Wednesday, March 2, 2011

From Nine Lives, to Eight

The hayloft is generally Lilly's domain-- a safe haven where the timid cat can sleep soundly in her hay-lined den, free of Zorro's relentless attacks.

But, when I go up to drop hay, Zorro, afraid that he'll miss something important (like extra food), always follows. On this particular day, he pops his head through the cat-door in the feed room the moment he hears me lower the fold-away ladder to the loft. As I climb the ladder, so does he. I move to the new section of the loft, which holds the better hay. As I sort through the bales, Zorro struts across the rafters, and at one point stands on his hind legs in an attempt to reach the black roof vents which spin furiously in the wind. I roll my eyes and shake my head. I'm not sure what kind of gruesome scene would play out if he put a paw in the vents, but thankfully, they're out of reach.

Within a few minutes, I've piled my chosen bales in front of the hay chute. It's a four foot square hole in the hayloft floor, which, for safety's sake, is generally covered by a sort of plywood door which is hinged on one side. I raise the door and start tossing bales. As the bales hit the floor, the hungry horses stomp their hooves and bang against their doors. Jaava, with her high-pitched voice, nickers greedily. Her stall is closest to the opening and she cranes her neck in hopes of snatching a stray strand of hay.

Like a foreman, Zorro observes the ritual from the edge of the hay chute. His eyes follow the bales as they tumble to the hardwood floor below. He leans precariously forward into the hole and I try to shoo him away, but he's enthralled.
I wrap my fingers around the orange baler twine on the next bale in line. I lift the thirty-pound mass of dried grass and swing it forward. Just as it crosses the threshold of the chute, a black streak jumps across the opening. I scream. I know what's going to happen, but I'm too late to stop it. My fingers have already let go of the twine.

Zorro is in mid-stride when the bale hits him in the ribs. I look down in time to see his legs flailing and white belly twisting as he falls with the bale to the floor, ten feet below. The bale lands with a thud. Zorro is underneath. Tears well up in my eyes. Then, I see a black streak dash across the barn and I release a huge sigh of relief. I clamber down the ladder to make sure he's ok. He stands wide-eyed in the isle, with a look of utter confusion on his face.

Thankfully, several bales were on the floor already. They broke his fall, and the space between them provided a gap for him to escape-- preventing him from being pancaked by the bale which assaulted him.

I wonder whether the experience might temper his enthusiasm for hayloft visits. I have my answer soon-enough. I climb back up the ladder to finish the job. Close on my heels is a black and white tuxedo cat. No one ever told Zorro that curiosity kills the cat.