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Wild Cats

Wild Cats

Hello and good day!

Our family has two outdoor cats. They are brothers from the same litter. One is black and one is grey calico. Both have all white paws. We bought them from a neighbor who owns a farm up the street from our house. I was against having pets, but my wife and kids wore me down and won the day.

A few years back, we started raising hens and their feed was attracting rats and mice. What sold me on the cats was that they could hunt varmints in the night, and this would reduce the chance of shrews or rats coming into our house.

My condition on the cats was that they had to stay outdoors. I'm finnicky about keeping a neat and clean home and I felt that cats would complicate the upkeep.

The kittens stayed in a kennel in our foyer for a couple of weeks and then, while they were still little, we put them out in a cat house we built for them. They've been living outside happily for the last five years and I've grown quite fond of them.

They are big and strong and fast and healthy and affectionate, and they are tremendous hunters. I've learned something watching them interact with other animals.

They aren't fighters. I hear them growling and I see them puffing up from time to time, but they rarely bare their claws and start tussling. We have tons of racoons around here and on many occasions, I've seen the cats sitting on our back porch peacefully with racoons.

When there is a big old dominant racoon, they sense it from a mile away and get out of there well in advance. But when it is a smaller racoon who isn't likely to stir up any trouble, they sense that too, and aren't afraid to hang around and interact.

Other cats who come through our yard are usually treated as friendly visitors, not run off like enemies. It is fascinating to watch, because I've never seen cats act in that way. I figure it's because they are out there all the time, and they don't have a house to retreat into.  As a result, they've learned to keep the peace.

When me and my brother were kids, we roamed with great freedom. I don't see kids roaming very much anymore. Maybe it's a generational thing.

Our parents worked long hours. They were entrepreneurs with organizations to run. We had a good amount of quality time with them, but we were also left alone to do as we pleased quite often. Most of the time, we were out and about with friends, exploring our neighborhoods, having adventures.

We ran into our fair share of dominant and friendly racoons. Wild cats that we were, we learned to sense danger well in advance and escape it early. We could also tell when somebody rough around the edges wasn't actually a threat.

The result was an eclectic collection of friends from all different walks of life.

Flash cut to the first time I ever visited the jungle where we buy cacao. My brother had recently moved out to Puerto Ciruelo. Puerto Ciruelo is a small port town on the Chinchipe River. Back behind Puerto Ciruelo there is a big canyon surrounded by tall, jagged mountains. The canyon houses roughly 80 farming villages that are connected by a labyrinth of shoddy, twisty roads.

On this trip, we had invited two chocolate industry professionals. We were looking for advice. Brian had built our first processing facility and had processed a small harvest of cacao.

But we weren't exactly sure what to do with our lovely cacao now that we had it. Imagine that. Close to a hundred thousand dollars invested in cacao and we didn't know how to make chocolate or who we might sell it to.

Wild cats.

Anyhow, one of the fellows was from Switzerland and the other was from Las Vegas. The Swiss gentleman was key in introducing us to the Swiss chocolate maker, Max Felchlin AG, who has been making chocolate for us for the last 13 years.

On this trip, it was blazing hot in the jungle, as it always is. The itinerary had been packed with visiting cacao farms and these men hadn't showered in a couple of days.

They wanted to wash up, but the town's public water was shut off, as it frequently is. Brian suggested they bathe in the river. He gave them soap and shampoo.

"Adam will take you," said Brian. He wanted to stay and catch up on office work. I hadn't been in Puerto Ciruelo but a day and I had never been down to the river, but I'm used to going on an adventure.

"Sure thing, come on guys," I said. The three of us walked to the end of the paved city road and onto a dirt path. On one side of us was the river, and on the other side was the canyon, bright green with jungle agriculture. Right along either side of the dirt trail were humble adobe houses in varying stages of disrepair.

Three white men walking down this path was a first-class spectacle. People were coming out of their houses to watch us walk by. I could sense that the two men were getting nervous under the stare of strangers.

For my part, I was chatting up every person we saw.   "Hola." "Que tal?" "Come estas?" "Mucho gusto."

When I greeted the town folks, they smiled and waved back. When we came to a clearing that led down to the river, the Swiss visitor grabbed my arm and asked me a question.

"Have you been here before? You seem so comfortable," he said. "First day ever in this town," I said. "You're acting like you own the place," he said. "People are very friendly here. You can see that. Just treat it as if you were back home," I said.

He thought about that and nodded, and we walked down to the river to bathe. In the river, we dipped our bodies down to wet them, then stood up to lather ourselves, then dipped back down to rinse. Folks stood on the shore and watched the three gringos washing up.

Neighborhood kids came running in to swim. In the water they circled us to get a closer look. When we were done, we came out of the river in our underwear. We didn't have towels, so we stood there drying in the sun while people laughed and pointed.

Over the years, I've sometimes wondered if my parents maybe gave us too much freedom. I can't change the past, so it is an idle thought, and I don't think about it very much anymore.

However, I know with absolute certainty that roaming and having adventures and interacting with all kinds of different people gave us the skills we needed to do business in a foreign country. It has also given us the skills we need to operate our retail shops.

You might not want to be as feral as we were growing up, but there is value in embracing your inner wild cat from time to time.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!