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Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again

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Offline trtlrock

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #60 on: December 17, 2017, 12:08:09 AM »
I not sure I like the direction this cat story is headed

Me neither -- it's been an amazing trip, and exquisitely written, but if it's going to involve immeasurable sadness HMOD (especially to fans of lost, helpless kittens)...you need to give us a heads-up now, so those who might want to can bail.

Not trying to be a jerk...just would like to know in advance if I should take a pass on the rest of this amazing tale.

I wouldn't call the sadness immeasurable. But it is hefty. Then again, your mileage may vary. Readers can make their own judgement after the next installment.

I suppose this might get me tossed from BBC, and if that's the case, so be it. But I question your need to include this part of the story. When I saw your leading statement in your 1st post, I suppose I should have questioned it then, but I figured you were attacked by a rabid bobcat, or -- I dunno -- something that might have made some kind of sense. Instead, it appears you were approached by a lost (but not starving) kitten, seeking succor, which you provided. You chose to describe these loving moments in great detail. Now we await your dispatching said feline "in cold blood." I truly wish I had never read this thread. I have been lying awake in bed for a couple for a couple of hours, unable to sleep...thinking of what possibly compelled you to share this part of the story, as well as what decision-making process might have led you to determine that you needed to kill the kitten.

I'll never know, as I won't return to the thread.

And now I'll stfu, leave the thread, and let you continue your tale.

Richard or other mods can delete my comment if they feel it's inappropriate -- that's fine. But I feel marginally better, having said what I feel needed to be said...
« Last Edit: December 17, 2017, 12:23:51 AM by trtlrock »
John & Tess

"...and I'll face each day with a smile, for the time that I've been given's such a little while..." - Arthur Lee

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Offline Slimkitty

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #61 on: December 17, 2017, 06:39:24 AM »
I really hope another cat shows up soon...


Sent from the future.
A Slim one?

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Well I made it out of our run-in alive...


Sent from the future.

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Offline dprather

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #62 on: December 17, 2017, 08:53:06 AM »
Regarding the potential for pain within this story, good literature, like life, sometimes hurts.
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #63 on: December 17, 2017, 09:28:04 AM »
Trtlrock reminds me of my now-departed father-in-law, one of the finest, most loving, and humane people I’ve ever met. He would have reacted almost exactly the same way. I understand. That said, I would also caution folks not to prejudge the story. There is a lot to come. I think it’s all relevant to the experience of The Bend.


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"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline iCe

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #64 on: December 17, 2017, 09:33:19 AM »
Regarding the potential for pain within this story, good literature, like life, sometimes hurts.


I was thinking the same thing. The various situations of the story make it interesting and real. I didn't see anyone complaining when his tooth was knocked out. Eh... whatever... It's fine to skip out on the story if someone wants to but I've never understood the reasoning behind the need to announce it. 

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Offline iCe

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #65 on: December 17, 2017, 09:35:25 AM »
Trtlrock reminds me of my now-departed father-in-law, one of the finest, most loving, and humane people I’ve ever met. He would have reacted almost exactly the same way. I understand. That said, I would also caution folks not to prejudge the story. There is a lot to come. I think it’s all relevant to the experience of The Bend.


Sent from my iPhone using Big Bend Chat


We (humans) need people like that... they counterbalance the evil people in the world.


Why are you wasting all this time commenting? Shouldn't you be slaving away at the keyboard so we can continue to live vicariously  :notworthy: :icon_lol: :dance: :great:

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Offline TexasAggieHiker

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #66 on: December 17, 2017, 11:20:38 AM »
Keep it coming, I'm enthralled!!!!

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #67 on: December 17, 2017, 02:59:27 PM »
Camp Cow(ard): November 27, 2017


The few minutes left in the night were spent by both of us in deepest sleep, deep down inside the sleeping bag with just a tiny breathing hole open at my nose. The sun rose but we didn’t. We didn’t even notice the light. At some point something, maybe the sun’s warmth on my nose, woke me and I stirred. The kitten, breathing softly but deeply, curled up in my armpit, head on my arm, stirred too, opened its eyes and looked up at me, purred and bumped my chin briefly, then stood up, stretching languorously inside the bag in that way only cats can do, digging its claws into my chest through my fleece, and then squeezed her way out through the armhole.


