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Shorty-pants the Co-op Cat

Oodles of kittens. That's me, lower left and my best cousin and friend, Deb next to me. Behind us is my sister and in ther ver

Oodles of kittens. That’s me, lower left, & my best friend and cousin, Deb, sitting next to me. (Behind us are our sisters).  This picture was taken in 1966 and we were 3, the same age as my grand-daughter MJ is today!

So … growing up on the family farm in rural Saskatchewan, I can tell you now that I lost track of how many kitty-cats we had.

We had Tigger, the orange Tom the size of a bobcat, Alley, the Alley-Cat,  and Minnie Mouse, so named because she was an expert mouser.  There was Flora, Fauna and Merriweather, named after the faeries in a Disney movie, Alice, who we named after Great Aunt Alice and her love of ruby-red lipstick and shoe-polish black hair dye.  And I can’t forget William McDolphus, my cousins’ tomcat or Tia the baby Siamese who showed up just weeks before Christmas.  As we grew up, our cats took on more sophisticated names like Black Magic, Rod the bod (as in Rod Stewart) and Meatloaf, the world’s fattest cat.

But the one who lives in infamy is Shorty-pants the Co-op cat.

Let me tell you the story.

You see, in my neck of the woods, farm families belong to a “Co-Op” association; it’s where they shop for gas and groceries, Christmas presents, farm tools, lipstick and romance novels, and everything else in-between.

Legend has it that Dad drove to town on a cold winter’s day, parked his car and left it running.  You can do that in a small town.  While his car was idling, out fell a cat.

You read that right.

Out fell a cat.

Now it was not uncommon in winters where the average temperature is -40F to have cats, ours or otherwise, climb up on a tire and warm themselves next to the engine. However, it was uncommon for a cat to survive a 9 mile ride to town and several thousand turns around the engine.

Dad came out of the Co-op with licorice and groceries and the mail and heard the most terrible sound coming from under his car. Peering through the snow and the muck and the ice there he saw it — a most pitiful sight: a bloodied kitty shivering in the cold with the back end of his fur .. scorched off.

Now Dad was the softest of the softies and he wasn’t about to let this cat freeze to death.  However, this was not our cat.  Not one he’d ever before seen. He somehow managed to catch the poor thing and get it into the car and, let’s just say, his ride home was …. interesting.

Next we come to my Mother’s reaction, which consisted of, “How did you make out at the store, dear?” “Did you remember to get Canada Dry?” “Did you pickup the paper, too?” And then came “What in the hell is that?”  Picture this before her:  a bitterly cold January day and here’s Dad hauling groceries and a half naked cat. And behind her were five – count ’em – five terrorists kids.

Downstairs went the cat and back up to the kitchen went my Mom.

It wasn’t long before all of us discovered Dad’s little secret: the secret living in the basement! You see Mom is highly allergic to cats. As in can’t breathe allergic. As in probably not a good idea to have a cat – even a half-naked one – living in the house with the rest of us.

But.

We kids didn’t care; one by one we made excuses to sneak away and play with Shorty Pants, and, day by day, he found his way into our hearts.  We rubbed salve onto his exposed skin and found ways to play with him that didn’t make him hurt.  It wasn’t uncommon to find one of us – at any hour day or night – shivering in that cold basement with a warm and smiling cat cuddled in our laps.

The thing is, that cat’s hair never fully grew back and his name never changed.  He lived to the ripe old age of 17, siring dozens of litters and I’m sure there are still descendents of his tucked  up into wheel wells on cold winter days.

Forever and a day, he was known as Shorty-Pants the Co-Op cat and, to this day, he remains, my very favorite.

“Animals are such agreeable friends–they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” ~ George Eliot

Did a pet of yours come to you in a most unusual way?

