Barn cats have more than nine lives, living on in old farmers’ stories

Getting to eat the bird on Nov. 21, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown.

Just as this scribe started to type, a thought raced through his mind. As for many people, these stupid thoughts flash in and out of the mind with no connection to anything, and for no reason.

This one was combining last week’s breakfast with this breakfast at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown. This scribe has many friends from around the country who think New York state is covered with concrete and everyone lives in a high rise.

The restaurant last week was in Quaker Street (blink twice and you have driven through Quaker Street) but if you are in Princetown blink once and that one is in the rear view mirror. My goodness! What a misconception abounds out there on what our state is — how big and wild New York really is.

Now, if it would just do something about the weather and the politics, there would probably not be such an exodus.


Cat tales

In going through the old notes, there is a note where the OFs discussed cats. It is not checked off. This scribe, in using his memory of jumbled facts, thinks this was about barn cats, but the word domestic is part of scribbled note. Cats, barn, dom., pet — that is the whole note.

When the OFs were farming, barn cats were almost necessities to keep the vermin down. These cats were not feral, nor completely tame either. Almost all the OFs who had cats like this had the same stories.

Coming into the stable on a winter morning, sliding back the door, the pleasant aroma of the barn would greet the farmer. Then the rustling of cows in their stanchions as they stirred to get up made the cats jump down from the hip of the cow where they had spent the night in the warmth of the barn. So the day began.

Up against the wall in back of the cows were a few old milk-can lids where the OFs fed these cats milk. Some of the first milk of the day was poured in these lids to keep the cats from bothering the OF while the milking was going on.

This on many farms is all the cats got. This scribe does not remember any OF that bought cat food. The rest of the cat’s sustenance was what they could catch; mice, and the occasional snake or bird was about it.

Most also can’t remember ever having a vet come to check a cat. If the cat had distemper, it went off somewhere and died, or the farmer took care of it himself. 

Each cat had its own personality. The OFs had a wonder on this because most could be petted but not fondled; however, a few could be picked up and liked human attention. Some would come and rub against the farmer’s leg and want to be paid attention to also.

The OFs asked: Why do some cats do that, to which one farmer replied that he thought that was true with all animals. Some tolerated humans but others wanted their attention — not only cats, but dogs, horses, cows and this OF said it even transcended to wild animals.

Then he asked the generic question, “Why is that?” All the OF got was blank looks.

The OFs commented they did have house cats and they were not the same as barn cats, and sometimes the house cat was not wanted by the barn cats and fights would ensue.

A good ole-fashioned cat fight in the middle of the night is an eerie sound. The sound of a cat fight would drown out a siren. One OF claimed one of their house cats was so tough looking from catfights, it was like the cat went out at night just looking for them.

That cats have nine lives is substantiated in one story an OF told, but the story is like a horror story and this scribe does not think it is for the paper. However, the ending is bizarre.

After the cat was presumably dead for some time, the same cat showed up in the barn and went directly to the farmhand who was responsible for the cat’s demise, looked at him, and meowed

The farmhand looked down, saw the cat, and screamed; he jumped up, ran out of the barn and never came back. He was gone.

The OF said he was a good worker, when he was sober, but he had a habit of drinking the tapings of the silo without cutting them one bit. The owner of the farm never bothered tracking him down but later on found out that the farmhand had died in a weird farming accident on another farm.

Many of the Old Men of the Mountain now were not farmers and have missed out on all these warm memories; however all these OMOTM, farmer or not, managed to meet at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown and they were: Miner Stevens, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Marty Herzog, Jake Herzog, Roger Shafer, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Dick Dexter, Herb Bahrmann, Gerry Cross, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, John Dab, Rick LaGrange, Paul Guiton, Doug Marshall, Warren Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Paul Whitbeck, and not me.