For many years, my family never had pets other than goldfish and turtles. Although my sisters and I often asked for a pet (a cat, a dog, a pony) my parents were always insistent that we were not getting a pet.
That all changed one sunny afternoon when my mother was home alone. On that day, my mother was hanging the laundry on the clothesline that extended from our back porch to a tall post in the yard when she was startled by a black cat that jumped from the ground to the porch railing (a good six feet) and introduced himself.
By the time the rest of the family had returned home, my mother had served the cat a nice meal of tuna, and set up a place for the cat to sleep. We were utterly astounded that my mother had let a stray cat into the house.
We knew that we had to name the cat, but couldn’t settle on a suitable moniker. We decided to let the cat, itself, decide. My sisters and I called out all sorts of suitable cat names (Puff, Fluffy, Blackie) but the cat simply ignored us. Finally, we tried “Smokey” and the cat looked up. And so, we named the cat Smokey, even though the name was decidedly inappropriate for a jet black cat.
The next day, my mother let Smokey out of the house, thinking that he would find his way back to wherever he came from. He was probably less than a year old and in seemingly good health, so he must have had a home somewhere. Smokey, however, had decided to adopt us. Whenever my mother would let him outside, Smokey would faithfully return to our house when his wanderings were over.
And then, one day, Smokey didn’t return. We searched the neighborhood. No Smokey. We called his name. Still no Smokey. We posted notices of a lost cat. And still no Smokey. After he was gone for three whole days, we concluded that Smokey was either dead or injured, or perhaps he had simply moved on to a new home.
Another day dawned and my mother went out to the back porch to once again hang laundry. Smokey reappeared, jumping from the ground to the porch railing. He was a bit thinner, but still full of energy and ready for his lunch.
Years later, my parents told us that Smokey really hadn’t run away. Our parents had decided that they couldn’t afford to keep a cat, what with expenses for cat food, kitty litter, and vet bills. So, my father had carried Smokey to the car, drove some 10 miles from our house, and let the cat go. Somehow, Smokey managed to find his way back to our house.
SOURCE: Smokey (Albany, Albany Co., New York). Photographed by Jane Danko about 1975.
In the following years, my parents adopted a number of cats, usually strays. Smokey, however, was the first, and he always had a special place in my family’s heart.
Written for the Carnival of Genealogy.
Copyright © 2008 by Stephen J. Danko