What’s in a name? Everything!


There is no venue more inviting for a gaggle of girls than a big old farm with a constantly changing cast of characters.

Each newly discovered litter of kittens gave us reasons to start working on names.

I loved my Dr. Seuss books, and would often come up with names so ridiculously difficult to remember that those names were quickly swept to the wayside. My older sister was a fan of Little Women and over the years, several Holstein heifers carried the names of Amy, Meg, Jo and Beth.

It made the eventual culling all the more difficult as we felt the family should never be split up. Dad nodded his head, listening to our cries of protest, then reminded us gently that no cow lives forever, and there are many cycles on a farm that must be accepted.

We named every stray that passed through our place, no matter how brief the stay. Our farm saw beagles and coon hounds, Heinz 57 wonder dogs, all lost in the vast open farmland, somehow finding their way to our place. Of course we laid plans to “just keep this one” and a name was bestowed upon each before the sun set on that day.


As I grew older, the names I chose for the barn cats reflected my interests. We had Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn, followed by Andrew Young and Henry Kissinger.

Atticus Finch was the most regal, golden barn cat you ever did see, and Jem and Scout, a gray and a calico, sought adventure out hunting in the pastures.

Good old Dr. Watson lasted the longest, and what an intelligent character that big salt-and-pepper colored cat proved to be. A calm and friendly fellow, he learned to open the milk hose hatch door and let himself in to the milking parlor, just to perch on the warm heater for a spell, then letting himself out the same way.

Amazing feat

That big cat went in search of Dad working at the grain bins, for he learned that there was a dinner bucket in the cab of the tractor parked there.

The most memorable cat tale of all was when Watson learned to open the latches on that dinner pail, helping himself to the sandwich inside.

“That can’t be…” my dad said, then intentionally set the scene the next day for a repeat performance.

That cat used his paws and his head to work the latches, then tip the top open, moving the apple and several packs of crackers around to get to the sandwich. Mission accomplished!

Dad, who rarely commented on our name game, did speak up in this instance.

“Maybe you should’ve named that cat something boring like ‘Spot’ because he’s living up to that name of solving puzzles just a little too well!”


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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, and three grandchildren.



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