It’s back down on the farm again awakening to the sounds of a new day. The crow of a rooster, actually many roosters of varying varieties, from down near the hen-house were relentless. One awakening was somewhat more alarming than usual… the screeching and snarling of cats, many of them. Followed shortly thereafter by loud thumps of footsteps coming in the front door, sounds from off the porch downstairs. The deep voice of my grandfather, “The kit bag, where’s my kit bag” he growled?
The Kit Bag term came back to me in a different form many years later. I lived with it in a career far removed from my younger days, when I spent my summer vacations on my Grandparents farm in Indiana. “Where’s my kit bag” became a common question heard almost daily while in pursuit of my occupation? This later kit bag reference involved a black leather bag that airline pilots used to store the myriad of things necessary to get an airplane, say… from Chicago to London. No small task that. Physically, it was about the size of a small desktop computer. It had two flaps on top that overlapped and snuggled around a leather grip handle. It was usually enhanced with lockable hinges.
This kit bag problem was exacerbated by the total number of them stored in one room at my Chicago crew base. For example: There were twelve thousand pilots at my airline when I retired, and hundreds upon hundreds of them, at any one location and perhaps a couple thousand at a few. They spanned the country, from Seattle to Miami, from New York to Los Angeles and from Chicago to Dallas. If you misplaced your kit bag you were dead in the water. Consequently, we found ways to mark them so they could be spotted more easily. I never saw two kit bags that looked alike. You just couldn’t put pictures of naked ladies on the outside of them. A good number of them, I’m fairly certain, kept pictures inside. I flew with a co-pilot once whose nick name was smut. He always had a selection he liked to share.
Back on the farm and my Grandfathers tah-do with his kit bag. After a little while, the snarling of cats began again, only this time it was a much bigger production. The banging and screeching lasted for what seemed to be a very long time. I didn’t then have a watch and couldn’t yet tell time anyhow. After a little while I ventured downstairs to investigate the commotion. I spotted my Grandpa about halfway across a field, heading for the White River Bridges. Grandpa had a burlap bag slung over his shoulder, and of course I had to ask, and to this day wished I hadn’t. He is taking the cats for a swim I was told.
It didn’t occur to me then, but when I figured it out later, it haunted me for a few years. It prompted a series of bad dreams that involved my being placed in a bag with a few rocks and then slung into a river.
In those days, in rural areas, feral cats were a problem. They were in favor during the winter to deal with the field mice that sought the warmth of the house, and specifically, the warmth of the pantry. About the growing numbers and their popularity in the summer, well, not so much?