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The Whitehurst Diaries: A Day in the Life of Willis the Cat
Gradyville, more than any other place on earth, has a reputation for extremely smart pets, who do more than render TLC to the humans they own, and Willis the Cat certainly ranks in the top in this hierarcharchy. He does it in a style befitting the succession of Gradyville Gentry who perfected lives of leisure and leadership. - CM
Click on headline for complete essay with photo(s)
By Sharon Whitehurst
Willis the Cat takes seriously his self-appointed duties as watch-cat and general custodian of the farm.
Mornings find him tucked up cozily on the cushioned wicker bench in the shelter of the east-facing front porch. He turns when I open the curtains, stretches and yawns, giving every indication that he has barely closed his eyes during the dark hours when nocturnal mayhem might occur.
He enters the house with dignity, crunches a mouthful or two of kibble, pads down the hall on a tour of inspection, then indicates he is ready to return to the outside and take up whatever the day may hold in the way of surveillance and supervision.
I followed him out through the backdoor on Friday morning, observed the sun-shattered trails of mist rising from Big Creek, then turned my gaze toward the perennial strips and vegetable plantings which lie beyond the curve of the drive. I caught a slight movement behind the garage--a large turkey--then noticed that Willis had already spotted the turkey and was aware of its train of companions now processing toward the back field.
He kept watch as I hurried to fetch my camera, sat with tail flicking as I maneuvered to capture the retreating flock with my zoom lens.
Satisfied that he had done all he could to help, he settled himself in a chair in the carport, slitting his eyes against the sun, waiting for Jim to appear to feed the old horse and inspect the berry patch.
Willis joined me on the front porch when I ate a lunch time sandwich. Together we watched a pair of goldfinches bouncing about on a dwarf sunflower a few feet away. He bestirred himself later to follow Jim to the garden, whisking between the rows of sweet corn to insure that no invading bird, beastie or insect had invaded his territory. He rounded up the three young boy cats, delivering avuncular swats with a stripy paw, letting them know that they share the dooryard only through his gracious sufferance.
Late in the afternoon, having overseen the arrival and departure of cars belonging to family and neighbors, Willis strolled to his favorite siesta spot, the large rock on the front lawn. He sprawled luxuriously, only to be disturbed by the boy cats tearing past in pursuit of a butterfly.
His expression, all flattened ears and glaring eyes, suggested that a decent hard-working cat couldn't have a moment's rest without the farm going to hell in a hand-basket!
We declared our day's work finished as the sun slid behind the woods. I sank into a chair in the carport while Jim let down the tailgate of his vintage pickup and sat there. Edward, the lazy and affectionate black and white boy-cat landed purring in my lap. Willis stretched companionably on the still warm concrete, eyes trained on the back field where Edward's brothers, Nellie and Bobby, pounced on fireflies in the rough grass. Charlie, the old Siamese, trolled recklessly along the edge of the shallow ditch near the trees, his pale-furred shape unmistakable in the growing dusk. Thinking to avoid the usual after dark round-up of felines, I called them, 'Here, kitty, kitty.' Surprisingly, they dashed down the path, flopping into the clump of catnip at the edge of the concrete.
Low overhead a cronking call brought us all to attention. Willis rose on tweedy haunches, ears pricked forward. The call came again, accompanied by the soft whoosh of wings; the blue heron who lives across the creek cleared the sweet gum tree and flapped homeward, long neck and slender legs a dark line against the evening sky. In the darkening field a rusty shape slid into view, ambled along the ditch pausing to sniff. I handed Jim the binoculars which we keep on the porch. 'A coyote,' he announced, confirming my thoughts. I looked at my young boy-cats, so recently there in the field, easy prey perhaps for a coyote, and hastily bundled them through the back door.
Our faithful watch-cat sat, alert, lean, yellow-eyed, wise with his seniority of three previous summers on the farm. As though satisfied that the dooryard was, for a time secure, safe from vagrant coyotes, hurtling birds and parading turkeys, Willis landed gracefully in my vacated chair and settled himself, pointy face on tweedy paws.
Beyond the circle of the dooryard light, fireflies danced, tiny lamps flashing, and the rasping whir of cicadas welcomed the night. - Sharon Whitehurst
This story was posted on 2013-07-30 05:39:58
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