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Daily Archives: May 9, 2011

A feral cat, a loaf of bread and an execution . . .

Cat in the Hat Barn

A couple of months ago I posted the story of my family’s brief attempt at living life on a farm in Mississippi in a three-room house with no bathrooms, no electricity and no running water. Winter was kept at bay by two fireplaces that heated the combination living room and bedroom and a separate bedroom. Added to those two rooms were the combination kitchen and dining area and a lean-to intended for storage, primarily for stove and fireplace wood and livestock feed. Click here to read the details—it’s well worth the read, featuring tales of cotton picking, sexual abuse of chickens, killing twin fox terriers and threatening runaway children with a shotgun.

This posting is about an incident on the farm that featured a feral tomcat. One evening at dusk my stepfather, knowing that I longed for a pet, came in from the barn and told me there was a wild cat in the barn and that if I could catch him I could keep him for a pet. Although I was exultant at the thought of having a pet, I approached the barn with more than a modicum of apprehension—I had learned earlier that his promises should not be taken literally, but with a grain of salt.

One Saturday soon after we moved to the farm he promised to bring me a present from town. I felt sure that it would be a bicycle, but it turned out to be a wheelbarrow, to be used to clean stables and other indelicate and backbreaking activities. I spent that Saturday afternoon shoveling you-know-what out of long-neglected barn stalls and hauling the loads to our garden and to what my stepfather called his horse pasture, although we didn’t have any horses. Also one year near Christmas time he promised to bring my sister and me dogs as Christmas presents—he gave her a collie and me a Pekingese—hers decorated an ashtray and mine was a leaded doorstop. Read the full story here.

I was surprised to find an actual wild feral cat in the barn, hiding out among the hay bales and equipment stored in the barn’s loft. Equipped—armed, actually—with nothing more than a flashlight with weak batteries, I finally cornered the cat, a multicolored tomcat with a ferocious temper. I caught him after many tries, each of which added to the plethora of scratches he inscribed on my hands and arms. I tried to stuff him in a burlap bag but finally just wrapped it around him and made a triumphant return to the house. The hardest part of that return was going down the ladder from the barn loft using only one hand, with the other holding firm to some fifteen pounds of wriggling screeching tomcat.

The farm included a skid-mounted store fronted by a single gas pump, a dinosaur mechanism operated by first pumping fuel from the underground tank with a hand pump into a glass reservoir with gallon marks and then using gravity to lower the required number of gallons into a vehicle’s tank.

The little store measured some 12 by thirty feet and was stocked by those items that country folks needed to replace between visits to markets in the city, items such as bread, cigarettes, cigars, snuff, candies, thread, needles, lard, sugar, flour and various canned goods. The store was infested with rats, and my stepfather told me to close the cat up in the store and it would take care of the rats. That sounded plausible to me as a temporary measure, and then I would begin a program to domesticate my new wild pet.

It was not to be. That cat ate an entire loaf of bread the first night, leaving only the plastic wrapper. Store-bought bakery bread came in one-pound loaves only in those days—today’s one and one-half pound loaves had not yet been developed.

My stepfather indicated that he understood the cat’s depredations, considering that he had been in the woods with only bugs and field mice for sustenance, and then only if he could catch them. He told me to catch the cat and cage him, then put him in the store again in the evening. Having filled up on a full loaf of bread, the cat’s movements were slowed down, and that feeling coupled with his belief that he had found a cat’s Shangri-La made him easy to corner and catch. That day happened to be a Saturday, and at dusk I locked him in the store.

The store was closed on Sundays, and my stepfather awakened to start his usual morning with a few snifters of bourbon before breakfast, a practice that continued following breakfast, and in mid-morning we opened the store’s door and the cat catapulted out—did you get that? He catapulted out and kept going, quickly disappearing under the house some one hundred feet or so from the store.

The evidence was spread all over the floor near the bread shelves. A full pound loaf was a bit too much for him this time, and several slices were scattered about, some whole and some shredded in various stages of having been eaten.

My stepfather voiced numerous epithets, loudly and earnestly and not one of them was anything similar to “That darn cat!” No, they were not gentle, and all contained words and threats not really suitable for my young ears—not that I hadn’t heard them before, of course—and all seemed to be centered on the likely untimely demise of the cat.

And so it came to pass. My stepfather raced—staggered, actually—to the house and retrieved his 16-gage shotgun from its stance against the wall in the corner nearest to his side of the bed he shared with my mother in the combination living room/bed room. The shotgun was kept fully loaded with a live shell in the chamber, as was the military .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol he kept on a bedside stand, again on his side of the bed.