I wormed my face out of the bag and watched her pad off toward the river. She squatted, peed, covered it, and went to the water’s edge to drink. I noticed she didn’t shit. In sixteen hours of being together, it now occurred to me, I hadn’t seen her shit once. Because, it occurred to me, there was nothing to shit. Who knew when she last eaten? What did I have that I could fee her, I wondered. I ran through my list of provisions. Backpacking meals, heavy on the garlic and onion: toxic to cats. KIND Bars, mostly with macadamia nuts: toxic to dogs, but what about cats? For the life of me (and the kitten), I couldn’t remember (Damnit, Jim…I’m an ornithologist, not a mammologist), but a mistake could be fatal. Tons of GU gel, full of carbs but heavy on the caffeine. In that tiny body? I don’t think so, it might constitute a toxic load. Peanut M&M’s: chocolate is a no-no for cats, they can’t handle the bromine. Could I suck the chocolate off the peanuts and feed just those to her? Hell, I don’t know. She was so incredibly tiny, what was the margin for error? Lastly, jerky. A few different types, but all with some measure of onions and garlic. And dried, at that…meaning the concentrations were hard to estimate, but probably greater than I thought. No good options. What were the chances that EVERYTHING I carried would be toxic to her? I finally settled on the least spicy of my jerkies and decided to pre-chew pieces first, sucking as much of the garlic and onion from them as possible, and then feed even smaller bits to her at whatever rate she’d eat them. I’d made the jerky myself, I knew exactly what and how much was in it, and so I figured this was the best of my many poor options. I’d feed her later, after I’d packed up.


I squirmed out of my bag, quickly slipped on my down vest  and a balaclava, and started to pack up. What came next, I hadn’t yet decided. First, my very expensive down bag went straight into its drysack and the drysack went straight into its compartment in the bottom of my backpack. Didn’t need the cat shredding THAT in a playful moment. In went my Dromedaries, another thing I couldn’t afford to have punctured. My tent and raft’s inflation bag and backpack raincover were already inside my pack: good: all vulnerable, but all squirreled away safely. I quickly shoved my other drysacks (food and spare clothes) inside, for now, just to protect them. I left the food on top of everything else, as I planned to come back to it in a few minutes, but I cinched my backpack’s opening tightly closed. Soon, my emergency and hygiene supplies, in their own drysack, went back into my belly bag.


Meanwhile, the kitten was rolling around in the dry beach sand, playfully, joyfully, contentedly. Then she trotted over to my groundpads, sharpened her claws on them for a while, and bounced over to me by my backpack, standing up on her back feet, placing her front paws outstretched onto my knee, digging in her claws and mewing. She wanted up. “Okay, you want up? Come on,” I said. And she did, clawing her way quickly (and painfully) straight up my leg, my torso, and onto my shoulder where she then proceeded to nuzzle my cheek and ear. For the next few minutes, she rode around up there while I attended to business. She was ACTUALLY riding around on my shoulder, like a pirate’s parrot, but infinitely cuter. This was possibly the coolest kitten in the world. I tried to take a picture of our shadow: me standing and she on my shoulder, but my iPhone’s battery was still too cold, not yet having warmed up in the morning sunlight. Then she batted my ear once, bit it quickly, and leapt to the ground.


“What are we going to call you?” I asked her as I leaned down to scratch her neck. She flopped over and showed me her belly (cats DON’T do this) and let me scratch it. I could see now, in the daylight, that her fur was olive-colored, with black and honey markings. She DID look a bit like a bobcat, except for that fully-developed tail. I’d once had a cat, a female, named Olive: a tough, intelligent survivor, olive fur with black and honey markings, and this kitten reminded me of her. “Olive. Olivia, then. Olivia Felix because Felix means both ‘cat’ and ‘happy’ and ‘fortunate’. You are a happy and fortunate cat.” Or so it seemed at that moment.


