I no longer curse cats.
Back in my townie decades, I detested felines as vermin.
Every spring I would clear winter's detritus from beneath shrubs. Rakes reach only so far. My hands attempted to finish the job, only to encounter the doo-doo of neighbors or feral cats that did their don't-don't where I had to dig-dig.
Yuckies. Curse those cats.
I also suffered a nine-year retribution for a moment of weakness. "Can we keep it, Daddy? Please, please?" was the entreaty of my pigtailed younger daughter as she showed us the cute little kitten in her arms, placed there by a neighbor eager to get rid of an unwanted litter.
I said yes, and agreed that the feline would be fed, watered and doctored, and not harmed.
The cat didn't get the message that we had a truce.
As I descended stairs to go to work in predawn darkness, the evil feline would entangle itself in my stockinged feet, causing trips. It would lie atop the back of the sofa, feigning innocence until I passed - then leap at my nape, scratch and yowl, and disappear beneath furniture before I could grab it.
Ouchies. Curse that cat.
When that daughter departed for college, that cat also departed, to a good home rather than to the shotgun-shell demise that it deserved. I had kept my word.
Then I departed, to a rural residence.
Here, cats are outside creatures, domiciled primarily in a barn 100 yards from the house. I feed them there, less-than-filling portions designed to stimulate the hunter instinct that enables them to keep our house mostly mouse-free and mole/vole/chipmunk free, with minimal damage to more difficult to catch songbirds.
Those cats range afield from both barn and house, dropping their doo-doo in places where I never need to reach.
No yuckies, so no cat curses.
We aren't friends, of course. I am a thoroughgoing dog person. If dogs are aggressive, they do so openly: "Bark! Bark! Growl! Snarl!"
Cats, by contrast, feign disinterest, disdain, an aristocratic aloofness - until it is time to strike a nape.
But now, barn-housed, we keep our distances from each other.
No ouchies. No cat curses.
The cats we have, usually numbering less than a dozen, perform a useful service by removing rodents.
Back when I cursed cats, I never hurt or killed them. Shook my fist, yes. Possibly even failed to move my foot out of the way while striding past one, giving it a sideways taste of a boot, perhaps. Yes, as a child (it was a different era) my playmates and I were summoned to take burlap sacks of kittens to kitten-removal status in those days of "natural" control of unwanted litters. Today, spay-and-neuter would seem to make that chore unnecessary.
Except for idiots - human idiots.
Yes, you, Mister Kitten-is-Cute, who also succumbed to a daughter's plea but were too miserly to pay to spay the animal, then headed out our way to dispose of unwanted progeny by shoving it out of your car near our barn.
Do you have any idea what happens to a new, strange, house-accustomed cat when you drop it off near our barn, then sneakily shut the car door and slink off into the darkness, to return home and airily tell your child a flat-out lie, "We found a good home for Fluffy?"
Ever seen a cat with an eyeball hanging out?
Yes, those words on this page are gross, but not nearly as gross as when I see that sight cowering in the hay mow after having been ganged up on by our resident cats who aren't about to tolerate a competitor for food.
Unprepared to fight, outnumbered, even in some cases fatally handicapped by having been declawed, the newcomer is ripped open - but not quickly killed off. Unlike dogs, domestic cats' abilities to kill their own kind are limited by the smaller size of their jaws and teeth. Death from a catfight is likely to come slowly, via claw-induced disembowelment or other maiming.
So there I am, no longer cursing cats, but, armed with a .22 or shotgun and a flashlight, seeking a terrified, bleeding, aching, probably incurably injured, certainly unapproachable cat so I can do what Mr. (or Miss) Kitten-is-Cute didn't have the guts or financial responsibility to do. I'm putting down the cat your irresponsibility caused to be maimed.
I'm not "putting it down."
I'm killing it, I hope with a shot to the vitals, quickly if I'm lucky, but bloodily in any event.
I no longer curse cats.
But you, Mr./Miss Kitten is Cute who later "drops them off at a nice country home," you who lie to your kids - damn you. Damn you to hell for what I have to do because of you.
Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.