Uncle Dan was
unquestionably our favorite Uncle. He was the one who was there when we
needed some small favor of one sort or another. He willingly lent us his
pick-up truck, weed-eater, an ounce of turpentine, or whatever. He kept
his garage set up in such an orderly way there seemed to be no end to what
he had on hand. His dedication to his own family was something as sure as
the sunrise but he was also forever willing to lend a hand to someone in
the extended family who truly needed his help.
“I'm willing that
lawn mower to you!” He joked with a niece who was a single mother
constantly having trouble with her old mower. “There is one condition. You
will have to use it to mow your grandmother's brother's plot at the
cemetery. Seems like, up to now, I'm the only one to do that.” He knew he
was safe on that order. She was a feminine little woman who really didn't
even like to mow her own yard. This was just his way of joking with
whoever happened to be within ear shot.
Uncle Dan had a pet
cat who was decidedly the most spoiled animal to ever live. Snoops wasn't
a normal cat. He was more like a dog. His devotion was total. Any evening
Snoops could be seen curled up on his master's lap or following him about
“What do you think
about my watch cat?” Uncle Dan might joke with a visitor.
“Looks like he needs
to go on a diet?” Someone would reply.
“Aw no, he's just
pleasingly plump,” He might chuckle. Or maybe he would laugh, “It's that
steak. Prime cuts, you know. Runs the cholesterol up.”
And then, all at
once, Snoops disappeared. He just was no longer there. No loud insistent
meowing at the back door steps was heard. His bowl in the kitchen was
clean and empty with clean newspaper under it. No one had the heart to
take the bowl up. Fresh kitty litter on the back porch waited for that cat
but he wasn't around.
Should someone ask
about Snoops Uncle Dan would look away and not answer. He simply had a far
off look in his eyes or he might clear his throat only to look down at his
hands which were folded in front of him where the cat once rested on his
Anyone close to
Uncle Dan would not ask him about Snoops, but instead asked his wife.
“He just didn't show
up one day after I let him out. He plain didn't come back. We thought
maybe he would show up sooner or later but he just hasn't. Sure is lonely
For months Snoop was
gone, actually until everyone was sure he was only history in the family.
Auntie was telling
the story now. “I heard this pitiful crying cat outside the door. I
couldn't imagine what a cruel trick someone must be playing. When I went
to the door there on the steps was this wild looking cat. He was skin and
bones. His fur was all matted and he had a haunted look on his face. When
I opened the door, he simply shot into the house. He ran as quick as
anything exactly to where his bowl was left out. We had left it where it
always was because we couldn't stand the thought of putting it away.”
“That poor cat. It
was the same color as Snoops, knew where the food bowl was and had cried
to come in the house. It had to be our cat but, Oh My! He was in sad
shape. I don't guess we will ever know what happened to him.”
It wasn't too long
before Snoops was back to his rightful position. He was even more of a
companion to Uncle Dan than before. It was like he wasn't going to be
caught out of his sight again. The only difference in the cat was his
personality toward guests. He had changed. His favorite place now was on a
small ledge right beside the back door, eye level to the person entering.
The color of the cat blended so well with the wall anyone could walk up
and start into the house without seeing him. Just as they reach for the
door knob this most unfriendly snarl and hiss catches their attention.
It was a warning in cat language of some sort.
What had been a joke
before as far as being a watch cat was concerned had now become a reality?
He seemed to be saying, “I'm no longer Mister, nice guy cat, let's get
this straight right from the start. We have an understanding, you don't
live here and I don't trust you.