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Joys of farming: Raccoons, mice and cats!

Tom J. Bechman black cats outside red barn
FELINE MENAGERIE: Fluffy cats, smooth-haired cats, all-black cats — they are quite a group. Note that there is even one hiding under the table on the far right.
Potbelly Stove Stories: Corn drew raccoons and mice. Cats control the mice, but who controls the cats?

For many years I sold ear corn to feed wildlife. It provided spending money and the reject corn was a feed source for the cattle I raised for freezer beef. I had a few regular customers and became a supplier for some Wild Birds Unlimited stores. Selling fifty ears in a paper bag, either used feed bags or branded bags for WBU, bagging anywhere from five to forty bags for delivery became a weekly task.

Originally, I picked corn into either a flatbed or gravity wagon. The biggest challenges were finding a hybrid that produced long, girthy ears and trying to keep raccoons out of the corn in the wagon. They insisted on eating the best kernels out of the middle of the ear and leaving the rest. I can only imagine the fun they had rotating the ears with their paws.

As my business grew, I switched to storing the corn in a used metal crib we still had from many years previous. While it took care of the raccoon problem, it didn’t keep the mice out. “Used” and “many years previous” are the operative words. It’s always something! Thank you, Gilda Radner.

Having cattle and hog feed in the barn meant that there were mice. Traps weren’t practical and bait had to be kept away from animals, feed and kids. The next best choice was barn cats. Our renter got some cats who soon established the barn as their home, even though they prowled the neighborhood.

Population explosion

Naturally, two cats became four and the number of cats grew exponentially. While some of the kittens moved on or didn’t survive, we have had as many as sixteen visible at one time. We do provide water and enough cat food to sustain them, yet still keep them hungry enough to hunt. This has two benefits — it controls the mice and gives somebody, usually me, reason to get out of the house twice daily. 

Daily chores develop character, right?

By their markings, we could tell who the parents were. The swollen belly confirmed the mother. However, I think there is one dominant alpha male named Monster Tom because of his size, who maintains his harem. I’m relatively sure by now there is some inbreeding happening.

So, I’m just waiting to see the cat with three eyes, two tails or five legs. So why don't we spay and neuter? Well, while there are a few tame enough to pet, most are wary and avoid contact. I suppose we just want to maintain our source and mice control. Or maybe it gives me a reason to get out of the house twice daily! 

Editor’s note: Wood was inspired to write this column after reading a Front Porch story by Tom J. Bechman about raccoons, mice and cats in the March issue. Join in on the fun and share your own funny story. If we publish it, we will send you a $25 gift card.

Write between 250 and 500 words, and include a picture if possible. If you mention someone else in the story, you must have their permission. Email [email protected] or write him at P.O. Box 247, Franklin, IN 46131. Include your name, phone number, email and physical address.
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