Maybe a homemade ice cream would make him come back | The view from Mudsock Heights

Well, that would certainly explain the sudden scarcity of medium-sized rodents around here.

Before I go too far, let me confess to an act – an act in fact, in fact (not in fact?) – of idiocy. Normally I’m handy with a camera. It allowed me to capture many fleeting moments that I would otherwise have missed. But this time I didn’t take a picture.

Peeking through the kitchen door one evening last week around dusk, I saw a large fawn-gray cat a few feet from the back porch. He was motionless, as cats do when they have their eye on something.

Cats aren’t a big deal here, but they are a problem. At the end of the semesters, the population of cats in the country increases (as does the population of dogs standing in the road, looking puzzled). I’m sure students who treat their pets in college the way they treated their broken Ikea desks, getting rid of them, think they’re showing humanity by sending dogs and cats back into the wild where they apparently believe they came from. The result is dead cats on the road and a sizable population of feral cats in the woods. I have a neighbor who has semi-domesticated cats who spend a lot of time getting into trouble at my house.

So even fairly hardy cats are not an unusual sight. This is made worse by something that recently dug up a lot of plants on my back porch. It’s become a habit here for me to bawl at cats who don’t keep a respectful distance. They usually head immediately to other localities.

When I saw the big cat last week, instead of grabbing a camera, I banged on the glass in the door to make the cat come undone. The cat glanced at him, as if bored. Hmm, I thought. Its tail is very short. But despite his size and his reduced tail, he had what seemed to be normal domestic cat characteristics: an elongated face, long legs, etc. I stared at him for a few more seconds and banged the door open. The creature leapt into the woods. It was only then that I saw the tufts of fur at the top of his ears.

Lynx? Perhaps, although it had no pattern, its legs and body were long, and its color was not reddish at all. Could it be a hybrid between a domestic cat and a bobcat? There are stranger things; it wouldn’t immediately come to mind to breed donkeys and horses, but that’s how we get mules and hinnies. I’ve looked at the literature on the subject, and the prevailing opinion is that house cats and bobcats generally don’t mix, although there are plenty of anecdotes to suggest that it sometimes happens.

I don’t know which one is correct. Perhaps there are many variations among bobcats. Maybe someone hunted a descendant of a Maine Coon cat, although that doesn’t explain the short tail and short hair. If I had bothered to turn around and grab my camera, there would at least be evidence of the creature’s peculiar appearance and size. But no, I was only thinking of chasing the thing. My evil, as they say. I hope he comes back and poses, as deer and turkeys always seem to do and in keeping with the reputation of cats.

Thinking about this – it really weighed more than you might think – I made another observation: last year this place was teeming with squirrels and chipmunks, both of which do irritating things in the garden and elsewhere. But this year, not a single one. I haven’t seen a squirrel here all season, or a chipmunk.

So regardless of lineage, the fat cat I saw may have left its mark.

So is – unrelated – Doug Phillips of Lancaster, formerly of Athens. A few weeks ago, I wrote in this space about the quirky, beloved, and dreaded Gravely tractor. The long-awaited series of emails arrived, with anecdotes some of which were charming and some of which weren’t. If you want to spark a conversation, say you have a Gravely.

Phillips wrote: “I am a Gravely collector and read your article. Might want to keep the old Gravely and put an ice cream maker on the front like I did. Of course, making ice cream on a hot day is better than working with it!

You’re kidding, I thought. I wrote back to him and he sent me a photo, which I include here with his permission. Was it actually attached to the PTO, front shaft that drives the mower decks, and other attachments? “Yes, connected to the PTO, 15 quarts. I did, not Gravely. Having 5 gallons in front of my Gravely riding. Amazing and ingenious. I wonder what would have happened if Gravely had marketed such an attachment?

I think it may not have worked out very well, with kids rushing to run Gravelys. which weren’t and aren’t the safest things to play except when they’re making ice cream and maybe not even then. (The story of my 4-year-old rushing to the non-Gravely ride-on mower and subsequent reattaching of my left big toe will wait for another day.)

Serious owners are inventive souls. I have no doubt that if Gravely had made and marketed an ice cream maker, I would have received a note last week from Doug Phillips or someone like him explaining how he completed the system by attaching an exhaust calliope.

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