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Categories: Animals, Faith, Family, Friendship, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

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31 thoughts on “Shorty-pants the Co-op Cat

  1. I can’t imagine the look of shock finding a naked cat under your car!

  2. Sweet, sweet story MJ. I had so many cats, growing up: Lace, Midnight, Muff…..they were all special. My mom tolerated them, but she really loved Muff. Muff was brownish, all mingled and long hair. And one day, Muff was lying in the pile of leaves we had raked up and left in the driveway. And Mom ran over her. It was the only time I saw Mom cry when one of our cats died. (And I’m crying now just thinking about it.)
    Love Shorty Pants’ name – and of course, Rod, the bod!

    • awww your poor Mum, your poor kitty. I’m sorry to have made you cry :(. I loved all of our barn animals and there were many but Shorty Pants and Riley my horse stole the show!

      MJ

  3. If he had to climb up in to the wheel well and under the hood of a car, he picked the right one. God bless your dad.
    Meatloaf, the fat cat–haha. Have a great day.

  4. OH, my God, this made me cry. I was the “keeper of the cats” on our farm. I named them all and took care of them – some 20 at at time usually. I could tell them all apart and I couldn’t understand why other people in my family couldn’t . . . Sadly, we lost a number of them when we started our car and they got caught in the engine because they were warming up in there like your Shorty-pants was. He must have been one special cat. I also remember trips to the CO-OP, loading bags of barley to be sold there and then getting one of the small bottles of Coke from one of the old machines where you had to lift the lid and then slide the bottle of Coke around a little maze inside until it you could pop it out the slot at the end.

    • I’m sorry it made you cry, Arlene, maybe what you’re saying is it took you back to being that girl who wrangled the cats and kept track? I was that kid, too. I’ve since forgotten many-a-name but I’ll never forget their faces or the joy of finding new baby kitties in the hayloft. I always cried when they died – and they did, getting stepped on by cows or runover in the barnyard. But I also learned an important lesson early on and that is that death is part of life, not a welcome part of course, but part of it. It made me treasure my furry friends that much more.

      I know the coke machine you speak of and wrote about it here:
      https://emjayandthem.com/2011/12/01/rink-life/

      Bests to you 🙂
      MJ

  5. sydney walling mcgee

    LOVE THIS!
    I try to read ALL of your Blogs….I discovered you from my Sister’s (Dear Friend’s Blog: “When I Ride”)
    I never have time to hardly sit at the computer, much less respond, as I am raising my 3 yr old Granddaughter single-handedly @ 57…..but was SO touched by this post …. I am A CAT LOVER and it was just PRESH!
    Merry Christmas 2012
    PLEASE keep touching my Heart as you do SO MANY DAYS that I feel so alone!

    • Hello Sydney and thank you for taking the time to write to me. I’m glad you loved this post and I want to tell you that in raising that baby girl .. you are doing His work. I feel it when I take on my grand-daughter. I know I am her soft place to fall and she knows she can count on me. When she spends the night, there’s no anxiety, for she knows Neena will be there in the morning. No surprises. Bless you for what you’re doing and a very Merry Christmas to you and yours.

      You are not alone!
      Come back again, please, for you are always welcome here.
      MJ

  6. A friend who lives on a remote ranch had an unusual looking dog for about five years and then one day, there in the middle of nowhere, another dog walked up to their house and it looked just like the one they already had. They checked to see if anyone was missing a dog but no one had reported it. They kept it. The dogs look like twins :-).

    • Isn’t that quite the story! I wonder if those two dogs were actually related? 🙂 We had many a dog “show up” *(translate, get dropped off) and Dad always took them in. Some never graduated to the porch but a few did. Most were outside dogs and would hunker down with the cows or horses in one of the barns at night. But they were all sweet and lovely in their own right.

      I just love your story! MJ

  7. What a great memory you have shared with us. I can just imagine the poor thing, scared and hurt. Your mother must have been a good sport with a great big heart to let it stay in spite of her allergies.

    • P.S. Love the Elvis ornament.

