Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Jimmy




Five year old Jimmy was in his family's back yard, arguing with six of the neighbors' children on this bright summer day. They were taunting each other with the usual epitaphs that seem to survive civilization, progress, world unity, and the space age.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones," Jimmy said, then looked at me. "Hey, the flower lady."

All seven children turned to me and said, "Good morning lady."

All of them called me Lady because they couldn't remember my name but they could remember Lady since this was also their dog's name.

"Good morning," I said to them and waited for what I knew they would next say.

It didn't take more than a few seconds for them to ask me, "Do you have any flowers?"

This was our daily ritual - them asking me for flowers, me giving them little bouquets from my garden. They always ran into their houses, holding out the flowers and shouting, "Mamma, look what we got."

     *****

That day came and went and I watched Jimmy grow up to his fourteenth year when he came to our house and asked if his dad could borrow Grampy's truck for a few hours. Of course I refused because his parents had a not too good reputation for honesty in the neighborhood.

"It's okay," Grampy said. "Let them use the truck."

A week later, when our truck was still missing from our driveway, I drove past Jimmy's house. The yard was empty, the house was closed with windows boarded over. I was angry about not getting our truck back.

"Jimmy was such a pain and he doesn't show much promise of becoming any sort of model citizen for society," my common sense said.

"So when does everyone in this world have to be an icon of perfection?" my heart replied. "Jimmy has his good points. He certainly has optimism and he definitely loves his mother. Maybe he's just a late bloomer. We can't judge a person for an entire lifetime by what we see for a few moments. People change, sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better.
I think Jimmy will do just fine. I have faith in him."

I waited, listened for my common sense to rebut these statements. When my common sense did nothing but grumble about infernal female day dreaming, I went to our back yard and peered over the fence. The yard looked bare and desolate in its perfect landscaped lines and well trimmed grass empty of toys and basketball hoops and trampolines. My heart could hear the laughter of those children as they raced to our fence for flowers but it was just my imagination. The yard was childless..

My common sense said, "Oh no, here they come again," and my tears started to fall.

I plucked several cosmos and marigolds and zinnias from my garden and tossed them across the fence. They flew in tiny spirals, caught up by a sudden breeze, before landing on the picture perfect lawn. They looked beautiful lying there in the sunshine. My heart could hear the laughter of the children as they shouted out, "Thank you, Lady." My common sense said, "They're gone and so is your truck.".

It was two years later when I next saw Jimmy. He was working for a landscaping company. Walking around their yard, he recognized me right away.

Smiling, he came to our fence and said, "Hey Lady, do you still have any flowers?"

I gathered up a big bouquet and carried the flowers to him.

"Thanks," he said, then he turned and headed for their house, calling out, "Hey Mamma, look what I got!"

Jimmy disappeared into their house and I walked around to the front yard. There in the driveway was our truck.

"Well, daggone," I said and laughed. Somehow, the day seemed warmer, the sky brighter.

I looked at the truck and thought of a Bible verse - "Am I my brother's keeper?"
 
"Yup," I said.  We are our brother's keepers."


Posted by Diana for Margaret

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Three Squirrel Tales




Just as my biology teacher said that handicapped creatures cannot survive long in the wild, my big brother, many years ago, told me that squirrels cannot live without their big fluffy tails. It is true that squirrels need their tails to keep themselves warm on cold nights and also to balance themselves as they scamper from tree to tree and leap remarkably long distances from tree to fence to garden gate and any other objects to reach their feeders without touching the ground.

After the bush in front of our kitchen window died, Grampy put a trellis there so I could still watch the birds at their feeders. He also put up two chairs and tables for squirrel feeders. The squirrels sit on the little chairs by the tables, then rock back and forth while they gobble down the sunflower seeds I've left for them.

Sometimes they get tired of sitting and run to the top of the trellis, then hang upside down by their feet, swinging while eating. Certainly, their tails keep them balanced while performing this mealtime maneuver. Certainly, squirrels need those big fluffy tails.

That was what I thought until one morning I looked out the window and saw a squirrel there without any tail at all! Nothing! I named him Stubby and kept a close eye on him. Just like the mocking bird with one leg, he adapted quite well to living with his handicap. Stubby stayed in Timothy's garden for five years. He had no trouble climbing trees or keeping his balance. Somehow he kept warm during the winters or he never would have lived so long in the wild.

 ***

After Stubby, came Stubby II who survived with only a small portion of a tail. Like his namesake, Stubby II lived a good life in Timothy's garden, flitting over tree branches, racing up and down trees, sometimes hanging upside down by his feet just for fun as he ate at his feeder table. Apparently neither squirrel learned that they had to have tails in order to survive.

 ***

A third squirrel had the opposite handicap of his two relatives. His tail was too long. Most squirrel tails go up their back and then fold over to come halfway back down. This squirrel's tail went up his back, then folded over and came back down to its point of origin and halfway back up again!

His handicap seemed much more frustrating than Stubby and Stubby II's handicaps. His tail was so heavy that he couldn't keep it in place very long when he sat at the feeder table. Slowly, very slowly, his tail unfolded and dangled down, down, down while he ate. With a hump! of disgust, he grabbed his tail, pulled it up, and wrapped it around him two or three times while trying to continue eating.

