Ed’s been gone for almost eight months now and I can finally relish the memories that pop up unexpectedly. This morning, for no apparent reason, I found myself reliving the saga of Ed and the woodland cats. It was another time – a time before feral cat colonies or trap-neuter-return. A time when cats were just cats and, for some reason, Sullivan’s Farm seemed to attract them like kids to a carousel.
At one point, we had 14 living on the property. Most of the cats just wandered in, little hobos looking for a handout who never spent much time in the house but always appeared when I opened the little tubs of Meow Chow. A few, like Lady, the sleek black and brown brindle with striking yellow eyes, were brought to us by friends or friends of friends who found them and couldn’t keep them. But most of the cats came to us stuffed in the jacket pockets of our pre-teen daughters Erin and Megan – refugees from the show barn where the girls rode every day, plucked from their straw cribs as soon as they were weaned to avoid the ubiquitous hooves and tractor tires that threatened their survival.
Of course, Ed wasn’t a party to any of this. In fact, he always professed to be allergic to cats and periodically declared that there were to be no more cats in the house, period! However, since he also professed to be allergic to grass but played masterful tennis on grass courts with no problem, I never took his affliction very seriously.
All cats were welcomed. There was always a big tub of dry food outside the back door and medical care was dispensed if needed, but that was about it. The cats moved in and out of the house at will and, since Ed was gone from early morning until dinner time, he often didn’t encounter them at all.
When he did notice a new arrival, Erin and Megan had their routine down pat. “Hey, girls,” Ed would say in his stern Dad voice, “where did that little grey and white cat come from?” They would answer in their sweetest we-love-you-daddy voices, “Oh Dad, that’s Squeaky, he’s been here for months.” Ed always acted as if he believed them.
And so it was until that night when I came home around 10 p.m. and overheard Ed on the telephone. “Yes,” he said. “I think we have an orange cat.” Pause. “A black and white cat? Why yes, I think we might have one of those.” Pause. “A grey cat? I guess so.” And then, with increasing annoyance, “Let me save you some time here, whatever color cat you ask me about, I’m sure we have it.” I couldn’t hear what the caller said next, but I noticed Ed’s attitude change from irritation to relief to sheer joy. “Of course you can,” he said finally. “That will be just fine.”
Now Ed was never one to do the happy dance, but, if he had been, this would have been the time. “You’re not going to believe this,” he told me as he hung up the phone. “All the cats have apparently moved down to the neighbor’s house and she wants to know if she can keep them.”
Of course it didn’t last. The cats, being cats, continued to come and go, but Ed told the story about the night the lady took all the cats off his hands over and over again for the rest of his life.