Yesterday morning when I was at the corral doing chores, I heard sounds coming from a litter of brand new kittens — a late batch of kittens, perhaps. The baby cries were coming from a stack of hay bales, and my first thought was, “Oh, no! Kittens in a hole between the hay bales. I’ll have to move the kittens around before long!”
It never ceases to amaze me how many different hiding places the barn cats find around Pipi’s Pasture when it comes time to have their kittens. Probably the most popular are the holes in the haystack, which certainly must be cozy. This choice of kitten nest causes us the most problems, however, because we have to work around the kittens and finally, because we have to feed the hay, resort to finding new nests for the babies.
Other popular hiding places include spaces under the outbuildings; the hot box (used to warm up newborn calves during frigid weather); protected areas among the chokecherry and lilac bushes; the tall grass under the apple tree; down inside a deep trash can; inside a pile of stacked tires; the rhubarb patch and inside stock trailers.
Last week’s column ended with a hint that our son Jamie had an experience with kittens in a horse trailer. The story went this way: Jamie had loaded the trailer with some scrap metal. He went off and let the trailer set for awhile, and one day, not realizing that a mama cat had decided to keep her kittens there, hooked the trailer onto his truck and drove off to unload the metal.
When he started unloading, he was surprised to find the kittens. So he carefully transferred them to the seat of the truck, finished unloading and drove the kittens home. There at the trailer’s parking place sat the mama cat, calmly waiting for him to return with her babies.
And then this spring, a black mama cat decided to have her kittens in another stock trailer belonging to Jamie’s family. This trailer had been parked out here at Pipi’s Pasture. My husband, Lyle, had watched the mama cat jump up through some slats on top of the trailer, remarkably one time with a mouse in her mouth.
So when Jamie used the trailer to haul bulls this past May, the cat and kittens had to be relocated.
We get plenty of chuckles from the animals here at Pipi’s Pasture, just as my siblings and I did when we were growing up on the ranch. However, in our case, there was one exception.
The story requires a little background information. Each spring Mom ordered baby chicks — some female chicks destined to become layers and some males destined to become fryers. But for some reason, she always saved a rooster and let him get big, perhaps even live several years. None of us can remember why. Perhaps she just liked having a rooster around.
The problem was that the rooster was mean. It doesn’t sound so bad to an adult who could give the rooster a good kick, but we kids were scared to death of him. The rooster would fly up and try to hook us with his spurs. Perhaps he bit us, too, I can’t remember for sure. He would chase us all the way from the chicken house to the safety of the yard, or worse, to and from the outhouse. Years later, when our brother Duane was old enough, he chased the rooster with our sister Darlene’s doll buggy. I don’t suppose that helped matters any.
Boy, were we ever glad when Mom decided to roast up the rooster!
Some years we had geese, too, which may have not chased us, but their hissing was scary. Our lives are filled with animal stories.