Near the barn on Mr. McSwiggles farm there lived a community of feline cats. Mr. McSwiggle kept all the cats who wandered his way in order to keep the mice population to a minimum. He always had corn and grain for the chickens, hay for the horses along with plenty of food for all of his animals. He was a short heavy set little man, his belly as round as a biscuit and he wanted all of his animals to eat as well as he did.
At the last count, his cats had multiplied and totaled about sixteen or so. This was quite an acceptable number for the rats out numbered them still. You see all the field mice would come inside for the winter and Mr. McSwiggles barn would be running wild with the four legged varmints. So he made sure all the cats never got too thin. He wanted them to be in good physical shape and fast on their feet so they could rid the barn of the horde of scavengers. After all, they were of no use to him, just a nuisance to be sure.
The family of cats all got along very well. They would lie around in the warm sunshine grooming themselves with their tongues and rubbing themselves with various sweet smelling plants. One of their favorites was the lavender plant that grew wild around the barn. The mother cats cleaned all the babies from head to toe everyday. Their soft fur would shine like a new penny in the sunlight. Everyone was as happy and content as could be until one day late in the afternoon they had a wayfaring guest. Things then went a bit awry.
A big black tom cat swaggered up from the fields. He had been roaming in the woods and fields nearby and just happened onto Mr. McSwiggles farm. He was a huge male cat much bigger than any of the other cats. All eyes watched him cautiously for a short time not being so sure he was a friendly newcomer. As he came closer, they noticed something very odd about him. He simply smelled atrocious. All the female cats ushered their kittens quickly into the barn peeking out to see what might happen.
“Well good afternoon fellow felines. I hope I am not intruding. I just happened upon this farm and thought perhaps I could help you round up all the field mice!” He smiled a big Cheshire grin. Not wanting to appear rude Herman the tom cat in charge spoke up quickly.
“All cats are welcome here but they must all get along and cause no problems with the other cats. As long as you behave then you are quite……” He paused for a moment not finishing his sentence. He rubbed his nose with both front paws and asked. “What is that terrible smell you have? Did you roll in some of the horse droppings?”
The black cat just smiled and took a quick inspection of his body. “No! No! It is nothing like that. I’ve just been working so hard I haven’t had the time to clean myself up properly.”
Clearing his voice Herman continued. “Oh well in that case, you will want to hurry on down to the creek and take a good bath. The water is as clear as a looking glass and you can take your time. No one will bother you. It is just beyond the Grainer Building” he continued, pointing in the direction of the creek they all knew well. It wasn’t very long until one of the barn cats came running up to Herman totally out of breath. ” I thought you told that black cat to clean himself up”, she questioned? “Well he is NOT and has not taken a bath yet. He is lying out in the sunshine just at the edge of the tall grass.”
“Surely not!” puffed Herman. “Does he not know how atrocious he smells? Could he have a nose problem? Good Lord! I surely hope not. All we need now is a cat who smells like dung and who cannot smell to catch a mouse!” He frowned in disgust.
So it came to the attention of all Mr. McSwiggles cats that the newcomer was not going to take a bath at all and they were all bewildered by his actions. Herman being in charge decided to go see what the problem was. Perhaps the black cat was confused about something he had said. He would gingerly remind him of his bath and so he did just that.
To his dismay, the black cat told him that he had never ever had a bath and knew nothing at all about how to take one.
With widened peepers Herman once more tried to help in as gentle a way as he knew how.
“I will go with you and I’ll show you just how to bathe yourself.” He exclaimed still not believing that a cat his size could have gone this length of time without finding out how to bathe. So with that said, the two walked down to the creek bank.
“I just can’t do this!” screamed the black cat. ” I am terrified of water!”
“You will be just fine. The water is not deep here. Just come on in with me and I’ll show you how we take a bath. It is quite a simple thing to do” he said motioning for the cat to enter the water with him.
“No!” “I just can’t do it. I’ll just have to stay like I am. My grandmother told me that was how my grandfather died. He drowned in a well. When they finally fished him out he was blown up like a balloon and as dead as could be.” He gasped feverishly
“I don’t think so” replied Herman. “We just can’t allow anyone on this farm to smell like you do. People will shew you away and all the cats will have nothing to do with you whatsoever! No one likes to be around anyone who stinks like a skunk and then refuses to take a bath!” He exclaimed quite angrily, hoping he had made himself quite clear. The black cat took one paw and dipped it quickly into the rippling water. “That’s enough!” he squawked running back up to the bank. “That will just have to do for I’m too afraid of water. I could drown in that stuff you know!” His eyes were as big as baseballs and his hair standing on its ends like a porcupine.
