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The one-eyed huntress

April 19, 2011
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald
Mike Gilchrist in The Toledo Chronicle-

Perhaps it had never seen the light of day. Perhaps it wasn’t old enough to have ventured forth from the underground tunnels in which it was born. Perhaps his mother had not warned him of the dangers that lurked on the surface, in that netherworld of light, and action, and unknown perils.

In any event, the very last thing the immature mole saw was the face of a one eyed hunter. His initiation to the world above was punctuated by the steely stare of a cat whose lower lip remains curled in a perpetual smirk from her own run-in with a predator even farther from the bottom of the food chain. First the face, then the precision swipe of sharp claws sealed the mole’s fate, and Wink, the one eyed cat added yet one more victim to the list of prey captured and dispatched in the name of survival of the fittest.

No one mourned for the mole. His mother probably never knew what happened to him. Wink, the perpetual hunter went on to locate and trap her next query. The writer quietly cogitated on his next move and walked back to the house.

Stories are usually told for entertainment of the listener, or while using the written word, the reader. Our world can be harsh and unforgiving. It is indeed the survival of those most fit to survive which positions them as the hunters, the leaders, the very creatures who cull the weaker and cause the survivor’s DNA to make the species stronger.

Wink did not arrive at survivor status entirely by her own whiles. No, Wink had a very tough time her first few weeks on earth. She was born to a litter of feral cats. Either there were no other survivors of an attack, or she ran so far, so fast from the event which scarred her for life that she became hopelessly separated from her mother and siblings.

When I found Wink, it was the morning after one of the coldest nights on record. Her ears were frostbitten. Her lip was twisted into a permanent smirk. One nostril has been ripped and scarred. One of her eyes has been gouged out and the remaining slit causes her to look like her face is frozen in a perpetual wink. Whatever attacked Wink was not able to finish the job -- for whatever reason. I like to imagine it is because Wink is a survivor and managed to make a hasty retreat that day, barely escaping with her life.

Even though I found Wink, I like to imagine it was she who found me. I was knocking on the door of a farmhouse looking for a new customer for my business. Suddenly from across the frozen ground ran this almost snow white cat. She was malnourished and skinny. Her ribs showed down her slight sides. She ran right up to me and was rather insistent I pick her up. I did.

It is my belief that Wink would not have survived another night on her own in sub zero windy weather. Instead, she would have frozen to death and nobody would have noticed.

The rather brazen step of rushing to a human looking for salvation was a flight of survival. Feral cats typically are skittish of humans and will run the other way, instead of towards a possible threat. Not so with Wink that day. Something in her survival instincts told her if she was to survive, I was the key. I took her with me in my Jeep that day.

She rode the couple miles back to our house atop my shoulders where she could see what was going on. I took her to the veterinarian the next day to make sure she was OK and didn’t need any immediate medical attention. I was told she had healed remarkably well despite the horror of an apparent attack. Wink’s ears are translucent. I was told that was because of severe frostbite. They are still pink and somewhat translucent.

I got frostbite on one of my fingers years ago. Whenever I get that finger cold it aches terribly. I imagine that is why Wink would rather stay inside when it is really cold out. Her ears no doubt sting from the cold.

Wink has been a resident here at Gilly Hollow since. I believe because of her feral cat roots she is not as social as some cats. She will come up to members of the family, but will shy away from visitors. When children come around Wink goes into hiding – she can’t be found.

Whenever one of us goes on a walk, the dogs are sure to accompany. Wink goes on the walk too. She will always stay about twenty feet back, and stop when you stop. This has been a problem a couple times in the spring while I am out in the timber looking for morel mushrooms. She tries to stay with you, but the course of a mushroom hunter is erratic and unpredictable. She has gotten lost in the tall grass on these occasions.

Probably because of frostbite freezing her vocal cords, Wink is not vocal. Her meow is weak and strained. She has learned to get your attention by batting with her front paw. The times she was lost in tall grass, I called her and listened for that strained response. She was letting me know where she was. I just picked her up and put her back on one of the trails, and she was OK.

Animals must have a dominant side they lead with, similar to humans, because she always uses her right paw when she bats at you.

So there you have it. Wink is a mostly white, sleek cat. She is missing an eye, and the left side of her lip does not fully cover her teeth. She hunts like a two eyed cat, and because of the trauma early in her life, is skittish and wary in her travels. In this case, survival of the fittest comes in an odd looking yet handsome package. Wink is a keeper; I think she feels the same about me.

Until next time--

You can read past columns by visiting tamatoledonews.com and clicking on the “Local Columns” button at the bottom of the page.

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2011 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at mike@aweiowa.com via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.

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