After we bought our farm in Riverina but before we actually moved in, we travelled down here every second weekend to drop off bits of our farm equipment and allow Graeme extra chances to admire the country side. Each time we came down Iris and Henry, the about to retire couple who sold us the farm, invited us in for a cup of tea and a chat which usually centred on farming techniques in general, and farming “Spring Rock” in particular. During one of those chats Henry took Graeme out to show him something farmish, giving Mum-Puss, the one-eyed farm cat, the opportunity to sneak inside. I long ago realised that, given the opportunity, most animals make a bee-line for my lap as soon as they spot me. I’m sure that there is some secret sign on me that tells all animals that I’m a sure thing for a pat and some fussing over.
Mum-Puss apparently read the sign, headed straight for my lap, settled in and tried not to catch Iris’ eye. Mum-Puss sat on my lap there looking at me with her one, beautiful golden coloured eye and purring as if life didn't get much better than this. Apparently she'd gone out one night with two beautiful golden eyes and misplaced one of them sometime during the night - well that's how it sounded when Iris was telling me about it. Iris said Mum_Pusswas really an outside cat but she could stay inside this one time. Little did Mum-Puss or I know what a fateful deciscion that was going to be for both of us. We all settled down for a chat with Mum-Puss at the ready to contribute her mite to our tête-à-tête should the conversation turn to catching mice or the best way to wash yourself with your tongue. It didn't take long for the conversation to take a sinister turn from Mum-Puss' perspective.
Iris began to talk about Henry’s and her move to a house in town with a small back yard. She told me she’d have to have the two kelpies put down because working dogs don't take kindly to small back yards. I made a unilateral decision, took a deep breath, and told her not to worry about them, we'd keep them here and be grateful for their help with the sheep. While I was trying to figure out how to break the news to Graeme and stay happily married, Iris said that Mum-Puss was going to be put down because she, Iris, didn't think Mum-Puss, at her advanced age, would be happy in a small back yard and she was an outside cat. I took a seond deeper breath, gave Mum-Puss a pat for extra courage, looked into that one soulful eye (I swear she knew her life was on the line here!) and uttered the immortal words, "Don't worry about her either, I'll take her too."
Seeing that we already owned four dogs and two cats, I decided not to break the news of our increasing family to Graeme until he was driving home and therefore less likely to cry. Also with the main part of his concentration on driving it would be my best chance to introduce the fact that we were about to be three animals better off (or worse off if you looked at it from Graeme's point of view). I managed to tell Graeme about the pet population explosion and stay happily married, but it was a near thing. Graeme was at a disadvantage in any argument about our new farm, because he’d bought it without me seeing it . He hadn't noticed that it was one bedroom short and had a fuel stove for cooking and heating water, and we won't even discuss the outside toilet (it's on the back porch, but you do have to go outside to get to it!)
Being close to the Christmas holidays, Graeme and Rebecca moved in to set the farm up while Justin and I stayed in Picton with Joshua so we both could finish the year at our schools – Justin to complete Year 6 and me to finish my teaching year. Rebecca rang me. "Mum-Puss is looking very fat," she said. It seems that Mum-Puss was so relieved to find she still had a bright future that she’d gone out one night and celebrated. Despite her "advanced years", this resulted in her fuller figure and Bec's subsequent phone call a week or so later. "Mum-Puss has gone missing." And the phone call after that. "Mum-Puss is home and she's very thin." Her disappearance had lasted only a few days. Was her much sleeker figure due to Jenny Craig? Nope. Pussy Cat Pilates? Nope. A tummy full of kittens? Yep!
Stay tuned for part two of this story on Friday when I tell you how we managed to find the kittens.