The Great Cat Herd of 1891
The morning sun had barely opened its eye when Little Johnny exploded out of bed. Was it too late? Had he overslept? Little Johnny ran to the front of the cabin and threw open the old wooden door to find his paw walking down the dirt path. Thousands of cats roamed around him, meowing, stretching, and batting at invisible ghosts. He continued running until he was able to grab the back of his paw’s shirt.
“Why, Paw? Why does it have to be you?” Hank stopped in his tracks, turned around, and dropped his bag on the floor. A tabby cat came over and stretched out on top. He reached into his jean pocket, placed a stick of chaw into his cheek, and spat on the dirt floor.
“Now Son, we talked about this. Ain’t no other man but me.”
“But why, Paw? Why can’t it be sumbody else?” Hank dropped down to a knee so he could look his son square in the eye.
“That’s just the way it is. My Paw did the cat herd. His Paw did the cat herd, and one day you’ll — “ The chaw in Hank’s cheek dislodged and got stuck in his gullet. His face grew red as he gasped for breath. A minute later, Hank was dead on the ground.
Little Johnny’s maw heard the commotion and came running outside. She saw her husband lying on the ground, surrounded by cats, and knew what had to be done. “Listen to me, Johnny,” but Johnny was crying, so she slapped him good. “Now you listen to me, Johnny. You’re a man now. You got to herd these cats.”
“But Maw, I ain’t never done that before.” His maw grew visibly emotional.
“You think I don’t know that? You don’t think I know I could lose both y’all?” Johnny looked at his mother. How beautiful she was standing in the light, the dirt in her hair giving off a strange halo effect.
“Okay, Maw, I’ll do it! For Paw!” Johnny’s maw reached into paw’s shirt pocket and pulled something out.
“Take this; you’re gonna need it.” Johnny put out his hand and saw the green squeaky parrot. It had been in his family for eleven generations.
“Take it and go herd dem cats.” Johnny hugged his maw.
“I luv yew.”
“I luv yew too. Now go on! Get!” Johnny’s maw spun him around and booted him in the ass. That day Little Johnny became a man, herding fifteen thousand cats from Celina, Texas all the way up to Rossville, Kansas.