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Donald John

Creatures that Lurk in the Dark

No one told me the perils of living in the country. “You’re going to love it!” is what I often heard and I do love the country life. Though I sometimes wonder how difficult it would be to move back to a city. It’s so noisy there and life here is so quiet. It is peaceful.

Before moving here almost four years ago I thought the biggest concerns were snakes and a raccoon getting into the garbage can. There aren’t any “lions, tigers and bears” here, but there are creatures that lurk in the dark and some in the sky who can cause harm. They see me, and I am not even aware one is near, much less closely watching me and my beloved pets.

I’ve never been a cat person but those who are claim, “You didn’t choose the cat it chose you.” And that is exactly how it happened when a golden-haired feral tabby “took us in.” It wasn’t love at first sight for either, that’s for sure…

It is wintertime as I dust near a window an unfamiliar cat is lounging on a chair on the back porch. As soon as our eyes meet, he takes off running. I am not about to leave food for him. I’ve been told all of my life, “feed a cat and it’s yours” and secondly, I want that cat to take care of any rodents that may have plans of a warm house.

Working in the kitchen I notice a cat outside beyond the side entry. He sees me see him and he runs. Yeah, I think it kind of creepy a cat outside watches me until I realize it and then he runs. I’m accustomed to the social personality of a dog.

It’s now May and guests can enjoy breakfast on the back porch. A guest steps inside the kitchen to ask for a clean plate because “your cat jumped on the table trying to eat our food.”

“I don’t have a cat.” I walk outside to check on the situation and see a gray scrawny cat. “I have never seen that cat.”

I happen to have cat food. Yeah, I know, rather suspicious. I don’t have a cat, but I have a bag of cat food on hand. This brings me to one of the perils of country living…

We thought it would be nice to have a few beautiful peacocks strutting around the property. Can’t you just picture it in your mind, majestic, colorful feathers dragging the ground behind one of the dumbest birds God put on earth? At first we had two, Betsy and Ross who came to us in July via a friend. Betsy and Ross loved looking at their reflection in our windows, the car bumpers, any place they could and it was humorous to watch them. The porches began to look like a barn.

The grand dog came for a visit and I told Ginny to keep the peacocks off the porch. In about ten days, the peacocks began to ignore Ginny. Did I mention that Ginny is a Golden Retriever? I don’t want to get too graphic. We didn’t even give Betsy a proper burial.

Ross was lonely. The friend gave us four more adolescent male peacocks and we kept them all in a pen for five weeks so they’d know this property was home. They loved cat food. They’d come around late afternoon for treats. And one day they didn’t come. No feathers left behind.

Now I am feeding a gray, scrawny cat in order to keep it off the tables on the porch while guests are eating breakfast.

A frequent guest says we should keep “her” and call her Bella.

I feed Bella on the upper porch outside the door where I live at our bed and breakfast. I’m hearing another cat under the porch meow, “What about me?” He’s the golden tabby that’s been playing hide and seek with me all winter and

scavenging for his own food. I begin to place food in a dish “down below” when I feed Bella.  The food disappears when I am not around.

Today I decide to sit on the steps and wait after I’ve filled the food dish. The golden tabby cautiously comes out and only puts his front paws on the porch and leans into the food dish. This position allows for a quick retreat.

Eventually, I put the food outside our door and I can touch him while he eats and then he darts away. He has now decided to officially adopt us, hogs his and Bella’s food. I’ve learned if you feed two stray cats, word gets out and of course another cat showed up. Twice a day I herd cats to assure Bella gets food while they play their game of musical food bowls continually taking over another’s food dish.

We now call him, “Agent Orange” and I can’t say how we refer to that “other” cat (number three) after realizing she has kittens under our porch! We’ve been lured into a feeding program for three cats who want to lie around all day and now we’re forced into a planned parenthood program!

The two newly weaned kittens are wild and our cat population is now five. Steve notices a watering can move on its own. He picks it up, looks inside to see a kitten roaring back at him like Simba from “The Lion King.” Kind of cute like that kitten was really tough. He couldn’t even get himself out of an empty watering can. Steve cornered the second kitten and takes them both to a shelter where they will go to a foster home, neutered when old enough, and if they don’t take to humans let back into the wild.

Then we trap “Agent Orange” which seems to cruel. He has a look of horror on his face. We will have him neutered and ask that he be returned to our wild acreage. The momma cat disappears the day her kittens are apprehended never to be seen again. I assume since lover boy isn’t available she went back to her former “hood”. Though now that I know more about those who creep around during the dark hours and fly across the big Texas sky, I wonder. Those creatures aren’t just looking for road kill.

Agent Orange is still bullying Bella for cat food and territory and with his weighty blonde locks and personality we decide Donald John is a more fitting name – DJ for short, though I tend to just call him “Bud.”

That cat follows me everywhere and never stops talking. I tell him I am not that fond of cats, but if he keeps being so persistent, I might get attached. He still doesn’t take to strangers but I can pick him up and carry him around, which I often do to keep him from tripping me. He walks winding in front of my feet insisting on attention. He is fluffy, cuddly and when I pick him up to carry him leans back in my arms to look me in the eyes. Yeah, that cat that would run as soon as our eyes met is now predictably affectionate.

It’s difficult to pull weeds with a cat wanting to play. I am taking photos of the landscaping in our circle and he quickly climbs the tree right next to me and places himself at my shoulder height as if to say, “Take my picture!” And I do.

In the mornings at the far end of the house DJ and Bella are at the side porch anxiously waiting for someone to feed them. In the course of a day every time I walk out that door, Donald John comes out from under some shrubs to see me. “Hey Bud.” I pet him and then he blocks my every step toward the compost pile. I give him a scratch behind the ears and he immediately rolls on his back for a tummy rub too.

In the evening he is sitting on the porch rail peering in at me, meowing.

It’s morning and only Bella is waiting at the door. It’s not typical, but maybe he’s gone for an early morning prowl.

Later I step outside and call out “Hey Bud” met with silence. He’s not sitting on the porch rail watching me through the window and meowing until I give up and go outside to pet him.

I walk the property wondering if he got spooked and call his name hoping to hear his familiar “meow.” Hopefully, he’s hiding in the wooded area or in a tree and will call out for me to rescue him. Silence.

He is gone.

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