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cowboy cat

Don't Let the Cat Out of the Bag... Literally.
By Ken Overcast

Conrad is a cowboy ... a little long in the tooth mind you, but a cowboy. He’s sort of a mild-mannered old cuss most of the time, but there are a few things that will really turn his crank.

Forty years ago or so, there was a little episode that got him sort of upset. I may have some of these facts a little jumbled up, but most of this little tale is just like I heard it; from “A reliable source that must remain anonymous.”

Conrad is a rancher, and in the olden days also used to follow the rodeo trail pretty steady. One mornin’ as he went out to saddle up for a ride, he was really upset to find a big mouse nest in his little stash of Navajo saddle blankets. Those wool Navajo blankets are the best you can find and are pretty spendy, so he’d been saving them just for special occasions.

The mice had chewed a hole right through the middle of that pile of blankets, and then to add insult to injury had made a cozy little nest right in the bottom one. Conrad came uncorked. This was an act of war, and he was determined the mice were going to lose.

There’s a little secret for keeping mice out of your saddle blankets, so this might be the place to share it. I’m sure you all know by now that I’m an absolute fountain of useful (and sometimes not so useful) information, so here’s the secret.

You see, Conrad had a real problem. He used to have cats around the barn, but they must have pulled out for the haystack or someplace else where the pickin’s were a little better. If you’ve got cats ... no mice. No cats ... well, you get the picture.

Oh yea, the secret. I almost forgot. The secret to keeping cats around the barn and mice out of your saddle blankets is to feed those cats a little milk in an old hubcap every morning and night when you milk the cow. That keeps the cats hanging around the barn and coming back, even if they pull out to hunt someplace else.

But, sometimes cowboys and milk cows don’t get along too well ... especially if you’re one of those “Road Warrior” rodeo types. It’s kinda hard to be in the last section of the saddle bronc ridin’ at the Gopher Gulch Stampede down in the middle of Colorado someplace and still be home in time to milk the cow. Consequently, Conrad didn’t have a milk cow, but he dang shore had mice.

Smart enough to know he needed more cats, he got on the phone and made a trade for some good mousin’ cats. I don’t know what he had to trade for all those fuzzy little felines, but he’s a pretty shrewd trader so he more than likely got a good deal. Part of the deal was he had to go and get them, and they were a couple hundred miles away. A fella will sometimes go to great lengths to keep mice out of his saddle blankets.

It was a nice Spring day when Conrad and a partner in crime crawled in his Piper Cub and flew off into the wild blue yonder to make the cat run. They were supposed to be really good cats, but as I said, they were a couple hundred miles away down at the neighbor’s barn.

When they finally landed at the Cat House ... wait, that didn’t come out quite like I intended ... let me start over. When they landed their plane beside the barn with the cats he’d traded for, he was surprised and pleased to find the big cat roundup was already over and his tradin’ partner had about a half a dozen of them in a gunny sack ready for the ride back home.

What made the deal even more attractive was that one of the other neighbors had found out Conrad was in the market for cats and brought over another sack with a mama and four or five of her fuzzy little babies in it, and to make this transaction a real sweetie, the second bag of cats was absolutely free. Conrad knows a good deal when he sees one. Free is a really good price.

Before you know it, the dealin’ was completed and our two heroes were once more in the air cruising a thousand feet or so above the ground, and clipping along about a hundred miles an hour with two sacks full of cats in the cockpit with them.

“ Maybe you better let that mama and her babies have a little air,” Conrad said over his shoulder to the guy in the back seat.

“ Yea, maybe,” was the answer as his partner untied the sack. Mama Kitty and a couple of the little ones came shooting out of the sack opening. She was normally a nice tame little cat, but these guys were absolute strangers, and one gaze out the window at how far it was back to earth told her that something very weird was going. The hair came up on her back, and her claws came out, jabbing into any piece of cowboy flesh they could find.

They might have been able to handle Mama and the babies, but in the confusion of the moment, the other sack came open and a half dozen more wild cats escaped into the narrow confines of the little Piper Cub. The cats from sack number 2 were not really acquainted with Mama Kitty and her family from sack number 1, so they had an instant cat fight on their hands.

Things got sort of exciting. You may have heard the old saying that, “It’s easier to let a cat out of a bag that to get one back in.” Conrad and his partner can testify that’s true. They suddenly had six or eight cats with their claws out, fightin’ and yowlin’ and making hysterical galloping laps around the cockpit. It’s a wonder they kept that airplane upright.

Luckily, they spied a flat chunk of ground in somebody’s hay field and made an emergency landing to sort things back out. How they got it safely on the ground, only the Good Lord knows. Conrad doesn’t know much about cats, but he’s a heck of a pilot. Both cowboys were pretty scratched up, bleeding from their many varied wounds, and that whole herd of cats were still making laps with their claws out, frantic to get out of that outfit.

Whether they ever got all those cats back in the gunny sacks, or maybe they just opened the door and let some of them out there on that cow pasture airstrip, I never did hear. I guess I just don’t know.

There’s one thing I do know, though. If Conrad would have just stayed home a little more with a milk cow in his barn, he wouldn’t have had mice in the first place.

Keep smilin’ ... but don’t forget to check yer cinch.

Ken Overcast is a recording cowboy singer that ranches on Lodge Creek in north central Montana where he raises and dispenses B.S.

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