When I Was Your Age…

My kids have it so easy. Like all kids, they don’t think our home would be complete without something with fur, feathers, or scales they can play with—when they feel like it. And being the awesome parents we are, we have indulged our children with all of the above—a dog, a cockatiel, and 4, no wait, 3 fish (The big one keeps eating the little ones). Of course, the boys were all gung-ho to help take care of these creatures at first. “I’ll walk him and feed him EVERY DAY!” But once the novelty wore off (approximately 3 days), it became, “But Mooooom! I had to feed him LAST TIME!” Seriously, how lazy are my kids? How hard is it to pour dog food into a bowl? It takes WAY more effort to whine, stomp, and throw a fit, I’m sure, than to stick that measuring cup into the bag of Nutro Puppy Bites. I don’t think any 10-year-old has developed a case of carpal tunnel from scooping out puppy chow.

This is when I love to sit them down and lecture them with a dose of “When I was your age…!” I’m not sure it really bolsters their sense of responsibility, but it makes me feel better. And that’s what’s really important, isn’t it?

WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE, I had to feed the cats. Now, maybe this doesn’t sound particularly difficult—or dangerous—to you, but that’s because you didn’t know what our cats were like.

I should start by saying that I grew up on a farm. We had many pets at different times—calf, raccoon, dove named Ross Perot—but one constant was CATS. Lots and lots of CATS. And not just any cats. Not “ooh-how-cute-why-don’t-you-crawl-up-into-my-lap-and-purr-while-I-pet-you cats.” FARM CATS. And there’s one thing you can say about farm cats: They’re HUNGRY. ALL THE TIME.

If you’re thinking that we must have spent a fortune on 9 Lives or Friskies keeping all these cats fed, think again. No Fancy Feast for this crowd. Nope. These cats got what we lovingly called “slop.” Yes, after each meal we would scrape our plates into a humongo ice cream container (minus the ice cream). If this wasn’t enough, we would add powdered milk to it, which wasn’t any sort of “for-human-consumption” powdered milk, I’m sure. I just remember that it was yellowish and smelled really bad.

So every day, my sisters and I would fight over whose turn it was to carry out this 10-gallon (that’s what it seemed like anyway) container filled to the brim with toast crusts, soggy cereal, questionable-smelling milk, week-old lasagna, and fat cut off from our roast beef to the barn. The funny thing was, when we had friends over, they always thought it would be “fun” to feed the cats. “Ooh, I’ll help you!” they always volunteered cheerfully. “I love cats!” My sisters and I would give one another that knowing look. Then we’d look at the friend with a mix of pity and a teensy bit of sadistic satisfaction. Oh, you poor, naive girl…

The kicking would begin as soon as we opened the porch door. There was always a cat or ten who was just waiting to shoot inside the house. This was not allowed for reasons that would be obvious to you if you would’ve seen the state of our cats. Then we would try to put one foot in front of the other without tripping over the cats who were determined to walk in between and over our feet. At the same time, we had to be cognizant of what was going in our peripheral vision. A few brave and agile cats were always ready to spring directly INTO the bucket of slop and had to be blocked with a quick flick of the arm. And there were always—ALWAYS—at least two cats fighting in front of us while we walked, making up a rolling ball of hisses and claws that continued rolling all the way to the barn.

Now, getting to the barn was only half the battle. Next came the moment of truth—reaching into the small, square opening to unhook the latch to the barn door. This was the only way to get into the barn, save only trudging our way through the cattle lot dodging protective mamas and angry bulls. No thanks. We just took our chances with the barn door latch, which about 83% of the time resulted in a bloody gash from the cat who was waiting on the other side to pounce at the first sight of human flesh.

Unlatching the door with blood running down to our elbow and spitting out the dirty cobwebs that invariably hit us in the face (If you’ve ever experienced cobwebs in a hay barn, you know what I’m talking about.), we’d creep in, eyes darting around for any sign of vermin, until we spotted the round metal “trough” in which we had to dump our “special delivery.” This is where the years of in-breeding (with the cats, not with us!) would really start to show because there was always at least one cat who stood in that damn metal pan and refused to move. It was usually the scrawniest looking cat with only one good eye and a broken tail. In its defense, I’m sure it was just determined to get some sort of nutrition to its scabby self. But it was incredibly annoying when we had about 30 other cats “meeeeoooowwwrrrriiinnngggg” in their loudest kitty voices and competing to see how long they could hang by their claws on our thighs. So we did what we had to do. And poured that crap right on the cat’s head. They never seemed to mind, which was even more disturbing.

Afterwards, we’d slink back to the house, nursing our wounds and reeking of bad cottage cheese and musty hay, all the while looking forward to doing it again tomorrow.

So, kids, when you’re pouring a half-cup of dry, all-natural dog food into the cute little ceramic dog bowl, think about what “feeding your pets” meant WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE, and just be thankful YOU don’t have to risk life and limb to do it!

***Stay tuned for more heartwarming stories about my cats (and other various pets) from my childhood…Can you say, “honyock?” 🙂 ***

12 thoughts on “When I Was Your Age…”

  1. Ah, what precious memories. Of course I only had to mix up the nutritious “slop”…you 3 had to deliver it. And as you know that is why farmers have children…to do the nasty chores.
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane….and sadly I do remember that cat in the trough.

