In my travels about the community I am often asked about Mr. Gray. He is the old gray cat that came to the front porch for years seeking a handout. The answer to your questions remains the same. This is the third Christmas since Mr. Gray departed, never to return. We can only assume he lived out his expected life span of 14-plus years. Where did he go? How did he die? What caused his demise? Was it disease, old age, the fox or coyotes?
Often we think of Mr. Gray and we miss his visits in spite of the fact that he was wild and stand-offish and not the least affectionate. We still look out the kitchen window hoping he will be there on the porch looking up at us.
Instead, we see several other neighborhood cats near the barn or bird feeders from time to time. These other cats look well cared- for and are not wild like Mr. Gray. They do not stand at the window. They are predators, not beggars.
Watching these cats probably in search of a stray barn mouse reminds us of that old story, maybe by Aesop, that the barn mice held a meeting to see who would hang a bell around the cat's neck so the mice could be warned of the presence of a predator. There was only one problem with this good idea. The mice could not find among them one brave enough to approach the cat and hang the bell. The mice learned that bravery lies in deeds, not in words.
We note that the cats near the barn are still bell-less and the mice are still scampering for cover. Nothing has changed except the absence of Mr. Gray. The only bell we hear is the one from the nearby monastery calling the monks to prayer.
We are not mouse experts, but since they are pests and carry disease, there is no reason to encourage them to take up residence near our home. Mice hold little fascination for animal watchers. The presence of cats, even those not our own, is welcome to help keep control of the mouse and rat population.
It is true, Mr. Gray has gone and others have moved into his territory. We see cats, deer, coons, coyotes, turkeys and the like. We still haven't seen that lion that was rescued by the mouse.
Remember the lion who spared the life of a mouse? Later the lion got caught in a net and the grateful mouse chewed the ropes allowing the lion to go free. Even a pesky mouse can be useful at times. Maybe for a lion, but not for us.
We don't know if any of these mice have provided a useful service around here since we haven't seen any lions running free. Mr. Gray is away and the mice will play. Hopefully the visiting cats will fill in and do the job once done by Mr. Gray himself. In his own way, Mr. Gray proved to be faithful, swift, agile, untouchable, wild, and independent. Still, he came, made his contribution and begged for help and always got it.
Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.