One mile from where the pavement ends stands the old homestead where my durn cat tale begins
One mile from where the pavement ends stands the old homestead where my durn cat tale begins
My father was not a man who cursed or used fowl language much at all. I've seen him get his hand cut or otherwise hurt himself and about the worst thing he'd say is "Durn it" or "Dad burn that thing!"
Thus the name for this old dirt road tale.
Dad had no use for cats. Heck, he didn't care for dogs much better, but he didn't like cats at all, so it was a huge surprise to everybody on that old dirt road when Dad came home one day all scratched up from a little black and white kitten he was trying to hold on to. That thing was WILD ! It was scratching and hissing and making some awful noises trying to get away from him. "What on earth are you doin with that cat?" Mom asked him.
"Ahh, the durn thing was up in a grapefruit tree lookin like it was scared to come down, so I climbed up and got it." Dad said.
"And I didn't see any other cats around so I just brought it on home with me."
"John Senters," Mom said as she started laughing. "Do you mean to stand there and tell me you let that little ol' kitten put all them scratches on you?"
"Nah," Dad said, "Not all of em, I got some of em from climbing around in that grapefruit tree tryin to catch the durn thing."
"Well, you never liked cats before, what in the world made you decide to rescue one out of a tree all of a sudden?"
"I don't know Kate, the durn thing looked kinda pitiful stranded up in the tree like that, so I just went up and got it."
"Can we keep it?" My little sister asked.
"I don't know if it'll stay around here," Dad said. "But if it does, I guess you can.
Dad put it in an old empty rabbit cage and us kids fed it milk and table scraps and petted it till it calmed down some, and after a few days we let it out to see whether it would stay around or run off....It stayed, then of course we had to come up with a name for it.
Nobody seemed to be able to think of an appropriate name till Mom said "Why not call it Grapefruit? After all your dad said he found it in a grapefruit tree."
So Grapefruit is what we called "That durn cat" from that day on.
This ragged old flag has been thru a lot. It has been mocked, stomped on, burned, and suffered countless other despicable acts since June 14, 1777. But she still waves proudly and if you don't
like it, feel free to do your best to destroy her. Many have tried over
the past 238 years. All to no avail.
Today the flag has 13 red and white stripes and fifty stars. The stripes represent the original 13 Colonies and the stars represent the 50 states.
The colors of the flag have meaning as well: Red for hardiness and valor, white symbolizes purity and innocence, and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.
Walking home alone in the early evening just as dusk settles in on a lonely old dirt road surrounded by dense woods and orange groves can be a pretty spooky experience for just about anyone. But it can be absolutely frightening to a thirteen or fourteen year old boy when he hears a woman screaming in the orange grove just a few yards from the road!
When this happened to me, I was just walking along toward my home about half a mile away when I heard what sounded like a woman screaming as if she were being attacked or had gotten seriously injured. At first I was just startled, for many times I had traveled this road alone at night and had never before encountered another human except for those in an occasional passing car or truck.
I just stopped and stared in the direction from which the sound had come. Then there was another scream! No other sound, no lights, nothing but that woman’s scream and one little kid who couldn’t even run!
I yelled “Hello, who’s there?” but received no answer. All was silent for a moment and I yelled again, “Hello.” Then I heard and saw what looked like a big cat running through the underbrush that always grows around the base of an orange tree. I waited a little, but that’s the last I saw or heard from the grove, so I went on home.
When I told my folks what I’d seen, my dad said it was just a panther and I should just leave ‘em alone if I ever saw one again. He told me that they run away from people and usually won’t hurt anybody.
Well, Dad was right. What I had seen was evidently none other than a Florida Panther, otherwise known as cougar, mountain lion, puma or catamount, and in my own words,
Panthers are usually quiet, but under some circumstances they do communicate through what are called vocalizations. These sounds are varied and plentiful. They have been described as chirps, peeps, whistles, purrs, moans, screams, growls, and even hisses.
Kittens and mothers keep track of each other with whistles. Females signal their readiness to mate by yowling or caterwauling. White-tailed deer, wild hog, rabbit, raccoon, armadillo and birds provide their food source.
Originally found from western Texas throughout the southeastern states, and South America these big cats once were the most common mammal in North and South America except humans, but now they can be found only in Florida. I found one estimate that says there may be as few as fifty of these animals left. Solitary, territorial, often traveling at night, males have a home range of up to 400 square miles and females about 50-100 square miles.They need lots of room for roaming and hunting, but they are being crowded out by us humans. Habitat loss has driven the panthers into a small area in southern Florida, where the few remaining animals are highly inbred. This causes genetic flaws such as heart defects and sterility, reducing their numbers even further.
There has never been a case recorded of a Florida Panther attacking a human. They usually are very quiet and will shy away from a human if given the chance, but the likelihood of encountering one is getting less with each passing year, for their numbers are shrinking despite huge efforts and great monetary expense to try and protect them. Recently, closely related panthers from Texas have been released in Florida and are successfully breeding with the Florida panthers. Increased genetic variation and protection of habitat may yet save the subspecies. These big, beautiful felines have been on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list since 1967.
