A farm is not a farm and a kid is not a kid without the animals that give country life personality, color and depth.
The litter of kittens that I discovered in an episode of sheer panic in the dark corners of the dairy barn hay mow one winter night when I was a young teen grew in to the nicest bunch of farm cats in memory.
While other kids at school had pets with conventional names like Spotty and Buffy and Little Bit, farm kids found themselves with such a menagerie of four-legged friends that an already vivid imagination was sharpened each time the name game came up.
Mystery kitties. The litter of kittens I remember discovering in the hay mow one scary and dark winter night ended up getting names from my mystery-reading mind: Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, Agatha and Mickey.
Only Watson lived through his allotted nine lives, though the others managed to survive long enough to do their duties as farm cats for a time.
Dr. Watson’s story. Watson became a real fixture around the farm for a very long time. He grew in to a massive cat – brilliant white with gray markings – and he was absolutely brimming with personality.
That darn cat would jump up in to the tractor cab and warm up the seat for whoever was unloading corn at the bins during corn picking season, acting as if he belonged there. Watson would even stand guard over the dinner bucket, just hoping for a tidbit of cheese with his name on it.
Another of Watson’s tricks was to somehow lift the heavy milk hauler’s hose hatch on the outside of the milk house and crawl from outside to inside. He always had to be where the action was!
We always hoped and prayed the milk inspector wouldn’t witness Watson’s milk hose hatch trick or he might be issued a citation of his very own.
Such skills! Dad, who had lived a lifetime on the farm, once said he had never been around a cat with such personality, reasoning skills, and determination.
Watson was an amazingly great hunter, doing his job in the fields and barns, but what he liked best was hanging out near the people with whom he shared the dairy farm.
What really took the cake was when Watson learned how to flip the dinner bucket latch open with his paws, nudging the lid open with his head, to check out the menu inside.
“I would not have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes,” dad said, shaking his head as he told it. For a time, Dad carried two dinner buckets in the tractor: the traditional gray one with the latches with a few treats inside for Watson, and a harder-to-open box for himself.
“So far, it seems to be Watson-proof,” dad reported one night. “But, give him time and he’ll figure out how to get that one opened, too!”
Moving on. When Watson came up missing, it just didn’t seem the same around the place. Dad, who always had an optimistic answer to everything, assured us that Watson had gone away to college, probably to hone his investigative instincts along with his litter-mate, Sherlock Holmes.
I preferred to think of Watson on his own farm somewhere, married to a sweet little calico, living the grand life with a whole bunch of little Watsons, each of them eating out of their very own gray dinner bucket at the end of a happy day of hunting. …