Who ever heard of a cat that didn't eat birds? The house people had picked me out of my litter to be a mouser. Callie was getting too old for the job. So it was mine. But I didn't plan on getting dive-bombed by a mockingbird building her nest...or adopting the baby who fell out. No joke! I'm a cat, but I do not eat birds. Mice, yes. Birds, no. Flea -- that's what I named her -- couldn't even fly. She was so scared when she toppled onto my head that she said, "Eat me...it's quicker than starving to death." She was pathetic. I had to help her. The first step was protecting Flea -- and me -- from the monster rats in the barn (that's saying a mouthful!) and Bullsnake under the woodpile. Next, Callie and I had to teach Flea to fly. After all, how could she stay up North with us when her bird family was flying to Florida. I'm not a Florida kind of cat. It's just too hot for us furry types. I know I'll miss my Flea. But she'll come back -- after she's seen the world!
I strolled toward the porch with my trophy. My feet and tail were wet from the morning dew. The night hunt had been a good one. I climbed the steps and dropped the remains of the last mouse on the mat. The House Mama would be so proud of me when she found it. From the porch I could see the hayfield where the mice played every night. Most of them were sleeping now, but when it got dark I would return for another hunt.
The leaves of the apple tree near the driveway shook from the gentle summer breeze as I walked down the sidewalk away from the house. My whiskers twitched when I saw Mocking-bird fly back and forth from the pasture to the apple tree. I sat down to wash my front paws.
She seemed to be working very hard adding twigs to the pile she was collecting on a branch. I trotted toward the woodpile under the apple tree. As soon as Bird flew off to the pasture once more, I hopped up the stacked logs to take a look for myself. A soft hissing sound came from beneath the woodpile. I stopped, frowning at the strange noise. Suddenly Bird swooped down at me. I flattened myself as close to the woodpile as I could. My ears pressed down against my head. With every muscle tensed, I waited for her next attack. Sure enough, she hit me. I flinched. It was only a warning peck on the side of my face.
Bird flew at me again, fast and accurate. This time she pecked me on the top of my head. I swished my tail as I stretched my claws, trying to hold on to the woodpile. She started on another fly-by. The wind from her wings made my hair rustle. "Leave my nest alone, Gray Cat!" Bird screamed.
I really wanted to see what she was doing with the messy pile of twigs. Instead I hopped to the ground and fluffed my fur. My tail flipped back and forth when I walked to the holly bushes in front of the house. I needed a quick nap before going back to the tree. Bird watched me as I nestled behind a bush. I was safe here from her attacks.
I had been on the farm for just a short time. The House People had picked me out of my litter to be a mouser. My mother was the best mouser ever. She had taught me how to sneak up, without making so much as a sound. She had taught me how to crouch. Best of all she had taught me how to pounce. She could catch a mouse every time she went hunting -- well, almost every time. I wasn?t quite that good yet, but I got better every day.
The House People had said that Callie was getting too old to keep up with the mouse problem. Most of her days she spent sleeping in the sun. At night she slept inside on a bed.
Bird?s shrill call woke me. My whiskers sprang up. I opened one eye and watched her swoop. She pecked Callie as the old cat walked from the field to the house I stretched both front legs and stood up. "Hey, leave Callie alone. She?s old. She isn?t bothering you!"
"Mind your own business, Gray Cat! I have my work to do, and Callie knows it!"
I quickly trotted out to meet Callie. When Bird swooped again, I swiped at her with my sharp claws.
"You missed me, Cat!" she scoffed as she flew up to the apple tree.
Callie strolled to the porch and jumped onto the rocking chair. "Thanks for the help. Bird has been working hard on her nest in the apple tree. She will be laying her eggs soon. That should keep her busy for a while so we can get some rest."
Laying eggs? Nest? After a short catnap I just had to see what Bird was doing with the twigs. The grass felt dry on my paws now. I crept around the long way, through the pine trees, so Bird wouldn?t see me. If I took a quick peek, I could be back on the porch before she ever spotted me.
