When visiting the farm, I tried to fit into the family routines and help out with chores as we always did, making our visit less work for our parents, and giving us more leisure time together. This included weeding and harvesting from the gardens, chopping weeds from the soybeans, mowing the yards, painting whatever needed painting, washing dishes, and feeding the animals. The cats were fed at the back door. They fed themselves part of the time of course. Why else have cats except to reduce the rodent population? To keep the cats from wandering away, we had to provide a basic menu of some of their favorite items—mostly table scraps.
One evening I volunteered to take the cat’s portions out to their food bowl. My mother cautioned me that there might be someone else there to greet me, but not to worry, that animal would be happy just to fit in with the rest of the cats. I wondered what animal she might be talking about. They always had some raccoons and opossums nearby, and a neighborhood dog would sometimes come, so that is what I expected to see.
I turned on the light and stepped out the back door to see the circle of cats around the feeding bowl, noting that one cat had an unusual coloring—black with a white stripe down its back. The skunk’s face looked up at me, among the other hungry feline faces, with a friendly dare in its eyes, “Feed me or else.” With some trepidation I tried to act quite casually, and put the food into the bowl carefully, so as not to offend any of them by slopping too much onto their beautiful fur coats. The skunk pretended not to notice that I was new to the task, and helped itself to its share with the rest of the cats, while I slowly and courteously backed through the door, like any proper hired servant.