Sunday, February 22, 2009

Stray Cats Aren't So Bad

Written by Hughze February 22, 2009.

I stood by my back door watching the horde of cats that had accumulated (thanks to friends and two large litters of kittens) around my small rural home in the sticks of eastern Montana. I had just fed them there daily ration of cat chow and filled their water tray. Normally, when I lived in town, I never would of kept so many cats but out here in the country the mice would overrun the house and the out buildings over a short time. Just one or two cats would not be able to keep the armies of rodents in check. As I watched from inside the door, the cat I had been waiting to see appeared. A white cat with gray ears and tail and one splotch of gray in the middle of his back about the size of a man's fist, he made his way up from the small barn and past the the patch of grass where I used to keep a garden. He worked his way through the dining cats to the dish where a tabby was eating and began taking in his fill for the day. He was a stray.

I had noticed him a couple of weeks ago when he appeared during feeding. "Great! Another cat to feed. That's all I need," I said. After all, ten cats on five acres with a house, a barn, and one little garden shed was more than enough to keep the mice busy not to mention the feed to keep them from straying to the neighbors in search of sustenance was a little hard on the bank account already. I didn't need another mouth to feed. I called the local animal control unit.

"We'll be right out," said a woman named Sammy. She was right. Less than a half hour later, a SUV and a pickup truck pulled into my drive. Four men and a woman emerged from the outfits carrying nets, cages, and tranquilizer guns.

The foremost on my mind as I stepped out to greet them was, "How much is this going to cost me?"

After all the formalities, the men being John, Paul, George, Mike, and the lady being, of course, Sammy, I asked, "Why so many of you for one cat?"

"Just in case things go bad and we have to chase him down", John, who seemed to be the leader, said.

Next came the secondary formalities. The showing of the weapons. The men gave long winded descriptions of the tranquilizer guns, their munitions, and their effects. All I could see was queer looking air guns that shoot colorful darts instead of B.B.'s.

Finally the hunt was on. I directed them to the napping cats spread out in groups of two or more near my back door where I had fed them that morning. Luck was with us. He had curled up with a couple of other cats and they were enjoying a little sun not to far away from the house. John carefully snuck into a position where he could get a clear shot, aimed and fired.

To this day I'm not sure exactly what happened. Maybe it was the noise the dart gun made. Maybe it was that all the sudden, the tabby that jumped, woke from a bad dream; but she jumped right in the trajectory of the dart meant for the white and gray tom that slept beside her. She gave a short howl that alerted all the other cats.

Remember those war movies where there was this nice green battlefield and on one side of the field you had the army dressed in silk shirts covered with chain mail and polished steel shields. On the other side of the field there was the furry barbarian army with wooden shields and spears screaming the battle cry, "Weet goot yoot mit der SPOOooon!" Well, this is what happened next. The furry, barbarian cats jumped and scattered while volleys of colorful arrows rained down amongst them. Their fearless leader, the large albino with the gray shield slung across his back, drew the fire of the enemy archers and took to the tall weeds down by the barn. I suspect this is what John meant 'In case things go bad.' The chase was on.

The six of us hurried to surround the patch of weeds, cutting off all avenues of escape. "I'll see if I can shake him out", Sammy said and entered the weed patch. She had taken no more than two steps when somewhere in the middle of the patch, the weeds started moving and thrashing violently. What ever was causing the movement was heading in Mike and Paul's direction.

Now I remember my hunter safety days back when I was eleven or twelve years old. I can distinctly remember the rule that specifically states 'Be sure of your target and of the beyond'. Mike and Paul both raised their tranquilizer guns and fired into the evil onslaught of moving weeds racing in their direction. Both darts hit something that yipped. It wasn't the type of yip you'd hear from a cat. I remembered just then that Spike, my Irish setter, was out here somewhere.

I couldn't understand why Spike had wanted out so badly just before I fed the cats; however, when Paul, Mike, and Sammy returned from the weeds with not only the sleeping Spike, but my neighbors golden retriever, the sleeping Fluffy, as well, I knew the reason why. Dad had always told me, when I was young, "Always pull your weeds before they get too big. You'll have less trouble." I thought he had meant they're easier to pull when they're smaller.

By this time it appeared the stray cat had eluded us. As we reminisced the events of the day and carried the tranquilized dogs back toward the house. I was starting to feel relief that it was over. It was George who cried out "Look! Over There!" Everyone looked in the direction he pointed. Sure enough. There he was, watching us from underneath my Ford Explorer.

He licked his jowls just then as if though he were a child sticking out his tongue and saying, "Blah, blab, blab, Blah, Blah."

I began to say, "Just a minute guys. Wait until he's clear of my......" It was to late.

The barbarian fearless leader taunted the archers of the evading enemy, making faces whilst dodging the onslaught of arrows that whistled past him, embedding themselves into the soft, black boulders that surrounded him. When he felt his work was done and his point was well made, with his gray shield slung across his back, he galloped off into the west even though, at that moment, the sun shown brightly in the east.

So here I am, two weeks later, looking out the window of the back door. I have accepted the new addition to my ever growing horde. I figure feeding him is not so bad after all. I have named him Wallace after the Scottish hero, William Wallace. You know, as in the movie "BraveHeart." I figured it was a fitting name for a fearless leader.

I walked through the house to the living room window and admired the shiny new tires on my Explorer, compliments of the local animal control unit. It usually takes me about two years to wear down a set of new tires. I can't help pondering if Wallace will hang around at least for that long. Maybe I can get him to help me obtain another set of free, new tires.

Yipping and thrashing noises caught my attention. I turned to find Spike asleep on the rug in the middle of the living room floor. He was yipping and thrashing in his sleep as if though he was dreaming about the events that took place in the weeds down by the barn. As for Fluffy, as soon as the effects of the tranquilizers wore off, I returned her to her more than frantic owner up the road. He told me that he was getting ready to take her to be in the company of a registered, champion golden retriever male when she disappeared. He was very happy when I had returned her. There was still time to take her. Hmmm! It might be interesting to see what his batch of registered, champion golden retriever puppies look like.

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