Joe’s Cat Experiment (11/27/2020)

I hope you had a peaceful Thanksgiving and didn’t set off the smoke alarm while cooking the turkey. As I was cooking my turkey, I couldn’t help but remember the time when Joe Scatterscrew decided to conduct a scientific experiment that ended up with a charred object. In this Friday Footnote, we will learn about Joe’s Cat Experiment.

If you are a regular follower of the Friday Footnote you may remember that Joe Scatterscrew is a fictitious agriculture teacher who was created decades ago by E. V. Walton, a professor at Texas A&M. The Scatterscrew stories were used in teaching prospective agriculture teachers important lessons but in a humorous manner. I consider the following one of Walton’s best.

Joe Scatterscrew parked his pick-up on a hilltop ten miles east of Birdcraw and waited for dark to come so he could sneak back into town and on home.

He rubbed a hand across the worry lines in his forehead and tried a cigar to see if it would taste any better than the last one.

“I gonnies!”  he moaned.  “I don’t see how these things are always happening to me!  Dadburn it, there I was teaching along fine on selecting baby chicks for broiler production when this argument breaks out between Red Holt and Adolph Jackson!”

He puzzled over how it happened a little while but the details did not come clear.  Things happened so fast in that class.

“It seems like Red ast if a man ought not to git rid of cats before baby chicks is bought–and then Adolph Jackson claimed cats wouldn’t eat baby chicks if they was plenty of mice around–and then what happened-?”

There was so much confusion that broke out then.  Joe wrinkled his head again.  “Dadburn it!  I’ll just be scientific and analyze what did happen.  Now after that…well, I remember, but I don’t know how the discussion got off on it.  It was an argument came up about whether a cat sweats or not.  That came up when Aldoph Jackson said a cat couldn’t sweat and if a cat had a pick between eating baby chicks and chasing mice, it would eat chicks because it might get overhet chasing mice.  Yep!  That’s the way the discussion went!”

He groaned at the recollection of what followed and got out of the pick-up and threw some rocks at a telephone post.

“Then, dad blast and dad gum it!  Red Holt said he didn’t recollect ever seeing a cat sopping wet from sweat and Aldoph Jackson said he had.  And then the boys took sides and it got so interesting I got to wondering, did a cat sweat or not!”

Joe sat down on the running board and looked helplessly at the ground.  “I thought it was a fine opportunity to give the boys some practical stuff on research.  Scientific inquiry and all that.  So I proposed that Red and Adolph settle it by catching a cat and putting it in a shoe box and take it down to the boiler room and shove the cat box up close to the fire and see if a cat would sweat.  Along toward the end of the period that awful thing happent!  Old Mrs. Sourly came screaming into the ag room claiming that two of my ag boys had chased her blue ribbon award-winning Maltese cat and caught it, and what was I going to do about it!”

Joe shuddered.  It had been terrible!  It was bad that Dr. Sourly was president of the board and that Old Lady Sourly put such great store on cats.  Joe turned pale thinking about how scared he had been that some of the boys would spill the beans about the experiment.

As soon as he had sort of half-way pacified Mrs. Dr. Sourly and eased her out, he rushed down to the boiler room.  “Oh!” Joe moaned.  There them boys was with that cat’s box stuck right up close to the fire, the cardboard smoking!!

“Lordy!” he cried, thinking of the blackened charred object he found when he tore the box apart.  “Lordy Lord!  I wonder if old Roy Dugger or Doc Abrams got any jobs open!”

He tried to decide what to do.  The sun was sinking low in the west, but he knew Mrs. Sourly would be waiting and maybe the whole school board.

“I could sneak in and move out during the night.  Be long gone by morning.  A fine career shot to pieces by a burnt cat.  It all comes from listening to them smart alecs at that dadburn University.  Always talking about directed study and developing appreciation of research!  Class participation!  Bah and humbug twice!  I should of jist took them on a field trip or give a test.  Develop interest, my foot!  Look what turn it took!  Didn’t hardly get started on chickens!”

Joe got so mad he jumped up and threw some more rocks, but he missed the phone pole.

Back at the school, the janitor looked curiously at the charred loaf of bread in the boiler room.  “I wonder how come them ag boys always doing crazy things.  I saw them boys turn a cat loose right after they caught it and rush down here and burn this loaf of bread up on a wire coat hanger and then put it in this burnt box.”

He swept the box and charred bread up.

“I reckon it’s some sort of scientific experiment!”