The nursery owners decided to sell their house and move to their other nursery block twenty five kilometres away, so they left their black house cat with me. They told me that they didn’t think Sam would move easily because of his age, so from a house cat, he became a nursery cat. The fridge I used for stratifying seed was conscripted to house cans of cat food and bottles of milk. Sam expected to be fed on the dot of my arrival at 7:30am and when I left at 5:30 or whenever I saw my last customer off.
The first complication was that Sam thought our bulk potting mix was his personal toilet! Most of my staff were women and they did not take kindly to finding cat tollies when they were filling pots. So we had to cover the mix, another ritual to perform before I left last thing each day. Not put off though, outside was a heap of peat that was the raw material for the potting mix, so that became Sam’s deposit point! So each time we made up potting mix, we had to re-cover the peat heap.
Next, we all had to secure our lunches, or Sam would be in the smoko room stuffing himself with delectables. If I failed to mention the fact to new people, I would end up going into town to buy pies or some other take away to replace spoiled food! One day not only had Sam muzzled through my lunch, he must have thought the fare substandard, so in disgust, he also peed in my tucker bag!
I suppose it was because I fed him that he took a shine to me. When I sat at the potting bench, I sat on three old, wire milk crates topped with a polystyrene fruit tray bottom and a piece if sheepskin. There was just room for San to sit behind me, sucking up warmth from my back and purring. Slowly his cheeks would fill with spit or dribble, and to get rid of it, he would shake his head! Spit would be sprayed right up my back!
From time to time, to help me out, the boss came to do some tractor work. He was none too pleased when one evening after work, he left a change of shorts on the tractor seat. Lovable puss, Sam, spent part of the night using the shorts as a bed, but the rabbit he caught must have caused a stomach upset so he regurgitated it - the boss’ shorts became a makeshift cuspidor! Quite a thrill for the boss next morning!
A woman drove into the nursery to make some purchases and while we were in the yard making selections, Sam found that the woman had left the window of her car down. The smell of groceries were like a huge welcome mat to Sam, who deftly bound inside! The sound of our return forced Sam to make a hasty decision, but he did not choose well! He stole a loaf of bread and jumped onto the track that leads into the paddock! He was like a leopard carrying a gazelle, but trying to run. I caught him easily and the loaf of bread had hardly a scratch, but the woman didn’t want it! My chuckles didn’t help her disposition either, so her plants were free of charge, and I threw in a peace offering of a Kowhai tree!
Now I’m no clean-freak, but I know from bitter experience that being clean contributes significantly to good health. So I had some issues with Sam the cat! Cats have a tendency to rub against you, which can be construed as the cat saying, ‘Good morning!’ I found Sam’s ‘Good morning’ to be an excuse to wipe gunk from the corners of his eyes! He also used to rub his incisor teeth to remove other gunk stuck there, but for that he preferred to use propagation trays that were a little more solid! You never knew what you might be touching. And of course, the old hind leg in the air trick to lick his bum, then licking other parts of his body, which he then rubbed on me and my clothes!
Sam turned up one morning with bits of skin off and a few gashes. Maybe he had been in a fight with another cat or perhaps with a dog, but he was in a bad way. The nursey owners brought some puff-powder antibiotic stuff for me to apply morning, noon and evening! But Sam the cat didn’t recover. Even though I would gladly have dug a hole for him when he was well, I treated him diligently and with sympathy. The poor bugger came to be in a sorry state, and began to stink. In the end I asked his owners if they wanted me to put him down or if they wanted to take him to the vet. They chose the latter and that was the end of Sam the cat!
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