Whisker Reflections

Nigel’s Way

From “dog person” to cat lover

This is the story of how one cat made me become the unthinkable.

     Looking back on my childhood, I do not recall a period in time of which my family did not have animals, either for the purpose of livelihood or companionship.  Throughout the years we had Black Angus and Brown Swiss cattle, horses, chickens, and pigs.  We even named one of our pigs Wilbur.  Also, checking-in around our home, and occasionally inside our old farm-house, were unwelcome furry guests such as squirrels, bats, birds, raccoons, bears, and coyotes.  One summer, an elk even graced us with his presence in our large backyard.  Living in north-central Pennsylvania, or “God’s Country”, my family was and will remain surrounded by the animal kingdom.

a partial view of the rolling fields surrounding our farm

     One might think that with exposure to such a wide variety of animal life, whether invited or not, that our family might prefer more exotic pets or at least flirt with the idea of getting one.  However, that assumption could not be further from the truth.  See, there were two unwritten rules in our household.  Number one, when leaving your seat of comfort in the living room, you must call out “Coming back” if you wanted your seat to be empty upon your return from the refrigerator.  When there are seven kids, the best seating went to first come, first served and if you were served, you wanted to keep that seat for as long as possible.  Rule number two, rodents and reptiles shall not pass through the front door.  This rule was silently issued by the Queen of our castle, our mother, and reverently understood by all of her subjects.  It was a law, however, that we did not resent, nor try to break.  The truth of the matter was, even though we lived in very isolated country and some of us stacked wood, ran the farm machinery, spent hot afternoons in the blazing sun stacking hay bales, push-mowed our humongous uneven yard, and anything else of a hard work and sometimes manly nature, nothing could send any one of us, including the two boys, leaping onto a couch or counter top screaming like a little girl faster than a little brown mouse the size of a ping-pong ball scurrying across the hard floor.  If leaping onto a counter with such agility and screaming at the top of your lungs was an Olympic sport, I’d say most of us would win gold.  Our mother, of course, would be our coach.

     I’ll never forget the time when I was awakened in the middle of the night by my sister Katie screaming bloody murder directly across from my closed bedroom door.  A squirrel had gotten into her bedroom by entering a hole from outside that led into the cubby hole, which was used for storage.  The door to the cubby hole had been left partially open.  I have to tell you why this still makes me laugh.  Katie is a twin and the tomboy one of the two.  She is a burly girl who could knock you over with her pinky finger.  Her activities include fishing, hunting, operating heavy farm machinery, raising Black Angus steers for good T-bones later, and outsmarting and outworking my brothers when it comes to any chores on the farm.  Do you have the picture of Katie in your mind?  Apparently, the squirrel had walked up onto Katie’s chest and when she woke up, there it was staring her in the face.  Cue the screaming bloody murder part.  This was not the first face-off with a squirrel in our house, nor would it be the last.  If any of us knew, especially my mother, that there was a squirrel or mouse running loose in our three-story farm-house, a sleepless night was inevitable until the furry intruder was apprehended.   Fortunately, on the night of Katie’s squirrel episode, my bedroom door was closed.  Therefore, I knew for certainty that my bedroom was furry-free and I could lapse back into dear sleep while the rest of my family, however, had bedroom lights on, broom or other household weapons in hand, and slept with two eyes open.

No, our family of seven kids and the parents preferred one of the most popular house pets, bigger than a mouse and squirrel, but more predictable and less ferocious; the dog, man’s best friend.

To be continued….


“Life is a frolic as long as you have enough
to eat, a warm bed, and plenty of catnip.”

from Rita Mae Brown’s novel Rest in Pieces