco rolled his head from side to side and began meowing stridently for help. But never once did he try to claw or bite. All he wanted was for me to come to his rescue, which I did.

Marco also wouldn't roughhouse with the other cats. If they attacked his tail he would just pull it in or get up and walk away.

When Marco was about five I got a burr under my saddle and decided to try to get him to fight like the rest of the cats. I gave him a good old fashioned tummy-tickling teasing, the kind where, if you aren't fast enough, you would usually expect to pull back a bloody stump. But Marco wouldn't fight no matter what I did. I must have tried for over an hour but still he wouldn't retaliate.

When I finally stopped he got the saddest look on his face and went outside. When he came in to eat a few hours later I went over to pick him up and he walked away from me. I reached to pet him and he evaded me and went towards the living room. He stopped in the doorway and looked back at me as though I were a stranger. Again I tried to pet him, but he avoided any contact. I got him cheese (his favorite snack food) and he wouldn't touch it. He went back outside.

After three days of being totally shunned, I couldn't take it any more. I felt as if I had lost my best friend. That evening, I grabbed Marco while he was eating and took him up to my bedroom and shut the door. And this time for over an hour I held him and petted him and told him how much I loved him and that I was so sorry for what I had done. I cried and told him I wanted things the way they were before.

I was sitting on the bed with my back up against the headboard. I let him go. He stepped away and looked at me for the longest time (it seemed like forever) and then he came back over and lay down beside me and went to sleep. Neither of us ever brought the subject up again.

The Dowager Queen

Craig Osborne Snow

© Copyright 2000 by Craig Osborne Snow

The other day I got to remembering how when I used to help Gramps feed the dairy cows they would always queue up in the same order. Things got vicious if one of the cows tried to take her turn ahead of time. The head gal was downright mean. For instance, one old cow at the bottom of the pecking order had an abscessed jaw. I felt sorry for her and sometimes when I was putting out the feed I would shoo the other cows away until she had eaten. I did her no favors. The queen would be twice as nasty to her later.

Then there was Queen Cleo the cat.

Of course, Cleo didn't start out queen of anything. She was a smallish calico who as a kitten showed no potential at all. The first year we only kept her because we couldn't give her back.

Cleo didn't seem to know which end was up. To give you an idea, one time she climbed about twenty feet up one of the trees and then couldn't figure out how to come down. She finally decided to come down head first, so of course she fell and then lit on her side. Couldn't even land on her feet.

A couple months later Cleo happened to be out in the front yard when Cousin Harold's bird dog ran up to her and started barking. She promptly lay down, rolled over on her back and sprayed an eighteen-square-foot area on the side of the house with twelve pounds of fertilizer. A remarkable feat for a seven-pound cat.

Things didn't get better, they got worse. Cleo went into heat. Now cats are not known for their modesty. But most cats go into heat, get pregnant, and that is the end of it for a few months. But not Cleo! She went into heat twice in the same month. The first round lasted about seven days. The second was the more typical two or three days. But at that point, we were beginning to wonder if Cleo ever did anything normally.

The transformation in Cleo was as awesome as the birthing process that preceded it, although not as quick. After she had kittens, she finally had a purpose in life besides eating and sleeping. Also, she seemed to have an inborn knowledge of how to take care of her offspring, which was remarkable for such a klutz. But we didn't know what a fierce mama she had turned into until our cousin came out with his dog again. The kittens were a couple of months old. The dog caught sight of his old victim and thought he would run up and bark like he had before. He never even got out a "woof." Instead, he let out a series of "ki-yis" as Cleo chased him under the fir tree and proceeded to thoroughly lacerate him, nose, belly and ears. The turning of the worm had begun.

Some march to a different beat but Cleo didn't even have a drummer until she had those kittens. With each succeeding litter the beat got stronger and so did the size of the litters. When the last batch was eight, the folks took her to the vet in Colfax to be spayed. This was when I found out cats can cry.

We left Cleo at the vet's for three days and when we went to pick her up she was in a terrible state. The vet said he had never seen anything like it. All the time she was there she had refused to eat and just lay in her cage meowing and crying real tears until all the hair under her eyes was gone. The vet said this didn't stop until we walked through the door to pick her up.

Cleo slept all the way home. After she got home, she started eating. The next few days, she ate so much (and gained so much weight) we couldn't get to the stitches we were supposed to remove. We had to put her in the car to take her to the vet. Cleo started caterwauling the moment we cranked up the car and continued the whole thirty miles to Colfax. As soon as the stitches were removed and we got her back in the car, she lay down in the back seat and went to sleep for the ride back to the ranch. One strange cat.

Six months later, our family of about 20 cats was hit with feline distemper, a highly infectious and deadly disease. We lost most of the cats. I can remember wrapping one cat after another in towels and force-feeding them liver and eye droppers of aspirin. Every three or four hours around the clock we were treating a half dozen cats. Cleo seemed like she was the worst of the lot. She had the most weight loss, and she refused to eat even after others were on the road to recovery. Then one day she just started eating and doing everything normally as though nothing had happened. She acted so well she made the others look like a bunch of malingerers. But to her dying day she did not like the sight of an eye dropper.

It was after this that Cleo finally started exerting her queenly authority. She did not bully or threaten so much as refuse to yield. If she was hungry, she pushed the others aside and made them wait until she was done eating. If she wanted to sleep in the red rocker, she would jump up on the seat, lie down and then wiggle and squirm until the other cats just left or were displaced by her squirming. She had her favorite spot, right in the middle. No clawing or hissing was necessary, they just knew.

As the years wore on, Cleo's crown got bigger and bigger, to the point where even we would yield to her wishes upon occasion. However, she never could get the folks to let her stay in at night. And she knew it. As soon as she saw us getting ready to retire, or heard someone say the magical words, "Well, time for bed," she would slither off whatever place she happened to be sleeping and try to hide. Then Father would act as if he couldn't find her. This used to last five or ten minutes even though her big butt would be sticking out from behind the curtains or wherever she had gone. She couldn't seem to get it through her noggin that just because her head was out of sight it didn't mean the rest of her was invisible. This evening ritual came to be as much a tradition as her always getting her very own bacon in the morning on her special plate.

Cleo graced our household for over eighteen years. She was not the brightest (more like the sneakiest), nor biggest (pudgy, yes), nor prettiest (a real plain Jane), but she definitely had personality. Looking back, it was truly a privilege to be her subject and servant during her long and eventful reign.

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