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My parents liked cats and I cannot recall a time in my childhood when we were without one. Throughout the fifties we had a tough old tomcat named Mick and boy could he fight. He had all the scars to prove it including a large chunk of his left ear that was missing. For some obscure reason I was enormously proud of this battle wound. I can still remember the sad day when a chap visited our house with his large Alsation dog by his side (I know we now call them German shepherd dogs but this was in the 1950's). His visit was unexpected and the huge dog which was not on a leash attacked poor old Mick who was dozing in the sun. I can still picture the poor creature as he tried to get away and his screams as he failed to do so were pathetic to hear. When we eventually parted the two animals we found the blood, cuts and scratch wounds on the poor dog were many, but our cat, old Mick, was completely unharmed. I felt so proud of old Mick that from that day forth he was no longer just a cat for I awarded him our honorific surname. I now spoke of him as Mick Tuffs, our very own Supercat.
In those long ago 1950's some of my brothers would play football in the local league for Shamley Green F.C. On alternative Saturday's when they played their home matches we youngsters would all trudge up the hill to the field loaned to the club by farmer Tom Greenland, and there we would watch our hero's at play. I can still picture the small shed where our next door neighbour, a Mrs Kelsey, would serve tea to any of us spectators who could afford it. It was there that at half time she would offer all the twenty two players the traditional half an orange, and sometimes, if any players declined the offer, we kids would be handed a half orange to enjoy. I can also recall that during the match, certain of our players would have to run to the nearest hedgerow to relieve themselves, for these were the fitness fanatics who would have completed their weeks training with a few pre match, pints at our Red Lion pub. It was the actions of one of these players whose actions horrified my cat loving mother.
There was an old stray cat that would always turn up at Mrs Kelsey's tea shed and many a time I had seen her give him milk. On the day the horror occurred I had not gone to the match but at our Saturday night meal Bob told us all what had happened. One of the players, an older chap called Tommy was known to hate cats and he had secretly mixed some petrol with the cats milk just before the match began. Bob said he had found all this out later and if he had known what Tommy had planned he would have stopped it. My mothers face became both sad and angry as Bob continued with his story, particularly when he described how a laughing Tommy had said that the pathetic animal must have been starving for he boasted that the stupid cat had drank three saucer's full of the milk and petrol mixture that he had given him.
Around our dining room table Bob continues his tale and said the poor cat was seen on the pitch coughing it's poor little heart out. The players all stopped play to investigate what was wrong with the animal and as some approached it the cat ran away, still spluttering and choking as it did so. Bob described it's moaning as it ran around in a demented fashion, back and forth at an amazing speed it ran, going in and out between the players legs and sometimes colliding with them. This apparently continued for about ten minutes as the players all tried to catch it until suddenly it stopped still, and with one last big whimper it just collapsed on the ground. Ironically, Bob told us, the nearest played to the prostrate cat was Tommy, the chap who had fed it the lethal mix and as he prodded the poor animal with his boot there was no movement at all. "Was it Dead", my angry and concerned mother asked and Bob replied, "No, run out of petrol"!
That's when the laughter started, for the whole long sad tale was just Bobs reworking of an old Joke, designed to catch out our darling mother, which it certainly did. It also fooled my dad and it sure fooled me. Mum probably laughed the longest for she was so relieved that nothing had happened to the poor cat. However, I expect that she gave our old tomcat, the infamous Mick Tuffs, had an extra special feed for that nights supper and deservedly so!
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