As I neared the woodpile, I noticed something brown. It looked like the garden hose that the Mama used to water her flowers. A gentle rustling sound came to my ears when it moved. My head tilted to the side, and my whiskers sprang up. The garden hose doesn?t move, I thought with a frown. I leaned forward for a closer look when the brown hose stopped, turned, and glared at me. When I blinked and took a step back, the hose slid toward the woodpile. Crouching close to the ground, I inched toward the end of the thing. I slapped at the pointed tip as it disappeared between two of the logs.
The hose hissed at me, really loud. I jumped back.
"Leave me alone!" the hiss said.
I couldn?t see anything, but I knew a hose couldn?t talk. Again I leaned closer. Bird swooped down at me. I backed up, then scampered for the pine trees.
"Cat, leave my nest alone!" Bird screamed again.
"I didn?t do anything. I was looking at the hose under the woodpile!"
"Stay away!" Bird warned.
For three days Bird worked on the nest. She made trips to the field, then back to her tree. Callie and I were easy targets for her if we happened to cross her path. Callie didn?t even flinch when Bird hit her. I tried to scare Bird with my claws. Sometimes I spun around, pretending to bite at her.
On the fourth day things were different. Callie noticed it first. "Bird hasn?t been after us today."
"Where do you think she is?" I asked.
"She?s probably laying her eggs." Callie stretched and yawned. "She usually has four or five eggs in her nest."
"How do you know?" I twitched my whiskers.
"The Mama Mockingbird has been coming back to that old tree for years. She thinks it is the best home for her family." Callie closed both eyes and curled up into a ball.
"Have you seen the eggs?"
"A few times," she answered without opening her eyes. "When I was younger, I would try to check out her eggs every year. Now it is too dangerous for me to climb very high. The people put the woodpile under the tree last year. It is a little easier to get to the nest now, but I would rather eat the nice soft cat food that I can get inside.
There is no reason to risk getting caught up in the tree for those little birds. Besides, I like Bird. She is just doing her job, protecting her family. The Papa Mockingbird is around somewhere. He pecks, too. He watches from the pines."
Callie slept for a while. I listened for the Papa Mockingbird. The warmsunshine felt good on my coat. I took a long bath, washing with my tongue and paws. I would check that nest when Bird finished laying her eggs. I was almost asleep when a sound in the grass made my ears perk up. Listening, I held my breath and tilted my head to one side. I saw the brown hose moving slowly across the yard. My ears were up, my legs ready to pounce. What was that strange hose that could move by itself?
I crouched, my tail twitching nervously. The brown hose slithered across the driveway and into the dirt. I followed it, one step at a time. The green garden hose that the Mama used to water her flowers didn?t move by itself. Something deep inside told me to be careful. As I eased closer, the brown hose disappeared back under the woodpile. Just then another bird dropped down and pecked me on the back near my tail. This wasn?t a fly-by -- this was a peck! It hurt, too. It also caught me by surprise. I had been concentrating so hard on the brown hose that I forgot all about the birds. When the peck came, my front end stopped and backed up -- only my back end jumped. It jumped really high, too. First thing I knew, my tail went over the top of my head. I saw it, but there was nothing I could do. My tail went, then my rear end. I was flat on my back.
We cats don?t like to land on our backs. We are supposed to land on all fours. Quick as the blink of an eye, I twisted and scrambled to my feet. My tail flipped as I glanced around, hoping no one had seen me.
"Cat, get away from my family!" Papa Mockingbird sharpened his beak on the branch where he was perched. He glared at me with his black eyes.
Bill Wallace grew up in Oklahoma. Along with riding their horses, he and his friends enjoyed campouts and fishing trips. Toasting marshmallows, telling ghost stories to scare one another, and catching fish was always fun. One of the most memorable trips took place on the far side of Lake Lawtonka, at the base of Mt. Scott. He and his best friend, Gary, spent the day shooting shad with bow and arrows, cutting bank poles, and getting ready to go when their dads got home from work. Although there was no "monster" in Lake Lawtonka, one night there was a "sneak attack" by a rather large catfish tail. Checking the bank poles was not nearly as fun or "free" after that point, but it was the inspiration for this story. Bill Wallace has won nineteen children's state awards and been awarded the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award for Children's Literature from the Oklahoma Center for the Book.