Inside our white farmhouse everyone was busy with Christmas preparations. Even outside in the quiet stillness of the cold afternoon I could hear the vacuum cleaner running. Mom and Erika were watching over at least five pumpkin pies and one cheesecake. People who were trying to clean kept getting shooed out of rooms where presents were hidden.
It was nice to be outside where I could pause for two seconds without getting run over by someone carrying tubes of wrapping paper or strings of Christmas lights. I had welcomed the chance to take out the garbage just so I could get a little peace and quiet. The snow was so sparkly it hurt my eyes. The snow was so cold it squeaked when I walked on it, setting my teeth on edge. Nothing was outside, not even a solitary sparrow.
After I put the garbage bag in the dumpster I went to the barn with the old soup carrots. I put the carrots in the fridge, but saved one for Dandelion. The bunny was very happy to get it. He sniffed it all over before flinging his long floppy ears back and eating it joyfully.
I stood up and looked around in the dim light for the cats. They were all sleeping in a heap in the north calf pen.
A heap of cats on a cold winter's day is the sweetest thing. I slowly opened the door to the pen, trying not to wake them. But they heard me, and as I kneeled into the straw beside them, they were opening their eyes and yawning.
Misty and Athena were on the edge of the pile. They gazed at me with their deep golden eyes as they sat primly upright, their paws tucked under themselves. "Hey mommies," I crooned, stroking their glossy fur.
Now Toady was awake. "Squeak!" she cried, bounding out from underneath her father's stomach. I scooped her up and kissed the squirming kitten on the head. "Purgle-squeak!" She purred as she wiggled out of my hands and dropped into the straw. Toady went straight back to her dad, Puff, burrowing into his belly so she could stay warm. Puff opened one eye and angrily leaned down to bite the baby. Then he saw me. "Rowr?" he asked, assuming an expression of innocence. What are you doing here? He seemed to say. Freddy and Button were plopped over each other. They were sleeping very hard. They didn't even wake up when I kissed and stroked them.
Then a head came squeezing its way out from underneath and between them. It was Grandpa! I pulled him out and held him. He was very hot and very squished looking. They were all awake now. The group of cats all gazed happily up at me as they snuggled together to stay warm. Grandpa started his rusty worn-out purr as I set him down. Toad ran up to me and started begging to be petted. As I stroked her she began to purr.
Then "rumble, rumble," Athena's purr joined in. "Brrr-un, Brr-un," Misty started. "Grrrr, hmm, Grrr, hmm." Puff's bass joined the ladies. I leaned down close to Fred and Button. Sure enough, they were purring too! Barely audible, their sound of contentment rose and fell as they breathed. "Prrrr, purr, Prrrr, purr, Prrrr..." I petted them all one by one then picked Toady up. I held her and sat listening. All the different purrs combined made a sound reminiscent of a choir.
"Now this is Christmas," I thought "a big, sleepy pile of cats."
Farm Fact: Cats are the only animals that purr. Cats purr at about 26 cycles per second, the same frequency as an idling diesel engine.