One day, when he was with his girlfriend, his tail got in the way so much that they both were tangled in it. That squirrel stayed for two years in Timothy's garden, then presumably returned to the woods. Perhaps he got tired of everyone staring at his long tail. Strange things happen with squirrels even when they are handicapped.

 ***

We humans who claim to have dominion over this world should respect life in all forms. We must never underestimate the determination to survive, even by only a squirrel. Life is sacred and cries out in many ways, "Let us live!"


Posted by Diana for Margaret

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Timothy's School




Timothy’s mother must have been undernourished when he was born since he seemed to have to struggle to learn anything. While the other kittens in Grammy’s garden romped and played and learned new talents each day, Timothy struggled to analyze everything he saw and touched. While the other kittens looked at a tree and eagerly ran up its trunk, Timothy sat in quiet contemplation of what that thing might be. He had no problem at feeding time, often being the first one to reach the food bowls but if Grammy moved his food dish only a few inches from its normal spot, Timothy had to use intense concentration to find the dish.

The first lesson Grammy taught all new-comer kitties was to give them a name and then teach them to respond to that name. It took only a few days for Scooter to know he was Scooter, Winston to know he was Winston, and Little Bit to know she was Little Bit. But many days with Grammy constantly repeating his name passed before Timothy’s eyes lit up and he seemed to smile and say, “Hey! I’m a Timothy!”

Timothy’s greatest difficulty in learning was also his greatest triumph. To get from the yard into the house, the cats had to go through a maze of three cat doors. The first cat door led the cats from the yard to the porch. The second cat door went from porch to pantry. The third cat door went from pantry to kitchen which opened into the rest of the house. The cats not only had to learn how to go through this maze to get into the house, they also had to learn how to travel through it in reverse to get back outside.

This was no easy task but the cats were good students. Winston had needed only a few seconds to learn how to push on the rubber flap of each cat door to gain entrance into our porch. Little Bit needed an hour or so to learn this. Scooter watched Winston enter the cat door and immediately followed but poor Timothy couldn’t learn how to use the cat door.

While the other cats came and went through the cat door, Timothy sat by it and waited until Grammy helped him by pushing on the flap to open it. Grammy tried once to press Timothy’s head against the door to show him how his feline friends opened the doors but that terrified him and he clawed Grammy’s hand in fear.

The next time Timothy wanted out, he sat as usual by the cat door and looked at Grammy in anticipation. Grammy grabbed the edge of the flap with her index fingernail and pulled it back. Timothy went out through the door. Grammy again grabbed the flap with her fingernail and Timothy came in through the door. Every time  after that, when Timothy wanted to go in or out of the cat door, he refused to budge until Grammy used her fingernail to open the flap.

Day after day, week after week, month after month this went on. Finally, after six long months of watching Grammy open the flap with her fingernail, Timothy paused one day to look the flap over very carefully.

He looked up at Grammy as if saying, “Hey, I know how to do this!” Then he held out his paw, and grabbed the flap with one of his claws. Pulling the flap back, Timothy walked by himself through the cat door!

It took Timothy half a year to learn what his friends had learned in a few days but his success was just as great and he learned the most valuable lesson. Never give up.


Posted by Diana for Margaret

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Interacting with Feral Cats


If you can't find a feral cat, look up, the higher the better chance of seeing one.

No one can say for sure where cats came from. There is no mention of them in the Bible and scientists still disagree on who the cat ancestors were. There are many theories. My favorite theory is that cats descended from space aliens who crash landed in Egypt 5,000 years ago.

All cats are feral, having lost nothing of their wild nature. They are credited with having high intelligence and have learned to play the role of a "domestic" or "tame" animal willing to live in comfortable houses, eating the best food and sleeping on the best furniture. Most cats, however, when given a choice will head for the back yard or neighborhood woods or any other rustic area and live as they were meant to live.

If you meet a feral cat, do not look into the cat's eyes. This human greeting of "Hello" is translated into cat-speak as, "Let's fight!" Just keep on doing what you're doing and act as if you don't see any cats. The cat will probably wander off, relieved that he escaped from your presence.

It is very easy to get a cat to stay with you. Just set some food scraps out. Don't get between him and the food and give him a few days to connect you and the food as one. After about a week, the cat will let you tap his nose or pet his head.

When that happens, congratulations are in order, you and the cat are now on a rocky road to some of the best companionship any human and feline can experience. When you come home all tired and frustrated from your job, your cat will be there to let you pet him. When your cat decides to show his love for you, he'll drop a dead rat on your bed. If you get sick and lie on the couch, moaning in misery, your cat will bathe your feverish face with his scratchy tongue and sleep with you until your fever breaks.

The best tactic when living with a feral cat is to treat him with respect. He might roam at night but he'll be back as soon as he finishes eating breakfast at your neighbor's house where you neighbors think he belongs to them. When you're as lovable and cute as a cat, there's enough of you to belong to several families in the neighborhood. Just be sure to get the cat neutered. You don't want too much of a good thing.


Even feral cats say their prayers.


Posted by Diana for Margaret