Barn cats were prolific on our farm. My siblings and I would spend days searching for new kittens, finding cocoons tucked in the straw in different barns. Not all the cats were friendly, but my siblings and I adopted a few. Soon instead of prowling in the shadows, they’d wind through our legs and purr with a quick scratch behind the ears.
Only one cat reached house cat status. I’m not sure why. We named him Casper and curled up with him on cold nights, created toys for him, and fought over who had to empty the litter box.
Casper did wander outside once and in a while. Once was enough for us to discover that Casper was not a he but a she.
We found Casper’s kittens cozied up in a pile of old gloves in the backroom. Only one kitten survived. My brother named him Blacko.
Shortly thereafter my mom declared no more house cats, sending Casper and Blacko outside in the warm spring. With my brother’s guidance they survived the barns and kept their place as favorites of the family spending afternoons sunning on the back steps. Blacko was my brother’s favorite.
Now, farm kids and their farm parents are rather familiar with life and death. A farm is where nature’s cycle happens daily. But when a beloved pet dies – by accident no less – the loss is carried deeply by all.
One afternoon, Blacko decided to nap in the shade of the truck tire. My dad headed out for afternoon cattle chores . . . and . . . well . . . do I really have to write what happened next?
Flat as a pancake. Poor cat.
Thankfully we kids were at school. Blacko had been properly buried down by the creek by the time we arrived home. When my brother started asking about his pet, Mom said Blacko must have gone exploring.
I can’t believe we accepted that explanation.
A few nights later, we ended a busy day with a small campfire in the drive. In the dusky light, my sister pointed out to the yard by the far hog house.
“Do you see that? What is it?” she squinted into the dark.
We all sat up, straining to see the form lurching close to the ground.
“Gail, is it a coon?” my mother asked concerned. My dad grunted.
“Take the kids inside,” he said softly, yet sternly. My mom hesitated, studied the lurching figure again and in realization hopped up with, “Time for bed. We let you stay up too late!”
Puzzled, we gathered our lawn chairs and s’more equipment, and tromped off to the house.
Later in life, we learned that Blacko had come home. Muddied, bruised and broken that cat had escaped its shallow pasture grave.
My poor father. Blacko’s accidental death weighed on him. His return haunted him.
These days when the Legend of Blacko is retold around a late night campfire, my dad shudders when we point out that seven lives are still in play and Blacko just may return some day.
Read more 30 Days of Farm Girl Memories
- Day 1: Surprise Kittens
- Day 2: The Men in My Life
- Day 3: Small Town Saturday Night
- Day 4: “Fall”ing in Love
- Day 5: A Bag of Caramels
- Day 6: Chores in the Dark
- Day 7: Things My Mother Said
- Day 8: Munchy Cheese
- Day 9: Super Swiffer Saturday
- Day 10: Dad’s Church
- Day 11: Kansas City, Then & Now
- Day 12: Video #Throwback: Field Meals
- Day 13: Eggs in A Nest
- Day 14: Baling
- Day 15: The Popcorn Stand
- Day 17: Popping Up Memories
- Day 18: Watching the Weather
- Day 19: The Secret Lives of Farmers
- Day 20: Cows Out
- Day 21: Making the Bed
And find other 30 Day bloggers starting with the one who got us into this – Holly Spangler from My Generation.