An old used car tire makes a wonderful thing for kids to play with. Sometimes better even than things bought new at the store. We used to roll them up and down that old dirt road, and sometimes turn one loose just to see how far it would go by it’s self. The road was slightly downhill in front of our house, and a tire will get up some really good speed so that it will go faster than the kid pushing it can run. It only takes a little bump or ridge in the sand to bounce it off course and into the woods or orange grove.
This was the case on one particular day, when my brother James was trying to make his go faster than anyone else’s. He was flying! Suddenly, the tire bounced about a foot off the road, and when it landed again, it took off right into the woods. With James chasing after it, the tire went crashing and bouncing through the small brush until they both disappeared from view. A few seconds later we heard him yelling. It sounded like he was scared and crying. What? James scared? Crying? Not James! At ten years old, he’s big, and mean, and tough, not afraid of anything. We just started to go see about him when he emerged from the woods holding one foot with his hand and hopping along on the other.
Yep! He was crying alright. Tears had created white streaks down his face through all the dust and dirt that had gathered on it. The dirt was usual, the white streaks and tears were not. We knew it had to be something pretty bad to make him cry! “What happened?” someone asked, “You step on somethin?”
“No, a rattlesnake bit me and I killed it.”
“You’re lyin’ let me see.” my sister Babe said. Sure enough, we all looked and saw the two puncture wounds on the outside of his right ankle. And his ankle was swelling pretty fast! It looked all red and puffy.
Our older brother Charles went in the woods and brought back the snake and tire. The snake turned out to be what is called a Pigmy Rattler. It wasn't very long and not much larger than a grown man’s thumb. It is said that these snakes can be as deadly as a full sized Rattlesnake.
When we got him home, (only a few hundred feet) Mom told him “Lay down and stop that crying, it’ll only make things worse if you don’t be still. You’ll be alright.”
She went in the kitchen and made a paste out of some kind of powder and vinegar, put it on his ankle and told him to just lay still till the swelling went down.
He got a little sick to his stomach for a while and maybe a little fever, but that didn't seem too bad.
I think the worst part for James was staying inside. He had to lay there on that couch for three days till Mom said he could get up again.
One mile from where the pavement ends stands the old homestead where my catfish tale begins.
About a three quarters of a mile east of our house and maybe another half mile north through an orange grove was another one of our favorite fishing holes. That was the best catfish hole ever.
The only thing we ever caught out of that little pond was catfish. Any time we wanted catfish, that was the place to get em. That’s why we called it “The Catfish Hole“. Never was there a time when we couldn’t catch all the catfish we wanted out of that little pond.
Then one hot summer day when I was about fourteen years old. My brother James came running into the yard all out of breath and yelling, “The catfish hole is dryin up.”
“Whaddaya mean, it’s dryin up?” I asked.
“It’s almost all dried up.” he said “I took a shortcut on the way home and went by there. There’s just a little bit of water left in the middle, and the fish are all crowded together in it.”
“We better go get em before they all die.” I said. “Let’s go see if Ray’ll take us back up there.
When our brother Ray agreed to take us to the catfish hole, we went around to the back of the house where we got two big tubs and a long handled fish net and loaded them on his truck.
When we got to the catfish hole it was just like James had said, but I couldn’t have imagined what I saw before actually seeing it for myself. It looked like thousands of catfish all squishing together in a little puddle of water maybe about five to six feet in diameter. They were thrashing and jumping, all of them trying to get deeper in that little bit of water. We knew they couldn’t survive in such a little bit of water, and besides, catfish have those needle like thorns on their backs and sides and we figured they’d be stabbing each other to death with all that thrashing around just trying to stay in the water.
We backed the truck as close to the edge of the pond as we could and started filling the tubs with the catfish. About twenty or thirty minutes of scooping with the net and we had both tubs full, but we had hardly made a dent in the pond, it looked about the same as before we’d ever started.
“What're we gonna do with all these fish?” Ray asked.
“Well, we can eat some and put some in the freezer, but there’s more than that just in these two tubs.” I said. “Why don’t we try to give em away? That’d be better than just lettin em all die.”
We climbed in the truck again and went to our friends, Joe and Calvin’s house to see about getting rid of some of the fish. Sure enough, when we explained what we were doing, they took as much as they thought they could and got some of their neighbors to do the same. We managed to empty both of the tubs before we left, and some more of the neighbors said they’d take some if we had any more. We made three more trips back there and gave away six more tubs of catfish.
Finally we went back and got the tubs full one more time and took them home to our house. Then of course we had to clean them all. It took us till late that night to get it all done because nobody wanted to help, so it was just James and me. What a job! By the time we were finished, neither of us wanted to clean another catfish for a long, long time.
We went back to the catfish hole the next day to see if we had done any good for the fish that were still there.
We couldn’t see any fish crowding together this time, so we figured they might be alright now.
All together we had taken ten of those big old tubs full of fish from that little hole of water and we thought it would dry up completely, but it never did. When the rains came again, that replenished the water and that little hole was once more what it always had been, The Catfish Hole.
None of us went cat fishing for quite a while after that though, we had enough catfish to last us a good long time.
The last time I saw the catfish hole was about ten years later and it looked about the same as it always had except for that one really dry summer.