The cat that just wouldn’t go to school
by Lyman Horne Guest columnist
It’s been a while since this occurred. As a matter of fact, I had to verify these events with my younger brother, Ronnie. Together, we determined that it happened in the mid-to-late 1980’s as our mother’s car was a 1985 model. On to the cat story.
In our country home at McDaniel’s crossroads, we would run across the occasional animal as is common with country life. Nothing bad, but a miscellaneous animal would happen by from time to time. One such animal was a big tom cat, we, and our father, lovingly called Tom, or Thomas. Our father had a real soft spot in his heart for animals and would never hear of one suffering. Thomas was no exception, however, Thomas was about half wild. As a matter of fact, our father was really the only human that Thomas would have anything to do with. We all assumed that the cat food daddy supplied on a regular basis had a little something to do with Thomas’ allegiance.
The relationship between our father and Thomas was a good one, to a point. Daddy would come home in the afternoons and put a bowl of cat food out for Thomas, and shortly thereafter Thomas would come around and enjoy a good meal. It appeared to be a lasting friendship indeed, but, at some point all relationships are challenged, and, this one was no exception.
Our father, like his sons, had an affection for automobiles. He viewed an automobile as more than a mechanism to get from point A to point B, but instead as something of real value and pride. Daddy was extremely happy when he purchased our mother a new Buick in 1985 from his friend James Rose. Apparently, over the course of the friendship between our father and Thomas, Thomas became fond of the car as well. He would routinely lay on the car’s top leaving paw prints on the vehicle. However, that aside, the relationship really soured between daddy and Thomas when Thomas became sick on the car. That was it.
Our father pulled my younger brother and I aside and asked if we could assist in getting rid of Thomas. He wanted Thomas taken to the local animal shelter, and, as he theorized, Thomas would be put to sleep and perhaps wind up in a medical class somewhere and be the key in solving the mystery of some dreaded disease. Indeed, a noble thought and rationalization for taking Thomas for his ‘last ride’.
At this point my brother and I devised a plan. We got a large pet caddy, a big pair of leather welding gloves (the kind that come half-way up your forearms) and some tasty cat food. With these resources and my pickup truck, we headed to our McDaniel’s crossroads home place to take care of Thomas. When we got to the house, we went over to where our father would routinely feed Thomas, and turned the pet caddy on end, with the door open upward. We then served up a dish of tasty cat food and patiently waited for Thomas to arrive. Pretty soon, Thomas arrived and began his afternoon meal. I circled around behind Thomas with the large leather welding gloves on and picked Thomas up by his back fur and swiftly ease him into the top of the pet caddy. My brother steadied the pet caddy and closed the door once Thomas was safely inside. We then right-sided the pet caddy and put the caddy, with Thomas inside, in the back of the pickup truck for his fateful ride to the animal shelter in Clinton. He made the most awful sounds I’ve ever heard coming from a pet caddy. It was a combination growl and moan at the same time. It would make your skin crawl.
We arrived at the county offices on Rowan Road and went to the back where the animal shelter was located. The animal shelter was closed, but there was an animal drop-off that could be utilized for off-hours. It consisted of a large cage with a door and a slide so that the animals could not escape. You could open the door and drop the offending animal down the slide to ‘safety’. The door is where the problem came in. We opened the door and eased the pet caddy up toward the opening of the drop-off cage, leaning it back so that Thomas could not possibly escape. We opened the door to the pet caddy and eased it toward the door to the drop-off cage. However, due to the two doors involved, we could not possibly get the caddy opening and the drop-off opening completely flush. When Thomas made a move to exit the pet caddy, he discovered our problem with the small gap between the two and he decided to exploit it to his advantage. Thomas running into the nearby woods was the last we ever saw of Thomas.
A few days afterward, our father inquired about what we did with Thomas. I recounted the story with welding gloves and how we got Thomas to town and indeed to the animal shelter. That’s where my story would end. Several days later my father asked the same question, and I recounted the story in the same manner as before. A few more days had passed, and our father, once again asked the question with a twist. ‘What happened when you and Ronnie got him over to the animal shelter?’ our father asked. I told our dad that I’d hoped he wouldn’t ask me that particular question, but, at that point, I had to ‘spill the beans’ so to speak. I figured he might get angry, but, to the contrary he said ‘good, I hope that he enjoys the rest of his life’. Indeed, a real soft spot for animals.
I still have those welding gloves …
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