Verdun, 1964: Snowflake the Military cat, by guest blogger Donn Taylor
Snowflake: Playing Cats As Cats Can By Donn Taylor
We’d been stationed in Verdun, France, for about four months when we inherited a white tomcat named Snowflake. I say “inherited” because he’d belonged to my boss’s family (or vice versa), and they were rotating back to the States. They’d inherited him from a family that rotated a year or so before them. In their turn, they took their furniture with them, but not their cat.
So Mildred and I, with our three and soon-to-be-four children, inherited the duty. Snowflake knew exactly what he wanted and when he wanted it. When he wanted to go out, he’d go to the door and stand. If we didn’t respond, he’d give a discreet “Meow” to remind us. His vocabulary was not large, but his infinite variations in tone expressed his infinite variety of moods.
One night he’d been asleep and we forgot to put him out for the night. We were just dozing off when this ball of white fur landed in the middle of our bed with a horrendous yowl. Needless to say, we arose and obeyed his command. Each morning when he was ready to come back in, he’d be perched in the kitchen window waiting for one of his servants to show up. When we went on leave, he politely showed up in our next-door neighbor’s kitchen window.
He also had a habit of disappearing for two or three days. Then he’d return, looking like he’d been run through a blender. Once when we’d been gone for several days, we returned to find all in good order except that Snowflake was nowhere to be found. We asked our French maid where he was, and she replied with a single word: “l’amour.” Next day he reappeared in the kitchen window and all was normal again.
We’d read about and enjoyed the cat in Robert Heinlein’s sci-fi novel The Door into Summer. On the first snow of the year, Heinlein’s cat would not go outside until he’d seen that snow lay outside every door of the house and that no door opened into summer. When snow came to us in Verdun that year, Snowflake followed that example. We don’t know if he’d read Heinlein’s book, but he did refuse to go out until he’d proved that every door opened onto snow. So we resurrected that book and enjoyed it again.
When our furniture was shipped for our return to the States, we handed Snowflake over to a neighbor and moved into temporary quarters. On our final day, the neighbor reported that Snowflake had left and taken up residence in a nearby French village. We never doubted what had happened: that intelligent cat had quit wasting his time on short-lived American servants who disappeared every two years.
So he’d employed new servants among the French, who apparently had longer life spans than the Americans. We never saw Snowflake again, but fifty years later he still holds a special place in our family memories.
Here’s an Amazon link for Donn’s new book: Lightning on a Quiet Night
Lightning on a Quiet Night
by Donn Taylor
released November 3, 2014,
Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.
Publishers Weekly’s review comment on the novel: “Taylor’s powerful historical romance is filled with passion and heart, spiced with mystery and a keen understanding of the human condition.”
In the years following World War II, a town too proud of its own virtues has to deal with its first murder. Despite the implications of this crime, the town of Beneficent, MS, population 479, tries desperately to hold onto its vain self-image. The young veteran Jack Davis holds that idyllic vision of the town and tries to share it with Lisa Kemper, newly arrived from Indiana. But she is repelled by everything in town. While the sheriff tries to find the murderer, Jack and Lisa’s contentious courtship reveals the town’s strange combination of astute perceptions and surprising blind spots. Then they stumble onto shocking discoveries about the true nature of the town. But where will these discoveries lead? To repentance? Or to denial and continuation in vanity?
About the author: Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he completed a PhD degree at The University of Texas and taught English literature at two liberal arts colleges. His published works include three suspense novels and a book of poetry. He is a frequent speaker at writers’ conferences. He lives near Houston, TX, where he writes fiction, poetry, and essays on current topics.”
There is much truth to the saying “a dig has a master, a cat has a staff!” I love my feline friends, so accept the servitude. Happy to finally see a picture of Mr. Snowflake!
Thank you, Beth. He was “the cat’s whiskers,” but also the whole cat.
I love the story about “Snowflake the Military Cat!” Donn Taylor you should write a book on Snowflake! I enjoyed hearing the same story from Mildred! Makes me smile!! Thank you for sharing!!! Much Love, Fonda
Thank you, Fonda. More story? Only about two paragraphs I had to cut to meet the site’s word limit.
What a lovely memory! We too once served an all white cat–albeit ours was female. My children named her Mimsy after they discovered her in the neighbor’s new litter of kittens. I did not give permission for her to live with us. Unbeknownst to me, my youngest daughter smuggled Mimsy home inside a jacket. Don’t know how long they thought they could hide her. She protested quite loudly at first. But once I saw the drenched creature, there was no going back. They snatched her before she was weaned, so she had an odd habit of sucking on your neck if held on your shoulder. She continued that into adulthood, which we deduced must be neurosis. We forgave her for not being perfect since she was so beautiful. Fun story, Donn. Something else we have in common.
Thank you for adding your cat story, Catherine. It’s a good one.
Wonderful story. Their little minds are busy all the time. I love the picture of Snowflake, and especially the one of the good-lookin’ couple. Thanks for the heads-up!
Thanks for weighing in, Margo, and especially for the compliment on the photo of Mildred. Her beauty is perfected in heaven.
Thank you, Roxanne, for hosting Donn’s Snowflake story. We have two spayed feral cats on our farm, and they are true scaredy cats.
Donn, how handsome and beautiful you and Mildred are in this photo! Thanks for sharing. I’m reading Lightening now, but I’m portioning it out since I’m trying to meet a writing “finish line.”
Thank you, Cathy. Glad you’re enjoying “Lightning.” Best of luck . . .uh . . .Providence . . . on your crossing the finish line.
I agree with Cathy–how handsome and dashing you were in your uniform, and Mildred was sooo beautiful! The photo of you two has the makings for inspiring a wonderful romance novel!
And I loved your story about Snowflake, too. Thanks so much for visiting the blog, Donn.
Thank you, Roxanne, for giving me time and space on your blog. Mildred always wanted to write the Snowflake story, and I finally got around to it for her. Thanks also for the compliment. It was–and is still–a wonderful romance.
Donn, I’m allergic to felines (and dogs), but I enjoy reading about them. I’ve never seen a cat that did not own its humans and premises. Love the picture of you and Mildred!
Thank you, Peggy, for dropping in and especially for the compliment. You’re most gracious.
I loved this, Donn! And the photo of you and Mildred, oh my! She was gorgeous in that picture. And you look so very much in love. 🙂
Thank you, Ane. I am still very much in love. Blessings for you and yours.
What an impact in white fur! Looks like you had the CO living with you. And I agree with Ane, wonderful pic of you and your sweetheart!
Thank you, Cathy. If I’d had space, I’d have told how gentle Snowflake was with our children and what a terror he was to other cats.
As a devoted “CatMom” I loved this story! 🙂
Snowflake looks like a beautiful and wise kitty, and I’m sure he enjoyed his adventures living with Americans. No doubt he eventually wrote his own memoirs, LOL.
Thank you for sharing this, and also thank you for serving our country.
Blessings, Patti Jo
Thank you, Patti Jo. May you find felicitous felines!