cat

Posted by Ellen

Lap cat shows plenty of lap. Philly Photo Day 2014.

Posted by Ellen

Lila Mae Helmke was 23 years old in 1936 when she appeared in this family portrait with her husband Bill, their son Allen, and her husband's brother, whose name was not recorded.

The photographer, Russell Lee, noted that the family all lived "in a one-room shack on a ninety-acre farm near Dickens, Iowa, owned by a lawyer."

We don't know how long Lila Mae and her family lived in that shack. But she and her husband had been born into farming families in Palo Alto County, Iowa, in the early years of the twentieth century, and they had been educated in country schools there. When they married in 1934, in the depths of the Depression, prospects for American farmers were nightmarish, even in places like northern Iowa, where the topsoil was three feet thick.

We have no record that the Helmkes ever owned any farmland. But they were farmers, and they stuck it out, trying to make a go of it somehow or other, for the first seventeen years of their married life, till Lila Mae was 38 and Bill was in his mid-forties.

In 1951, they gave it up and moved to town. They settled in Ruthven, Iowa, about seven miles east of the farmland near Dickens, where they had been born and raised.

By 1951, they had two nearly grown children, Allen and his younger brother Elton, known as Butch. Both boys would grow up, marry, and raise their own families in Ruthven, and they were still living there in January 2006, almost seventy years after the photo was taken, when their mother's death at the age of 92 was reported in the the Graettinger Times newspaper. Husband Bill–William August Helmke–had died in 1976, when he was 69.

Once the family had moved to town, Lila worked as a substitute cook at the Ruthven Community School and cleaned houses and the Ruthven State Bank.

She enjoyed sewing, gardening, and cooking, according to the obituary writer, and loved Jackie Gleason, Red Skelton, and The Price is Right.

The cat in the photo may have loomed large in her life: "She always had a family pet," wrote the obituary writer.

The smiling young man who is holding the cat in his lap, however, is lost to time. The photographer noted only that he was Bill Helmke's brother; we don't know his name, and Lila Mae's obituarist did not mention him at all, not in the list of survivors and not in the list of the predeceased. He looks of an age in 1936 to be called off to war just a few years after sitting for the family portrait, but even that detail is beyond our knowing.

Posted by Ellen

Long before football season has wound down, the winter sports are upon us. Basketball and hockey are in full swing, but what we see here is wrestling, or rather wrestling refereeing, as demonstrated for the enlightment of Ruby the cat, who chooses not to reveal whether or not she has chosen enlightenment.

Posted by Ellen

From friends and neighbors in Turkey comes this Istanbul street scene.

Posted by Ellen

Looked out of my upstairs window a month or so ago, and there at the edge of the roof across the street was Samantha, a gargoyling sort of cat who'd followed her mistress up a ladder onto the roof and then, of course, refused to climb back down. Cats apparently missed the memo about going down ladders tail-first.

My neighbor eventually tossed Samantha down onto a second-story deck; she landed feet first and none the worse for wear–and by all accounts eager to get back up on the roof again.

Posted by Ellen

 

Richard Stein writes from Lower Hutt, New Zealand:
 
Our newest sheep, Little Fluffy Raincloud, at left in photo, was a gift from a friend of ours. We had three previously, Curly, Lari, and Mow, but Lari died recently of old age and is buried on our property, where she lived a full and happy life. Once your sheep have names, you cannot eat them. We need three sheep to keep the grass in our two paddocks. 
 
The photo below is of our dog, Sesame, who immigrated to New Zealand with us (she is almost 12 now), and Trapper, our New Zealand cat. Both animals regularly follow A. and me when I walk to work in the morning.
Posted by Ellen

 

Sunday was warm and sunny, maybe the last pleasant day this fall. While the humans sat chatting on their stoops, Toby the dog and Samantha the cat had a little fun with each other.

Samantha is often kept on a leash when out of doors. She doesn't seem to mind the restraint, and whenever Toby stops rassling for a moment to catch his breath, she goes straight at him, begging for a little more nip and snort and tussle. He generally obliges.

Posted by Ellen

 

There's an email that's been going around for at least six months or so about this deer that came to somebody's backyard every morning, in Harrisburg, PA, to play with the resident cat. Here are two of the five pictures from the post.

What do you think? Real, or urban legend? Well, after doing my due diligence, I'm inclined to say maybe. Hand-raised deer often behave this way, apparently, and similar goings-on have been described in first-hand reports from several places around the country. For example, from California:

"Every morning our cat used to walk down our lane and disappear into the woods. One morning, I was sick and got up much later than usual to let her out. As I opened the door, I looked down the lane and saw three deer standing there staring at me. To my astonishment, my cat happily bounced down to them, touched noses, and the four of them trotted off into the woods together.

"Perhaps there's a cat/deer accord we are not privvy to?"

Posted by Ellen

 

We've seen the work of Avram Dumitrescu before--his tiny chicken, his staring steer--but this painting is different. Here, in "Front Street Books," he shows a scene that is arguably unremarkable: a woman is settled into an armchair in a bookstore, with a cat curled up on a rug near the magazine shelves. What I like about this painting is that the bookstore is in Texas--rural west Texas, in fact, in the tiny town of Alpine. Paintings of Texas are supposed to show cowboy boots and pickup trucks and longhorn skulls in the sun, next to broken-down oil derricks. Avram's painted a little of that, and seeing as how he's a foreigner transplanted into west Texas, we might forgive him for painting a lot of that.

But here he's showing us a mild-mannered bookstore scene in Texas, and it's every bit as real, as true, as all the redneck stuff. I'm thinking that Republicans would fume: This scene doesn't show the real Texas. But what can I say? Texas is a big, messy, complicated place, and those Republicans are just wrong, as always. 

The cat's name is Frisky-Sweets. Avram notes that she posed for him "very reluctantly."