“Hog Wash!” Herman yelled. “You are just chicken and you can’t stay with all of us with that awful smell all over you. Even cats have to bathe you know!” He ranted, his face as red as blood at the show of ignorance.
“Very well I’ll just sleep in the field tonight” whined the big black cat.
“Can’t you smell yourself? Can’t you understand how bad you smell? No one will want to come near you. Cats don’t stink. We are very tidy and we groom ourselves with lavender and peppermint leaves just so we smell good to others. Until you can clean yourself up, you will not be welcome in our barn”. Herman repeated, quite displeased with the big cats childish behavior. “Just suit yourself! We will not be friends to a cat with B O!” he screamed as he turned to walk away. “B O is a NO NO!” Herman called back over his shoulder loudly.
So it came to be that Odious the black cat stayed in the field refusing to take a bath. This went on for days and days led into weeks. All the cats call him Odious because he smelled so bad. All the young cats laughed and murmured about the big black cat named Odious who had B O. Until one day, Alfonzo the white Persian cat had an idea and set out to put his plan into motion. Early the next morning Alfonzo walked slowly down to the creek bank and sat there waiting and watching. Every now and then he would let out a yell and say” Oh my goodness look at all those pretty fish!”
He knew the curiosity of the scariest cat would get the best of him and he would come to see what it was all about. He was right! He just knew the curiosity would be too much for him. It wasn’t long until the black cat hollered to him.
“What are you doing just sitting there making such a fuss? Don’t you know you can’t get too close to me because I stink?” The Black cat questioned.
“Well! If you really want to know I’ll let you in on a secret of mine. You see, if you sit right here at the waters edge and do not move an inch you will see the most beautiful fish ever. They are gold with red fins and so big and fat. If you don’t move and sit really still they will come up to the waters edge. Then quick as can be you grab them with your sharp claws and it is dinner time on the farm!” Alfonzo just smiled for he was putting on the best performance in his life.” They are delicious!” He continued.
“Aw! That’s a piece of cake you ghostly cat. I am as quick as greased lightning!” boasted Odious proudly showing off his sharp claws.
“Well you stand watch and wait for them. I’m going to get a bucket and I’ll be right back.” Alfonzo knew he wasn’t going for a bucket but that was part of the trick. He looked back to see the black cat sitting at the waters edge. The plan was working.
It didn’t take long for the ripples in the water to hypnotize Odious and the warm sunshine to lull him into a trance of a sort. He just sat there with his eyes closed pretending to be watching for the beautiful fish. He’d wait and let Alfonzo do the catching when he returned.
All of a sudden there came a loud scream and a thunderous splash in the water. Alfonzo had sneaked up behind Odious and pushed him head first into the deep part of the creek. There was flapping and flipping going on in the water. Odious was wailing to the top of his voice and floundering around like a fish out of water. He was splashing water everywhere. His screams echoed near and far. At last the half soaked cat emerged from the creek as wet as he could ever possibly be.
“You look like a wet rat Alfonzo said, holding his sides that were hurting from all the laughter.
“You see! Bathing wasn’t so bad after all. You just had your first of many baths!” He tried hard not to burst out laughing but it was very hard to hide his giggles. It was the most hilarious sight he had ever witnessed.
“You fool! You could have drowned me. Don’t you know I could have died right there in that water? The cat spouted out, spitting water all over the ground.
“Oh I’ve been in there myself and I’m not nearly as big as you are. You’ll be just fine now when we rug this lavender all over your fur. You’ll smell like a breath of fresh air and believe me it was needed more than I can say.”
So it came to be that Odious the black cat was officially named Otis by all the cats. He didn’t really mind for he had the company of several female cats at his side. They would rub his fur gently with some of their herbs and honeysuckle making him a most handsome cat. Every now and then you would see Otis in the company of his ladies walking down to the shallow part of the creek. He figured it was best to have a little water all over him than to be tossed into the deep part. Plus, he didn’t want his ladies to think he was still afraid of anything.
Otis went on to have lots of little felines and to each one he told the story of the beautiful gold fish with red fins that swam in the creek nearby. If you happen to pass by Mr. Mc Swiggles farm you can hear this sound coming from Otis.
“Don’t ever go too long without taking a bath and rubbing yourself down with sweet smelling aromas because you might find yourself at the bottom of Mr. McSwiggles creek! Women will make your life miserable too!”
Written by Sybil Shearin
All rights reserved.
Question for children? What was the problem with the black cat?