May 8, 2011 by wcobserver
by Danele Pitts Campbell
The wooded hillside and adjacent pastures of our home place offer endless hunting opportunities for any of a number of creatures, domestic and otherwise. As a starved kitten rescued at the portal of death, Bitten took in earnest her cat-tribe duty to perform her share of the hunting. I might be satisfied with store-bought vittles, but she determined that for her part, only the best would do. Best, for cats, means still breathing. The honor of the kill would be reserved for the banquet’s main guest—me. Delivery would be directly to the guest, on the bed where guest lay waiting. I received voles, moles, mice, chipmunks, rabbits, birds, baby squirrels, small snakes, lizards, and shrews, with a few other assorted oddities thrown in. Over the years and after some rude, even downright intimidating feedback, she learned that I don’t respond well to reptiles at three am. She probably found it hard to forgive me turning on all the lights while speaking in a loud voice and throwing back all the covers to re-capture her gift before throwing it unceremoniously out the back door.
Her favorite prey—perhaps she read all the books—was mice. She liked them old, young, and in between, long-tailed, short-tailed, stunned or still feisty. If I was awake, which sometimes I still was when her hunting paid off well before midnight, I could hear her coming through the pet door in the kitchen, already humming her multi-pitched warning from deep in her throat. The growling varied depending on the size of her catch, with the larger specimens resulting in a more muffled utterance because, obviously, she had more in her mouth.
She cast a baleful yellow-eyed stare at any other of the cats who might have considered glancing her way as she made a bee-line for the bedroom. Once there, she hesitated at the bed, no doubt calling up all the memories of best and worst receptions in order to offer her gift in its optimum presentation.
The most extravagant gift Bitten ever brought me was a two am venture. The mumbled growls and extremes of her pitch range should have tipped me off about the unique features of this gift, but I was asleep during that part. It was only after I came half awake, turned on the lamp and adjusted my eyes to the glare that I was able to see for myself the truly awesome scope of her accomplishment. An enormous brownish-gray rat hovered under her close watch at the other pillow, a wood rat whose body from pointed nose to quite large hindquarters no doubt measured ten to twelve inches. The long cord of a tail was probably another ten inches, although in all the excitement, I naturally failed to actually measure anything. (To be continued)
Denele Pitts Campbell is a writer, restauranteur, and businesswoman. She lives in the Mineral Springs community near West Fork.