In other words,
the mouse had probably not been in the cat's stomach when the feline
was buried. That got them wondering if the cat remains were there
by accident or intent.
find is discussed in an archaeological report prepared for the Texas
Parks and Wildlife Department by an archaeological consulting firm
in 1996. The 202-page report is based on 12 years of investigation
at the ruins of the old fort, which is now a
state historic site overseen by the Texas Historical Commission.
Beginning in the 13th century and continuing into the early 20th
century, walling cats into buildings was a common practice in England
and certain other areas of Europe. Sometimes deceased cats went
between brick walls, sometimes they were bricked in under a floor
or put in the roof. The superstitious notion behind this was that
a buried cat would continue to scare off plague-bearing rodents.
Assuming a recent European émigré had a hand in the construction
of the officer's quarters, the Fort
McKavett cat could have been placed there as a scarecrow. Well,
Of course, most people understood that a live feline made a better
mouser than a dead one. And cats, according to a recent article
in the Wild West History Association Journal by San
Angelo writer Preston Lewis, were much more common along the
frontier than most people would have thought.
Cats generally were not brought West as pets, though some certainly
were. Most felines participated in the American westward movement
because they helped control rodents. Little known is that cats even
became livestock, with entrepreneurial types transporting them westward
with the intent of selling them at a considerable profit. Whether
hoax or real, some have even claimed that there were a few cat ranches
where felines were raised specifically to be sold as mousers.
Felines did what their instincts compelled them to do, and people
appreciated that, but cats will be cats. Screeching tomcats dodged
many a bootjack flung from a hotel window when their late night
serenades disturbed some slumbering Westerner.
As Lewis wrote: "Their praises unsung by anyone but themselves,
cats have roamed unseen in the dark corners of American frontiers
past. Texas, for example, may have been heaven on men and dogs and
hell on women and horses, but at least canines and equines earned
some visibility and credibility for their frontier roles in the
Lone Star State and elsewhere. Felines, however, still hide in the
shadows of the nation's western heritage. As long as they do, the
hiss-story of the Old West will stand incomplete."
No real mystery, but another interesting curiosity lies buried in
the 10-volume Papers of the Texas Revolution.
1973 collection of all known documents associated with Texas' struggle
for independence from Mexico shows that the early government of
Texas wanted an accounting of every penny of public money spent
by government employees.
The young republic's military, for instance, had to account for
every measure of powder expended.
In one such report, someone in charge noted that 189 measures had
been expended (as in fired) in connection with a group of soldiers
having misidentified another group as hostile. If one measure equals
one shot fired, that must have been a pretty noisy, smoky encounter.
No explanation of the incident is offered in the report and no mention
made of whether anyone was hurt in the flurry of accidental gunfire.
Unless the story made the newspapers, probably no one will ever
know why a group of soldiers from an army so recently victorious
at San Jacinto
could mistakenly fire 189 shots before figuring out the other individuals
weren't bad guys.
"Texas Tales" January