An amazing and loving cat. Rosie died in May 1998 and I dedicate this chapter to her memory.
Rosie was a white cat with calico markings. She was petite and very intelligent. After we bought the farm, we employed a group of painters to smarten up the walls and do some minor alterations with doors and windows inside the house. This became rather awkward as we were both working in Hobart and Middleton was an hour’s drive from our Hobart home, however, we tried to drive down as often as we could during the week. Once, during one of these dashes down to Middleton after work , I was in the kitchen area when I heard Kees call out to me, “Gay, come and see what I can see.” I ran to the sun room and Kees was pointing outside through the fish net covered window, where I saw a tiny, little, mangy white cat. She was sitting half under the house and looked half-starved. “Oh! Suss said she thought there was a mother cat in the barn when she came down the other day,” I told Kees, “This must be one of the kittens.” The words were hardly out of my mouth when I noticed two tiny little heads poking out from beneath the white cat with calico markings and as we silently watched, the kittens cautiously emerged and I knew then that the diminutive white cat with calico markings was a mother.
“She’s starved, I will have to feed her,” I exclaimed to Kees, “The workmen have left some sandwiches in the kitchen, I’ll go and get them.” But at the sound of my voice, the kittens and the mother cat dashed back under the house. I went into the kitchen and opened the packet of sandwiches. Ham sandwiches, perfect! Kees, ever the pessimist, said to me, “You’ll never coax her out from under the house.” I thought he was right but decided to try and went outside carrying the feast.
two little kittens crept out and nuzzled their way into her white fur for their sustenance
Rosie never grew to be very large except during her many pregnancies. Those first kittens were never tamed, even though I tried to coax them inside the house with trails of little pieces of the best gravy beef. I would feed them at the open door, but as soon as I enticed them inch by inch into the room and closed the door, they went crazy and ran up the walls and curtains. But Rosie, Rosie was different. By accepting the ham sandwich, she acknowledged the formation of our relationship and she gave her friendship, love and loyalty fully and without reservation. After that, Rosie had kittens two or three times a year. At first she made her nurseries in a blackberry clump somewhere in the one hundred and thirty acres of our land. A ritual was established that I used to refer to as “The Revelation of the Kittens.” Ten minutes after our car pulled up at the gate on a Friday evening, a slimmer Rosie came running to the house from somewhere. After devouring a lot of food, she sat in the sitting room and groomed every part of her body, completely ignoring my pleas, “Come on Rosie. Take me to the kittens, its getting very dark. I won’t be able to find them.”
The ablutions would continue until I gave up entreating and moved off to unpack the groceries. As soon as this happened, Rosie ran to the door, green eyes glancing at me as she softly cried little meows. Sighing, I would find the torch, my gum boots and coat and the curtain was up for the opening scene of “Find the Kittens.” We, Rosie and shivering me, walked together, first through the cottage garden then through the orchard garden, stopping every few minutes while Rosie pretended to go to the toilet. After ten minutes of this, my patience would grow thin and I would snap, “I’m going back, Rosie, its too cold and dark.” Only then came the end of the first scene and Rosie dug her hole and relieved herself.
The second scene was the “Wild Goose Chase.” Rosie led me on a merry romp through the paddocks, the bush, the blackberry bushes. This also had its own ritual procedure. She stopped outside likely places and started the cleaning process all over again, looking around as she licked her fur. “At last” I would say to myself, “We are getting close to the climax” and if the weather was warm I would sit and wait, more leisurely this time for I felt this was a necessary delay as Rosie was looking out for predators, but she fooled me so many times. Once, twice, three times it proved to be a false alarm. Sometimes, I would give up and say to Rosie, “I’m sorry but it is really too dark, it will have to wait until tomorrow” and walk back to the house without a backward glance. It was fatal for me to glance back. If I did, Rosie would come running towards me, stopping and glancing into a half acre patch of blackberries with the biggest thorns on any blackberry bush in Australia. When she was sure she had my attention, she would suddenly plunge into the thicket with me diving in after her. I usually lost sight of the white fur after only a few moments but that was enough time to have ugly, bloody scratches over all the parts of my skin that were exposed and probably a few jagged tears in my trousers.
