Home | Valente and DiRenzo Family History - From Our Correspondent in Geneva - Snakes and Cats in Gambatesa
A Cat's Life in Gambatesa
This is one of my Valente grandmother's cats. There were and still are many cats in Gambatesa. More or less everybody in Gambatesa had cats. And all the cats in Gambatesa were named Titscia, or Titscio for a tomcat, but in dialect the final vowels are not pronounced.
Where there are cats there are no snakes, and that is maybe why cats were so important in Gambatesa. Cats and snakes do not like each other. The snakes can smell cats, and they go away, because cats eat snakes.
There are two kinds of snakes in Gambatesa. The black water snake, called couleuvre ("grass-snake") in French, has a round not a triangular head. It eats frogs and is harmless to human beings. The other snake is the viper.
Vipers can be quite dangerous on the farm. In the past people were killed by vipers. Today their bite will not kill an adult, at least not for six hours if the person remains calm and anti-venom serum is given. Vipers are black, maybe about one yard long. Unlike other snakes, they do not run away when they sense the vibration of people walking on the ground. So it is possible to step on a viper, and when you step on a viper it bites you.
When walking in the country around Gambatesa I always carry a big bastone ("wooden stick") with me, and I always look at the ground as if there were land mines in it.
My grandmother has six cats. They feed themselves by hunting; they are thin, not fat like the cats in Geneva. Sometimes the cats bring snakes home.
Photograph by Angelo Abiuso (Geneva), August 2003.
- A Cat's Lunch in Gambatesa, as well as cats as weather forecasters.
- Gambatesa - Wheat Threshing: the storage of harvested grain and rats is another reason why cats were so important in Gambatesa.
- Old Doorway in Gambatesa: mice and rats in the villagers' houses is another reason why cats were important in Gambatesa (They even had a special "doorway"). Stories are also told about people trying to abandon cats by "losing" them or getting the cats lost.
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Last revised: 20 February 2005 : 2005-02-20 by Robert [Wesley] Angelo
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