No, I’m not talking about a time of day. I’m talking about our cat. Midnight has been our pet for over 15 years, almost the entire time we’ve lived in Téra. While we’ve had other cats, Midnight is the only one that has survived all this time, including three home assignments, when we were gone over a year each time.

We got Midnight about three months after we moved to Téra in 1992. Nancy had taken the kids and gone to see some women as she studied the Songhai language. While visiting at one home, the kids noticed a cat with kittens. Daniel pleaded with mommy for one of the kittens, and the rest is history.

Midnight is quite an attraction in Téra. She is older than half of the people in this country. Every so often, children come into the yard, and one will say to the other with some awe, “That cat is older than you are!” Also, Midnight is the only cat in Téra we know that has been fixed. After having three litters (we once watched some being born), we decided to have her spayed. This was the source of endless curiosity among the Songhai people. They came to see “the cat who had the operation,” laughing at the crazy white people who do such weird things.

Midnight has never been a terribly affectionate cat. She would almost never sit in anyone’s lap or purr. She is quick to hiss at you if you invade her private space. Her idea of affection is to jump up on the couch next to you and fall asleep right there. Daniel was the only one who could pet her and get her to purr.

Midnight once fell down the latrine. We were getting ready to go to Niamey and couldn’t find her, but we heard plaintive cries coming from the direction of that foul hole in the ground. With a flashlight we could see her down at the bottom looking up at her would-be saviors. We solved the problem of getting her out by putting a long log down into the latrine, and she climbed up it. Last year as we were getting ready to go to Niamey for our annual field conference, Midnight was very sick. We thought she was going to die, so we tearfully bade our good-byes to her. When we got back two weeks later, there was Midnight welcoming us, alive as could be. We were all very happy to see her.

Midnight is now an old lady. She has only one tooth left and isn’t quite as active as she used to be, but she still catches mice, and her vision is impeccable. She sneezes a lot and can't tolerate milk. She is much more affectionate that she used to be and she loves to curl up on the couch next to one of us, especially in the cooler weather at this time of the year. She even purrs. She has been a special pet for our kids, and when the time comes, it will be hard to say good-bye to her.

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