Beulah Acres has a new farm hand. His name is Irwin. He has only two responsibilities—killing mice and being cute. So far, he has only succeeded at one of these tasks—unless he’s hiding a bunch of dead mice somewhere, waiting for the right moment to start leaving them on my doorstep as gifts.
We didn’t intentionally acquire a kitten, although we did need an outside cat. The chicken coop is full of mice. Acrobatic mice. One of them sailed out of the rafters one night, missing my head by inches. Another one did a rather impressive backflip in its haste to hide after I caught it eating from the chicken feeder. Possibly there’s only one mouse in there—and he just isn’t very good at hiding—but, most likely, the mice I have seen are only a small fraction of the actual number of mice hidden beneath the straw and in the walls and ceiling. And under all those empty feed bags my brother-in-law never throws away.
Irwin showed up several nights before Christmas. Chompers, my twin’s pit bull mix, witnessed the event. At least, we assume his barking at the road, then barking toward my cabin, then barking at the road, and then barking at my cabin coincided with someone dumping an adorable orange kitten on my porch. Ralphie thought he heard a car. My theory is that it was someone who lives nearby and who had seen my car in our driveway. Someone who had read the “Crazy Cat Lady” decal on the back of my car. While I don’t think dumping a kitten is a good thing to do, I do have to admit—at least they were strategic about it. They didn’t take him to the middle of nowhere to fend for himself. They must have reasoned that I would take care of him. And they weren’t wrong.
At first, Irwin didn’t really stray from my porch. The rest of the yard was scary. I carried him with me the first morning after he arrived—I wanted him to join me while I did my farm chores. Unfortunately, those chickens were huge and intimidating. He scrambled out of my arms and scampered back to my porch.
The chickens are as afraid of him as he is of them. And, I suppose, he is a predator. Never mind that he’s half as small as the smallest chicken. However, they are brave enough to get on the porch and eat his kitten chow.
Irwin’s first real adventure happened this morning. When I stepped outside to feed the goats, I expected to be greeted by a little orange kitten, but Irwin was nowhere in sight. I didn’t hear his pitiful meowing until I got to the goat barn. It took me a minute or so to find the source of the crying—Irwin was stuck in a tree. I suppose it’s a rite of passage for kittens everywhere. Unfortunately, our trees are tall and devoid of climbable branches. What branches there are start high up on the trees and are pretty darn skinny. And that’s where Irwin was perched—way up high on a teeny, tiny branch. Ralphie and I tried the extension ladder. But here’s the thing: neither of us are very fond of ladders. I blame my fear on the fact that I had to read The Death of Ivan Ilyich twice in college. In case you’re unfamiliar with the novella, Ivan Ilyich falls off a ladder and takes fifty pages to die. Fifty long, rather uneventful pages during which Ivan Ilyich screams in pain and his family wishes he would die already. And so does the reader.
We ended up making a ramp for kitty to climb down—out of a twelve-foot-long two-by-four that just happened to be lying on the ground behind my cabin. Because that’s the sort of thing that we have lying around here at Beulah Acres. Irwin didn’t so much climb down it as slide down it—a controlled slide of terror. As Ralphie said, “I’ve never seen such a scared kitty face.” He had too much momentum by the time he slid to the bottom of the board to jump down gracefully. He more or less tumbled off the end—but it was only a four-foot drop. He landed on his feet.
And then he scampered off, dug a hole in the leaves, and peed.
The last time I saw Irwin, he was sound asleep in the chicken coop. The chickens found this disconcerting, but I thought it was a good, safe place for him. Maybe when he wakes up, he’ll practice hunting some mice.