    • I am so glad you enjoyed it, Renee. Yes, Mom was a good sport to allow that poor lil kitty to stay. She likes cats, but her allergies make it hard for her to be too close. Now Tia, the orphaned Siamese, took to my Mom and eventually was allowed inside as well (howling December winds battering her tiny 5lb body made that decision easy). Mom simply endured it. I had two fine role models teaching me to be kind to all living things,
      MJ

  8. In much the same way, my brother once became the owner of a cat he later named “Butters.” He drove his truck a half hour from home to work. After working his 8 hour shift and returning to his truck, he heard howling coming from under the hood. Eventually, he extracted a cat that he recognized as a wanderer from his own neighborhood.

    Cats are amazing creatures. Shorty Pants sounds like he had a wonderful personality and made good use of his 9 lives!

    • Amazing that Butters survived isn’t it? Good on your brother for taking care of him 🙂

      Yes SP had lots of personality and lived quite a good long life!
      MJ

  9. I had an untold number of cats, too. When I was in high school, a classmate gave my name to his neighbor who was looking for a home for a cat that had been dumped in their neighborhood. This was our first adopted cat, and the only one I ever knew to get injured (hit by the fan blade) sleeping near the warm motor. A kindly vet stitched her up, and she was the first cat to live in the house while she mended.
    Love your photo and the story of Shorty.

    • There’s always a first one isn’t there (first one to be allowed in the house). We had lots of cats try to get in but Dad wanted no part of that. To him, cats belonged in the barn where they took care of mice and got a pan of milk from that day’s milking. We enjoyed squirting milk from the cow directly into their faces and they’d stand on hind legs to get it then happily sit and lick extra milk off their bodies. There were only a few that ever made it into the house, Shorty Pants being the first.

      Thanks for enjoying the story and for being able to relate to that experience as well!
      MJ

  10. What a beautiful story MJ…I am wiping tears…your Dad was so good to save Shorty Pants and your Mom was good to keep Shorty too. Cats are so amazing and so full of heart…I am so happy that Shorty lived and had such a good life with your family:) God Bless:)

    • Dad did the right thing of course and so did Mom; and that wasn’t the first animal to recover in the basement. A neighbor trapped coyotes and Dad came across a den of orphaned coyote pups – they lived in our basement for a while, too. We had our share of dogs dropped off near our farm and a few who were too wild to come in and behave but were allowed in the porch on frigid nights. He also was someone who “accidentally” spilled chop (chopped oats) or a hay bale or two along the tree line north of the farm where the deer bedded down – he didn’t like to see them starving in winter, and they did sometimes. A very kind man, animals gravitated to him and so did we.

      Cheers to you, HRCG!
      MJ

  11. I love your stories, they make me happy! We’ve had a few strays wander in and stay, but none in the wheel well, given I’ve been in South Florida my whole life, it barely gets to 40F 🙂

    • aww, thank you Sandi. I remember mornings when the bus couldn’t run b/c the actual temp was -50. The bus couldn’t run b/c it couldn’t be STARTED 🙂

      Hugs
      MJ

  12. So sweet MJ. The picture of all you girls is adorable!
    We too had a Co-op. It’s still going strong in my hometown and I was in there just this past march picking up horse feed.
    Your dad was a good guy for sure.
    I had something similar happen our first winter up here. I’d gone from the house to the barn one winter afternoon with intentions of heading to the Elementary school after my quick stop to pick up Jake. When I stopped at the barn and got out I heard meowing coming from under my truck. Two kittens had lodged themselves up under the wheel well and when I thought if I had not stopped at the barn they would have ended up who knows where on my trek to the school! Ugh. Where they came from I’ll never know I suspect someone dumped them off on the main road near here. I named them Jack and Jill and they became part of the barn cat family here.
    ~d.

    • I love that picture as well. Yes, Dad was a sweetheart of a guy, I miss him so much.
      I am so glad you stopped at the barn! You and I both know the alternate ending to that story. Happy Co-op trails to you 🙂
      MJ

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