She Gazes Back

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At the old Polish gardener’s
There’s a young cat
A calico
Living half-wild
Under the potting shed
Where she was born

Her face is decorated
With daubs and smudges
And streaks of black
As if she were made up to be a clown
In some mysterious carnival

I gaze at her in wonder
She gazes back
With her clear golden eyes.
~Anne Porter “A Village Cat”

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photo by Nate Gibson

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photo by Nate Gibson

Our stub-tailed calico Bobbie came to live here eleven years ago when her physician owner needed to move out of the area and couldn’t take her along.  She arrived with a van full of cat furniture from her luxurious indoor house cat existence — a cat house, a cat tree, a cat bed, her own large chair and lots of toys.  I gently explained Bobbie would be living the life of an outdoor farm cat from here on, but her stuff was unloaded and after a tearful goodbye, her mom left.

Bobbie took one look around the farm and claimed it as hers, much to the chagrin of several long term resident farm cats and corgi dogs.  She has been the Queen here ever since, greeting any new visitors with royal demeanor and occasionally allowing a stroke of her colorful fur only if it is offered with proper respect and deference.

Her favorite person is our Japanese daughter-in-law, Tomomi, and Bobbie greets her affectionately during her summer visits — no one else is allowed such access to her Royal Highness.

Bobbie, in her uncanny wisdom, knows a quality person when she sees one.

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photo by Nate Gibson
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photo by Nate Gibson
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photo by Nate Gibson

Bobbie will frequently accompany us on walk-abouts on the farm – oh, excuse me, your Highness, I’ll correct myself — we and the corgis are allowed to accompany her on walk-abouts on the farm.

Just to make sure the corgis understand her ownership of all things, she will enter the dog pen while they are out doing chores with me and then remain until their return, striking terror in their little inferior canine brains as they try to decide whether to re-claim their territory and food bowls — or not. Until she decides it is time to elegantly stroll in a leisurely manner out of their pen, they are stymied with fear and refuse to reenter.

Bobbie has climbed every tree, explored every building including the roofs, and won’t sleep in the same place more than one night in a row.  No surrogate cat house, tree, chair or toys for this cat.

She is the Queen, after all, and when we are fixed under her golden eyed gaze, we aren’t about to forget:  we are her subjects and forever will be.

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photo by Nate Gibson

The Peaceable Kingdom

Cally, our adopted calico cat, now quite elderly, is fading fast.  Winter is always a tough time for barn cats, even with snug shelter, plentiful food and water.  We lost our 16+ year old tuxedo kitty just a couple months ago, and now Cally, not much younger,  won’t last much longer.  She still gets up to eat and potty, and still licks her front paws clean, but can’t manage much else.  Her frame is thin and frail, her coat dull and matted in places, she’s been deaf for some time and her eyes are rheumy.  She spends her days and nights in a nest of hay on the floor of our horse barn, watching the comings and goings of horse hooves and people rolling by with wheelbarrows full of manure.  Tonight she allowed me to bring her a little rug to give her a bit more cushion and protection from drafts, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find her permanently curled up there in the morning.  Her time is soon to come.

Cally was one of a litter raised in the mid-90’s by our good friends, the VanderHaaks, on their acreage a few miles from here.  When they had to make a move to a city on the east coast, their Cally and an orange colored kitty were in need of a new home.  On arrival, the orange cat immediately ran into the woods, only rarely to be spotted at a distance for a few months and then completely disappeared, possibly a victim of the local coyote pack.  Cally strolled onto our farm and decreed it satisfactory.  She moved right in, immediately at home with the cows, horses, chickens,  our aging dog Tango (who loved cats) and our other cats.   In no time, she became the undisputed leader, with great nobility and elegance.  There was no one questioning her authority.

We knew Cally was unusual from the start.  Tango initially approached her somewhat warily, given the reaction Tango elicited from our other cats (typically a hair raising hiss, scratch and spit).  Instead, Cally marched right up, rubbed noses with Tango, and they became fast friends, cuddling together on our front porch whenever it was time to take a nap.  They were best pals.  Tango surely loved anyone who would snuggle up to her belly and keep her warm and Cally was the perfect belly warmer (as Garrison Keillor says, “a heater cat”).

Now our free range Araucana rooster seriously questioned this dog/cat relationship.    He was a bit indignant about a front porch communal naptime and would strut up the sidewalk, walk up and down the porch and perch on the railing,  muttering to himself about how improper it was, and at times getting quite loud and insistent about it.  They completely ignored him, which obviously bugged him, proud and haughty bird that he was.

One fall morning, as I opened the front door to go down the driveway to get the newspaper in the pre-dawn mist, I was astonished to see not just a cat and dog snuggled together on the porch mat, but the rooster as well, tucked up next to Tango’s tail.  As usual,  Tango and Cally didn’t move a muscle when I appeared, as was their habit–I always had to step over them to get to where I needed to go.  The rooster, however, was very startled to see me,  almost embarrassed.  He stood up quickly, flapped his wings a few times, and swaggered off crowing, just to prove he hadn’t compromised his cock-sure raison d’etre.

No, I didn’t have my camera with me and I never found them all together ever again.  The reader will have to just take it on faith.

After Tango died, Cally rebounded by taking on the training of our corgi pup and making sure he understood her regal authority in all things, and demanding, in her silent way, his respect and servitude.  He would happily chase other cats, but never Cally.    They would touch noses, she would rub against his fur, and tickle his chin with her tail and all he could think to do was smile and wag at her.

So I figure a dog, a cat and a rooster sleeping together was our little farm’s version of the lion and lamb lying down together.  The peaceable kingdom was right outside our front door,  a harbinger of what is promised someday for the rest of us.  Despite claws, sharp teeth, and talons, it will be possible to snuggle together in harmony and mutual need for warmth and comfort.

Our special Cally made it happen.  I suspect she’s hoping to meet back up with Tango, and possibly one rooster with attitude, for a nice nap on the other side.