The house was built on piers that provided a substantial crawl space underneath. The shooter kneeled, peered under the house and fired one shot from the shotgun. I soon learned that the cat had been outlined against the base of the brick fireplace when the buckshot took his life.

I learned that because I was tasked to bring out the remains and dispose of them properly. It was not an easy task because numerous particles had been splattered against the bricks, but I managed to clean up everything, to not leave anything that might cause unsavory odors on hot days.

There is a story about Abraham Lincoln that I would like to tell now. It seems that some unruly urchins had inserted dynamite into a certain orifice of a stray dog and then lighted the fuse. Abe was witness to the explosion and he commented at the time that, Well, that dog won’t ever amount to anything now—at least anyway not as a dog.

That story is probably apocryphal but it serves to showcase Lincoln’s sense of humor and perhaps his belief in an afterlife, perhaps even in reincarnation. Who knows? Could be!

I know that my erstwhile potential pet, that feral feline, that thief of baked goods and consumer of the same never amounted to anything else, at least not on earth and not as a cat. And as regards reincarnation, I and my family have had several cats over the years, and I cannot discount the possibility that one or more of them could have been reincarnations of that wild cat I rescued from a life in the woods and sentenced him to be executed, to die an untimely and undignified death for no other reason than his hunger and my drunken stepfather’s temper.

That was as close as I came to having a pet while I lived with my stepfather. I did come close another time when I saw a speeding car hit a black-and-tan hound dog on the road some distance from our house. I raced to him to see if he was alive, and finding him inert but breathing I carried him back to the house.

That was no easy task—that darn hound was full grown and weighed almost as much as I did. I stretched him out on the front porch and asked my mother if I could take care of him and keep him if he lived. She assented but only after considerable thought, saying that he was probably a working dog and that my stepfather would want to keep him for hunting. We scrounged around for something to use as a bed, and with an old quilt in my arms I returned to the front porch.

The dog was gone. I looked around the yard and then glanced up the graveled road where he had been hit, and there he was, going full-tilt in the same direction he had been going when the car hit him, going at full speed without a trace of a limp, kicking up gravel with every stride.

For a moment I felt anger, not for the driver that had hit him, but for the dog that fooled me and made me stagger a considerable distance to get him to the house, then forced me to convince my mother to let me nurse him and keep him. Yep, I really took it as a personal affront that he had recovered so nicely and thus denied me an opportunity to nurse him back to good health and keep him for a pet.

My anger was brief, however—I realized that had I kept him and returned him to good health and he turned out to not be a working dog, a dog that would not contribute in some way to the family larder, he would eventually suffer the same fate suffered by the two fox terriers and the wild cat—splattered, perhaps, all over the brick fireplace and at that thought I breathed a sigh of relief.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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Posted by on May 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Ode to Janie & Ode to everyone else . . .

You, the reader, are about to be subjected to reading two odes, the results of my abject attempt at writing poetry. I apologize in advance to those that dislike doggerel masquerading as legitimate verse. And for the multitude that may not be familiar with the term doggerel, I tender the following doggerel attributes described by Wikipedia:

Doggerel might have any or all of the following failings: trite, cliché, or overly sentimental content, forced or imprecise rhymes, faulty meter, ordering of words to force correct meter, trivial subject, or inept handling of subject.

My poetry—and I use the term loosely—probably includes all those attributes, and poet laureates throughout history would probably wince if subjected to a reading of my efforts. However, if their wince meter measured humility, earnestness, love and forgivingness the indicator would go off scale in my favor.

Well, okay, I’ll back off a bit on the humility part. Hey, I’m a wannabe poet and let’s face it—even poet laureates had to start somewhere.

Ode to Janie

Your life has run its course
And now you have gone
To heaven as your just reward
And left me here alone.

I sail the seas without a mate
In weather foul and fair
But I fear the ship will founder
With my mate not being there.

And if the ship goes under
In life’s unruly sea
I’ll closely hold your loving words
That were I’ll wait for thee.

Ode to Janie and to everyone else

No one lives forever
At least not in this realm
And at best we’ll have a long life
With our Maker at the helm.

And when our life is over
And a new life has begun
Be it in that world of gladness
That waits for everyone.

But only if our time on earth
Is spent on doing good
Will we go to spend eternity
In that heavenly neighborhood.

That’s my Ode to Janie and my Ode to everyone else, and I’m sticking to both.

