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C.W. and my sister, long ago.

C.W. was the cat who bridged my years of adolescence to young motherhood. He was the offspring of Precious and another cat in the neighborhood. Precious came along a few months after our beloved tabby cat, Mittens was killed by a stray dog on Christmas Day. We let Mittens out of the house on Christmas morning to attend to bathroom issues and had just finished opening our presents when we noticed that she still hadn’t come back. We found her just two blocks away. It turned a happy Christmas holiday into a dark and gloomy season.

Both my sister and I were so upset about Mitten’s death that we became sick for over a month that winter. We were very sad and couldn’t find comfort. I would write in my diary daily about how much I missed Mittens.

One day in early February, when we came home from school, we found Precious curled up on the fur collar of my mother’s coat at the end of our parents’ bed. Our mother told us that earlier in the day she had heard something at the door and when she opened it, had discovered Precious in between the front and screen doors.

We were thrilled. Precious was a feisty black and white, short-haired female who had the guts to chase away neighborhood dogs from our yard. She was a young cat when she first arrived at our home and we always had suspicions that she had been delivered to us by our cousins, Jeanne and Junior, but they never would admit to it.

It wasn’t long before Precious had kittens. C.W. was the cutest of the litter and Precious’ favorite. We found homes for all of the kittens and kept C.W. From a kitten on C.W. was very affectionate and loved to ride on my shoulder. Even when he was grown he loved to be carried around and cuddled.

Precious became an over-protective mother with C.W., running off his potential girlfriends and fighting a neighborhood cat who had scared him up a tree. She also loved fried chicken. One day we were enjoying a delicious meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy. My Dad, who always had a soft spot for our cats, had just picked up a piece of chicken breast and in mid-air, Precious jumped up and grabbed the piece away from him.

I will never forget the look on my Dad’s face. We thought Precious was audacious and crazy but couldn’t help but admire her courage. Daddy let her keep the piece of chicken. We always had to keep Precious in her catfood. I remember one day walking into the kitchen and being grabbed by the ankle by Precious. She took a nibble. That just tickled but sometimes she would sink her claws in. That was Precious’ way of telling us that her food dish was empty. I never failed to check a room before I entered it, to be sure that Precious wasn’t lurking behind the corner, ready to attack my ankles.

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When I was designing the 1978 Fort Smith Junior League Community Events Calender, halfway through drawing all the pages of the calendar, C.W. was killed. I dedicated the calendar to C.W., adding him to every page. On this calendar page, I drew C.W. sitting on a horse, something he liked to do.

C.W. loved our horse, Scout. He would often go into the back woods and hang out with him. We were always afraid that Scout would accidently step on C.W. but it never happened. C.W. liked to ride along with us when we rode on Scout. I remember once, after I had just gotten into the saddle, C.W. took a leap up, landing on my leg. I caught him and pulled him up and C.W. started purring very loudly. He wanted to ride. So we did.

One day, a sleek tabby came into our yard and Precious didn’t chase him away. We named him Stretch. Stretch became C.W.’s best buddy and we enjoyed watching the two cats play together, chasing each other around the yard. Along with Precious, they curled up with us in our beds at night. Stretch seemed like everyone’s best friend. He was a very laid back cat and loved to stretch in the sun, hence the name.

My sister, Lucy and I had “teas” for C.W. and Stretch. We set bowls of real tuna and separate bowls of cream on the kitchen table for the boys and tuna fish sandwiches and cups of hot tea for us. Stretch and C.W. sat in their own chairs with their paws up on the table and Lucy and I had our tuna fish sandwiches as we talked to C.W. and Stretch. Our brothers didn’t much approve of our teas but we enjoyed it. So did our Mother. Since our Dad didn’t approve of cats on tables our teas only occurred when he was at work.

One day, along came Puddin, who was already a pretty old cat. Puddin scared C.W. up a tree for a couple of days before we could coax him down with a can of tuna. Somehow, Puddin and C.W. made their peace and we invited Puddin into our cat family. Puddin had a curled up front right paw and the vet said he was an old fighter with a form of arthritis. Even though he must have, at one time, been a ferocious fighter, to us, Puddin was a sweet, gentle cat. He loved to curl up in our laps.

During this time another cat entered our lives and we named her Goldie. We saw her first in the back woods and she looked like a beautiful golden dandelion. She wouldn’t let us get close to her though but would eat the food we put out for her. One day she became very sick with an infection and she was so weak she allowed us to approach her. We bundled her into the car and took her to the vet. He doctored her and we kept her in the house to make her recovery.

As she became well, she grew to trust us, becoming our cat as well. She fit in well with the C.W. and Stretch crowd. Unfortunately, we only had about six months of closeness with Goldie. One morning she was missing and we found her across the street. She had been killed by that same old raging dog, who we always suspected had killed Mittens. Eventually that dog bit a little girl in the neighborhood and was finally put down.

One day in the summer of the year I was eighteen, Precious disappeared. We searched everywhere for her but never found her.

A couple of years later, my parents bought another house and we moved down the street. They still owned the old house and C.W. had a hard time adjusting to the move. He spent time in between the neighborhoods and worried me by walking along the road to get home. Stretch and Puddin took the same route down the street which was getting busier by the day and both were hit and killed by cars. We buried them on the old mound of our old homeplace.

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That just left C.W. It wasn’t long before I married and moved away. My husband and I got two kittens of our own after we had been married for four months. But I still missed my old buddy, C.W., who was the best of the bunch.

I loved going home to see family and C.W. After our son was born I enjoyed watching C.W. interact with him. C.W. was very gentle and patient with him. He could be pretty cantankerous in his old age but he wasn’t with our son.

One day the worst happened. C.W. was going back home after visiting the old homeplace and was hit by a car. I decided that all that freedom to roam wasn’t going to work anymore and resolved to keep my cats indoors.

The 146th edition of the Carnival of the Cats is being hosted by Leslie’s Omnibus. It’s Sunday. Shall we bow our heads and purrrrrr. My kitties never let me forget to pray.