I have written about the many things that I remember at Christmas. Now I will tell you of some more things that I cannot forget not only at Christmas but at other times. Cats!
Some of my Cameos have been about my cat that I had in 1938 that everybody helped name, and he ended up with the name “Thomas Tony, Johnny Chaplin, Wamcat Murphy, Junior, Billy the Second.” Of course we called him “Tom.” Now Tom was an exceptional cat since he would roll over on command like a dog. When you talked to him, he meowed back as if answering your questions. He loved popcorn and would join my mother in eating the bag of popcorn that I brought home following my workday at West Bros. each Saturday.
He lived indoors, with an occasional trip outside from time to time for bathroom privileges. Always, he came to the door and announced that he was back and wanted back in.
Cold and Sick
This particular time he left but he did not return as expected. We had received our January snow, and the ground was still frozen. We called and called and no Tom appeared. We became concerned, but one day he straggled up, sick and so skinny and poor. We immediately put him in a box lined with towels and offered him food. He was too sick to eat. He coughed and coughed. My mother decided that he had pneumonia.
She remembered the treatment our doctor had used on me. When I was five, I had red measles, and a bad case that ended with pneumonia. We lived in Shreveport and my doctor was the same doctor that had delivered me, Dr. Elzey. He had prescribed a hot toddy for me and he came to my home with a prescription bottle of whiskey, mixed it with a little warm water and sugar and had me drink it. It burned all the way down and I could not stand the taste, but he spooned it into me. I lived over both the toddy and the pneumonia, but I never forgot.
A hot toddy
And so Tom was sick. Mother decided to see if our neighbor had any whiskey so that she could get a few tablespoons for a toddy for Tom. Our neighbor did not have any whiskey, but she did have some wine. Mother decided that it might not be as strong as the whiskey but she could use a little more. She mixed up a toddy with wine, and we spooned it into the listless, almost lifeless cat. He lay for a time and then he arose, arched his back, and pranced around, howling and putting on a show.
She decided that if a little did him so much good, a little more might be even better. And so she mixed a little stronger toddy, and spooned it down the lively, uninhibited cat. Then he walked on his back feet like a bear, he put on quite a show, and howled, meowed, and arched his back and walked sideways. Finally he just fell over, dead. We killed our cat, we got him drunk and he died just as drunk as a “sot.”
A little too drunk
At least he died happy, but we decided we would never be veterinarians (or bartenders) since we did not know how much was enough. “Pore” old Tom!! What a way to go and to think we were two religious Baptist church members that got our precious cat drunk enough to kill him.
This is the same cat that chose the Boston Fern flower pots in the living room as his bathroom while my friend and I entertained a couple of nice boys. One flower pot was not enough so he used two. We tried to get him out of the living room, but it was too late. We played like we did not know what he had done, and so did the boys.
A new kitten
And then some time later the same neighbor offered us a pretty little cat, a black cat, that she had named “Tom.” We still missed the first “Tom” and welcomed the little kitten. By then, we lived on First Street and had a couple of roomers, one a Mr. Murphy who worked at the La. Ordnance Plant. He was a nice gentleman and since our name was “Murphy” too, we kidded about being kin, but we were not kin at all.
He often petted our cat and commented on his beautiful shiny black fur. During the day while I was at work, Mother had to rescue Tom from time to time from neighbor cats that seemed to take pleasure in fighting him. But Mother always charged in and ran the other cats off and brought Tom into the house.
A little surprise
Several weeks later we heard Mr. Murphy laughing so loudly that you could hear him uptown. We peered out the back kitchen door to see him bending over a No. 2 washtub that had a few “tow” sacks or burlap sacks in it. He saw my mother and said, “Tom is it, well, just come and see what Tom has here.” We did and it was five little black kittens, just as cute as Tom had been. We changed his name to Thomasina. You can tell by now that neither my mother nor I could tell the sex of a cat, we just had to wait and see if they had kittens. Apparently, the cats she chased off were “Tom’s” boyfriends. So much for sex education.
Cats, cats and more cats
We have had cats, and cats, and cats. Some we knew were boy cats and some we did not know. One that my husband found at work turned out to be a girl and started the chain of kittens that culminated with us having 17 kittens one spring. They had names such as Paraphanalia, E. P., Ming, Jaws (which we had to change to Joyce when she had kittens), Turpentine, Pumpkin, Boots, Midnight, Patches, Smokey, Peppermint, and other unusual names.
E. P. had the distinction of being the only cat that would use the ridge roll on our roof for her bathroom, and that was the only place she used. It was quite a sight since our roof is so high, the cat was visible from a good distance down Sibley Road. Another unusual thing about E. P. was the fact that she never had kittens to live, they were either stillborn or died shortly after birth.
She wanted to be a mother so badly that she stole kittens from the other cats. It was not uncommon to find her with two little kittens from another cat’s litter. We tried to return them to the right place. She would hide and curl her body around the little kittens. The Sibley Road traffic killed most of my kittens. We could not bear to give one away, so eventually all were gone and we had to start over.
It became apparent that if we wanted cats to live they must be house cats. In 1990, my daughter’s cat, Ally, had five or six kittens, so ugly that only God and the mother could love them. Nobody adopted any of them. We took two, had them neutered, all the shots and their front toenails removed. They were litter trained and ate dry food. The other four were killed by my daughter’s neighbors, because they did not want them to come into their yards, so they got traps from the city and caught them and disposed of them. All but the mother cat, who tore out of the trap with her back ripped open and ran away to die.
P.K. and Sissy
It is December 2004 and our two cats at 14 years of age are still going strong. One has a pretty face, and her name is P. K, which is short for Pretty Kitty. The other is not pretty, but is so smart, so alert and such a joy. Her name is Sissy. Sissy sleeps with me each night and enjoys my electric blanket along with me. The other cat sleeps in my son’s room. Let’s just say “I am loved.” John says that even while I am napping, Sissy will crawl up into my arms, loving me.
So the world is made up of two kinds of people “Cat lovers” and “Cat haters.” There is no “in between” no matter how much the cat haters protest. I belong to the first and so do my children and grandchildren. My friends know of my love for cats. Elsie Hock sends me dish towels, pot holders, cards and many other things that have cats on them. Melba Lowery gives me a Hallmark Calendar each year with cats on each page, along with many gifts of angels, which I also love. Freddy Haynes also remembers me with cat cards. Many other friends always send birthday cards and other cards with cats on them. My son even buys birthday cards that have cats on them and signs them “P. K. and Sissy.” So you see we are cat lovers, and long may the cat lovers live!
Juanita Agan submitted a weekly column to the Press-Herald for more than 15 years until her death in 2008. She was a resident of Minden since 1935. The Press-Herald is republishing select articles from Mrs. Agan’s Cameos column every Wednesday.