The old farmhouse was torn down a couple weeks ago, and I couldn’t help thinking about the story of “The Three Little Pigs” and how easily B. B. Wolf destroyed their little houses of straw and sticks. This particular little house stood for around a century and wasn’t so easily gotten rid of.
Apparently part of the Miller homestead, it sheltered a variety of families, including my own for over half a year while we were building the new house we’ve lived in since the winter of 1971. A neighbor, Paul Miller, once told me that his brother Bill was born in that house, which is why I assume it was originally part of the Miller farm. He also told me that the barn, which was taken down several years ago, was built of native timber and stone quarried right here on the farm. The timber, probably oak, as there seems to be an abundance of hardwoods such as oak, walnut and hickory, provided those heavy, rough-hewn timbers that framed the barn and other buildings. Those older buildings were notched and pegged and nearly indestructible. The barn would probably still be standing if part of the stone foundation hadn’t been removed, causing it to sag alarmingly on one corner. Even then, the wooden parts of the structure were so strong that they had to be weakened with a chainsaw before they could be pulled down.
Long-time area residents will remember John Dohrer who farmed here for about thirty years before selling the farm and moving to Solon in the early 1970s. We moved into the old farm house right after school was over in the spring of 1971, and set about getting a new house built, as the old farmhouse was just a bit small for our three growing boys and lively little girl, plus a large, rambunctious golden retriever. Just before Halloween that first fall, our sons gathered up some corn stalks and a couple of pumpkins and made a holiday decoration in the front yard. Since we were at the end of a dead end road, about the only people to see their handiwork (other than ourselves) were the kids and driver on the school bus. I remarked that it was too bad we didn’t have a black cat to complete the tableau. No one could have been more surprised than I was the next morning when I found a fine black cat posing like the Sphinx on our little front porch. I resolved to be very careful when it came to making idle wishes. Blackie marched right into the house and made himself at home. From time to time, he disappeared for anywhere between two or three days to a couple weeks or more. He never returned hungry and battered as I would have expected of most roving tomcats, but came home sleek, happy, healthy and apparently well-fed and probably petted and pampered. I assumed that he had at least one other home where someone fed him and was most likely glad to see him– and worried when he was gone for long periods of time.
Blackie moved into the new house with us during the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, where he established his own house rules. First of all, we found that he was not interested in a litter box. He much preferred to go outdoors, preferring to be let out through the sliding glass door onto the deck where he could easily climb up and down the wooden posts, or sit in a sheltered sunny spot and count the birds, or whatever it is that cats do to occupy their leisure time. Once, he stood meowing to be let in when I was in the middle of preparing a meal and I absentmindedly slid the door open to let him in without really looking at him. It wasn’t until the dog nearly knocked me over, that I looked down and realized that Blackie had smuggled in a full grown rabbit (he had to have climbed the post carrying the rabbit which was at least as big as he was).
Blackie and our dog quickly became good friends and would often wrestle playfully, take turns chasing each other, or curl up and nap together (if they could sneak onto the couch without my noticing). Blackie didn’t like any of the cat foods that I bought for him and seemed to prefer to share Purina Dog Chow with the dog. I always thought he supplemented his diet with delicacies he found during his nighttime forays. Severely cold winter weather didn’t seem to bother him, as he grew an extra thick, glossy coat each winter, and would still be gone for long periods of time even in January. One cold morning, he appeared on the deck after a lengthy absence. I let him in and reached down to pet him– and knocked off the tip of his ear which had frozen solid. He forgave me.