Short Stories » Cats and Kittens Crossing a Swamp
Cats and Kittens Crossing a Swamp
IN some parts of California, Indian labor used to be employed, and generally they made their wickings at a short distance from their employers' house, as they were pretty sure to be kept for several months if well behaved. These wickings were made of clean new rushes, and. when leaving the farm they always burned them down, leaving no rubbish to mark where they had been. Not all tenants are as thoughtful and neat as this. These Indian families were fond of dogs and cats. At our Indian quarters there was one cat that used to come every morning, cross a little swamp, crossing over one the rail fence that reached from one side to the other, for her breakfast. Instead of staying around and wearing out her welcome by getting into mischief, she always went home at a quick gait after her meal of milk and table scraps.
One very delightful morning when the birds had wakened me just at daylight, I remembered about and started out for some certain strawberries hidden away in a little dimple of a spot down a gentle sjope, for I thought they would be ready by this time. While picking my way through the shortest of the grass, I heard piteous little mews and other cries, and looking around, to my surprise I saw the poor old cat in the grass, and in the trail she had made, one, two kittens struggling along in desperate dislike of the dew, which had made them look so miserable, while farther back, on the top rail of the fence, staggered, clung and mewed two more frightened kittens, who only knew that they were following their mother. She was already weary of running to and fro, coaxing her timid little ones along on their first journey; so I thought it only humane for the stronger to help the weaker, and, accordingly, went to meet those on the fence. But my " kitty, kitty " being in English was not understood by these Indian kittens, and they stopped, with elevated backs, enlarged tails, defiant spittings and backings, refusing my help. However, I kept on and captured them all, while the mother amply expressed her gratitude in ways plain enough to me. By the time she and the other two were in my apron, the berries were forgotten and the main idea was a box with bed and food.
They understood that well enough, and spent the day contentedly, but at night the mother took them all back to camp. You see she did not intend to for- sake old friends for the new, unlike many persons whom prosperity blinds to their comrades in adversity. With next morning's light, I was out to see if the exploit was to be repeated, when, sure enough ! there she came, her little ones following this time with more confidence. They continued their visits as long as they desired. I thought that poor mother showed the same maternal solicitude and provident care as the human mother in poverty does, when obliged to go forth and seek food for her little ones. When the camp broke up to leave in the fall, I saw among their effects the good old cat with her four kittens cozily perched among the luggage on the back of a pony which an Indian woman was leading. As the mother had traveled that way before, I suppose she had instructed her family that there was nothing to fear.
What would you think to see a cat that had traveled all the way from Illinois to Utah, in a wagon ? I suppose you have never asked the question, " Who introduced the first cats into Utah?" for of course you know they were not here always, like the coyote and the crows. I do not remember the name of the persons who did this kind service, but I can tell you the true story as it was told to me.
When a certain family left Illinois, a little girl hugged her pet in her arms, keeping it covered from sight until a long way from home. It was believed by her parents that kitty would get lost after a while and so trouble them no more, but she seemed to know that the safest place was with her little mistress, and never strayed from camp, but always climbed into the wagon before starting-time, and was soon purring her- self to sleep. When the family reached Salt Lake City (then a wilderness), kitty was much older, and one day presented the camp with four fine specimens of her tribe. These were much admired, and, when old enough, were anxiously sought for in good homes. This renowned cat, the fondled pet and respected ancestress of Utah cats, met her untimely death by the bite of a snake.
About three years later a family who owned one of her descendants, moved to California, and a short time after presented my sister and I each with a handsome black and white kitten and an account of their interesting grandparent, the pioneer cat of Utah. We were very proud of these handsome pets, for they attracted much attention from their elegant appearance and gentleness.
Snip and Tom grew to the dignity of about twelve pounds each, and lived to be a little less than eighteen years of age.