    PS So glad to see that you are going to introduce honyock to the blogosphere…It’s so appropriate in soooo many situations and definately been way under used lately.

  2. You are way braver than I. We have NO pets in the Trenches! As it shall remain as long as I am SANE.

  3. Oh, trenches of mommyhood, hold your ground. Do not give in, no matter how much they beg or look at you with those sad baby-boy eyes…Seriously, did I really need MORE creatures to take care of? What was I thinking?!?

  4. You forgot to give the best example of how much the cats loved eating more than anything else in life. Remember the time I was walking with the slop bucket from the house to the barn with the herd of 19,000 cats at my feet? One very pregnant cat had a baby who couldn’t wait any longer. So, she dropped that newborn kitty right in the driveway and kept on running with the herd to get her food! Nice parenting! We had to pick the slimy kitten up and bring it to the barn with us and show her. “Hello! You have more important responsibilities here!” Not sure what ever happened to that kitten. Besides our few favorites, all the rest of them seemed the same so it was hard to keep track of who was who.

  5. momof2dancers, can’t believe I forgot that!! I’m pretty sure their hunger instinct was WAY stronger than their parental instinct! 🙂

  6. Oh the joys of cats. I did not grow up on a farm, but my grandparents own one and as of 2/05 live in a community surrounded by them!!! I’ve seen what a few farm cats can be like and can only imagine your situation x 100!! I love hearing your sisters input on it too, you two work well together.

    BTW, I see I’ve been added to your fav. blogs!! I feel so honored!!! 😉

  7. Sorry I’ve been neglecting my blog commenting duties. Our town is flooded right now and I was up late sandbagging our basement toilet and sewer drain last night, after word spread that our sewer system had failed and was backing up. Too bad I don’t have a blog, I’m pretty sure that could be a day’s entry, couldn’t it? I wish I had a photo, but I was too tired to take one. Anyway, so far the raw sewage has stayed away. Keep you’re fingers crossed!

    Loved your sloppy kitty feed and night-time bed shuffle stories. Happy Anniversary momof3ps and Hubby! Let’s hope we can all follow in your great example!

  8. nochickensinmyhair- Wow, that sounds like the complete worst! I wish you tons of good luck, and I hope you stay dry!!!

    Umm…I have to say I laughed harder at this entry that any blog entry ever before. I remember once counting somewhere upwards of 30 cats, which didn’t include the ones that lived in the barn and never came out. That latch hole in the barn still gives me anxiety. Paws of all colors with claws exposed would come swiping out of there the minute they heard you coming! How did they NOT expect me to curse like a sailor at an early age? Did mom and dad not care that by making us stick our hands in that hole they were forcing us to get scratched daily by several animals of questionable rabies status? I enjoyed one of my turns when I poured the crap in the trough and then noticed that one of the cats was actually the largest rat I have ever seen. It was eating it right there with the cats and none of them minded. They didn’t stop to think that the rat probably tasted better.

  9. dorian & monte, yes, you can probably imagine what it was like from your grandparents’ farm. Farm cats are unlike any other breed of cat known to man…

    nochickens, I feel so bad for you!!! I’m sure sandbagging your basement would be proper fodder for a blog. Just write it all down while it’s nice and fresh, snap a few photos tomorrow, and maybe you can start that blog once you dry out! I’ll be praying for you guys!

    turkeypants, you and momof3dancers should’ve written this post! I don’t think I remembered any of the “good stuff!” I had totally forgotten about the rat incident. Maybe it was the therapy that allowed me to forget…

  10. This blog made me laugh outloud…only for the simple fact that I could feel your pain! Don’t you just love those memories? I so remember adventures (or rather nightmares) of feeding our nasty farm cats in the same manner. And oh yes, the nasty powdered milk. Whoever invented that…wow. I think I can still smell it! Do you think our parents were so brilliant that they could have actually created these situations for us so that we would have stories to tell our kids? Perhaps its a generational conspiracy that we will be pulled into so that one day our kids will have stories to tell their kids. Hmmm…

  11. Drummergirl-I am with you on that conspiracy theory! Maybe hauling the disgusting powdered “milk” was supposed to give us character, or something. You think there could have been something slightly better available to feed them. I never even understood why mostly grown cats were fed milk anyway. Hmm…I think I will move our dog’s bowl from right under the sink to the edge of yard under an overgrown bush, and I will make the kids feed her rain or shine, and instead of Science Diet, it will be rotten polenta, or something equally delightlful, and this will possibly attract some very aggresive squirrels who will hide behind that bush and wait for the kids to come. Not quite the farm experience, but tortuous in its own right. Excellent. (meant to be said in a Mr. Burns-esque tone).

  12. Sadly I know exactly the smell of the slop bucket you describe! I too had to experience this as a child, but it was at my grandparents’ house. Since I was the oldest cousin around, I was the one who had to carry the bucket. I don’t remember them having quite that many cats, so that helped keep the injuries to a minimum.

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