The weather just before Christmas was miserable.
Our skies were clear and blue, but the wind was howling and it had been several days since the thermometer had topped 20 degrees. The freezing mark seemed little more than a fond and fading memory or a distant hope for the future. Each night the TV weatherman would gesticulate helplessly, saying, “It’s going to be a few more days, folks.”
That’s when the starter went out on my truck.
I was stuck in town. A quick phone call to my mechanic revealed he had troubles of his own and couldn’t get to his shop.
“I think I have it under control,” he said, “I can meet you there in about three hours.”
Drinking coffee for that long becomes problematic. Besides, I needed to walk across town to the shop where my truck had been towed. Still, I arrived a half-hour before my mechanic.
Trying to keep warm, I kept moving in the frigid weather. Walking through a large, dirt parking lot, I noticed a scruffy, black and white cat making his way towards the nearby, heavily used intra-state highway.
“Hey cat,” I called, “crossing that highway at night might not be the best idea when you’re mostly black.”
The cat paused near a frozen puddle and watched me.
“If you don’t have anywhere to go, we need a good barn cat at home,” I said, “if you’re interested, hang around for a bit and I’ll give you a lift to our place.”
The cat sat beside the frozen puddle and watched as I made my way towards the mechanic’s shop. A couple hundred yards later, I glanced into the freezing wind and saw he’d stopped moving towards the highway and was following me.
“Is this your cat?” I asked my mechanic.
“Never seen him before,” he said just before he climbed under my truck.
By now, I assumed the cat was a local stray. He made himself busy winding his way around my feet and meowing at me. When he got bored by my inattention, he’d amuse himself by exploring my truck’s engine compartment. A short time later, I heard…
“&^%$*@#$%%&” the mechanic grumbled.
“You OK down there?” I asked.
“I am now,” he replied, “that stupid cat jumped off your clutch and landed on my face!”
“I don’t suppose you want to take that cat home, do you?” I asked.
“$#@&%$*&#$” he replied.
“I’ll take that as a ‘no,’” I said, as I shooed the cat to the other end of the truck.
Another half hour and the mechanic climbed out from under my truck, wiping grease from his hands.
“There you go,” he said, “that’ll get you going again.”
“Thanks,” I said, “I sure appreciate it.”
“No problem,” he said, “would you take that cat and go home.”
“Well little guy,” I said to the cat, “I hope you don’t mind riding in a truck with me and a dog.”
I reached down, scooped up the cat and pitched him onto to the seat where he and my dog sniffed each other.
“I’m not interested in seeing that cat around my shop anymore,” my mechanic said pointedly, “oh yeah and have a good Christmas, if I don’t see you before.”
My truck started easily and I drove off into the longest night of the year—there was a scruffy black and white cat riding on my dashboard.
The cat made it home just fine where he and my wife took a shine to each other. Soon he got the name ‘Shorty’ because he wasn’t very tall and arrived on the shortest day of the year. He took over my shop, whipped the rodents into submission and loves to ride on my wife’s shoulder when she does chores on her ATV.
Best of all, he no longer uses my mechanics face as a landing pad.
Bing Bingham is a writer, rancher and storyteller who thinks that if you don’t get a cat for Christmas, you should enjoy what you do get.
“If you’d like to read more stories of the rural American West, check his new book, ‘Shaped by the Land;’ now available on Amazon – and – don’t forget to ‘like’ his Dusty Dog Cafe page on Facebook.” http://dustydogcafe.com/blog/