SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. -- Visitors to Philipsburg Manor often delight at the turning of the water wheel at the gristmill, the crackling of the fire at a cooking demonstration, and the opportunity to touch reproduction objects in the manor house.
But it's two four-legged prowlers who almost always manage to capture the attention of visitors - the manor's cats, Fred and Ginger. And although Fred and Ginger are friendly, they aren't at the manor to be petted and become friends, instead they have a job to do – acting as the manor's security guards of the grain barns -- on the look out for mice and other small critters.
“Oh, so they’re your security guards,” observed a young girl recently as a tour guide told a group of elementary school students about the cats’ role in mouse population control.
Fred and Ginger, brother and sister, have been living at Philipsburg Manor since the summer of 2010, having arrived here when they were just a few months old. They were very shy at first and were not seen by staff for many months. The only evidence of their presence was empty food bowls in the barn each morning.
Slowly, the cats made their presence more visibly known, and eventually warmed up to the site staff. While they are now quite friendly, they are not looking for attention from visitors - they are on the job. Fred and Ginger first lived in the barn while Moses, the long-tenured mill cat, kept the gristmill pest-free. After Moses died in 2013, Ginger moved over to spend her nights in the mill.
These ferocious rodent hunters are indispensable to the manor’s operations. Without them the gristmill’s giant millstones would have precious little grain to grind.