William R. Penland
Feet to the Fire Writers’ Workshop – Evansville
April 14, 2019
As a child growing up in southern Ohio I lived in an area of farms and fields. The town of Lucasville, Ohio, is in the valley of the Scioto River about 10 miles north of its confluence with the Ohio. We hadn’t lived in our new house for too long before my father decided to get us a dog. I guess he thought every boy ought to have a dog. The dog was a mutt of uncertain ancestry and had black curly hair and a wagging tail. We named her Patty Sue Pup, but we just called her Patty, for short. She was an outdoor dog and my brother (three years older) and I were expected to feed her.
My brother and I didn’t care much for the dog and we didn’t interact much with her, but occasionally we would let her into the basement. There was no need to walk the dog, because we lived in the country and she ran free.
I guess that was what doomed her ultimately in the end. We didn’t pay much attention to her and she started making rounds at the neighbors’ houses and getting handouts there. Eventually the neighbors four houses down called and asked if they could keep her. She never returned to our house! Thus ended the unfortunate story of our family’s canine.
Well, if the canine thing didn’t work, then how about felines? With all the confidence gained from our dog experience, we dove right in. My grandfather in North Carolina had a cow and a barn, so it follows that he had barn cats. Therefore it also follows that there were kittens. On one of our annual grandparent visits to the North Carolina mountains, we came home with not one, but three kittens.
Since my father was not big on cats, the three kittens were apportioned out to my mother, my brother, and me. My mother’s was white. She named her Fluffy. My brother’s was yellow. He named her Goldy. The best one was my black kitten. I named her Inky. We really loved those felines. They roamed free just as the dog did, but if you wanted to see them, you only had to rattle the old skillet that was their food dish, and they would come running.
The cats thrived in this environment. In fact, they multiplied. Our cats had kittens and their kittens had kittens until we had as many as 18 cats on the property. We built a cat door so they could access the garage when the weather was bad. When we had too many cats we would load them in the car and trek them down to the local Co-op feed store for a lifetime of mousing. By the time we moved back to Akron, several generations of cats had passed through our home.
I still love cats. We discovered the wonders of sterilization, so our cat population was brought under control. Our last cat died about five years ago, and due to family allergies, we have not replaced him. I still love cats and I miss them.