BLACK CATS WINK AT THE MOON

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Sailors on whaling and merchant sailing ships regarded the arrival of a black cat on board as a symbol of good fortune. The wives of sailors often kept a black cat as a talisman to assure the safe return of their husbands. We also regard ourselves lucky when a black cat finds us and that happens very often.

In a separate time two black cats had, independently, found my husband and myself. When the cats found each of us, we had not yet found one another. Daddy was the largest, he had been a feral feline that my husband tamed on a farm in South Carolina. Tuffy was a loner on the marshes of Ballona Creek in California. He was singing as he wandered up the bricked alley stomped up my stairway. I was enchanted. He and I moved to Florida some time later.

Five years after those cats found us, my husband and I found each other. The same year we were all moving into our first home together as a two cat, two dog, two adult family. Our new home was a 1770’s colonial in Connecticut with an apple orchard, small forest and old tobacco barn.

The sprawling old house was located in a rural neighborhood, a million miles and 2.8 hours, north of New York City. Our dogs loved the barn and ran into and out of it at will, chasing each other and their tails. The Connecticut property was ten acres of pastoral heaven. It seemed all the animals were glad to be out of sub-tropical southern climates and into a land of seasons.

“People used to drop cats off here all the time,” the new neighbor told me pointing at our barn with her nose. “They think the cats will be happy here living some kind of Disney cartoon life in your barn. You know roast mouse and dancing.”

I nodded and wondered how I had missed seeing the oven in the barn when we moved in just a week ago. Cat dancing sounded like something we could get into.

“After the town opened a no-kill animal shelter,” the neighbor continued, ” people stopped dropping off cats.”

“We like cats.” I told her, “in fact, my husband is a fool for a cat.” She frowned and gave me a dark look.

Our two black cats rounded the corner of the garage, gave the neighbor the once over and headed for the barn.

On a chill Fall day, weeks later, I walked into the old tobacco barn to retrieve gardening tools. A soft mew greeted me. A very small black cat was hiding in the wall between the abandoned cow milking stations and the larger tobacco drying area. 

I wondered how the tiny new cat would be greeted by our crew of two, and the gaggle of dogs, who now numbered three.

We named the black barn cat Sweeter because she was extraordinarily affectionate. She moved into the house within two weeks.

The three cats, surprisingly, got along very well. The new cat was instructed to ignore the smelly, nosy dogs. They cats sat together on the window-seat watching the snow. Later, in the Spring they lounged together in the gardens, ignoring the fake charges of the stupid dogs. They watched birds, just out of their reach. They would crouch, in readiness to pounce, when squirrels and moles showed up. Their big-time hunting aspirations usually came to nothing. Summer nights they sat on the hill looking down at the lake. Under the full moon they gleamed like black diamonds.

Baba, a black cat who resembled a ballet dancer, joined the family, just as Tuffy left for Cat Heaven. And then, Slake a muscular charcoal black cat arrived. He detoured the barn and came directly to the back door. Slake, it turned out, was a wanderer. After spending winter with us, he took off the next Spring. Poof, vanished one day after a hearty breakfast.

It’s been many years since that time. There have been many cats along the way. In all there have been a eight black cats wh found us, in addition to Tuffy and Daddy.

Some time ago we arrived in Virginia in the dead of winter with one fat black cat, China, who found us at a gas station in Utah, but that’s another story. We were down to one Cardigan Corgi, Wobble. China had been raised by other dogs before Wobble arrived. She took to him when he was a little puppy, before the other dogs passed on. Now, China and Wobble sleep together, she cleans his very large ears and larger paws. He nuzzles her neck.

Two months after we moved into the Virginia farmhouse a thin black cat sat in the doorway of the garden shed. Espooky was wary and as fast as lightning. We left dry food for him in the shed and soon he was not so wary.

Within months he went from terrified to civilized and moved into the house and onto a feather sleeping pillow. China was insulted, but over time the two have become cautious housemates. Although war hasn’t broken out, China spends her time thinking up ways to insult or annoy Espooky.

In August a black cat walked along the South Pasture fence and made a bee-line for the garden shed. Wobble noticed him first and made a joyous barking foray out to greet the new cat, who turned tail for the forest. The black cat returned the next day. He was sturdy but thin, midnight black except for two short white markings on his front legs, thus christened Socks.

Socks filed adoption papers with the Great Feline Hall of Records and formally adopted us. He is happy in the garden shed and shows no inclination of becoming a pampered civilized indoor cat. China and Espooky regard Socks with disdain and occasionally cold fear.

My better half was offended when Socks declined the lifetime indoor-living invitation. Worried about the coming winter, my spouse began to make plans to care for Socks, who looked on with interest as his human installed a heated bed in the shed. Socks gingerly examined the bed, and then settled deep into its folds. Every morning Socks waits on the stone step of the garden shed for his meals, then slips into the forest or scouts the pastures during the day.

I wait patiently for a new arrival. The next Black Cat who arrives will be Number 13. A Lucky Number.

Black Cats Wink At the Moon.

A book I am working on will feature these cats and others.