It is a typical, no frills, no character, 1950s, ranch “style” house, perched on a bump flanked to the northwest by alfalfa fields, expansive doorways opening up into inhospitable, rocky, cave pocked, desert foothills.
Under the house is a crawlspace that runs the entire length of the house, divided halfway by a “basement” of sorts, where the hot water heater, furnace and electrical boxes reside. The space itself isn’t large, maybe 10′ by 10′, but it’s deep, probably 8′ down some stairs that are accessed by a trapdoor which is located in a bedroom closet. Open the hatch, turn on the light, step down two steps to a small, wooden platform. Standing on this solid platform, one can look left, towards the small, open, outside entrance to the crawlspace….the gateway all 5,000 feral cats used to come in out of the weather, whatever it may be. From the basement steps to this outside opening, there might be 100′ feet of dirt, filled with a man-made spider web of criss-crossed air ducts, floor joists and supports, wiring, and, at times………..cats, especially momma cats and their kittens. (Yes, I know…..spay and neuter, but I was one person vs. 800 female cats. I did what I could.) Turning right, there are five steps off the platform to the basement floor. The crawlspace proper continues on to the other end of the house, low, cramped, dark and dusty. Cat heaven…protected from the elements and predators……..almost.
Knitting as furiously as the demented Madame Defarge, I was at first unaware of the commotion taking place in the crawlspace. When I did surface from my yarn induced hypnosis, I realized the racket directly below my feet rivaled the noise made by a mountain rock slide. Getting on my knees and pressing my face to the air ducts in the living room floor, I began screaming as loudly as possible, “DAMN CATS, SETTLE THE **** DOWN!” Silence….for about five seconds. Then, with renewed fury, the yowling, howling, thumping, banging, scratching, hissing and ripping (the air ducts!) began anew. This time, the uproar tumbled from one end of the crawlspace to the other. I further added to this manic commotion by snatching up a broom and following the raging, underground river of chaos, banging with the broom handle and jumping up and down on the floor at various intervals, hoping that the din I was making would put unbridled fear in their kitty hearts and bring all the pandemonium to a halt. It worked! Just for good measure, I walked the length of the house a couple of more times, intermittently thumping the floor with the broom handle and yelling down the vents. I waited, apprehensively, for a few minutes, praying that the toms who were causing the trouble were gone, or at least subdued into silence by my terrifying display of feline prowess!
Several more minutes passed with nary a peep from the subterranean cat house. I went back to my knitting, pleased I had handled that problem so effectively. Two days of peace followed, my knitting was progressing nicely, and then………….the kittens started mewling. (to be continued)