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Peter A Yule

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Cramers Cat
By Peter A Yule
Wednesday, August 13, 2008

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An unlikely man, and a very different cat form close alliance following shared experience.

Cramer’s Cat

By Peter Alden Yule



Isaac Cramer was not the kind of a man one would expect to be owning a cat! The cat that he owned was not exactly what a person would think of when they thought of a cat! For all of the world, Cramer and his cat were a match made in heaven.


Cramer’s cat was very large by cat standards, with a thick fur coat, white, with large black spots on it. The cat while soft and gentle, at most times would, whenever it was teased, lower the back end of its body in the stance of a jungle animal, bare its teeth, and hiss in a most ferocious manner. Most often however the cat would remain docile, and well behaved and always, always within a few feet of Cramer. Had it been trained to be at his side, or had it come by this naturally is unknown, but for a fact, the cat was closer to Cramer than any dog could ever have been. The cat walked within a few feet of Cramer, sometimes prancing just ahead of him looking very much like a proud leader with an attitude, and at other moments would walk just a few feet behind. When Cramer stopped, the cat stopped, winding its body in and out between Cramer’s legs. When Cramer sat the cat sat, always facing the man, always watching, and always waiting.


Many times Cramer and his cat would stop by at Mr. Adams store, where Mrs. Adams would always find a small dish of milk, or occasionally a teaspoon of ice cream that she would set out for the animal. She would always take a few minutes to play with the kitty and to show it a measure of human kindness and perhaps a bit of understanding. Kitty was the only name ever given to the animal, very simple and very plain and known by everyone. Cramer’s cat was just plain Kitty. To any outsider, the only thing strange about Kitty and his relationship to Cramer would be the cat’s constant presence, and an apparent rare bond of deep friendship between the cat and man. To folks in town, it was much more. From the very start it was obvious that Cramer’s cat was a very special breed of animal not often seen in a lifetime.


Isaac Cramer was more than sixty years old, and had lived his whole life with his wife and sons and their wives and children, just out a way to the east side of town. Cramer’s father had been there before him. Cramer had two sons both big and strong as he himself had been just a few years ago. The Cramer family owned a small quarry, where stone was cut and hauled up from the earth and shipped out to many of the big cities around New England. Cramer’s granite blocks had been used in some of Boston’s biggest buildings and in private homes and public buildings as far-away as Newport Rhode Island. Cramer and his two boys along with two or three other men worked hard days and long hours cutting and pulling rock slabs from the earth. It was man’s work and it took a physical toll on each of them.


Just a short distance from the quarry, right out by the road was Cramer’s house. This was a very big, very old farmhouse that had been bumped out and added on to a dozen times in years past. As the family grew in size, so to did the house. The house had no distinctive features other than its size. It was the type of New England farmhouse that connected to barns and was expected to house the whole of a man’s family for generations to come. Nearby to the big house was a smaller two or three room house originally used to accommodate farmhands.


This small house became Cramer’s home just a few years ago. He and his wife had moved out of the big house just after his youngest son had married and moved in with his new wife. His oldest son and wife and their two sons were already living in the big house. It was a large and growing family and in a few short years the big house was filled up with both of the Cramer boys and their wives and children, and with new Cramer’s being born every year. The oldest boy Joseph and his wife Sara had two sons and a daughter, before the cat came along. His younger son Mark, and his wife Frances had one son and Frances was expecting a second child at any moment. The big house seemed to be just right for the Cramer’s. Oh it needed some repairs, but it had a good roof and was sound in its framing and well kept.


When Cramer and his wife lived in the big house, he had made some concessions to her by putting in running water and indoor plumbing, and by setting up a large heating stove in the massive kitchen. A single fireplace and the stove were the only sources of heat for the home. There were openings in the ceilings to allow heat to pass to the upper levels of the home. When fall came large amounts of firewood would be cut and stacked and a big tank of kerosene would be set up on legs in the adjacent barn to fuel the stove. From the barn each morning and each night a barrel of kerosene would be brought into the kitchen and tipped up in its stand to feed the stove. Yes chores were always waiting to get done in a house this size.


About the cat, oh yes, It was the end of winter, in late March I think, yes March. Isaac Cramer and his wife were about to become grandparents again. Frances, Mark’s wife was due to have her baby. All-day Cramer and the boys had been up at the quarry working, and when they came down they all went to the big house for supper that Sara had prepared. The whole family, Mr. and Mrs. and the boys and their families had gathered for the meal. After the meal, Cramer and his wife would normally go on home to the small house together, but this one night would be different. Just after eating dinner, Frances began to feel pains, and knew her time had come. She had been sitting with the family in the kitchen, playing with a box filled with kittens that had been born six weeks earlier.


The mother cat had climbed into the box and was crying for her young to join her, which they did, except for one. The white one with the black spots. It had found Cramer’s lap, and was not about to move. Cramer got up and put the kitten back in the box, and then put on his heavy coat before leaving for the night. Mrs. Cramer had decided to stay at the big house through the night to be with Frances. Mrs. Cramer gave her husband a kiss and urged him to go, promising to call him if he were needed. Cramer braced himself against the cold night wind and left the house, looking back for only a moment as he went. When he looked back, he noticed the small white kitten with the black spots, sitting in the window, watching him go. He smiled and made his way to the small house just a short distance away.


