Bobby McGee practices airs above the ground after his breakfast.
My boy cats insist on nocturnal prowling contrary to my wish to keep them safe indoors from things which go bump, snarl, howl, in the dark of night on the farm.
If they aren't already safely in the house, lounging on the bed or sprawled in a furry heap on the sofa I round them up when I call it bedtime, usually sometime between 11 and midnight.
By 3 or 4 A.M 'someone' starts an agitation to be let OUT.
Charlie is often the first to instigate the exodus.
After several years in both Wyoming and Kentucky as an indoor 'rescue cat' Charlie went out one day two years ago, refused to be rounded up, and spent a weekend [as best we can tell] up a tree at the edge of the back field before I located him and Jim climbed a ladder to bring him down.
After a few days inside to settle his nerves Charlie declared that he was ready for indoor/outdoor privileges.
He has become disturbingly bold over the past year, regularly crossing the road to prowl along the bank of Big Creek, bustling off on endless sorties in the tall grass of the meadows, returning with his long fur damp and tangled with burrs. If we see him headed down the drive toward the road, one of us opens the front door and bellows, "Charlie!"
He obediently turns around and comes to the house--docile until the next time he fancies a walk-about.
Charlie is not particularly bright. He has a silly high-pitched but insistent voice and when he uses it to announce that he must go out, there is no ignoring him.
J. or I huff out of bed and usher Charlie to the sliding door, with a 'good riddance' attitude.
If Charlie's demand hasn't prompted a mass feline exodus, the next to make his wants known is
Nellie, an amiable sort, has different tactics.
He doesn't meow, instead he enters the bedroom, walks to the north window and rising on his hind legs uses his fat front paws to give the interior shutters a good shake.
If we manage to sleep through this, Nellie's next ploy is a leap to one of the dressers or a bedside stand and begin pushing small objects along until they clatter onto the floor.
Bobby is more inclined to stomp heavily about on sleeping humans until they wake--at which point he plummets to the floor and indicates that he would like to be allowed out.
Edward, who is much lazier than his brothers, tends merely to go along for a reconnoiter of the dark yard if he is in the mood.
Willis, who is meant to be a barn cat, has house privileges, but hasn't always proven worthy of
He tends to hide downstairs and appear at breakfast time looking rumpled and the picture of innocence.
Willis watches Bobby intently but doesn't venture up the tree.
Last night 'the boys' all went out early--about midnight.
I was in the process of settling myself beneath the quilts when Charlie started his familiar ruckus.
I swung out of bed and padded barefoot along the hall--only to find that Charlie had vanished.
The three brothers, Nellie, Bobby and Edward, appeared from somewhere and fell over themselves lining up at the sliding door.
Out they went with never a hesitation on feeling the cold air.
As I stuck my chilled toes into the covers Charlie piped up again.
He skittered playfully before me as I followed him down the hall, ducked behind a chair.
"We are not playing this game!" I hissed at him crossly.
He let out a squeak as I caught a handful of his long fur and reeled him into my arms, hustled him out the back door.
In bed for the third time I tried not to think of contentious opossums with their gnashing teeth or wandering coyotes and swooping owls.
Bobby, paws resting lightly on a slender branch, acknowledges those of us on the ground before climbing way out on a higher limb.
Edward's was the first face I saw at the side door this morning. His pink nose was pressed anxiously against the glass. He gobbled his dollop of tinned food, polished his whiskers and headed for bed.
Bobby after arriving late for breakfast and showing off his prowess as a climber of trees, flung himself into exhausted relaxation.
Nellie curled in a tight sleepy furball.
Willis, who had been derelict in his assigned duties as farm watch-cat, took a nap on his favorite shabby comforter.
Charlie sleeps away the sunny noon.
There are times when I wish we could herd all the cats downstairs at night--there is the furnished side of the basement with soft chairs, a daybed, a rug, and on the business side of the staircase is the line-up of litter boxes, a kibble feeder, a water bowl.
But except for the bitter nights when we keep the wood fire going in the basement, it is cold and unwelcoming during the winter months.
The frail old lady cats need the warmth of the living room.
Those cats who are well-behaved would be astonished to be denied their usual place at the foot of the bed.
Could we really adjust to sleep without the patter of furry paws? Would we remain braced for the dreadful sound of an indigestible mouse about to be hawked up in the hallway?
Most importantly, wouldn't night be a lonely time without the contented purr of a nearby cat or the warm furry weight on tired feet?
I expect there will be no significant changes to the nightly routine.
The boy cats will continue to want 'out' at odd hours and we, their devoted humans, will continue to grumblingly oblige them.