Monday, 26 October 2009

Tom Warrener Comes to the Rescue.

Vicky, the beautiful Persian cat, and her grown daughter Tigger, were, you remember, the city cats staying with their cousins at Taigh Glass at No. 5 Dalmore. Knowing their way around a bit better, they decided to explore the hills above the house on their own - neither Filax nor the dogs Fancy and Jura would be with them. Vicky said that they could move faster, and see more without the solicitations of Jura their "guardian", who would always caution them to be careful, and not take any risks. Well, thought Vicky, how utterly boring life would be if all you cared about was avoiding risk. Jura was a lovely dear, but could be a teeny bit conservative.
They had heard people say that the quickest way to the top of Beinn Dhala Mor was through that long passage called Sgorr Domhnall Duncan, which comprised an enormous split in the rock above Taigh Glass. Goodness, they thought, what a dreadful place. It was dark, cold and damp in the passage, and everything was covered in wet moss or lichen. It was difficult to maintain ones balance, the floor being so slippery. After a few spills in that hell-hole, they eventually emerged into the fresh air at the top of the Beinn. Tigger resolved never to take that short-cut again, and both wondered why Donald Duncan, the shepherd in times past, had chosen this awful place to say his prayers. Vicky and Tigger jumped from stone to stone to cross the Allt Garbh, which that morning did not live up to its name (fierce river), and climbed further to Beinn Bhrag, the highest point of these hills. ( Gael. 'brag' Eng. herd of deer). Deer? - not for a long time. There is another place in Dalmore with a 'deer name' called "Cnoc na Fheidh", (hillock of the deer) beside the east side of Loch Langavat. So, in times past, there were certainly deer here in Dalmore. The view from Beinn Bhrag was magnificent, the more so because our cats were city born and bred. Tigger and her mum rested here for a while, less through tiredness, more in appreciation of the vista before them. From this very spot they could see lochs, rivers, hills, sea cliffs and two beautiful beaches. As they sat there they became aware of a large bird circling high above them, making high pitched cries which left them feeling uneasy. This was no blackbird nor finch which they often hunted around the neat hedgerows, back in suburbia. This was a huge bird which came ever closer each time it swept past them. Vicky and Tigger came to the same conclusion and at the same time. Here was a giant raptor which was capable of taking and killing either one or both of them. This was not a raven or a hawk, and they decided to move away quietly and hide from this fearful bird. It was only later that Iain Shoudie told them that what they had witnessed was a golden eagle over in the Ghearraidh, where it often builds its huge eyrie. The golden eagle is the largest bird of prey in Britain.
Later, they made their way out the beinn, until the big bird dropped out of sight. Here, Tigger decided to climb down from the Beinn and explore the hill opposite, Cnoc a' Choin (The hill of the dogs). She did not expect to meet any, but what a strange name for a hill, in the back of beyond ! Below the hill on the other side was a slow flowing "allt" (stream), and on it what had been a building erected a long time ago. There were two large granite stones still in place, and later she was to learn that this was a corn mill used by the old people of Garenin in times past. Tigger spent some time here on Allt na Muilne ( The River of the Mills), only to realise that she hadn't heard from Vicky for some time now. She retraced her steps to the point on the Beinn where she last saw her mother. Vicky was not there, nor anywhere else along the length of the hill. She did not respond to Tigger's repeated loud cries, and this began to worry her a lot. At times like this, it is natural to think of worse case scenarios. Up here on Beinn Dhala Mor, home to the giant golden eagle, it was easy to conjure up a dreadful outcome. Then there were mink, ferocious and deadly killers, whom some said had escaped from their "farm". Our beautiful Victoria was in mortal danger, if not found soon.

Tigger returned to Dalmore at great speed, and raised the alarm. Every cat and dog from every house was mobilised, and search parties organised to cover the whole of that side of the village. Many hours were spent on these searches, but to no avail, and darkness was falling fast. If she was still alive, Vicky would have to spend a cold dark night out on the hill alone. At dawn next morning, as the parties were organising that day's search, Kenny Iceland, the rabbit hunter from the other side of the glen, cleared his throat and asked permission to speak. Jura said that this was a democracy, and of course they would all listen to what Coinneach(Kenneth) had to say.

Kenny:" Let's all think now ! Who knows the Beinn and the Gearraidh best of all ? Who virtually spends all their time there, knows every hillock, every peat bog and of course every rabbit warren."
Everyone knew to whom Kenny alluded, but that guy wasn't here.
Filax: " Kenny, we all know whom you mean, but Navy Tom is a bit of a loner, and can be almost impossible to find in the hills. To be sure, if anyone can locate Vicky, Tom is our man. We would have to find him, before we stood a chance of finding Vicky."

Kenny: " Tom and I are in the same game. We are warreners. Tom does one side of the glen, and I do the other. Our hunting techniques are identical and I feel that I could find Tom up there on the Beinn in pretty short time, since time's of the essence."
It didn't take Kenny long to find Big Tom. He emerged from a rabbit hole, his big smiling face covered in sand, looking very much like that cratur Bagpuss we hear the children talk about. The hunt was on, Tom in the vanguard, and the others at a distance behind, so as not to prejudice Tom's amazing sense of smell . After a little time, on top of Beinn Ia' Ruadh, Tom was seen to freeze where he stood, and then made a sort of low strangled call. To the amazement of every one in the search party, they heard a faint call from a cleft in a rock, close by. It was our Victoria, and she was stuck fast between two rocks, with only her tail protruding. She was in a dreadful state, but still in one piece, as far as Tom could make out.
Tom: "Now, Vicky, the only way we're going to get you out is if I get a grip of your tail in my mouth, and someone takes hold of my tail, and we pull together. What do you think, Old Girl ?""
Vicky: "Never mind the "Old Girl", Tom. Do what you have to, but do it quickly and go easy on that gorgeous Persian tail. " Tom had to smile to himself.
Vicky was soon out,and the large group of cats licked our lady clean, well, as clean as a "cat lick" could. Auntie Dolly gave Vicky a proper bath and dried her at the big peat fire with a warm towel. Hot milk and a lovely piece of haddock, and our beautful Persian was fast asleep.
When Tom, Kenny and the others thought of what might have happened, they were chastened but comforted to know that Vicky was now safe and sound asleep by the fire. But no one ever again mentioned that Navy Tom had our Vicky by the tail, unless he did so himself !

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