My big brother was always interested in things that ran, things with wheels, mechanical and motorized and intricately put together devices and how they functioned. He loved mechanical sets and model airplanes and taking things apart to discover how they were assembled in the first place. My dad often said if anybody could figure out how something worked it was him.
He wasn’t always a hundred percent successful. I had an alarm clock with a face painted in a woodsy scene with two little elves moving up and down on a teeter- totter with each tick-tock. I begged him to leave it alone. And then one day, there it was, in a million pieces with my brother poring over the parts, happily working away on something that wasn’t broken until he decided to fix it. The little elves never played on that see-saw again.
Not surprisingly, with all that practice, he became an amazing mechanic. We learned to never ask him anything about our vehicles unless we wanted to listen to an hours worth of baffling diagnostic mechanical information. Once he warmed to his subject there was no shutting him down. Might as well grab a coffee and try to keep up with your eyes open.
There are a few of photos of me as a child with a cat draped over my shoulder. It’s a mystery to me why a kid thinks a cat needs to be picked up and carted about, or why a cat allows it. We always had outside barn cats, never house cats until we were adults. I was afraid of dogs for a long time with a recurring nightmare of a big black dog chasing me. No idea where that came from. Anyway, there I am, confused by how happy my brother is to be making a little wooden tricycle go when there are cats to be lugged around.
Often we had cats of unknown origin on the farm. They may have migrated from other farms close by or been dropped off in the country as discarded city pets. They kept the rodent population in check and more or less looked after themselves. Once we had a litter of all white kittens which we happily named Snow, Snowflake, Snowball, Sugar, Winter…every white thing we could think of. They all ended up being called “one of those white cats” because we couldn’t tell them apart. Later we progressed to more sophisticated cat names such as Spooky, Pooky, Donovan and Trigere.
In his last years on the farm dad had two almost identically marked cats he called Daryl and Other Brother Daryl. He claimed to know one from the other, but I’m skeptical about that.
Despite all the cats, or maybe because of them, I never became a cat lady. Although I suppose there’s still time for that to happen, if I ever get to missing a big furry body purring in my face. My brother had dogs as pets his whole life. Could be, compared to cats, it’s just much more interesting to figure out what makes a dog tick.
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