My sister, an author who writes for Horse Illustrated, asked me to join her at a dude ranch while she was on assignment. I not only agreed but asked my friend, a former Miss Rodeo Idaho, to link up with us. We ventured three hours from my home to meet the owners of a large cattle operation in Eastern Idaho.
At dinner that night, Mr. Jones instructed us to gather for breakfast by six a.m. and then to commence our chores. For the next three days we struggled to find stubborn cattle on steep mountainsides and herded them to greener pastures several miles away.
After packing on our last day I walked into the nearby stables, lit only by the soft rays of early morning sunlight. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed slight movements coming from an inside wall of the dark barn. Hanging by his front paws, a tiny ball of fur stretched from the top rung of an old wooden ladder, fifteen feet above the barn floor. I climbed up and gathered a white kitten and nestled him next to his siblings in a swirl of gold alfalfa scattered throughout the high loft. The mother, a grey Siamese, had eight babies. The one I had rescued was pure white with long hair and dark orange ears.
Idaho barn cats do not have the luxury of inoculations and food. And the expense of neutering is definitely out of the question. They live off rodents and birds, thereby incurring a myriad of diseases.
Knowing that the white kitten’s future would be harsh and brief, I asked the rancher if I could take him home. “Of course,” he said. “I have plenty more,” and he gave me an old shoe box to use for transporting.
While driving back to my home, the three of us laughed about the rancher’s unique way of making money while getting his chores accomplished. We had experienced three days of hard labor while paying the rancher for the privilege of doing so.
Every so often our amusement was interrupted by a shrill meow. In the backseat, my sister removed the kitten from the box and lifted him high for us to see. He had bright blue eyes and reminded us of Frank Sinatra, hence, the name Frankie.
Because he was so cross-eyed, I soon discovered his jumping skills contributed to many indefinite landings. He often soared from the steps leading to the house, alighting on a metal counter in the garage where I kept his food and water. Most of the time he made precise leaps, but sometimes he jumped into the air and landed a few inches to the side of the four-foot-high cabinet, falling and shaking his head in stunned surprise.
On one occasion Frankie decided to jump from our gas grill to a low hanging roof ledge above the kitchen deck. He shot straight up and missed the roof by a solid foot. Frankie flew into the nearby window, plastering himself against the glass, his arms and legs splayed in all directions. I watched as he slid down the window to the deck base. Upon landing he once again shook his head in dismay.
Rescuing Frankie from a barn in Idaho launched my unmitigated love for this adventurous and unique cat. And so begins the chronicles of Frankie.