My equipment was largely packed. I could leave at any moment. But what about Olivia Felix?


Could I possibly take her with me? Whoa….that was a heavy lift. I was traveling in an inflatable raft. One chamber only...and my repair kit was sitting hidden in the grass at Lajitas. In Lajitas. You stupid, stupid, stupid idiot. My gear was packed in drysacks. My tent was a single layer of silnylon. My raingear was light and vulnerable. My water was carried in polyethylene bags. I had no food she could eat. I was a minimum of five days from RGV where I could release her. And I was a day behind, having been stymied on the Lajitas golf course. And then there was Mariscal Canyon and the Rockpile and the Tight Squeeze. I’d never seen them but everything I’d read said they were formidable. I’d already flipped once, at the San Carlos Rapid. What would happen to Olivia Felix if I flipped again? Would she drown? Could I save her? Not likely. She’d flip out of the raft and never be seen by me again. So….my mind whirled….what? Do I leave her here to die, or take her onto the river and only to see her starve, or drown, there? I wasn’t sure I could get myself to RGV alive. Could I get us both there?


On the other hand, could she survive on this beach? Look, I’m a wildlife biologist. My judgements here are not uninformed. She was less than 9 weeks old. She was not fully weaned. I didn’t think she’d yet learned to hunt on her own and her chances of capturing a wily, evolved rodent or reptile or amphibian or even insect were close to zero. I’d been on this beach for at least 18 hours and seen no sign of any parents or siblings. She seemed abandoned, tried to suckle in my beard and on my ear, though she wasn’t yet starving. I’d guess her abandonment had happened, for whatever reason, in the last 3-4 days. She was habituated to humans and probably needed to grow up around people in order to survive, but the tracks on the beach indicated no humans had been here for days and days, if not weeks or months. What HAD been here was every possible predator in the park. They came here regularly to drink, and possibly to hunt. I knew coyotes were near; they’d told us so last night. As far as I could tell, Olivia had not yet learned to climb trees – about the only way, other than hiding in the cane (which I assumed she’d been doing up until now) that she could avoid some (but not all) predators.  Even if the weather stayed perfect (which it had all week), I’d give her – at the very most – ten days until she starved to death, and probably sooner, but only five until she was too weak and too sluggish and vulnerable to predation by a wild carnivore. If she stayed on this beach, she would die – either by starvation or by being eaten alive – there was no doubt about this in my mind.


Mulling all this in my mind, I absently wandered over to my beached packraft to move it toward the water for loading. Olivia Felix, my now faithful and ever-attentive cat, padded beside me. She sprinted past the raft to the water, and then back toward me. The raft between us, she leapt up onto the bulwark closest to the river and stretched, slowly, digging her claws gently into the raft’s fabric. My eyes bugged out and my throat choked as I (gently as possible under the circumstances) yanked her from the raft and tossed her behind me onto the beach. “No, no, No, NO, NOOOOOOO!!!!!” I cried. Uncomprehending, she rolled over and over in the sand and showed me her belly. I ran to my backpack up the beach and dug out my food bag in its Basecamp odor-barrier. I fished out a Ziploc full of mild jerky, stuffed a wad into my mouth and sucked it hard, chewed it soft, and bit a small piece off. Spitting it into my hand, I held it up to Olivia’s nose, then tossed it onto the beach. She ran to it, sniffed it for several seconds, pushed it across the beach with her nose and her paws, and then hungrily snapped it up into her mouth.  The chewing took awhile, she spit pieces out from time to time, hunted them down soon thereafter and, in the end, consumed every last bit, sand and all. She didn’t love it – it was spicy –  but she ate it.


Now, suddenly, Olivia knew I had food. I had FOOD. I HAD FOOD. I HAD FOOOOOOOD.


