The first sighting was the snake pit, a long since abandoned cistern in which several behemoth black snakes had taken up residence. Without intending to do so the bulldozer closed off their escape and silenced the snakes before anyone could initiate a rescue attempt, although I don’t believe any of us at the site that day had the courage to try anyway.
The second sighting, actually a full-fledged encounter, was with a fat raccoon and her litter of kits. One of the trees that had been tagged for removal was an old hollow maple. After felling the tree one of the workers began using a chainsaw to cut it into sections to make it manageable to remove. As she (yes, a female lumberjack) finished cutting through a section of the tree out jumped a very angry raccoon. It wasn’t until an hour or so later that the lady lumberjack heard a whining noise and probed the hollow log to discover three raccoon kits. She made a nest for them at the edge of the woods, and the next morning the kits were gone, no doubt moved to a safe place by the mother raccoon.
The third critter discovery occurred one morning about four weeks ago. John Sieber, project superintendent with Sieber Construction, and I were standing beside the office trailer when I heard what sounded like a cat bird. As we listened more closely we realized the sound was coming from under a tarp that covered a piece of construction equipment.
When I pulled the tarp back out jumped a big gray cat every bit as wild and fearsome looking as that momma raccoon, maybe more so. She shot out of there and raced away so fast there was no catching her. She left behind four kittens – two black and two orange. They appeared to have been born just the night before. By the end of the day the mother cat had not returned so the kittens were placed in a box under the office trailer. Sure enough, overnight the momma cat returned and moved the kittens to what she considered a safe place under a different piece of equipment.
Over the next few days it became apparent that there was no catching her, and she seemed to be caring for them without assistance so we elected to only monitor the situation. All went well until week three. Yvonne and I stopped by the site to check on the kittens and found only one orange kitten. The momma cat was watching us from a safe distance but made no attempt to rescue the kitten. Unsure whether she had moved the others or if some fate had befallen them, we (read, “Yvonne”) decided to rescue the lone kitten. That was almost two weeks ago. With a combination of kitty formula and TLC provided by Yvonne the kitty is doing fine. We’re still debating whether its name will be Zeke (in honor of Ezekiel Dimmitt) or Orpha (short for Orphan).
This is not the first time we’ve rescued a kitten. About 20 years ago we found a stray momma cat with a litter of new born kittens in our storage shed. It was wintertime and, sadly, one of the kittens had somehow been separated from the momma cat and was frozen as solid as a rock. We brought the momma cat and the other kittens in the house, and I put the frozen kitten in the trashcan in the kitchen. I know it wasn’t a very ceremonial burial but that was all I had time to do that morning.
While we were eating supper that night we heard a soft whining sound coming from the trash can. Sure enough that little kitten had thawed out and come back to life. It was weak but soon recovered when placed with its mother. We found homes for the rest of the kittens, but we kept that kitten and Momma Cat, which became her name.
As for that miracle kitten, he took over the house and soon grew to be the biggest, most majestic long-haired cat you’ve ever seen. We named him King Puff because when he sat on the bed he looked like a giant fluffy sphinx sitting on his thrown.
Postscript – I have to share this. We were headed home with three-week-old Zeke (or Orhpa), and I said to Yvonne, “I think he is big enough to eat.” And without batting an eye Yvonne responded, “I don’t think he will make much of a meal.”
George Brown is a freelance writer. He lives in Jackson Township.