Postscript: When you, the reader, have recovered from exposure to this posting, click here to read my Ode to a Cheesecake, an excellent example of contemporary verse—oh, and it’s also an excellent example of doggerel. Hey, I do the best I can with what I have to work with.

Yes, I know, I ended that last sentence with a preposition—to paraphrase the words of Sir Winston Churchill, that is something with which you will have to up with put.

 

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Re: Jews: Bill O’Reilly vs Franklin Graham . . .

When I posted Does hell exist? I’ll report, you decide, it was with tongue pouched firmly in cheek. If you haven’t read it, or if you have read it and were so fascinated that you have been looking for it to reread but couldn’t find it, click here—it’s a shortcut for you!

I did not intend it to be a serious monologue on the existence or lack thereof, either of heaven or of hell. However—and this is an important however—on April 28, 2011, I watched and listened to a discussion on the subject between Bill O’Reilly of Fox News and Reverend Franklin Graham, the eldest son of Billy Graham.

O’ Reilly felt that non-Christians, particularly Jews, might be and should be accepted into the Christian heaven even though they do not accept Christ as the son of God and the savior of mankind. They consider Christ to be a great leader and an important prophet in history, but not the one that is foretold in the Holy Bible. Those of the Jewish persuasion still await the coming of the Messiah as foretold in the Bible.

O’Reilly strove mightily to share his belief with the reverend that the millions of Jews slaughtered without mercy by Adolph Hitler in the Holocaust, for no other reason than they were Jews, were in fact innocents and could be accepted into heaven, assuming that they were God-fearing people and had lived a good life and followed the tenents of the Holy Bible.

Franklin Graham danced around O’Reilly’s question, quoting the Bible by chapter and verse as proof that heaven can only be entered by those that believe in the Trinity, the Christian doctrine that God exists as a unity of three distinct identities—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Those seeking heavenly immortality must believe and express their convictions that Jesus is the Son of God and the savior of mankind, placed on earth to teach and ultimately to die for the sins of mankind that they might obtain heaven by believing in him and by following his teachings.

Instead of vocalizing his opinion of whether the Holocaust victims would be entitled to enter heaven, Franklin Graham remained hidden behind a wall of scripture. Bill O’Reilly, unable to extract a firm answer to the question and frustrated by that wall and the time limits placed on the interview finally caved without further comment or questions, and graciously expressed his thanks to the reverend for spending time in the No Spin Zone. The following video contains the O’Reilly’s discussion of religion with Franklin Graham:

And now back to my however in the second paragraph above. I intend to expand on my thesis that hell is not a place peopled by the souls of those that failed to follow any particular school of religion. It does not exist as a place or a location or a destination, neither a transit point nor a final destination. It is nothing more than nothingness, neither light nor dark, neither hot nor cold. It cannot be seen, felt, endured, enjoyed, deplored or described other than that it is nothing, because it does not exist.

In summary, the life that we live on earth will determine whether we transit to heaven when death overtakes us. Our immortal souls will be welcomed in heaven and exist for eternity, or will simply cease to exist at the moment of death.

We will know that we are in heaven, and if revelations as described in the scriptures is true, at the time of revelation our bodies will be raised, and become as incorruptible as our souls. The bodies of those denied the pleasure of heaven because they lived an un-Godly life while on earth will remain on earth, unknowing and unknown for eternity. I consider this a harsher punishment than the present concept of hell. The ultimate punishment is to be denied immortality in heaven, and that punishment is strengthened by the fact that those denied heaven are not even aware of that denial.

That’s a capsule of my interpretation of heaven and the absence of hell, my analysis of those that are heaven-bound for eternity and those that will be consigned to nothingness for eternity. That nothingness replaces the devil, so we will undoubtedly create societies similar to the present devil worshipers. It won’t be easy for them. How does one create a figure of nothingness? What symbols can be constructed to represent nothingness?

I earnestly solicit contributions in support of my transformed form of religion, my concept of heaven and no hell, just a whole lot of nothingness instead of a place ruled by a horned figure dressed in bright red long underwear, sporting a long tail and carrying a pitchfork.

Please make contributions of food, clothing and money to charitable organizations and devote significant hours of personal participation in charitable activities.

Do this, and you will be on the path toward heaven—you will encounter numerous forks in that path, and I suggest that you follow the poet Robert Frost’s advice and take the path less traveled. In this world of today, the well-worn paths taken by the multitudes lead straight to nothingness, the only alternative to heaven.

Of the two alternatives, heaven will always be less crowded.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2011 in Uncategorized