The hawk glared imperiously from his high perch on the barn rafter, his telescopic eyes focused upon the furry critter below. The tiniest whisker twitch was observed and analyzed. Razor talons dug into the wood as anticipation rose in the raptor's throat.
Sparkles hunkered down on the loose straw, trying to blend in. She peered up at the hawk, bobbing her head slightly get a precise three-dimensional fix on the fearsome bird of prey. She reckoned that the two of them were about evenly matched. Hanging in the air was a question: at the end of this confrontation, who would eat whom?
And so began another day in the life of Sparkles the Adventure Cat!
Our farm had been catless until last summer, when we adopted a kitten named Sparkles from a nearby dairy. Our hope was that she would grow up to be a barn cat; a merciless mouse murderer and a skilled sparrow assassin. We later learned that Sparkles is actually a hybrid.
Specifically, she is part barn cat and part housecat. The housecat part came to light when our winter weather turned deeply cold. My wife, full of sympathy for the cute kitty, began to let Sparkles spend nights in our basement.
I tried to veto this arrangement. But it's difficult to make a case against a creature who, like me, is furry and tends to shed and whose major goal in life is finding a warm place to nap.
It quickly became apparent that Sparkles had larger plans. If we aren't careful when letting her into the basement, the cat will zip into the house and commence to sizing things up. You can tell by her expression that Sparkles is thinking, "That couch looks pretty comfy! I bet I could lie on that quilt and help you watch TV! And you aren't using that whole bed, are you? I could ball up in that area between the pillows and flick my tail in your faces while you sleep!"
So we have to draw the line and banish her to the basement. Plus, if she isn't outdoors, she isn't having any cat adventures.
Sandy, our golden retriever, and Sparkles always accompany me on my walks even though I have never invited them along. Oftentimes, the dog will abruptly begin to dig excitedly in a roadside snowdrift. He is no doubt excavating a mouse or perhaps a vole, which is the scientific term for a vain mole. The cat will loiter nearby, watching with feigned disinterest.
It's pretty easy to see what's going on with those two: Sandy is Labor and Sparkles is Management.
One recent frigid winter morning, I discovered that our cattle fountain had frozen. I hustled down to the fountain with a teakettle of hot water to "unthaw" things. Sparkles took a perch atop a nearby fencepost so she could superintend, fulfilling her role of Management.
Mission accomplished, I began making my way back to the house. One of our Jersey steers, upon noticing that a cat was occupying the top of a post, lumbered over to investigate. After sniffing Sparkles experimentally, the steer decided to see how she tasted. His fat, slobbery tongue nearly lifted Sparkles off the post. Her carefully tended coiffure was ruined!
Sparkles wouldn't brook any such nonsense. She raised her right paw as if she were grabbing a chunk of cloud; I could almost hear a metallic "zing!" as she unsheathed her claws.
The cat weighed perhaps five pounds; the steer half a ton. But there could be no question about who won the confrontation. There was a blur of fur, and the hulking bovine recoiled. The startled steer wheeled and trotted off, shaking his head and snorting. Sometimes Management must use stern tactics to assert authority.
The raptor that Sparkles and I recently discovered in our haymow was a Cooper's hawk. I found this somewhat difficult to believe as there are no barrel makers in our neighborhood. But who knows? Maybe someone is sitting on a secret stash of staves.
The hawk must have gotten into the hayloft while chasing prey, probably a pigeon or a sparrow. We have an infinite supply of those winged pests.
It was clear that the raptor, having found his way in, was unable to find his way out. Working together, Sparkles and I herded the bird out through an opened haymow door. And by "working together" I mean "I did all the work while the cat supervised."
So the hawk got away unharmed. And as he flew off, Sparkles watched with an expression that seemed to say, "This time you got lucky, punk!"