As a Tar Heel born, I spent most of my youth living in a small city in the Coastal Plain with activities like school, sports, scouting and church. I liked living there in a semi-bucolic existence, where citizens were friends and the flora and fauna were congenial. The climate and sandy loam soil conditions made this area full of ‘grow-y’ things, most of them useful and benign, particularly the plants which grew in variety and profusion. The main ‘money crops’ were tobacco and cotton, but there was always plenty of corn, hays, timber and truck vegetables as well. Around the city, most fauna were common to urban areas, with small mammals, birds, reptiles and insects leading the list. Of course, pets counted too, with dogs and cats more prevalent.
Among the plant life, their variety and profusion was truly impressive. From tall long-leaf pines to hardwoods, flowering dogwoods and magnolias, the trees have always been a major asset to the area. Then, rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, bushes, hedges and flowers - like roses, daffodils, tulips and annual seed flowers. Various grasses, dandelions and other weeds rounded out the list, with the exception of garden vegetables which were planted from seeds or starter plants. The latter was my specialty, and also my chore. I was responsible for the garden; clearing and turning, seeding, weeding, and - eventually - picking, eating and sharing the fruits of my labor.
Tomatoes were the most popular, followed by leaf lettuce, radishes, carrots, corn, squash and green onions, plus strawberries. How I loved to yank the vegetables right out of the ground and just eat them dirty! Hard to beat vegetables that fresh. Anyway, the point is I spent a lot of time out in my back yards tending the garden, not all of it fun, with the hot sun, humidity, bugs, sweat and sunburn. Often, there were other things I’d rather be doing, but a chore was a chore and no one else would do it.
One day, I was sitting on the back stoop when a little scenario played out in front of me. Our cat, Snowball, a good sized, all-white, short-haired Tom was just lazing around on the grass near me, when our neighbor’s dog, Duz, a little Boston Bull Pup started yapping at him as he always did. Now, Duz thought he was bigger and fiercer than Snowball, which was a delusion to say the least. Anyway, Duz got through the fence with the intent of chasing Snowball, which he did, with Snowball’s almost lackadaisical consent. Round and around the house they ran, with Snowball easily eluding Duz with long loping strides, while Duz simply ran too long in one place. After two or three times around the house Snowball had almost lapped Duz to the point that if you didn’t know better, you might’ve thought the chase was the other way around!
As he came around the corner in front of me, Snowball hopped up onto a corner of the picket fence and assumed what I considered to be an amused posture, as Duz ran right under his nose and continued on around the house at least two more times! At last, Duz figured out he’d done his doggy duty and chased Snowball away, but he continued to sniff the ground - back and forth - anyway just to make sure. Duz finally returned to his yard, possibly feeling satisfied with himself, while Snowball quietly jumped down and resumed whatever he was doing before the chase. This, I saw as fitting entertainment for me during my rest, and it was. This, I’ll call Snowball’s adventure number one, so we’re about halfway through my story.
Some time later that same summer, another entertaining encounter occurred, this time between me, Snowball and a large robin hunting worms in the yard. Again, I was sitting on the back steps, resting and watching when I observed this sequence of events; Snowball, lying just in front of me, spotted the robin and began a very slow and stealthy advance, every muscle tensed and every step measured and silent. So focused was he that I was mesmerized into watching each move of both cat and bird. Would the bird sense the approach and fly away before Snowball could reach him? Would Snowball make a mistake and give himself away, or just get bored and ignore the robin? No chance of that I thought, with the sheer intensity of the silent stalking beginning to make me wonder if I was about to witness a near-miss, mugging, or worse, a cold-blooded murder.
Should I intervene, and if so, how? Should I continue my well-deserved rest and much-enjoyed entertainment? Soon, I would have to decide, so why not just scare the bird away and end the problem? That’s what I decided to do, but the way I did it created even more excitement in a way I hadn’t anticipated. Neither had Snowball.
I picked up a pebble and threw it generally towards the robin, but it never got that far, because it hit Snowball on top of his head instead. All the pent up tension, anticipation and drama dissipated in a split second, as I witnessed Snowball launch himself straight up into air about five or six feet! Can a cat really do that? Snowball did! In mid-air, he twisted and turned in multiple orientations before hitting the ground - feet first - then taking off like a rocket, also in what seemed to be several directions all at once. I’ve never seen any animal move that quickly, and doubt I will again.
Needless to say, the robin just flew off to find another worm in another place, hopefully without a predatory cat in the vicinity. I didn’t see Snowball for a while after that, but when I did, he seemed somewhat miffed at me, but maybe that was just my imagination. So, my rest and entertainment over, I again returned to weed the garden.