Barn Cat Became Part of the Family

Farm life wasn’t the same without this loyal barn cat and her kittens.

Barn Cat Charlie as a kitten

Barn Cat Became Part of the Family

Mary Ann Johnson on her southern Indiana farm, holding her favorite cat, Charlie, when she was a kitten.


Story by Mary Ann Johnson
Columbus, Indiana

Growing up on a farm in southern Indiana in the 1940s was a great experience. We were poor, but we didn’t know it, since none of our friends had any more than we did.

Dad worked hard, farming by day and trucking livestock to Indianapolis several evenings a week. Mom took care of the garden and canned everything she could get her hands on. She also raised chickens for the eggs and for the dinner table. And she was an accomplished seamstress who made most of our clothes.

We had cows for the milk and meat. My older brothers, Jack, Ray and Paul, helped with the farm work, and my older sister, Ruth, helped with the chickens. We all helped in the garden.

Anyone raised on a farm knows the importance of keeping a few barn cats to take care of the mice. As the youngest in the family, I spent a lot of time in the hayloft taming the kittens.

As the boys grew up and left home, I took over the chore of milking the cows. Of course, Mom always claimed that I gave half the milk to the cats before I got it to the house. That was probably true, since at one time I had more than 20 cats to share the milk with!

When I was about 6, my favorite cat  on the farm was Charlie. Charlie was a female, but I didn’t know that when I named her. She turned out to be a great mouser.

Dad’s sister, who lived in town, was having problems with mice. Dad asked me if he could take Charlie to her house to help.

I didn’t want Charlie to go, especially since she had six baby kittens and my aunt lived more than a mile from our farm. But Dad assured me that he would let the kittens go with Charlie and that he would bring them all back as soon as she had eliminated the mice.

Charlie had been at my aunt’s house less than a week when Dad and my brother Jack went to town. As Jack tells it, they came upon a remarkable sight: Charlie walking down the block, carrying one of her kittens in her mouth.

She had already transported two of her kittens to the end of the block while the remaining three patiently waited for their turns. Dad and Jack watched Charlie carry the third kitten to join the first two, put it down and go back for the next one.

Now, my dad was a hard worker with little time for a cat and her kittens. On this day, however, he stopped the truck so he and Jack could watch Charlie for a few minutes. Then Dad said, with a noticeable catch in his voice, “Jack, get that cat and her kittens. We’re taking them home. Sis can find another mouser.”

Of course, when they returned to the farm, I was thrilled to have my favorite cat and her kittens home again!

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