“Saffron The Brave”.
The last of the old hens passed away today..That just leaves two of the young ones left..I made a note to buy another two soon, while I went to get the long-handled shovel to bury the old girl..I did the deed in the “Domestic Cemetery” where we bury all the lovely creatures that pass through our lives, left to while away their time in eternity under the sighing boughs of mallee trees.
While I placed a piece of iron and some heavy rocks over “Caroline’s” grave, I couldn’t but notice just nearby the final resting place of Saffron..called “The Brave”. Saffron was a male ginger tabby of stupendous build, desexed, yes, but he failed to notice that and he kept the verandah of our old residence at Meadows clear of stray cats and toms for many a year. Many a morning we would find him asleep in his bed , tired and battered but not beaten from the nights patrols..brave Saffron.
The little red hen.
So much depends
On the little red hen,
Standing beside the wheelbarrow,
In the pouring rain. . .
When we moved out here to the mallee, he was already past his prime and the area being so much bigger to patrol, he relinquished his authority to the several feral cats that controlled the old property. Fortunately, one by one the ferals disappeared and in the end we had only Saffron and his tortoise-shell long-hair sister to keep us company. Till one night, while engrossed in an episode of “Foyle’s War”, a scratching sound was heard on the fly-wire screen door..There , elusive and emaciated was a tiny black cat with a tip of white on it’s chest and tail.
When we gained her confidence and she joined our little troupe here , we called her “Alice”..a tiny little thing, she immediately attached herself to Saffron as his shadow, and on his part, he gladly took her under his wing and would set about “training” her in the cat-arts of stalking, leaping and gnashing required of a good mouser. I would sometimes catch them at their “lessons”..Saffron would move to an object, give it some vigorous strikes with his paw, then move away a tad and sit sternly observing while Alice went to the same object and repeated the action shown by her mentor…but really, it was with a half-hearted swish she did..I don’t think such a tender thing was born for hunting anything…
I held a bird with broken wing,
No more to fly, tender thing.
Put it down or leave it go?
Let nature deal the final blow?
Yet in its small, frightened eye,
A touch of myself do I espy,
Who am I to refuse it balm,
When never has it done me harm?
Why not, with helping touch,
Can I not relieve its hurt,
And with tender love & care,
Will it not sing once more its air?
“It will not fly” you could say,
And does a tree run away?
And does the oyster glued to rock,
Not wait with patience for its food?
So this bird, broken now,
Us together shall allow,
Some moments when we shall share,
A little of life’s splendid air.
Over the months Saffron and Alice became an inseparable pair..if Saffron was there, little Alice was sure not to be far behind. The one thing Saffron couldn’t help Alice with was her strange tail..unlike the usual cat’s tail, that stood straight up when aroused or active, Alice’s was like a stiff rod from her behind right along parallel to her back so the tip would nearly touch the back of her head..she would sometimes suddenly spot the tail there and try to spin around to grab it..it made for a humourous sight !
Unfortunately, Saffron wasn’t getting any younger and a bad kidney complaint laid him low..He was ill for some time and even the vet had shaken his head sadly in his prognosis..all we could do was make him as comfortable as possible while he saw out his last days..it was touching to see little Alice cautiously approach Saffron’s cat-bed, sniff at his nose and even give him a cautious “nudge” with her paw..perhaps it wasn’t really a nudge, but I like to think it was.
We buried Saffron in the “Cemetery” alongside “Cindy’s” foal that died soon after birth..On a broad piece of iron held down by a border of rocks, I printed the words : “Saffron The Brave”..and we said goodbye to a prince of cats.
A bright blue balloon
As blue as blue as an azure sky.
Catched for a moment
By an Hibiscus flower.
Held for an hour
Of fragile kind-ship,
The delicate thread broke free..
Now, can you see me anymore
As I drift away
Shape and colour
Lost against a vast array
Of blue as blue as an azure sky.
My bright blue balloon
She is gone…
Goodbye my sweet..goodbye..
Alice was all at sea after the passing of her mentor..Saffron had never really completed her “education” and she was clumsy and naïve at her job…It wasn’t much longer that this lack of knowledge got her into a fatal situation with a snake. She didn’t live long after the bite, as tiny as she was I suppose she just didn’t have the build to withstand the poison…I had her on my lap as she passed away, her little body just going limp and her head drooping over my knee.
I buried her next to her mentor and scrawled “Here lies Alice” on the sheet of iron over grave. The one thing that didn’t alter when she died was her tail…still stretched along her back , I left it so when I buried her there.
Oh well…I suppose I’ll have to give Coopers a ring and see if he’s got a couple of chooks for when I next go past.
Were I to fling a cry so high,
Into the vast, open mallee sky,
Would thou hear, by and by,
Like a memory,
A faintest echo,
A longing sigh?
And now it is time for this little peep to go to sleep..so goodnight fellow creatures..and let us sing a little song together..sleep tight and I hope the fleas don’t bite!
“Year of the Cat” by Al Stewart.