Battles abound: rural Ohio farm life


McZENA MUSE - Louise Swartzwalder



SUBURBAN MCZENA — Last night there was some major competition at the farm on County Road 37.

For the record, this is now my farm.

This is the home place of parents John and Bea Swartzwalder. I lived there with my two sisters.

Following an odd sequence of events, I ended up getting this farm.

I didn’t do anything to deserve it, other than being born to two solid, thoughtful, wise people.

Dad was a good farmer and businessman. My mother, a teacher.

This is a great big old two story farm house.

For a time, after my parents passed away, we operated the leftover farming efforts as an llc. (limited liability corporation).

Dad had the foresight and talent to get three farms. Because we were sisters three, a decision was finally made to divide up the properties.

I didn’t have to say a word, but I got the place I wanted.

My one sister, the more forthright, spoke first at our little farm meeting, and said she would take the farm she had lived on with her kids. I thought, no problem.

My other sister said she’d take the other property, because she had enjoyed it while living there.

I’ve always loved the great big old house, and moved back several years ago after losing my husband. We had lived in Takoma Park, Md., a Washington, D.C. suburb.

When I moved back to the farm, I did it in spurts. I then had a Ford F-150, and would load it, with my big brown dog, and travel back and forth to Ohio. I probably made a half dozen trips, shuttling various items.

When my Takoma Park house sold, I moved back for good. Then, I brought my big dog, Brownie, and our one remaining cat, Carrie.

My husband John Hyde and I had always felt pretty precocious about choosing pet names. We’d pick a name of a musician or politician we admired or hated. (One must always give credence to those we don’t like. They sometimes inspire).

When I still lived in Des Moines, Ia., John and I once carved a pumpkin, giving it an ugly face. We named it “Roger,” for a senator then in office from Iowa. Roger Jepsen was a little low-handed in how he ran his life.

Arriving in Ohio, I got my animals settled. Life was good.

One morning I heard this “mew, mew” from the front porch.

I looked, and there was a small tiger kitten.

Oh dear.

I did what any diligent animal lover would do. I put out a bowl of milk, thinking the kitten could get a taste and then happily go away.

Next morning: reality.

There she was, again.

I called my vet and made an appointment to go have her tested. I thought that would be judicious because I didn’t want to bring a kitten into the house if she had feline leukemia or other bad disease.

The vet said she was ok, and asked her name. I told him I hadn’t decided yet, because I thought it premature at that point.

I told my sisters about my new kitten, and told them I would probably do what John and I had always done: pick a musician. Maybe Ray for Ray Charles.

My one sister said I shouldn’t do that because Ray Charles wasn’t a very nice man.

I told her that was not the point. Ray Charles was a great musician.

I then said maybe it could be a politician. I said “Clinton.” She didn’t like that either. I told her that was John’s middle name.

She vehemently said: whatever you do, don’t name it “Obama.”

Told her no problem. I went home and tried out names on this little kitten. She didn’t respond to Ray or Clinton. Then I tried Barack.

She looked at me as if to tilt her head up and say, yes?

Long story short: Barack rules the house.

I now have two other cats, obtained the same way. They found me. I determined they were healthy and they remained.

To cut to the chase here, with it getting colder, certain types of activity in my house have heightened.

Though my house has been vastly improved, there are still little crawl spaces where little vermin can find a home.

And Barack is the champion mouser.

She has now caught at least four gray furry critters. The first time was on Oct. 3. That one got away.

Then on Nov. 11 (Veterans’ Day and John’s birthday) she caught another. Last night it was another catch.

My one cat is what I would call a “face cat.” Long on looks but not much in brains. This cat, Carousel, likes to have Barack catch the mouse, then she gets into the action.

She once corralled a mouse, after Barack had done the real work, then batted it around til it was probably senseless from the skirmish.

Activities last night seemed to be following the same scenario.

As a hard working reporter, writer, editor, my tolerance sometimes gets a little stretched. I didn’t think I could take another night where Carousel would batter the gray furry thing, then leisurely chomp on it.

She did this once, and it made for a long night.

The good news about last night was that the first gray furry thing got trapped, literally. Then there was another. It

wisely decided it could get away by going down a register grate.

As the vengeful and decisive owner of the house, I made an executive decision.

I turned up the heat in the house.

I had decided it would be the proper effort to give the gray furry thing a warm rural welcome.

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McZENA MUSE

Louise Swartzwalder