In My Father’s Words
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
Leo was lost. He had had that feeling for some time now, but had refused to acknowledge it. Just keep going he had told himself, just go on a little further, you are sure to find a familiar sight. But he hadn’t. He had been walking since early in the morning, and he was now tired, his feet hurt, he was frightened and he was hungry. And now it was starting to rain and he knew that feeling, cold Welsh rain that soaked you to your skin.
He looked around, eyes straining in the fading light, but there just seemed to be more and more Welsh hillside, dotted with black rocks and stunted gorse. The gorse was bad, catching you as you went past it. About an hour ago a broken branch had caught his face and cut his mouth, from which the blood still trickled. He ran his tongue over the wound, and the bleeding stopped temporarily.
Leo stood quite still, listening carefully. The only sound he heard was a low moaning from the wind through a small stand of pine trees over to his right. He raised his head and sniffed. What was that scent? It must be the sharp pungent smell of the pines, as their needles released from the trees. He couldn’t pick up any smoke, from house fires or burning off. He could see no sheep anywhere, which was unusual in Wales, normally they were everywhere, the stupid creatures. Now, there was none. Not that he really wanted to see sheep, but where there were sheep, there was normally human habitation fairly close by. Human habitation was what he needed most right now, and something to eat.
Leo made his way towards the pine trees. If he was forced to spend the night on the mountain, he would need some shelter. The trees were not much but they were better than being totally exposed, and at least most of the rain would not get through the thick branches. He sat down beside the black trunk of a tree, on the small carpet of pine needles. Not what he was used to, not by any means, and he was now angry as well.
The two people he regarded as parents, the two to whom he had given his love, had done this to him. He had been taken to an unfamiliar house, to people he didn’t know, and had been left there while they had gone off in the car. The strangers had put him in a small room, with a dirty bed, and had given him food that wasn’t fit for a dog. Leo wasn’t having that, and when they were asleep, he slipped out of an open window, to walk home. But now he was lost and didn’t know where home was, or even where the strangers’ place was. And he was cold, and wet, his feet ached and his mouth hurt. And he was hungry.
It was difficult sleeping, as he was afraid that animals like foxes might be around. He tried to keep one eye open for danger, curled up at the foot of the tree. Even his heavy coat failed to keep out the cold. He got up as the sun was rising on the other side of the mountain, and began his long walk and search again. He eventually found a small stream and had a long drink of the icy water. He followed it down stream, the waters noisily jumping over the rocks, frequently splashing him. But by now Leo was almost past caring.
Towards the end of his third day he came to a cottage. It was on the other side of the water, and Leo jumped from rock to rock to cross. He slipped on the last stone and fell into the icy flow. Somehow he clambered out on the other side.
He inspected the cottage cautiously. He was dirty and bedraggled and was not sure of his reception. There were no windows or doors open. The garden was alive with flowers, waving gently in the light breeze. The smell of sweet peas was over powering. At least that was a welcoming smell. The stable doors were open and he entered slowly, his senses alert. Horses were very big and had been known to attack. The stables were empty. The bales of straw were inviting, and he lay down between them. In seconds Leo was asleep. It was there that the lady found him, dirty, cold and wet.
“You poor little fellow.” She took Leo inside the cottage and gave him milk and biscuits before putting him on her own bed, where he slept like the dead.
The following day she contacted the Cats’ Protection League and registered one grey male tabby on the missing cats’ register. The same afternoon, Leo was picked up by his distraught owners.
Written by BM