I grew up on a working farm in Montana, surrounded by horses, cows, sheep, dogs and cats. My earliest memories are of playing with the house cat and whatever the dog was at the time. I rode a horse before a bicycle. As a family, we wrangled cattle and sheep.
So, it seemed natural to want a pet to keep me company as I pursued my dreams of making it big in the wide world. My dream didn’t have room for a serious relationship, and most of the people I worked with were in marriages. I was the odd man out, and in deepest, darkest Belmond, Iowa, there wasn’t much social life for a single career woman. Thus, my first cat, Mikitu.
Mikitu was so named because my mom had a Siamese at the time named, Mickey (for Mickey Mouse.) My cat was number two. I got it as a kitten, and it was a sweet little thing. We were very close, as we had only each other. I would be gone from 7:30 am to 6 pm during the week, but after work and all weekend, we were best friends. She grew to be a very sleek, beautiful animal. She would roam the neighborhood, but always came home. I would take her on short road trips, as I explored the Iowa landscape.
Cats are the perfect animal for the working person—they are pretty self-sufficient, understand the litter box and how all that works. I had her on a self-feeder, so she was never without food or water. But there is a myth about cats that I soon came to understand. Some people say they don’t like cats because they are too independent—and while I would call them self-sufficient, they get lonely and sad when left alone too much.
And alone Mikitu was quite often. I was early in my career—literally less than two years out of college—and when the company said, “Jump!” I did. I needed to travel frequently for a week at a time for training and meetings. And while I knew the cat would be fine from a physical perspective, I was not prepared for the psychological impact of leaving her alone so much.
One time when I came back from a 5 day meeting, poor Mikitu greeted me at the door, happy to see me, yet angry that I had been gone so long. Between rubbing up to me and cozying up, she would hit me with her de-clawed fore paws—batting me with one paw and then the other! Bam! Bam! Bad mom! She was MAD!
My work schedule didn’t let up, and the months ahead only involved more travel, not less. Mikitu’s situation was pathetic. I called my Mom.
Mom had always been a cat person, and she had Mickey. She had always been very compliant when it came to me—I don’t really remember her ever telling me “no” to a request or action that I took. She never denied me. To say I was spoiled was likely an understatement.
I suggested to my mother that she take Mikitu and add her to her cat family. To me it made perfect sense. She already had a Mickey, and now she would have a Mikitu. They could be friends.
So, that spring I drove back to Montana with the cat, and introduced her to her new family. While she and Mom’s Mickey seemed a bit wary, there were no knock down, drag out cat fights, so I figured all things were copacetic. I drove back to Belmond, and shortly after getting back my Mom called and said Mikitu had disappeared. We figured that maybe she couldn’t hack the farm life and had a farm “accident.” I felt bad, a bit guilty, but life went on…
I went to work. My travels were largely back to Minneapolis for training stints and business meetings and daily travels around my territory. My social life in Belmond was limited. I decided to move to the summer resort town of Clear Lake, Iowa—closer to Minnesota, a bit closer to the territory I was working, and during the summer, hopping with summer people.
Clear Lake the town is situated on the lake, Clear Lake. There aren’t many lakes in Iowa, so many people flocked to the resort town during the summer and on the weekends. Clear Lake is a short hop to Mason City, the largest town in Northern Iowa. Mason City is known as Meredith Wilson’s Music Man’s River City. Clear Lake is immortalized as the town where “the music died”—Buddy Holly was killed when his plane crashed in a corn field after playing the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.
But to me, Clear Lake and Mason City represented a social outlet where I could have single friends, go to parties where young people hung out. I found a group of friends who were working people—the local TV news woman; some nurses; guys who worked at the local businesses; a receptionist at a dermatology office; other travelling sales people (young, single types); a few single farmers; farmers’ daughters. It was great fun, and a much better fit for me personally than Belmond, even though Belmond was more like where I grew up.
I went back to Belmond after several months to visit my neighbors, and say, “Hi.” I went to the Italian war bride’s house across the street to visit. She and her husband greeted me warmly. She asked me about my cat, and I told her the story about giving Mikitu to my mom in Montana. She looked at me with a puzzled look and said that about a month ago a Siamese cat was prowling around my house, and ended up in another neighbor’s garage. It was scruffy and hungry. The neighbors had thought about getting in touch with me, but I had not left a forwarding address. The cat then disappeared again.
Forever I will believe that Mikitu had returned “home” and had looked for me. I was sad to think she had meowed for me, wondering where I was. I was gone, whooping it up in Clear Lake, not a care in the world, while my poor kitty was crying for her mom. I still feel sad when I think of her, homeless, and abandoned. And I feel the weight of responsibility that I had abandoned.
I have one photo of the cat. Our feed plant took portraits of the employees and their families as a gift.
My family picture is of me and Mikitu.