The Cat and the Magpies

Diane Prather
Pipi's Pasture

When I’m writing from my favorite place at the dining room table, I also gather inspiration from what I can see through the room’s three large windows. Take today, for example.

I looked up from my work and noticed a cat that had climbed nearly to the top of one of the elm trees that grow along the backyard fence. My first thoughts were: “What are you doing up there and how are you going to get back down?”

I continued to watch the cat that was sitting on a spot where two large branches come together. At first he sat perfectly still, but then he looked down and started to test out a route back down the tree, carefully stepping on one small branch and then another. After a while it was apparent that the cat knew how to get back down out of the tree, so I went back to my writing.

The next time I looked up I noticed that two magpies had shown up and were flying around above the cat while uttering their characteristic magpie sounds. (Until this winter it has been rare to see a magpie here at Pipi’s Pasture — “a magpie” is accurate since I have only seen one at a time — but this winter is different. Now I have been observing several at a time.)

Anyway, when I saw the magpies, I took notice. They landed on branches above the cat. They fluffed out their feathers and walked along in the tree. They chattered. Then I realized why the cat had climbed up in the tree. From my past experiences with magpies, including my childhood ranch and other places we’ve lived since, I’ve found that magpies enjoy heckling other animals — especially cats.

“So that’s what you’re doing up in the tree,” I thought. Sure enough, when he saw the magpies, the cat started walking back up the tree.

“Good luck trying to catch a magpie,” I uttered (as if the cat could hear me).

The cat continued walking from branch to branch, on his way back up the tree. Two more magpies showed up. The cat sat in the branches, the magpies hovered above his head, teasing him, and then the birds finally flew off — probably to steal food from the cats’ food pans.

Eventually the cat started back down the tree again, branch by branch, until he reached the main trunk. Then he walked straight down and was on the ground and off to do something else, possibly to tell his peers about his experience with the pesky birds.

The sight of the cat and the magpies reminded me of another time, years ago, when Lyle and I were newlyweds and lived at Timnath (just outside Fort Collins) and had a cat named Dini. However, I’m out of words for this column so I will continue with this magpie story next week.

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