Cat’s role is ‘mews’ for class writings


Barney purrs when he sleeps. I’m not kidding. I once put my ear to his chest when he was sleeping and he was purring. Thinking that he might be sensing my approach, I sneaked up on him a couple of times when he was curled up, and it never failed—he was purring. Ginnie says it’s the sign of a contented cat. I say he’s a purr baby.
Barney showed up one Sunday morning when I was doing chores. He was skinny, yowling, and obviously hungry. Since I was in the hen house (this was before a mink killed all of our hens), I grabbed a fresh egg, cracked it for Barney, and he has been with us ever since. Purrfect.
I rushed into the house to tell Ginnie. She was on the treadmill, and I told her, above the noise of the treadmill and the rock-and-roll music she was walking to, “We have a barn cat! We’ll name him Barney!”
Ginnie was pleased because she secretly wanted a cat, but didn’t think I was a cat person—dog, cow, chicken—yes. But not a cat. Cats are too feminine, she thought. On the way to church, we stopped by the barn to see Barney. He greeted us with snuggles, cuddles and instant purrs.
Of course, Barney wormed his way into the house. His typical routine now is sleeping in the house during the day, then carousing outside at night. He also became my chore cat—following me around while I chored—even in sub-zero weather with a foot of snow on the ground. Blossom and Barney are buddies—it’s a scream—a 1,200 pound (pregnant?) heifer following a four pound cat.
He’s an expert hunter, too. Several times I’ve looked out the window to see him stalking a critter in the yard grass. He’s left some of his finds on our doorstep—his thank you for the care we’ve given him. True to his name, he has exterminated the mice and rodents from the barn and garage—very valuable.
I ran across a book, “A Cat” by Leonard Michaels. In it Michaels emphatically states, “If a person hates cats, that person can’t be a writer.” That might be a bit of an over-statement. However, Barney may indeed be a muse (Goddess inspiring a poet, artist or thinker), because, since his appearance, and his napping beside my desk, my writing has improved—as verified by the number and quality of comments I get.
Also, Barney the Barn Cat might have inspired my entire creative writing class. I teach a creative writing group every winter in our house. While Barney naps on the couch, we critique each others’ writing, fantasize, and offer up suggestions. I’m pleased to say, every one of the six students (I limit the class to six) have, without a doubt, written their hearts out. I’m so pleased. There has been some outstanding writing produced by this group. Ginnie thinks it’s because of the decadent desserts she made for us each Saturday. I say it’s Barney.
And that’s Muse, not mews, although Barney does plenty of that—complains a lot. “Where’s my food?” “Do I want in or out?” “Can’t you people be quiet? How’s a cat to sleep with that vacuum running?” Complain, complain, complain.
But when I put my ear to his soft, warm chest, while he’s sleeping, Barney the Barn Cat is purring. Purrific.

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at or visit his website at

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