— By LARRY M. JONES
Once, back when I was a youngster, a cousin was visiting us and while he was admiring my new cute little kitten, he asked my mother, “How do you get a start of cats?”
My mom laughed about his question to her dying day.
Growing up down on the “pore farm,” I was always around an assortment of animals. We were quite traditional and practical with regard to what kind of animals we possessed. If the critter didn’t have a purpose on the farm, it needed to be somewhere else. In sharp contrast, many of the local urban/gentleman farmers around Parker County today have an almost infinite assortment of barnyard animals and pets – many could almost replenish an ark in the unlikely event of a flood.
Our livestock consisted primarily of beef cattle and hogs. Although not as useful, we also always had a horse or two. While there were many dairies in the county, we never had more than a single milk cow. The only poultry we raised was chickens, for both the meat and eggs. I’ve seen ducks, geese, turkeys, and even pea fowl, but my dad would never allow such foul creatures. A few of our neighbors included Angora or “hair” goats to their herds back in the 1950’s. Our fences did well to hold a gentle milk cow, so we never got into the mohair business. The cost of fencing made such a possibility out of the question.
Although today’s choice of goat would be “meat” goats, the same economic consideration exists, along with vastly increased numbers of coyotes and other predators that would seriously complicate goat production. Raising goats can also be a bit trying even without the threat of predation. I’ve been told (by competent authority) that if you placed three goats in a 55 gallon steel barrel, welded the lid shut, and opened it a week later you would be quite surprised in what you’d find. One would have worms, one would be dead, and the other would be missing.
Our dogs were also an important part of the “pore farm” menagerie. My dad, as well as many others locally, always preferred a collie/shepherd mix – always male dogs. They were good natured, intelligent, aggressive hunters, and could be somewhat trained to help work livestock. Rarely would they show aggressive tendencies, and they were not prone to egg sucking, chicken killing, or killing a neighbor’s goats.
While I loved my dogs when I was growing up, I have to admit that I also loved and was fascinated by cats. Except for a stray barn cat or two, we never had a pet cat until Grandpa Jones gave me the aforementioned kitten. He had an old female cat that had a litter of kittens in his smokehouse, and I played with them every time I visited him. Here, I broke all the rules. Most egregious of these was the fact I chose a female kitten. I didn’t pay any attention, and she was the one who liked me best. Her name was Cindy, and she was with us many years.
I don’t remember what my mom told my cousin about “getting a start of cats,” but I can assure you that choosing a female kitten will get you started in the cat business in a hurry
Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to email@example.com.