Bristol the barn cat has gone to his great reward.
He was never much of a barn cat, not really. He came to us maybe three years ago, someone’s unwanted pet. Our friend who owns the barn agreed to let him stay there and work for his keep. It wasn’t a good fit.
It’s hard to be a barn cat when you’re a long-haired feline, for one thing. I’m not sure why he never figured out how to groom himself in the three years he lived in that barn, but there were several times he got so bad we had to take a clippers to him and get the worst of the snarls taken care of. He looked bedraggled in all seasons and weathers, particularly in contrast to the other barn cats who would show up for a while and then move on and looked, well, cat-like the whole time. Bristol looked like an old mop.
And he was never much of a hunter. I’m not sure I ever saw him catch anything, and I don’t know if he would have known what to do with anything if he had caught it. So we fed him. Our friend always had dry food for him. He got some of the leftovers we’d bring for the chickens, especially if they involved meat. Sometimes we’d get cans of cat food, which he just loved. Two weeks ago I set aside a thick slice of turkey for him, which I think he enjoyed. Last month we came into possession of maybe two dozen quarts of buttermilk, and he always got his cut of that. The chickens enjoyed it too.
But no matter what we fed him, he was thin. Really thin. Sometimes we’d give him worm medicine and that helped, but not the last time. I’m guessing he had some kind of liver or stomach cancer at the end. Even his meow – normally the raspy buzz of a two-pack-a-day smoker – changed in the last week before he died.
When he first came to the barn he stayed up in the hay mow for weeks, coming down only to hiss at us. But over time he got to be more friendly, and eventually he’d come bounding up to you whenever you pulled into the graveled drive leading up to the barn. He liked to be scratched behind his ears, as most cats do.
He was a dim-witted animal, one who always had to be explicitly directed toward whatever food you put down for him and was always half a step away from running directly under the car tires, but a sweet one once you got to know him.
It's a quieter place now, the barn. Fair winds and following seas, Bristol.