Western Art

The Mouser

An illustration of a cat sitting on a saddle looking down at two mice.

I would bet that about every ranch I’ve been on has felines slinkin’ the barns. The old cattlemen I grew up around called them “mousers,” among other names, when they’d get in the cab of the truck or hack up a vittle on the front steps as a way of saying “good trade for rent.” My personal favorite signature of a good barn cat is admiring their muddy footprints sliding down the center of the pickup windshield.

A cowboss I worked for kept several around headquarters, and when we would get back from work to unload horses, he would address each of them individually, almost like royalty.

“Good day, Sir Tater Tot III, how has your afternoon been?” and “Taking in the sun, Harriet?” he’d ask, knowing that it’s not all lazy days in the sunshine and easy pickins. Clearly, Sir Tater Tot I and II paid that price, and Harriet knows better than to wander too far.

I’ve been through my fair share as well — Whizzy, Pip, Geronimo, Buddy and Tom, to name a few. Some a little kid could grab and pick up by the tail with no retaliation, and others were better if you didn’t make eye contact or just plain acted like you didn’t know them.

I spent a few winters managing a place up north, and Sammy came with the saddle house. The saddles hung on the back wall of the barn, and Sam would melt into one of the saddles to remain comfy while still minding his territory.

I never saw a single mouse in that barn, but the packrats were sure horrible.

This article was originally published in the May 2023 issue of Western Horseman.

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