I assume that prior to that moment, she figured we were both starving and would just make the best of it, together. Sure, she’d probably been attracted to my camp by the wafting odor of my ramen noodle soup, but by the time she actually found me, that soup was long gone into my tummy and my cookset stowed in my backpack. It was all just odor and hope until now. 

If she was at my heels before, she was in my socks now.  I couldn’t walk without her in between my feet. I couldn’t pause without her pawing at me, digging her clawns into my legs, mewing. I put more jerky into my mouth, several pieces, sucked and chewed until I judged them palatable to the kitten, tossed them far out onto the beach while I loaded my pack onto my raft. Each time she came near, I’d toss her more jerky. It was maddening. Meahwhile, I was furiously trying to answer the question: what do I do? Do I take Olivia with me or leave her here? If I took here with me, would be both die, or would only she die, or would we both make it to RGV alive? Onto my packraft went my pack, and its raincover, and the lashes, and my groundpads, and the paddle with its leash. I grabbed my PFD and put it on, zipped it up. And then my belly bag. I walked up beach to feed Olivia more jerky. I scratched her ears, then her haunches, as she ate. I fed her more jerky, held it high as she reached for it and looked into my eyes. “You have a name,” I said, “It’s Olive Felix because you are olive and happy and fortunate. Good luck.” I started to cry. I fed her more jerky and then tossed the last bits far onto the beach. She didn’t see it. I led her over to it and made sure she found it. “Eat,” I said, “I wish I could do more.”


And then I walked swiftly back to my packraft and got inside, pushed off into the current – one foot, two feet, three feet – Olivia looked up and saw me drifting away from the beach, she sprinted toward me, mewing, with a panicked look in her eyes. I spun the raft around to look into her eyes, she leaned out over the water and mewed, and mewed again, and then followed me downbeach, never taking her eyes from me. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m sorry,” I dug in my paddle to keep myself facing upstream as we locked eyes. Hers never left mine as the distance between us widened. She encountered the first of the river cane choking the banks downstream and ducked under and through it, side to side, her eyes never leaving mine as her body bent to and fro and her head dipped up and down between the stalks, her mewing growing ever more desperate, louder, more panicked and more pained.  I was accelerating downriver and she was running now, along the very edge of the bank, keening intensely, ear-splittingly, with heartbreaking intensity, and then I hit the rapid hard. Our eyes locked, I dug in my paddle and spun the raft around, downstream into the rapid and hit the whitecaps.


One hundred yards downstream, I hit calm water and spun the raft around again, this time upriver.  Olivia was no where to be seen. Just a wall of impenetrable riverside foliage: cane and tamarisk and mesquite and althorn. Was she still coming, would she follow me blindly for miles and get hopelessly lost and exposed to predators? Or leap into the river to catch me, and drown? Or run until she could run no more, see me no more, and finally surrender to the inevitable: that I was gone? Did she return to the beach and wait for me, or turn upriver, knowing that I would never come back, and head stoically, alone, into her bleak future?


I don’t know. But I knew then that I’d made a mistake. I knew it almost as soon as I turned my raft downstream and entered the rapid.  And now, again, I slowly turned my raft downstream, away from the unerasable past and into the unforgiving future...and burst into tears. Great heaving sobs of anger and sadness.  I wanted to hit myself in the face, to hurt myself, I was so mad. I had been given one of life’s starkest, clearest choices, a chance to demonstrate my quality: selflessness or selfishness, competency or panic, life or death, good or evil, and I had failed.

Olivia would die and I would live.


[TO BE CONTINUED]
« Last Edit: December 17, 2017, 06:18:07 PM by House Made of Dawn »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline dprather

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #68 on: December 17, 2017, 03:23:30 PM »
My father-in-law taught me a little about the cattle business.  He taught me to never name a calf.
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Online House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #69 on: December 17, 2017, 03:29:49 PM »
My father-in-law taught me a little about the cattle business.  He taught me to never name a calf.

