My Granddad had a big yellow tomcat.
Sam was famous for having sired many a litter of yellow farm cats, but he was most famous for being the cat that attacked dogs. Sam learned at an early age to not only stand his ground around dogs, but to actually attack them if they wandered into the yard.
Sam’s favorite perch was on top of the rail fence Granddad built on the front of their property. Strategically, it was an ideal location. It gave him the drop on any passing dog, and it was close to the bird feeder. Sam liked to launch himself into midair to snag birds. He never did, but it tickled the heck out of Granddad.
I was sitting with Granddad one evening when this big, farm dog came down the rock road, snuffling around on fence posts and scratching around like dogs do.
Sam laid low on the fence rail.
Granddad winked at me and said, Watch this.
The dog snuffled and sniffed along the fence posts towards Sam. He found one that suited him and lifted his leg, and that’s when Sam struck. Silent as a ghost, he leapt onto the dog’s back and sank his claws in deep.
I’ve never heard such high pitched yelping in my life as that dog shrieked down the road, Sam firmly dug in to his back. Sam looked like a jockey on that dog’s back: hunkering down and holding on.
When Granddad caught his breath from laughing he turned and told me, Boy, it ain’t the size of the cat in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the cat!
The years went by, and as it happens, Sam and Granddad got older.
Country tomcats have a short life expectancy, but old Sam was smarter than most. When he was well past his prime, he spent most of his time sleeping in the Sun next to Granddad. When night came though, he’d go out, prowling the neighboring farms for lady cats. A morning came though, when the old man called for him, but Sam didn’t come.
Granddad found him two days later, laid up under the rose bushes. He was covered with bloody scabs, and not moving at all. Granddad checked, and yes, he was still breathing.
Old Sam had finally come out on the short end of the stick.
Since Granddad and Grandma couldn’t afford a vet’s bill, they nursed Sam back to health themselves. They gently lifted him into a cardboard box lined with towels, and put him inside by the stove. Three times a day, Grandma warmed a pan of milk on the stove, and filled the eyedropper with warm milk. Granddad would then get a few droppers into Sam while gently and lovingly cussing him. Granddad was mighty relieved when Sam finally began to purr. In a few days, Sam was gimping around the house.
Other than a few patches on his head where the hair never grew back right, Sam recovered. After that, he stayed pretty close to the old man, and they developed a regular routine. When night came, the old urge to prowl would hit and out and Sam wanted out. He didn’t roam far though. When Granddad was ready for bed, he would call for him, then go brush his teeth. When finished, he’d go back to open the door, Sam would come in, and then sleep all night in the old man’s chair.
A sad day came when my Granddad had to be taken to the hospital. As they were loading him up, he grabbed Grandma’s hand and kissed the wedding band she’d worn for 62 years. He knew he was dying. When Granddad left for good that windy Spring day, Sam the cat did too. He left and never came back.
Myself? I’m a Granddad now, and because of my Granddad and old Sam, I have a thing for yellow tomcats. Recently, we had one named Henry, a fine fellow with orangey yellow fur and white feet.
My granddaughters loved him so! They were that magical age where their hearts were so sensitive they could really see angels, and believe for the impossible. Inspired by old Sam, I told them fantasticical stories, stories about their Henry being a mighty coyote fighter who patrolled the woods faithfully every night, protecting us all from coyotes.
A sad morning came when our Henry didn’t come home. The girls and I called and called for him, but after a couple of weeks, we all lost hope.
I told them this story a few days later. If it isn’t true, well, it ought to be true:
Girls, I was out walking deep, deep in the woods looking hard for Henry. Suddenly, I came upon a place where some terrible battle had been fought. Branches were broken off of trees, the ground was scuffed up, and I saw the bodies of coyotes lying all around me. Lying in the middle of them all, was our Henry. Yes, he’d been overcome, but not before defeating the whole pack of dreaded coyotes once and for all.
As I stood there on that battleground, taking it all in, the air became filled with golden light. Suddenly there were two great Bobcats, standing there, with wings that stretched out like a canopy over Henry’s fallen body. I knew at once they were the mighty Bobcat Angels.
Beneath that golden canopy, Henry was able to lift his head. He looked at the Bobcat angels, and spoke to them.
“Is …is this heaven”?
“No, they answered, but we have come to take you there.”
Now girls, it seemed perfectly natural that I could understand them. You see, the air itself was charged with magic!
Then, as I watched, the Bobcat Angels began to sing a song:
“Go rest high upon that mountain
For your work on earth is through
You were a mighty coyote fighter
Now there’s nothing left to do
But go rest high upon that mountain”.
And as they continued to sing, the three of them floated up above the trees, and slowly disappeared from view.
I stood in that magical place, surrounded by the fallen coyotes, and knew I had been given a gift few men have known. The mighty Bobcat Angels come for only the bravest and mightiest of cats, and girls, your Henry was the mightiest.
The girls sat there wide eyed and thoughtful. Maggie, only 5 years old, asked, Does that mean Henry is in Kitty Heaven?
I nodded solemnly. Yes, Maggie, he surely is.
And like I said, if this story isn’t true, by golly, it ought to be.