Hominy & Hash: IN THE EYE OF A FABLE
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Cats don't have nine lives and I don't fe= ed stray cats. Those two facts collided last week right after seven inches=
of rain came in one fell swoop.
This tale began six weeks ago when it was time to turn off the porc= h lights and lock the door. There on the path a few feet from the front st= eps stretched a black and white cat, her head turned over her shoulder look= ing at me and ... "what's this, John?" ... We each peered out windows to s= ee seven or eight mouse-sized kittens scrambling over the mother cat's back= , worming their way to her underside, vying for position, knowing where to = go, what to do.
It was truly beautiful. She'd turn to a kitten on the move and lic= k its back. Everything was under control. The mother was in charge. How or= why she brought the kittens to our front door was something we couldn't un= derstand -- then.
I decided she was like any other new mother, just wanting to show off = her babies. They were not there the next day, nor any other. Occasionally,= we'd glimpse her scurrying out of sight as we closed a door or started the= car.
The magical moment under a full moon did nothing to soften my resol= ve not to feed stray cats. The woods next to our house and the creek ambli= ng by provide more than enough little creatures for nature's food chain to = provide for that feline family. I thought no more aboutit. Until the rains= came.
Cats have nine lives, don't they? Haven't we always heard th= at? Well, that's not true.
Cats started that rumor themselves and with their pompous attitude hav= e us all believing it. They know they can land on their feet, they know th= eir paws are padded and they venture where other animals do not.
Over the years we'd worry and fret, console children who wanted us to "d= o something" while the wail of a kitten too high in a tree wasnon-stop. We= couldn't convince the children the only way to help was tofollow the advic= e of firemen who, from long experience at rescuingkittens, knew how to get= them down: "Leave them alone, they'll comedown in a day or so." And th= ey do. Oh, but those wails.
There's a moment in time, a rather ominous moment, when you knowrai= n is about to fall and fall hard. On such a day, John said, "I'dbetter get= out of here," grabbed his rain gear and left in a hurry. Afull five minut= es later, he burst in the door, soaking wet I might add, red-faced and blur= ting out "there was a kitten in the motor."
I couldn't quite get it and followed him out to the car to checkaga= in. He said, "I got him out, but he was screeching when I opened thecar do= or and I thought he was under it. When I could see he was notthere, I got = in and started the motor. Then I really heard a screech,opened the hood an= d the little creature was there."
John was shaken by it. "He's emaciated. Get him some food.He's st= arving. He must have squiggled up into the motor fromunderneath. I put hi= m over by the tree. Now, feed him. The others areprobably nearby," and Jo= hn backed down the driveway.
This would be an exception to my resolve, one of those rules tobe b= roken. By then, I was drenched, but put some kibbled cat food in anovertur= ned Frisbee and left it behind the tree. No kitten was near. Thefood was w= atery and untouched for the rest of the day -- while the raincontinued.
Suddenly, faint but frantic meows reached me. I went out thegarage= door to check and less than ten feet away, just barely into thewoods, the = marsh-like water was rising rather than sinking into the softsandy earth as= it usually does. The kittens were scrambling, not bigenough to climb a tr= ee, sliding off the smooth azalea branches as theyworked their way higher. = Everyone knows cats don't swim. I'm not saying they can't swim,they= just don't swim. I wanted so much to help and I began to feelnoble. I wa= s being a steward of God's earth. It was my turn. AlthoughI don't want to= put myself in a class with Mrs. Noah, who also sufferedthrough a heavy rai= n, I was rising to a task.
I ran back into the garage, grabbed some carpet scraps and slidthem= close enough to the frightened kittens to let them see traction wasat hand= . And, that was that. I didn't stay around. The mother cat wassomewher= e, I knew, waiting for me to leave so she could finally rescueher babies.
The ancient Egyptians considered cats a deity. I don't, but Ithink = they're prescient. I've seen them go to the safest corner in thehouse hour= s before a tornado blows through. Now, I wonder about thenight in the moon= light when she introduced me to her kittens. She wasnot begging. She neve= r has. I believe she was telling me she was goingto need me and she wanted= me to know the kittens she was putting in mycare when that day came. = A few days later, sunshine now, I looked out and saw the kittenspreening = near the edge of the woods. One, coat of soft gray flannel,was right in th= e middle of the street. Uh, Oh. I got some cat food,poured a little milk = over it to get his attention in a hurry, and walkedout with the Frisbee fil= led inducement.
They scurried away at my step and I just placed it, relieved"Gregor= y" was out of the street. Yes, I've named them, purely foridentification. = The rusty one with black roots is Cindy Lauper; thesquealing black one is= Louie Armstrong, the black and white one isJunior and, as I've said, the o= ne in the gray flannel suit is Gregory-- Peck, that is. The other three ar= e shy and nameless.
No, we're not all living happily ever after. Within the hour,not o= nly were "my" seven kittens munching, but seven more -- these aboutsix week= s older than "mine."
It's a blurred line between a steward and a sucker.