Fido and me

Fido and me
Fido and me

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, Daddy

John Matthias Gosz

These are the only pictures of my dad as a youngster.  He was the oldest boy, born on March 16, 1904.  His parents, both first generation Americans, followed a custom of the old country.  His godfather was his grandfather, Matthias Meier.  However, he was not named Matthias as he would have been if he had been born in the Rhineland (Kreis Saarburg) as his mother's ancestors were.  Instead, he was called John and it was his middle name that honored his godfather.

How I wish that relatives with every make and model of camera could have attended his baptism.  I wonder if he cried when the water which made him a child of God was poured over his little head.  I wonder if he was born with lots of hair or was as bald as his first daughter, me!  If little John did have hair, it probably was already beginning to show how curly it would be.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Cat Named Junior

Junior and one of his big sisters
Although our mother and father had only daughters, one member of our family was a male called "Junior."  He was a ginger-colored tortoise shell cat, and his IQ, if cat's have IQ's, was the lowest of the dozens of pet cats we owned over the years. Be that as it may, he was the longest surviving of any of our barn/house cats and very memorable.

To begin at the beginning - Sister and I come from a home where my father was a cat lover.  He needed cats, of course, to keep down the mouse population in our barn, but unlike most farm cats, ours were tame almost from the moment they were born, little ears folded down and eyelids that looked like they were glued shut.  Not too long after Mom and Dad bought their own farm, Dad already had taken in a number of felines.

 From the time I was a toddler, it was apparent that I had inherited Dad's cat-loving genes.  My sister came along somewhat later - but her love affair with cats began as early as mine had.  Our poor Mom, basically a "dog person" didn't have a chance - she had to learn to like cats.  And it was my mom who gave Junior his name.

Since I'm the genealogist in the family, I feel obliged to mention Junior's family tree.  His grandmother was Tiny Tina and his father (as was the case with all of our cats) was unknown.  Tiny Tina's batch of kittens included "Teddy"with teddy-bear eyes who was mistakenly thought to be a boy kitty for several weeks.  We just pretended we had always meant to call her Teddi, short for Theodora when we discovered the mistake.  Then Teddi begot three kittens who were exactly the same color as their mother.  One of them was Junior, who had her Teddy bear eyes.

Junior's mom, Teddi, had always had the run of the farm; and when she became a teenager, she was a bit of a wild girl.  Soon she began to look like she was going to present us with offspring even though she was still almost a kitten herself.  Evidently Tiny Tina hadn't explained about Tom cats.  She definitely hadn't explained to Teddi that an expectant mother was supposed to have her kittens in the barn - either in the hay mow or in one of the feed boxes in a manger, which made a pretty good birthing room.

We got suspicious when Teddi started checking out the bottom of the bookcase shelf in our living room, curling up in the free space next to the last three volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia.  We put her out of the house each time we found her in that bookcase, but she wasn't an easy little lady to convince.  When her birthing date came, she couldn't get into the house and had to settle for the chicken coop (where there was straw but no chickens).  The kitten who looked just like her, having the same teddy bear eyes, was named Teddy Junior.  Of course, Junior was the name that stuck.

Teddi still wanted her babies to permanently live in the house.  We would look out of the window and see her; teeth clamped into the scruff of her baby kitten's neck, headed down the gravel driveway from the barn to the house.  After being carried, kitten still in teeth, back to the barn so many times we lost count, she settled on the garage as a compromise.  We should never have left the door open!

What do you do to avoid squashing a baby kitten or two when you back the family car out of the garage?  We put the babies on a high box, jumped in the car, backed free of the building, jumped out of the car, put the kittens on the floor of the garage, closed the garage door, and left - then did the process in reverse when we came home.

There were no unfortunate accidents and soon the baby kittens were old enough to bring in the house for some play on the kitchen floor.  The three had great fun running around under the table, ducking their heads to avoid the low kitchen chair spokes.  Well, two of the kittens lowered their heads; Junior just ran and the sound of his little golden head hitting the spokes--thunk, thunk, thunk--became so common we scarcely winced anymore.  I think the adult Junior's rather slow-witted responses probably came from that time, although having a mother who thought a garage was a good place to raise a family probably didn't entitle Junior to a high standard of intelligence.

Junior may not have been a whiz kid, but he added a lot of smiles to our lives.

*How many cats love pork and bean juice, licked from a paper plate after a family supper at the picnic table?  It did give him bad breath when he put his furry little face anywhere near your nose, but we got used to that too.

*There can't be too many cats who love popcorn so much that they make a dash for the kitchen at the sound of the popcorn popper being pulled from the cupboard.

*Some cats are fascinated by their image in a mirror.  How ordinary.  Junior was enthralled by some sort of reflection in a black decorative vase Mom had placed on the dining room floor.  He could sit on his haunches, moving nary a muscle, for what seemed like hours at a time, thinking his own brand of philosophical cat thoughts.

Junior and his other sister
*Junior loved books and newspapers.  If you were reading the newspaper in your favorite chair, he jumped for it like a circus dog jumps through a hoop.  Crushed newspapers are fairly easy to read, even when there's a bit of a hole in the article you were about to peruse.

*If you had a book in your hands, it was obviously too small for Junior's circus act.  Instead, he would jump in your lap and lie on his back, taking his position as a book holder - a perfect way to nap and not a bad way to keep the book's pages open!

Ah, Junior.  Life would have been much less delightful without you!