PILGRIMS’ STORY, PART TWO
Minnie’s and Fattie’s story actually starts with their momma, Dinah.
As a family, we all had bicycles and we would all go out together and ride around the nearby countryside. Mom, Dad, my brother and I, all laughing and talking and enjoying the sites and sounds. We did this quite often, and one day we were riding beside a nature preserve close to the house. Now-a-days, this area has been designated a “horticultural park with an historic building”. We all heard it, a cat meowing loudly, with occasional screeches of pain. Of course we stopped and called out to this cat who came to us in obvious distress. We could tell right away two things: She was pregnant and in labor!
We had never seen her before in all our riding journeys, we would have remembered seeing such a beautiful white cat. Without hesitation we gathered her up and placed her in the basket on the handlebars of my bicycle. My Mom right then and there named her Dinah, and we were all thankful that we were so close to our home.
I’m sure that in the few minutes it took to get home with our precious cargo, Mom had figured out where to put Dinah for her comfort while she delivered her babies. She gave us 4 kittens, one was still-born, the other 3 seemed healthy enough to survive. Dinah proved herself to be a good momma-cat who knew what to do, and did it. We kept 2 of the kittens, and the third found a “forever home” with a friend of ours. Dinah only survived long enough to wean her little ones 6 weeks later. We think that her original owners dumped her on the side of the road when they discovered she was in labor. I swear to all that is Holy, some people do not deserve the blessings of the animals.
I named the two kittens Minerva and Fatima. Now you know where the names Minnie and Fattie came from. Minnie was as pure a white as Dinah, and Fattie was a beautiful soft dove gray.
This all happened during the times when Pilgrim was out-and-about surveying and protecting his territory. Just like Pil, these two girls were allowed full access to the great outdoors, and would always come home at night-time when I called to them. Except for twice when they didn’t. Oops. I just knew that they must be “in heat” when they ignored my call those two nights. Remember, back in the ’60’s, spaying and neutering just wasn’t done as a normal thing at all.
Now, you think you know the rest of the story don’t you? The two girls got pregnant by my Pilgrim and gave birth to kittens almost on the same day. Ah yes, but there’s a twist or two to the birthing that just might catch you off-guard.
You see, during all of these cat doings, we also had a black Labrador Retriever that I had named Heureux Chevalier which is French for “Happy Knight”. We all shortened his name down to simply “Hero” because he was our Hero of a dog. But, hey, guess what? Yeah, that’s another story. And Hero loved everybody and cats, too.
Minerva went into labor first, and decided that where she wanted to be for this event was on top of the clothes washing machine in the garage. One more thing, her day was also my Moms birthday! Surprise!!! Hero, because he was a loving dog-being, knew something was happening. He had always been protector and friend to us and Pil, and the two girls. He went into the garage, reared up on his hind legs to see what Minnie was doing and complaining about. He stayed right there the whole time, giving her encouragement and doing everything possible to keep her calm. She pushed out 4 beautiful little black and white “Pils”, and Hero did the rest: He cleaned them gently with his tongue and oh-so-gently nudged them up to Momma Minerva for their first meal. It was absolutely incredible to all of us to see this.
Exactly 4 days later Fatima went into labor, same place on top of the washing machine. And this, believe it or not, was on my Fathers’ birthday! Another 4 little Pilgrims that Hero helped deliver, doing all the same things again to help.
During these weeks, I never saw my Pilgrim again. I mourned deeply, I knew in my heart that he was gone from this world. But there was one ray of light to re-brighten my days, because one of the newborns was the exact image of my beloved Pil and I named him PilTwo.
As the kittens grew and became more active, Hero did another interesting thing. Whenever one of the baby-cats came into the house he would do what doggies do with other dogs: Sniff their butts. We think he did this to assure himself that these kittens were “his” and belonged here. What’s funny is that this behavior of his literally trained the kittens to come to him to him with tails up so he could sniff and give them permission to pass. He became our “cat sheriff”.
I was totally happy having all those furry little critters playing with me. And being covered in fur-purrs during their nap times was so relaxing. But I knew it wouldn’t, it couldn’t, last. Eight growing kittens and two momma-cats was far too many. My Mom put out the word that we had cats and kittens that needed homes. It didn’t take too long, and a man rolled up our driveway in a pickup truck with a large cage in the back. All these decades later I don’t remember his name, but he was my history teacher. He explained that he had a ranch, (or was it a farm?) up north and that he would give them all the good life of being “working barn cats”. He would make sure that they had dry cat food and water whenever they wanted, and be free. I probably cried, but my parents let me keep little PilTwo to help me through this pain. They knew how important cats were to me.
PilTwo lived his life exactly like his daddy. He was mine, and I was his for three wonderful years.