Cats can impact more than the farm

Cats of every color and every possible temperament have long been a part of just about any farm I have ever set foot on, and most can agree that they are good to have around if they are capable hunters.

Intelligent cats

One particular litter that was dropped off at our farm long ago turned out to be the most interesting. Two males, who I immediately named Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, were not only good hunters, but the most intelligent cats I’ve ever known.

Watson, in particular, who grew in to a large, dashing-looking feline, was mostly all white with a bit of black peppered around one eye and ear. That cat could open just about anything, using his paws and his head like no other.

Smarter than he looks! He learned, quite quickly, that he could walk through walls. Well, one wall, at least.

He used his front paws and his head to pull up the tiny, but heavy, hatch door in the milk house wall, which was built for the milk truck driver to place the hose through to siphon milk from the bulk milk tank.

Once he had gained entry, he headed straight for the milk house heater. He learned that he could come and go at will in this way. I tried to get everyone to admit that this was a pretty slick trick. All my father ever said about it was, “I hope he is smart enough not to pull that when the milk inspector is here.”

Different personalities

As Sherlock aged, he became more of a hunter, and eventually was seen only when he felt like returning to the barn for a meal and a warm nest.

Watson became more friendly and sociable with each passing day, and decided we just couldn’t farm without him, staying near the barns and the grain bins. He would greet people who stopped by the farm on business. He was a good mouser, sometimes wishing to show off his latest victory for a little bit of praise.

Golden notes

Notes my dad had written to me shortly after I had graduated from high school and moved to North Carolina sometimes mentioned Watson. Dad knew I was a bit homesick and that I wanted to be kept up-to-date on things in the barn. I was thrilled to find these in a box recently.

One note reads: “Got the cows a magnetic feeder. Cows with magnets love it. Cows without magnets threaten to blow it up. Doc Smith is coming. Heifer you named Farrah is in spare bedroom, waiting for Doc Smith. She is due to freshen Feb. 10. Ordered a load of feed. Be nice to go to Florida. Hafta make hog feed today. A guy at the Equity quit. Watson learned how to open my dinner bucket.”

The next time I received a letter from home, Watson was again included in the note.

“Ate dinner on the run today because of problems at the silo. Watson stole my hamburger. Magnetic switch won’t work. Now even the cows with magnets threaten to blow it up. Ordered some ear tags. Watson still smiling.”

Those short notes which meant so much to me then are like gold to me today, every single one a keeper.

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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