When he entered his home he stoked the fire in the fireplace, and settled down on the living-room couch, half waiting for a call to go back up to the big house, or to go and fetch the doctor. He felt the warmth of the fireplace and soon fell asleep, his stomach full from the large evening meal, and with the weight of a full days work heavy upon him. At the big house the children were put to bed, and Mrs. Cramer slept lightly in an old rocking chair by Frances’s bed, ready to comfort her when it was time. The big stove down in the kitchen had been set to provide extra heat through the night. Normally the stove would be turned off, and the heat from the fireplace would keep the house comfortable. The night passed slowly.


Just about daybreak, before sunrise, in the longest part of the night, that’s when it happened. I can still remember the sound of that day even now, years later. Cramer, still dressed from the night before, and still sleeping on the couch, awoke to the sound of the end of the world. A tremendous ear shattering blast, and a roar that would stop any man in his tracks. He pulled his coat closed tightly around him, and feared the worst, the sound having been so close by, and he then opened the door to his small house.


The sound was heard in every corner of our town and lights came on and lamps were lit everywhere. Men and boys raced from their homes to the source of the sound. When Mr. Cramer threw open the door he could not believe the sight. The old house with his whole family in it was gone from the face of the earth. Fires burned everywhere. At what was once the rear of the house they burned, and at the side by the place where barns had stood they burned. Even debris thrown up into the trees burned. It was gone, all gone. It would be days before anyone could be sure of what had caused this destruction. Instinctively Cramer raced toward the burning remains, but the intense heat drove him back. He stumbled to his knees, his hair singed from the fire, with embers falling on his heavy coat. Nothing, he thought could ever survive. He put his face in his hands and wept in total disbelief. Other men were quick to surround him, to hold him back, to console him.


Cramer looked down toward his feet and saw a small creature just barely moving on the ground beneath him. Its hair was burned, one ear torn, and bleeding, and he quickly picked it up. It was the kitten. White fur was gone now from one whole side, black spots turned gray with ash. The cat had found Cramer among all of the men now gathered in the yard. He grabbed it up and put it inside his coat asking over and over again what had happened. The cat, out of all of the chaos that once was his world, was all that he could help.


Days went by, and from the remains it was found that a leak in the fuel line for the big stove had allowed kerosene to fall onto the floor. It ran past the stove and down the hallway toward the barn. It flowed into the open barn and formed a puddle there, in a spot where Dynamite, several boxes of it, had been stored for use up at the quarry. A flash fire in the kitchen quickly filled the house with smoke from the burning linoleum floor. The fire spread to the barn in seconds and once there, the results were inevitable. A single blast with the whole family asleep, perhaps overcome by the smoke and it was done. The blast had leveled the burning home and it was thought that the small kitten may still have been sitting at the window watching for Cramer’s return when the blast occurred. It was thrown out of the window by the blast. Never in our town had there been such a tragedy. The news of this event reached across the entire New England region.


Friends and neighbors, with offers of help from all over poured in. A burial in a single grave of the remains of what had been a strong and proud family, and the tragedy ended. Through it all, Cramer had held onto, clung to and consoled the Kitty. He tended to its wounds and carefully nurtured it, and from that early time of shared loss, the two became inseparable. The cat never left his side or let him out of her sight. After the burial, spring came and summer right behind it. The quarry was closed. In June with the help from friends, Cramer hauled out a large piece of granite and carefully polished its face and soon had a lasting memorial in place in the graveyard to his family. The names of every family member had been carefully placed on the stone, and one space left open for the final family member to be inscribed. Cramer was alone, the last Cramer in town.


He began, everyday, rain or shine by taking a long quiet walk from his house through town and up to the gravesite, where he would sit for an hour on the wall looking at the stone. The cat, Cramer’s cat would make the trek with him. For months on end they repeated their walk to pay homage to their family.


One day in mid-September, Mrs. Adams came out of the store, asking if anyone had seen Cramer. How very odd she thought, Kitty had come over to the store alone. No sign of Mr. Cramer, how very odd. She went back into the store, and brought Kitty out and set him on the bottom step next to the road. The cat looked up at her and started to run up the road. Kitty stopped and looked back. Mrs. Adams was following, and Mr. Adams with her.


Up the road, past the school, past the church, they went. Kitty made a single leap to the top of the graveyard wall and sat waiting for the others to catch up. As they approached the wall the cat jumped down on the other side. Mr. Adams leaned over across the wall to pick Kitty up and saw there on the ground against the backside of the wall the crumpled and now lifeless body of Mr. Isaac Cramer. He had died the day before while visiting his family and the cat stayed with him through the night. The cat the next day went to the Adams for help, and brought them to her fallen master.


Cramer was laid to rest with the others of his family. Some folks say that he could never overcome his loss, and died of a broken heart.


Mrs. Adams adopted Kitty, and to this day, each and every afternoon the cat is allowed to run free. It always goes to the cemetery wall and sits for about an hour or so, and then goes on back to Mrs. Adams’ waiting arms. It was never renamed. In our town “Kitty” will always be Cramer’s cat.










Peter Alden Yule

The Old Yankee Storyteller

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