In addition to Pal, we had several cats through the Cherokee years. The only ones who stand out in my memory are Figaro, Tommy and one that ended up having two different names. I don’t remember the first name of this particular cat, but I will never forget what his second name was and how he came to be called that. One day, when this cat (really more of a kitten) was about four months old, I was going to go the store for my mother and every time I would start to leave he would try to follow me. After several tries to leave, I finally decided to shut him up in the coal shed. I didn’t know that my dad had been working on something that involved oil. He had placed a small bucket of oil in the shed and by the time I got home from the store the kitten was surrounded by the family as they tried to clean the oil off his body. It seems that his curiosity caused him to investigate the bucket and he fell in. From that day on, he was known as Greaseball.
Taking care of chickens in our backyard was always fun until we got a rooster that we named Butch. It wasn’t until many years later when I found out that other people didn’t name their chickens. We named all of ours. Before Butch and his contemporaries came along, we had a little hen who was more special to us than any of the rest would be. She was allowed to stay outside of chicken pen, walking all over the backyard. As she walked, pecking as he she went, the sounds she would make were not the typical chicken sounds. Instead of trying to describe them in the detail, I will just say that the name we gave her was like the sounds she made. Her name was Pruck Pruck. If we were out in the yard, she would follow us around like a little puppy. She was the breed of chicken that grew feathers on her legs and when she would walk through the mud, the mud would stick to the feathers. When the mud balls on her legs would dry out, you could actually hear her walking. Unfortunately, having free reign of the backyard was her downfall. One of my brothers had been working on his bicycle and after removing one of the wheels, he leaned it against the wall of the coal shed and went into the house. Pruck Pruck came by and brushed against the tire. Sadly, the tire fell on her and broke her neck. I remember that the whole family felt the same kind of sadness we felt when on our cats or a dog died.
But Butch was a different story. He could have been named Mean or Satan or other things along that line. Anybody who went into the chicken pen quickly learned to carry some kind of stick to keep Butch away. On one occasion my brother Dave wasn’t quick enough and ended up getting spurred by Butch. It was bad enough to draw blood and we came close to having rooster for dinner that evening. I hope this doesn’t offend animal lovers, but that is how Butch eventually ended up, and the meat was tough.
For a short period of time we also had rabbits in our backyard. Dad’s idea was that we would raise the rabbits and then sell them to other people for the meat. The problem was that the rabbits became pets. We never ate any of them and we never sold them to anyone else. As tough as my dad was, he was also softhearted when it came to animals. Even when it came time to kill our chickens I can’t remember one time when he did it. He left it up to us boys and I didn’t have any problem chopping off their heads as long as they were never around long enough to have names.
My dad should have been a farmer. As soon as he arrived home from work and changed his clothes, he was out in our backyard working in his garden. I believe he could have grown just about anything. But he stayed with the standard vegetable garden—corn, beans, peas, carrots, radishes, lettuce and squash. I liked to eat all of these as long as some of them were raw. The only things I liked when they were cooked were corn, beans, potatoes and spinach. Being from the old, old school, my parents tried to force me to eat my vegetables, even though some of them made me gag. Eventually my stubbornness won the day and they gave up. I still like very few vegetables today.
Dad would go to extra effort to set up an irrigation system that allowed him to set the hose at one end of the garden and the water would follow the small canals he had made, eventually reaching every part of the garden. When we would help him, he would show us how to make small water wheels that would actually move from the force of the water.