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Jack’s Mid-Missouri Memories: Pop’s Workshop and His Ragged Old Cat

Tom Cat
Enid Yu/Flickr

Well, it’s happened again! There is a ragged old cat hanging around my house that someone has probably dropped off thinking that it’s the place for cats. It is not a pretty cat, and it looks as if it had lost a few fights along the way. It is a skittish cat, and runs at the sight of me.  The thing is that it reminds me of a cat my father-in-law had, so I have started to leave extra food in my other cats bowl for it. I guess I have a soft spot for ragged old cats thanks to the one my father-in -law who had one in his work shop. It made me think that everyone needs one in their shop. When the old yellow cat showed up, it reminded me of this memory, and if you too are someone who likes ragged old cats, maybe you will like it.

Pop’s Workshop and His Ragged Old Cat

Sometimes on cold winter days when the smell of wood smoke comes to me, Pop and the little workshop behind his house comes into my mind. A small wood stove kept the drafty little shop just barely warm enough to stay in during the winter months. I think the stove was more for the comfort of a cat than for Pop since the cold didn’t seem to bother him that much. I liked going to the workshop because Pop, who was normally a quiet man, would sometimes open up and talk about his past as he worked there, something he would not do in the comfort of his easy chair in the house.

Pop was Jess Yahne, my father-in-law, and he was a man born to tinker. He could fix almost anything his daughters and inept son-in-laws could break. There was always a lawnmower or a child’s toy in some stage of repair on his workbench, and if something needed sharpened or adjusted, everyone in the neighborhood knew Pop would do the job right, and for nothing.

Pop always had the right size bolt or screw you needed, in a drawer or jar over his workbench. He also kept a variety of spare tires mounted and ready in the shop, for me or some other member of the family who never seemed to have one when we needed it.

There was another worker in Pop’s shop; it was an old tom cat, named simply “Tom.”  Tom was already a full grown cat when he came to the workshop, so no one had any idea how old he really was, but with his chewed up ears and battle-scarred tail, he looked like a well-seasoned cat. His job, according to Pop, was napping, eating and just getting in the way. He usually wanted petting at the wrong time, like when pop was trying to finish a job on the grinder or in the vice.  Lucky for him, Pop had a lot of patience, whether it was with a persistent old tom cat or a chatty son-in-law, so the cat usually got the petting and the job got finished a little later.  Pop was not the kind to come right out and admit he liked having that old cat around anymore than he would admit as much about his son-in-laws, but old Tom knew it and so did us guys.

The workshop is still there behind my mother-in-law’s house, but it is cold now, and no amount of fire in that wood stove could ever make it feel as warm as it did when pop and that old tom cat was there.

I’ll keep feeding the old cat that hangs around here, and maybe someday, if I’m lucky it will be as important to my workshop as Tom was to Pop’s.

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