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Life on the family farm under an open heaven: The flying cat

Tom Heck for Progressive Dairy Published on 17 January 2020

Years ago, when my wife and I bought our farm, some friends had a farmwarming party for us. Among the guests who came that day were Ed and Ruth from the local feed mill.

The gift they brought us sure surprised us – a pair of Siamese cats. They obviously knew we could use a couple of good cats to keep the mice and rats in check. They were a beautiful cream color with dark ears and tails. And Ruth had to decorate them up with a pink ribbon around each of their necks. They were a very good gift.

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Our barn became their new home, and they adjusted very well. They became our pets along with being our rodent controllers. Our young daughter, Catherine, just loved them. The male cat, Tom, grew to be a large cat and an outstanding hunter. One day, I found him playing in the middle of the yard. He had caught two large mice and was playing catch-and-release with both of them at the same time. He would put both mice down, and they would take off in different directions, then he would catch one and then quickly turn around and catch the other one.

I watched him in amazement for a couple of minutes and decided I better end his game before one of the mice got away. So I came up to him and started to pet him, and he let both mice go again. While he was catching the first one, I stepped on the second one and took it away without him seeing it.

I took it to the barn and gave it to a little kitty the other cat had had that spring. The little kitty ate it down quickly. I figured one mouse was enough for Tom with the way he was playing with them. I did notice as I went about my work that Tom stayed in that area for a while looking for the one that “got away.” He seemed very bewildered by it. Needless to say, I didn’t feel sorry for him.

Well, winter came, and our cats hunted around the barn and silos for mice and rats. They were doing an excellent job keeping them under control. Tom was a real character though. You just never knew where he would be or what he would be up to. We could be milking cows, and he could be on top of the main beam above the cows. The next thing, he would be flying over the cows, landing in front of them on a mouse. The cows would be so startled, they would jump back, and the milker would drop off. We would just have to smile and say that Tom was doing his job.

Being that kind of a cat, though, was fairly dangerous. It almost cost him his life once. It was January, and I headed out to the barn in the dark to start my early morning chores. I pushed the feed up to the cows and went to the silo room to get the corn cart so that I could feed the cows their corn before milking them.

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I opened up the door and stepped in a few steps to get the cart. All of a sudden, a varmint came down on my head with its claws digging into my neck. I didn’t know if it was a raccoon or what; I just knew I had to get it. I reached around to the back side of my neck and got a handful of fur. I grabbed it and started to throw it down to the cement with all my might, intent on killing it.

At the last split second, a thought went through my mind, “That could be Tom.” So I stopped short of throwing him with all my might and just dropped him to the floor. Sure enough, it was Tom. He looked at me, bewildered, and ran into the barn. He was surprised at my rough treatment of him. What happened was, he was sitting up in the rafters of the silo room hunting, and I came in, and I think a mouse must have run next to the silo chute, and he made one of his long jumps to get it and ended up landing on my head and neck.

Later on, even though I had scratch marks on my neck from him, I petted him and made up with him. They say cats have nine lives; if that is true, I know he lost one of his that morning.

In life, in dealing with family and others, there will be accidents and misunderstandings. We need to be very careful in our responses because wrong words and actions can cause a lot of hurt. There needs to be plenty of grace, mercy and forgiveness. I’m sure glad I didn’t kill Tom that morning and I was able to make up with him afterwards. In the Bible we are instructed to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That is a good thing to always remember.  end mark

om Heck, his wife, Joanne, and their two children own and operate a 35-cow dairy farm in Wisconsin. Email Tom Heck or order his book at Tom Heck Farm.

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