The Dairy Farm Adventures: Ben and Jerry

Posted Wednesday, September 25, 2013 in Features

The Dairy Farm Adventures: Ben and Jerry

by Lee-Rae Jordan-Oliver

A dairy farm is a haven for rodents.  Farmers benefit from having feline mousers patrolling the premises.  We adopted two professional mousers, “Ben and Jerry,” three years ago.  Ben and Jerry are brothers who look like they're wearing tuxedos with their black coats, white chest fur, and four white paws.  Ben's belly is twice the size of Jerry's, so he's nicknamed “Big Ben.”  Barn cats can be aloof and skittish around people, but our cats are a couple of comedians who love tagging along with us around the farm.

 “Big Ben” is the loveable loafer on our farm   In the winter he takes a hiatus from mouse hunting and spends much of his time curled up on a green afghan inside our heated garage.  If I want any mousing done during the winter months, I have to carry him to the barn and shoo him into the hay loft.   Every morning he purrs and rubs his face against my hands while I put on my footwear.  He'll playfully bat his paw at my shoelaces before I head out the door to start my morning routine.  When one of our three young children finds Ben sleeping on his afghan, they'll pick him up and cradle him like he's a baby.  He revels in the attention and relaxes like a ragdoll in their arms.  Sometimes, the children will secretly let Ben inside their downstairs playroom.  I know they're entertaining a feline guest when they ask for a bowl of milk and a piece of ham and cheese.  When Ben's patience with his two-legged captors dwindles, he'll meow at the top of the stairs for me to rescue him.         

Ben has an annoying habit of climbing inside vehicles whenever a window or door is left open.  Without reservation, he'll jump inside a visitor's car looking for a cozy place to take a nap.  On more than one occasion, we've found Ben curled up in a car seat sleeping soundly.  One morning I came out into the garage and heard a cat howling.  When I looked in the direction of the truck, Ben's nose was pressed against the inside of the truck's window with mouth wide open bawling to be set free from confinement.  Upon opening the door, my nose was assaulted with the stench of the “calling cards” he left behind.  While vigorously scrubbing the truck's mats and carpets, I vowed to check the front and back seat for a slumbering Ben before closing all doors and windows for the night. 

The score evened between Ben and me the day I hopped into my pickup not knowing he was asleep in the truck bed.   Fifty feet down the driveway, my peripheral vision saw a flying black fur ball catapult from the back of the truck.  Slowing down, I stuck my head out the window to see Ben high-tailing it up the driveway.  Though he still invades vehicles at every opportunity, he's learned  the dangers of catnapping in the truck bed.      

Jerry is the athlete on the farm.  He likes to be right in the middle of the action and shadows us while we work and play on the farm    On more than one occasion he has followed us on hiking adventures through the woods.  He'll trot behind us with tail stuck in the air like a periscope.  A couple of winters ago, a forester and I snowshoed through the woods to find our land's boundaries for future cutting purposes.  Jerry joined us on our jaunt through the woods, darting in and out of trees across the hard-packed snow delighted to be in our company.   When we finished our trek, the forester remarked, “Well that's the first time I've ever snowshoed with a cat.”

On hot, sticky summer days, I'll leave my canine exercise companion, “Blackie,”  home while I go for a morning run or hike.  Next thing I know Jerry is galloping beside me down the driveway as if to say, “Take me for a run, take me for a run!”  At the end of our driveway, I have to sprint for two telephone poles so he doesn't follow me on the main road.

One summer night, Matthew was milking the cows with the windows and barn doors wide open for fresh air and ventilation.  Thirty-two cows stood in their stanchion stalls ready to be milked while the remaining fifty cows waited patiently in the back barn.  A green metal gate separated the milking barn from the back barn.  Out of nowhere, Jerry tore down the middle of the aisle and sailed through the rails of the green gate into the back barn with fifty cows.  Matthew thought for sure the cat was a goner.  Ten seconds later the crazy cat bolted back through the barn and outside, miraculously unscathed.  His perilous encounter made a lasting impression on him because he's never again ventured into the barn when it's been full of cows. 

 If I carried a camera with me around the farm, we'd have an album filled with photos of Ben and Jerry entertaining us with their antics.   My memory treasures many snapshots of the lighthearted moments our cats have provided for us.   I vividly recall the day our dog, two cats, and three children paraded across the top of the rows of round hay bales giggling as they played follow the leader.    More than once I've looked out the window to see both cats hanging around the wooden playhouse where the children romped, watching the festivities from a nearby tree or from the playhouse rooftop.  In the winter, Ben and Jerry boldly join us outside when we go sliding down our back hill.  Patiently they wait at the top of the hill for tired sledders to drop.  While the sledder is sprawled across the snow,  the cats slink over looking for a free back rub.  It's also not unusual to see one of the cats perched on top of the John Deere's tractor cab looking down at us and perusing the farm like a king surveying his kingdom.

Ben and Jerry are more than mousers on our farm.  They have become valued members of our farm family. Their comical personalities make us laugh and remind us that having a good sense of humor has the power to lift one's spirit and brighten a stormy day. 

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