Who’s Ralph you ask? I’ve always loved cats and Ralph is one of my current three: we have Tigger, who is gaining on 22 years of age – yup, that isn’t a typo – she’s still going relatively strong and was a stray but has been with us for about 17 years. Next, there’s Winifred, or Winnie as we call her – she’s 16, has a high maintenance attitude; she’s very smart and very pretty and she knows it. (Might have been a “mean girl” in high school – you know the type.) Then there’s Ralph – he’s our tom cat, also a stray, around 10 years is our best guess. Does this motley assortment all get along? Well, they tolerate each other.
Ralph still has a little wild in him and is an imp. He likes to tease the girls (poke, poke, poke), and they’re old and cranky. The girls would prefer to be left alone in their beds by the fire in these winter months. (Seriously, wouldn’t we all?) If there’s trouble to be found, Ralph will find it. He’s a big guy and he’s – how can I say this with some sensitivity? – he’s not the sharpest dart on the board. 🙂 Ralph has danced (literally, blissfully) with a skunk on the front lawn at dusk and I’m quite convinced he thought it was another cat. The good news is, the skunk was dancing too and Ralph was left un-skunked. But he’s amusing and pretty lovable. (Eye rolls from Winnie.)
So, why is Ralph lucky? Well, I’m thinking Ralph has used up several of his nine lives in the time that he’s been with us. This past Friday night was just the latest…(there’s a story coming, cue music – something dark and mysterious).
He knows the rule is, when the street lights come on, you’d better get in here, Mister. Not that there are street lights up here, but it’s the darkness thing. Lots of wild critters out and about at night, some of them very large and with lots of teeth. It can be tough getting him in during summer. I have been known to stay up until I know he’s in – cursing him the whole time, but waiting up nonetheless. Calling him, flashing the porch light. It’s like having a teenage girl in the house again; you can’t sleep until you know she’s safely tucked in her bed.
Anyhoo, Friday night, I’m calling him and calling him and flashing the porch light all evening – no Ralph. Now, it’s mild out for a winter’s night and Ralph gets a little stir crazy being in when it’s cold, so I’m peeved but not worried. Finally, it’s around 11:15 pm or so and I want to go to bed. I go outside into the stillness and the soundless night, listening – and there – what is that sound? Something faint, but I can definitely hear him calling – he’s way out the back somewhere, and I know he’s in trouble. When I say way out the back, I mean about eight acres back, in the field, behind the meadow, behind the tree line. Still on our property, I hope. It feels like rain and it’s very dark – the Moon is in her first quarter. Back in the house – hurry; big boots, big coat, gloves, flashlight, husband. Husband is cursing. Don’t care – find my cat. 🙂 Out we go. Tough slogging through the meadow, the snow isn’t too deep but it’s wet. The farther back we go, the more we can hear him and he’s wailing. Husband finds him first – he’s almost at the very back of the property, about 15 feet up in a big, ancient tree. The tree, of course, is not conveniently located at the front of the hedgerow, no, it’s in behind ancient apple trees and buckthorn, and there is an old cow fence with wire and lots of old rocks that have been piled up by farmers over the decades – all under the snow, so we can’t see them. Problem. Now what? I’m not leaving him up there.
Well, I’m calling him and I’ve got the flashlight on him and he’s screaming and can’t get himself loose. Dun, dun, dun, duuuun (Better than tv, right? Almost better than Netflix.) Husband makes his way back to the barn to grab a ladder. Not hard to hear him coming back. Breaking branches and get to tree – ladder too short. Really cursing now. Back to barn for bigger ladder (six acres back). Yay, it’s now raining. I’m waiting for second ladder (and husband to climb up it), looking at coyote tracks in the snow under the tree and listening to them howl, trying to make Ralph be quiet. I’m looking for their eyes and thinking to myself, perhaps this isn’t the wisest thing, for me to be out here by myself, without my phone, or anyone around, looking for coyote eyes in the dark. Too late now…here comes husband again with big ladder. Wedging it in between tree branches, getting scratched all to crap (still cursing), up he goes. I’m holding on to the ladder – there’s no sense in both of us going up there. Ralph is wedged between two huge branches and can’t move. Not good. After several attempts to get him out, off comes the belt which is secured around Ralph and he’s yanked out and lowered down to me. He’s shaking uncontrollably. He’s wet. He’s heavy – but he seems to be OK. Husband OK too. Bonus.
Back we go to the house. The only one bleeding is husband. Ralph can’t use his back legs and he’s in shock. I wrap him in towels and heating pads. He’s eating though, so that’s good. 45 minutes later, he stops shaking, he’s purring and he’s able to walk. It’s 1:30 am, I’m going to bed.
He was obviously chased up that tree by coyote. Scary stuff. He was chased a fair way back – I know he mouses in the meadow (a rather unpleasant side effect of being a cat lover in the country – mouse bits – “here Mommy, a prezzie for you, I love you” – thanks Ralph), but he doesn’t go back that far. I don’t know how long he was up in that tree, but it would have been hours. His circulation was cut and his muscles stretched, which is why he couldn’t move at first.
That’s him in the photo above, as I write, perfectly fine and happy. Chalk up another Ralph adventure (and one less Ralph life, I’m sure).
Now some may be asking why I let him out – my answer: he’s a wild man, a stray from some distant barn, he’s a hunter (not a smart one, but a fast one!) and you can’t keep a wild guy in. Not if you want him to be happy.
We’ll enjoy Ralph for as long as Ralph enjoys Ralph. I’ll tell you about the girls another time (“whatever” says Winnie). Incidentally, Friday’s colour was purple. Blues are for psychic awareness (woo woo).
How many other cat lovers are out there? Do you have a story?
Until next time,