Tennessee Cat Tale

For about 15 years we lived on a wonderfully peaceful 20 acre farm in between two ridges near the Clinch River in Tennessee. We had a pair of Bassett hounds named Toby and Cooter. Because of Toby’s propensity to skip town in pursuit of rabbits we built a large fenced yard through the forested area behind our house. The Bassett hounds periodically treed critters in our backyard. Once they treed a whistle pig. I did not know those things could climb trees. One afternoon we came home from work and the Bassett’s’ had treed a small kitten.  Where it came from we don’t know, but the poor thing had shimmied up a 4 inch diameter pine tree near the back of the yard.

Gayle said you have got to get the kitten down.  I said, take the Bassett hounds inside and the cat will come down of its own accord. Three hours later and she was still up the tree. Gayle insisted that more drastic action was needed.  I pulled out my chain saw and said we will sacrifice the tree.  Gayle said you can’t chop down the tree you will injure the kitten. My opinion was that cats always land on their feet, she would be fine. Gayle said no. There must be a safer way.

I got out my tallest ladder and leaned it against the tree and climbed up to the cat – which immediately shimmied about 10 feet higher, well out of reach.  “Gayle, there’s no choice, if the cat wont come down of its own accord, I’ve got to saw down the tree.” “No, she said “there has to be a safer way.”

We both thought. Finally, I came up with an idea.  We’ll bend the tree down; it’s not much more than a large sapling. I backed my old pickup truck, nicknamed the Millennium Falcon, into the Bassett’s back yard.  I climbed the ladder and lassoed a rope around the sliver of pine tree as high as I could and tied the other end to the truck’s trailer hitch. I positioned Gayle in a place where the treed cat should be once I bent that tree over.  I started the pickup forward at a crawl and the pine tree started to bend. This was working great.  In another 30 seconds the cat would be clutched safely in Gayle’s welcoming arms. I inched forward another several feet as Gayle reached up – the cat was almost in reach . . . SNAP, KA – WHACK and SWISH. Uh oh, the dang rope snapped. As I looked back out the pickup’s rear window I could see the tree racing skyward at lickety-split speed. At just past its apex the cat let go and it quickly disappeared in the darkening sky. I said to myself “this can’t be good.”

Gayle quickly ordered a search and rescue mission for the launched cat. I took my torch light and the dogs and we scoured the landing zone where I expected the trajectory would have taken the cat.  No cat. Unconfidently, I told Gayle “cats always land on their feet, I’m sure she landed safely and has skee-daddled home.” Gayle was less confident. She worried that the cat was caught in a tree, probably disabled, and suffering a slow and anguishing death. The next morning we organized another search that included a binocular scan of treetops. Still no cat.

Two days later I was pushing my buggy through the local Piggly Wiggly when I saw Katherine Cook, our new next door neighbor. She and her husband Jim had recently moved onto the farm next to ours. Their house was a good 200 feet from ours through a dense thicket of trees, so both farms were quite private. Katherine was buying some cat food. I remember meeting them when they moved in and they said they had no pets, so I inquired “Katherine, when did you get a cat?” Katherine said “Jim and I were on our porch just admiring our new solitude in the country and enjoying the fireflies.  I said we should get a pet to share our lives with. Jim agreed and said what kind would you like? Since we are both city people we had no idea what to select, so Jim took my hand and said we should pray on it and the Lord would answer our prayers.

This was two nights ago.   We sat together hand-in-hand and asked the lord to help us select a pet to share our lives. And only moments later the lord answered our prayer. As we sat there a small kitten fell from the heavens and landed right on the chaise.  Jim and I were more than a little astonished that the lord would just kind-of drop the sweet little kitten from such a height, but the kitten was just fine and very glad to see us.

As Katherine reported her loving version of the cat’s heavenly arrival my mind was recalling the catapult launching of that same poor kitten into the heavens. I went home and told Gayle that the kitten had found a loving home, but that she could never tell anyone about how we launched it into outer space.

David Darugh


The Beechwood Inn