A note from Jack: There is a ragged looking old cat hanging around my house, it is not pretty, and it looks like it has gotten the worst of more than a few fights. It also won’t let anyone near it. I can’t bring myself to run it off, and have even started to feed it. I told my wife it was so it wouldn’t get the birds, but the real reason may be that I have a soft spot for ragged old cats. If I do I guess it is because my late father-in-law had that same soft spot. This memory is about Pop, his work shop, and the old cat that kept him company. It may explain why I want the one at my house to keep hanging around.
Sometimes on cold winter days when the smell of wood smoke comes to me, a memory of Pop and the little workshop behind his house on East Sixth Street comes to me. A small wood stove kept the drafty little shop barely warm enough to stay in during the winter months. I think the stove was for the comfort of others , since the cold didn’t seem to bother Pop 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 the house sitting in his easy chair.
Pop was Jess Yahne, my late father-in-law, and a man born to tinker. He could fix almost anything his daughters and inept son-in-laws could break.
There was usually a lawnmower, or a child’s toy in some stage of repair on his work bench, and if something needed sharpened, or adjusted, everyone in the neighborhood knew Pop would do the job for free . Pop always had the right size bolt or screw someone needed, in a drawer, or jar over his work bench, and he kept spare tires mounted and ready in the shop, to get me or some other member of the family, who never seemed to have one of those when we needed it off the side of some road.
There was another worker in Pop’s work shop, it was an old Tom cat, named simply, Tom. Tom was already a full grown cat when he came to Pop’s workshop, so no one had any idea how old he really was, but with his chewed up ears, and numerous battle scars, he looked like a well seasoned cat. His job according to Pop, was napping, eating, and getting in the way. Tom 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 patients whether it was with a persistent old Tom cat, or a chatty son-in-law, so he usually got the petting, and the job got finished a little later. After Pop died, the old cat left in spite of the fact that my mother-in-law kept feeding him. I guess it just wasn’t the same in the old shop without Pop to pester.
The workshop is still there behind the house that someone else occupies, but it has to be 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.
Jack Miller is a longtime Sedalia resident whose column will run in the Weekend edition of the Democrat.