From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Kids and Kittens

Life in the Nebraska Sandhills... The Rural Life... Another Trip Down Memory Lane...




Several years ago, I found the above photo in the US Department of Agriculture photo archives. It's a very poignant image, I think. The tarpaper on the building speaks of poverty, but this little barefoot boy was fortunate in one respect -- he had a kitty to love.

I remember many happy hours spent with kittens when I was a little girl. We had a large barn that had a dozen horse stalls in the south part of it. The mama cats always had their kittens in the hay mangers at the ends of the horse stalls. The mangers were big enough that a little girl, (or even two little girls) could climb in and help a mama cat take care of her babies. No little kitten ever crawled about blindly, searching for milk and crying, if we were there to assist.

A mama cat broke the rules one spring and had her kittens beneath the underslung, a big trailer that was used for hauling haystacks to feed the cattle. The underslung was parked for the summer and there happened to be a little clump of hay under it. There the mama had made her nest. To visit, we had to scoot on our stomachs under the bed and framework of the trailer. When the nest was finally reached, we had to remain lying down, either on our backs or stomachs. It was a difficult situation, but we made occasional visits.

I crawled under there one day and I guess I forgot what a tight space I was in. I raised up too far, too fast, and struck my head sharply against a metal beam. It nearly knocked me out, and I lay there for a while moaning, with strange colors dancing in front of my eyes, until I could gather my wits and pull myself out of there. That was the last time I visited those kittens.

One time my sister and I were exploring a blowout where trash had been dumped. (This was in the Nebraska Sandhills, and people used blowouts as landfills back in those days.) There happened to be an old wood cookstove thrown into this blowout, and we were investigating it. Much to our surprise, there were a half-dozen little wild kittens living in and about it. They were terribly emaciated. We went back to the house and rounded up some food for them, and when we took it to them, they were so starved that they climbed our pants legs to get to it. Apparently their mother had abandoned them, or perhaps a coyote had got her. Anyway, we caught them all and took them home with us.

My mother had a sweet story about a kitten experience when she was young. She dressed a cooperative cat in a doll dress and installed her nicely in a doll bed she had created. Then Mama was called to eat lunch. When she came back, she found that the cat (still dressed) had given birth to a kitten in her doll bed -- just one tiny brand-new kitten. What an exciting surprise that must have been!

My kids could tell their own stories about spending time with kittens. One thing that just doesn't change much is the special bond kids can make with kittens. The kitten in these photos is one we raised on a bottle. His name is Happy, and we still have him. He's a spoiled old rascal. He learned at an early age that he could get almost anything he wanted if he insisted.

2 comments:

KennethF said...

Hi Genevive,
What a wonderful surprise... your blue grass photo and all! I stopped on that great shot of the "Prairie Bluestem" and clicked for a closer look? You certainly have been sharpening your pencil for the current month. I back checked some of your photos and they are all winners. "Bill's House" photo & story is here in Pittsburgh, also. I hope Bill is doing ok too. I posted your blog and hope you continue in good health. Sincerely, KennethF

Genevieve said...

I'm glad you stopped by and I hope you'll visit often. :) I have to confess that I did not take the bluestem photo, though. It's from the US Dept. of Agriculture.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.