Rural Life: the one that got away

It’s that time of year when I dread seeing the cat!

Everything else is beautiful; the hawthorn is dripping blossom, the mayweed lines the lanes in lacy pelmets, the swallows wing it through the blue as if they fly just for joy and the roses are a mass of expectant buds that purely delight me with prospect.

From dawn to dusk the parent birds chase to and fro with wriggling mouthfuls for their nestlings and I’m driving the lanes extra carefully as young rabbits, ducklings, fledglings etc dart across in front of the car making me sweat for their safety.

And what does the cat do? Take full advantage of these newborns and comes in triumph with some poor creature sticking out of his mouth, then sits and crunches it usually where I can see him, preferably on the kitchen rug. At least when he’s crunching I know it’s out of its misery and dead. It’s the ones that are still wriggling that I hate the most. Then pandemonium breaks out while we try and rescue the poor victim, hoping we can get it out before it disappears under the kitchen dresser, followed by a horrible smell of something rotting a few days later!

This morning, the limp little backend hanging from the cat’s mouth looked as if it had no possible chance of survival and I prayed it was properly dead, not still suffering and that he eats it quickly. It certainly looked dead – I’m sure I couldn’t survive having my head in a cat’s mouth and his teeth around my neck. Like most of them I’d probably die of shock.

A bit later, when I’m about to go into the garden with the laundry, there’s a sad little corpse just outside the door lying on its back with its legs in the air, motionless. The cat hasn’t eaten it; it’s a shrew and they never eat the shrews, or moles. Such a pathetic little sight, a needless killing, I curse the cat and the waste of life they bring. Just when all other life is bursting, here’s one that’s over already. Dispirited, I put off dealing with the corpse till later.

Just as well I did. Next time I look out the corpse is no longer motionless and there’s a little flash of a furry body and running legs scurrying down the garden path and into the undergrowth. I lock the cats in and watch while it disappears to live another day.

Nature brings both dread and delights. I feel joyful and uplifted by the one that got away!

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