A New Horizons Writers’ Group


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Bob Hirt

We had been traveling by van for several years from Arizona to Western New York, our original home, a distance of some 2200 miles. It is a daunting trip and usually takes between four and five days.

Things were a little different this year. We got our young cat Ellie as part of our family. We had no intention of leaving her here alone, since we felt it was not fair to have someone look in on her daily and feed her and take care of her other needs. Cats are often not the best riders on trips, even less so on long trips of several days. So we made the decision to take her to be with us for the two months we would be in Western New York.

We had her cat carrier, water dish, food dish and litter box all set to make her comfortable on the long drive east. We made every attempt to put her at ease with at least three blankets at various spots in the van. All started out well. She surprised us with nary a whimper for much of the trip. When we got to Las Vegas, New Mexico, we decided to call it a day after some 570 miles. It was Memorial Day weekend, and the little town was saturated with travelers. The motels there were a scarce commodity. Luckily, we got into Ralph’s Motel and felt very fortunate to find a place for just one night.

While not deluxe, the place was neat, very spacious and featured two king-size beds. Ours would be closer to the bathroom, and Ellie would have full privileges with the other. We got settled in, watched a little television and Ellie eventually ate her food. We slept well and hoped to get an early start the next day and try to make another 500-mile goal a reality. It was a breeze to quickly repack our things and head out after getting Ellie into her carrier.

Surprise of surprises! No Ellie. We quickly checked all the windows; they were closed and securely latched. We checked both closets, all shelves, any nooks or crannies where she might find a hiding place. Nothing! Nada! No cat anywhere to be found!

In desperation, we put our minds together and decided to take her bed apart. Pillows, comforter, sheets, mattress, box spring – one after another was taken off the bed.

And there she was, between two boards – a part of the headboard of the king bed. Those boards were no more than three inches apart, and she was down between them as content as could be. She looked up at us, perhaps a bit bewildered, with a look that could have meant, “Hi, Guys, is everything OK with you, or are you having a problem with my being here?” We were furious and delighted, both at the same time, and happy that we still had our Ellie with us on our eastward sojourn.

The rest of the trip went uneventfully, with her spending almost all of her time sitting on top of the luggage, on a blanket, peering out the side window. We made a decision then and there that we would no longer drive east with our cat. It is so much easier to have her in front of us in her carrier in the plane on a four-hour, non-stop flight going east.

We also realized that we had to relearn something we had known for many years: Never try to outsmart a cat!