After moving in we kept hearing a cat meow, especially early in the mornings. I thought that it must be coming from just outside our bedroom window. The lady who lived here prior to us was missing her cat.
Even when I went out into the back yard and around to our bedroom no cat could be found. We, so to speak, looked “from stem to stern,” but no cat. We finally come to the conclusion that the cat was somewhere within the walls of our house. Our concern was twofold: we felt sorry for the cat and also did not want it to die inside the wall of the house. Neighbors came to our rescue by obtaining a wire cage which had a spring door to entrap an animal that entered it. Food was placed in the cage and then set behind the washer and dryer.
THERE WAS an opening in the wall behind the bathtub and shower. The cat had evidently got into the wall through that opening. One night after setting the entrapment we heard a commotion during the early morning hours. Sure enough the cat was caught in the cage after having been in the wall of the house for six or more weeks. How it lived for that long therein I don’t know, but must have found something to eat therein. The cat was reunited with its owner.
The phrase: “from stem to stern” is derived from the fact the front of a ship is called the stem; and the rear of it is the stern. From stem to stern has reference to the entire ship. The expression means to have a thorough and complete search. That was what we were attempting to do in looking for the cat.
Dub Mowery is a Gospel preacher in the Church of Christ. A native of Southeast Oklahoma, he is the author of Colloquial Sayings & Expressions (Morris Publishing, 2008)