At other times when I was following her more successfully, Rosie suddenly disappeared as if by magic, into the middle of the blackberry bush. Back through the vicious Triffet bushes I would plough and return to the house and plead with Kees to come and help me. Sometimes this was rewarding, other occasions he would refuse and tell me to look for them in the daylight. I liked to find Rosie’s family as soon as possible to establish a strong relationship with humans so there was no chance of them becoming as wild as the first kittens.
When we did find the nest it was always a beautiful, tender scene. Rosie continually made the safest, warmest bed for her new family. Picture a slightly grumpy Kees, having hacked down some bushes, tired and hungry, holding a torch whilst I, excited as a child opening her Christmas presents, lay on a blackberry bush, plunging my hand into the hole and pulling out, one after the other, a black tabby, an orange tabby, a pure white, another white, another tabby and a calico. Tiny little things, as warm as toast in their blackberry bush nursery, with eyes still closed, the strongest crying out as the big human hand plucked it from its safe haven. Above the other night noises and my cooing of “Hello, you are a beautiful little thing,” we would hear the loud purrs of the contented mother.
I think Rosie is having her kittens on your bed
As she grew older, she quite often chose the warmth of the hay barn as her birthing place, the hay barn that could be full of four hundred and fifty bales of hale. Then there was a performance, I can tell you! I had to pull myself in, through and above the bales, trying desperately to find the tunnel that would end in a perfect round hole that contained the kittens. I would follow Rosie as with the blackberries bushes and she always disappeared as if by trickery down through the myriad of hay bales. “I know it was in here that she vanished” I would mutter to myself as I threw the twenty kilo bales of hay down ten feet, trying to dismantle the whole edifice. After heaving or pulling apart several of the cursed bales, there was hay through my hair, clinging to my clothes and my skin was a patchwork of little pink scratches. Pieces of hay always managed to work their way through every layer of clothing I wore until they reached the most intimate parts of my body. Stopping now and again from my heavy toil, I listened for the heavy purring of Rosie, and swore I would never do it again. Then suddenly the purr sounded louder, a whisper of a faint rustle of hay and my arm would find the pathway to Rosie and the kittens. Hurriedly, I would rush to Kees and ask him to demolish a few dozen bales of hay and good man that he is, he usually did! Rosie always chose the very middle of the complete mountain of hay, equal distance from roof, floor and every wall.
One more story, dear reader, unless you are bored stiff with my Rosie stories. In that case, please feel free to skip to the other chapters of the wrinkly gardeners creating Eden. There has been only one time that Rosie has let me down. Never mind the occasion when Kees and I had visited our son in Indonesia and Rosie was locked in the abandoned pickers’ hut accidentally and not discovered until we got back three weeks later. She managed to keep herself alive for me that time presumably by dining on mice and rats. There was also the awful incident when she turned up with half her face eaten away. We, doubting humans, had given her up as dead as she had been absent for many weeks. We now strongly believe that she may have been attacked by a Tasmanian Devil but Rosie was a survivor and never upset me willingly.
I think Rosie is having her kittens
“That one is not mine” said Robin, all dewy eyed with the miracle of birth, “I don’t like white cats.” “No, me neither” said Suss, busily capturing it all on my video camera. For several hours we watched, marveling at the efficiency of both mother and kittens. The first was a pure white one as I have already written, the second was a pure white one. And the third and the fourth and the fifth and the sixth. We could not believe our eyes. We pushed and strained with Rosie on each birth, saying confidently, “This will be the tabby. This one is yours Suss, this one is yours, Robin,” but no, this was to be the one and only time that Rosie was to produce a family of pure breeds. Six fluffy white kittens only the once all the same colour and the one and only time that Rosie let me down flat. She loved those six white, fluffy kittens with an intense passionate pride.