Sep 6th, 2005 - 17:18:51
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Voices of Spencer Creek
| "Muff Awaiting Her Supper," section from a watercolor My Back Door by Lois Barton, 2002|
Our dark calico cat, Muff, has been missing for three days and is presumed dead. She earned her name as a growing kitten by spending many hours in the hands of, or draped around the shoulders of, the young folks at our neighbors.
She has been part of our family since 1986 when she was motivated to move to our house from the neighbors partly to get away from a batch of hungry kittens. Another factor was the teasing presence of a new dog acquired by the son of that household. Those kittens were her second family. The first kittens were only half grown and still nursing. She was pregnant with five more when she came here and we had her spayed.
Muff was an outdoor cat. My husband told me soon after we were married that if a cat ever came to live in our house he would move out.
Muff has always been companionable. Whenever any of us were outside for whatever reason she joined the activity. Take a walk and she'd be there, tail in the air, leading the way. Hang clothes on the line and she'd supervise. Hoe the garden, gather some dried grass for mulch, bring the cows from the pasture at milking time. Muff came too.
If she'd been hunting up the driveway a ways when I came home in the car, she would pilot me, at a run, right to the door. Once several years ago in such a situation she stopped near the house, and I couldn't see where she was. I waited a minute, then drove slowly a little closer to the dooryard and unexpectedly ran over her with one of the tires. She squalled and raced into the garden behind the woodpile. I went to look for her but couldn't find her. We assumed she would die. Three days later, to our astonishment, she came dragging in from the barn looking for food. We could tell that one front leg had been broken as well as the opposite hind leg, but they healed without being a handicap to her movement.
Muff was a great hunter. We never kept count of the many mice, moles, even a baby rabbit she brought to our door as an offering. One evening as I was fixing dinner I saw her kill and eat a male housewren, one of my favorite birds. His mate fortunately found another mate and they raised a brood in the wren house by the back door. I've been feeding birds for several years and always was unhappy when Muff caught one of them, but philosophically recognized the pattern of nature.
Muff got old along with us. At 18 she moved arthritically and spent much of her time lying in some sunny spot. She came to the door twice a day for meals. It seemed as if she had an internal clock which indicated supper time about 4 p.m. It took her a few days to adjust when we changed to or from daylight savings time, but I was well trained to go give her supper about 4.
Last winter my husband became ill. Muff became my welcome companion for several months. When I awoke at daylight she'd be watching for a mouse in the orchard outside my bedroom window. Or later asleep in the sunshine on the porch. I'd see her relaxed at the far end of the garden on a lazy afternoon. And at four o'clock she was waiting expectantly for supper.
After all these years she knew our routine. She had lost her hearing in the last few months. I could tell her movements were painful and I'm thankful for her sake that she is now free of suffering. How I miss her!
Goodbye and thank you, dear friend, for your loyal presence all these years and for the sweet memories. I trust someone in cat heaven will stroke your tummy when you roll over at their feet.
June 12, 2005
Copyright ©2005 by Lois Barton
Writer and historian
Lois Barton is an 86 year old mother of eight children. She has lived on the same rural acreage just south of Eugene, Oregon for more than 50 years. All their children learned to milk, to keep the woodboxes filled, to do their share of household and garden chores. Her first book, Spencer Butte Pioneers, was published in 1982 when her youngest started to school. Since then she wrote five other books: Daughter of the Soil, now out of print; One Woman's West; A Quaker Promise Kept; and Through My Window, autobiographical sketches, sequel to Daughter Of the Soil.
Through the years Lois has been a 4H leader, president of the neighborhood association, a precinct committee woman, election board clerk, editor of the Lane County Historian, and a life long Quaker. She spent a month in Southeast Asia in 1974 as a member of a church peace mission, after working for ten years as director of the Eugene Chapter of the World Without War Council.
Follow the links of the Voices of Spencer Creek for the most recent articles by Lois Barton, including:
The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Cortesia Sanctuary
The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Tree and Me and Lady Slippers
The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Cranberries
The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Endurance Riding
The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Butterflies and Community Development
and The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Last Gift.
See more of Lois Barton's articles in West By Northwest.org online magazine's archives:
Visit the Heron Rookery
Sauerkraut and All That
Charlotte's Overdose - Just who is Charlotte and what did she take?
The Midwife- The midnight call awoke an unusual midwife.
The Mystery of Fox Hollow - Fact and fiction meet in this story of the origins of Faith Rock.
Trees, Tame Trees and Squirrel.
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