Yeah......I know.....I taught my kids to never name our chickens. They love 'em, I kill 'em. In this case, it didn't matter. Neither cows nor chickens share your sleeping bag or put their feet on your lips in the middle of the night. I was doomed as soon as that kitten squeezed its way into my bag.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline dprather

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #70 on: December 17, 2017, 03:33:11 PM »
Kitten as metaphor: we are all cute and cuddly to somebody, and we are all left on some sandbar someplace to fend for ourselves.

Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline Salty1

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #71 on: December 17, 2017, 03:35:42 PM »
P

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #72 on: December 17, 2017, 03:36:49 PM »
Kitten as metaphor: we are all cute and cuddly to somebody, and we are all left on some sandbar someplace to fend for ourselves.

And the coyotes don't care. Which is why we should. Love to you, Dprather.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline Jalco

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #73 on: December 17, 2017, 05:48:40 PM »
HMoD,

Although I'm by no means an expert on cats, we do have 4 that are ours and a 5th that belongs elsewhere but that my wife insists on feeding morning and night on our front porch.  All that to say this, my wife and I looked at the pictures of Olivia Felix and, to our eyes at least, she looks extremely healthy (our "front porch cat" was in worse shape when he wandered up) for a stray. 

One of our 4 "inside" cats is a recent addition to our home.  Much smaller than Olivia Felix, but she has already, on her own, learned to stalk and catch prey.  Mostly lizards, but we do find remains of mice in the yard.  She's working on bagging larger game, as we now have to coax her out of the trees while the squirrels bark at her.  I'm pretty confident Olivia Felix will adapt.

And, who knows, she might be adopted by the next group of giggling girls that float by.

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Offline iCe

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #74 on: December 17, 2017, 06:00:50 PM »
Well hell... I'm not a fan of cats but a kitten isn't a cat... well... it is but... eh... never mind... that's a bummer... mostly because it will stick with you. It probably "stuck you" more than once as you revisited the story for us.


Kind of like the Snipe I saw a couple of weeks ago. I drive 2 hours, sometimes more, one way, every weekday, to get to work (long story but it was voluntary and only a two year stint that is 1/2 over). About 30-40 miles of the trip is on dirt roads that pass through Post Oak Savanah and Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes (rice fields). This time of year, ducks, geese, etc abound. A few weeks ago I was driving the last 2 miles of dirt road and I caught something falling out of the corner my eye. It appeared to have fallen from a high voltage transmission line and it fell straight down. I remember thinking "that was odd". Me being me, I couldn't just keep driving, so I stopped, backed up about 100 yards, got out of the pickup, and walked to where I thought "it" was. "It" was a bird. A Snipe (I think, I freely admit that it could have been a Plover or other kind of bird). It was still twitching but almost gone. I picked it up and looked it over. Below it's breast there was evidence of a single pellet entry wound. I don't bird hunt anymore. I guess I would go if asked to but it's not something I pursue, so I'm familiar with that kind of wound. Anyway, my guess is the Snipe was in with a flock of geese or maybe ducks and was hit by a single pellet. I just happened to drive by at the moment that it died and fell from the power line. It still bugs me that the bird died like that. Why? You can't eat them. Even if you could, nobody was going to. There was no reason to shoot it... Now that I have more years behind me than in front of me, I value things differently. It still bugs me.


So, if nothing else, I think it's sad that you had leave the kitten... and I think you had to leave the kitten. It's not like you had stopped in a rest area on IH10. You did what you had to do to preserve your life. Your self preservation instincts are there as much, if not more, for your wife and kids, as they are for you. And who knows... maybe someone in a kayak stopped on the sand bar and rescued the cat.


Hell man... I'd have blissfully fed it everything you knew would kill it without a clue. My version of the story would be- I found a kitten on a sandbar and I fed it x, y, and z. I would have believed I had done a good thing... and then someone would point out that x, y, and z are poisonous to cats.


And after all that... I understand and sympathize with you...


 


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