HoneyBadger, the feral gentleman cat who befriended us in his last months, died last night under our screen porch, considerate enough, even in the end, to do so at the opening so I didn’t have to crawl underneath the stem wall and brave the black widows to pull him out.
I dug him a proper grave and buried him in the front lawn where he loved to gather with us at twilight to watch the sunset and play with the puppies.
(For several years he’d been skulking the property, pissing the doorways, and terrorizing the ranch cats, but he never got quite close enough for me to shoot him–though I’m ashamed to admit I tried. Then two nights after I brought the puppies home to join the Stomach Collection, he just walked into the middle of our conclave, rolled onto his back, and lay there daring anyone to make him leave.)
HoneyBadger’s death hit me pretty hard, but instead of staggering around the house all day sobbing, I decided to walk the fence line for distraction, missing his company with every step. You see, the Big Guy identified with the German Shepherd puppies, considered himself one of the litter, loved to hike the hills with us, slept with them every night and ate out of their bowl with them every morning.
He even liked to tussle with them in the grass
The walk depressed me even further; the creek hasn’t seen water in two years. The meadows where the wildflowers once grew up to my knees are barren and sere. And the grassy hillsides where bees used to gather and birds used to nest are desert now, little more than sand and stubble. I didn’t even see a rattlesnake.
So it was with a start of real poignancy that at the very top of the property up by the rocks where nothing grows at all, I found a tiny stem of wildflowers with three delicate purple blossoms –blossoms that should have bloomed and died back in March—poking up by the side of the trail. I’m not sure if it was a Sign, but I’ll take it as HoneyBadger’s benediction, and a reminder that you never know where grace is going to come from….
I returned to the house teary and sweaty, showered off, and came back outside only to find that the puppies had dug up the grave in my absence.
Cursing under my breath, I stumbled down to the barn to get a flat-edged shovel so I could refill the grave, and noticed the turkey hen chasing after something in the flight cage. It looked like a squirrel, but on closer inspection it proved to be Ma and Pa Pheasant.
For the last month the turkey has been sitting a clutch of eggs she commandeered from the pheasants after their last brood fell prey to a weasel. The pheasants went shrieking back to their pine tree and the turkey went back to the nest. But when I looked under the coop to see if she was okay, here’s what I saw:
Yep, the turkey hen had hatched out the pheasant chicks and actually appeared to be defending them. (And trust me, she is a formidable presence when piqued.)
So now I’m vacillating between hope and heartache, anger and elation– and it’s not even noon yet. Thankfully, there is still a pint of mead out in the storeroom. This evening I’ll crack the cork and toast to the memory of a kindred soul—and marvel at the irony of the Universe.
RIP HoneyBadger. Huge Respect.