Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:

Tiger treat bottle


Last night I opened a bottle of cat treats and gave one to Tiger. Across the room, Zorro, who had appeared to be in a dead sleep on the couch, lifted his head and looked expectantly for a personal delivery.

Our cats are well-familiar with the sounds that a treat bottle makes. If you move a bottle, they hear it. They know what cap-removal sounds like and how the crunchy nuggets roll around inside the plastic container. However, I can pick up a bottle of vitamins from the same end table and neither cat will pay attention. And that’s good – I’d hate for them to be salivating every time I took a vitamin tablet.

Years ago, when Dave and I lived in a house about six blocks from where we are now, Sonny, our cat at the time, would greet Dave when he came home in his noisy old Land Cruiser. After we moved to our current house, Sonny ran away a few times, back to the old place. So we’d drive the Land Cruiser to the old house and Sonny would come running.

Like cats, we, too, become familiar with specific noises. There are many sounds that we love and know by heart, some even from childhood. And we carry those remembered sounds with us, like coins in a pocket.

The banging of the wooden screen door on my childhood home is something I can replay after all these years. I remember the loud click of the hallway light outside my bedroom door, and the thunder of my brother running down the wooden steps into the basement.

Certain sounds are embedded in our psyches. Every Christmas Eve, I relive the comforting sounds from my hometown church. I remember the low murmur of voices before the service, and how the chords from the organ filled the sanctuary. The chilly night air gave the organ a different tone than what it produced on a regular Sunday morning.

When we think of our five senses, sight usually seems like the most vital, the most urgent. Vision provides us with so much information so quickly. Our minds process and judge that information and that helps to keep us safe.

Sight is a fabulous thing; it offers us movement and color. However, it is sound that adds the music to our lives, whether it’s a song playing on the radio, summer cicadas, or the voice of a loved one.

A game of sound that I like to play is “name that actor.” When Dave is watching TV and I’m across the room in my reading chair where I can’t see the set, I’ll sometimes try to pick out the voices. I’ll ask Dave, “Is that Sandra Bullock?” Some voices are so familiar that it’s obvious, but with others I have to listen to for a moment to pull that person’s tone out of my memory file. Like fingerprints, we each have a unique voice.

I love silence, I really do. Silence is the place where I go to think, and where I can let go of thought. But I’m also fascinated with sound, unless it’s harsh and loud. So I’m not a big fan of fireworks. And I don’t care for barking dogs or loud music.

And ticking clocks, no thanks. One of my uncles made grandfather clocks and had a number of them in his house. When I’d visit that’s all I heard – the ticking. Each tick echoed like a loud metronome, measuring my life in seconds. Each tock shortened my life. That house made me antsy and I never stayed there very long.

The sound of a winter wind is different from the sound of other winds. In winter, wind seems to ride higher in the air; it makes a haunting sound as it gets tangled in the bony branches of trees. The winter wind rattles window panes, which have shrunk and loosened in the cold.

And now that it’s winter, we’ve all moved indoors. I don’t know about you, but during these cold months, my ears get a little lonely. Maybe I’ll take in a basketball game. Now that sounds great.

Copyright 2013 ~ Cheryl Unruh


  1. Thanks for a great article.

    Your column brought back a lot of sound memories from my past.

    The older we get, the more that our sight fades, the more important that sounds are to us.

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