By Brenda Smith
Guest Columnist 

A rescue and a return


Last updated 4/11/2023 at 10:22am

Current culture is what it is, yet I didn’t know how cynical I’d become until something happened that brought me back around. A feeling that took me back, a remembering. I experienced community this Easter weekend, met goodness face-to-face.

This story begins with a cat, a dog, and a tree. Not just any tree, an 80-foot ponderosa. Now, I’m a Sisters resident, and have been for years. I know how quickly cats go missing in the wild. I know not to get too attached, but I’d taken in a community cat during pregnancy and kept one of her kittens born late spring last year. I experienced my kitten’s first wobbly steps, kept her inside while tiny, and during winter months due to snow. She traveled with me across ice-choked mountains, through the awful months when my sister was diagnosed with cancer and my mother broke her hip. She’d lay on my chest every night, grounding me. Oh yes, I became attached.

It was Good Friday, balmy. I let Pepper Jack out—her first time stalking turkeys. Of course, a dog thought to join the fun, sending Pep up a ponderosa pine. She made it to the tippy top, and when I say tippy, I mean that place where trees sway and branches are thin.

You would not believe how many people assume firemen rescue cats. I doubted it, but after the fourth friend suggested I call, I looked it up. I was right. Firemen today need to be available for human emergencies, but memories of those old black-and-white movies with a goofy local hero left me wistful for a slower time. All day I hoped Pepper would come down, but the hours slipped by, the weather got colder, low 20s, and Pep didn’t budge. She’d never been outdoors, didn’t know how to get down. I began to panic.

I’m sure the woman at Bi-Mart thought I was a crazy person. I arrived in the dark before closing, tears on my face, begging her to find an electric blanket so I could sit out on the deck to talk my shorthaired, winter-coatless cat out of freezing to death. Bi-Mart had just cleared out its winter inventory for spring. And this is where the community part begins. The woman smiled tolerantly, but kindly, and invited me to the backroom to maneuver through boxes and pick out my blanket. Thank you, Bi-Mart!

So I sat on the deck, wrapped in warmth, and talked and talked, listening to Pepper’s cries until she stopped. It was one o’clock in the morning. I couldn’t take it anymore. I went inside grieving, expecting the worst in the morning. Didn’t sleep that night.

Daybreak, Pepper was still in the tree, but not moving. I called but she didn’t stir, so I went to another part of the yard so she could see me. She meowed and stretched stiffly. Knowing we would likely have another cold night, I got on the phone.

It was Easter weekend. I had little hope but had to try. Scanning the list of local arborists, I called every one, praying someone would pick up. Nothing. Then I reached the bottom of the list — those single-line businesses with just a name and phone number. Sean answered. “Sure, I’ll come,” he said. He quoted a price, very reasonable.

Sean drove up in a pickup decorated with plywood signs braced on both sides and homemade lettering with his name, number, insurance license number, and the word “arborist” and trees painted in green on wood. Lanky, with thick glasses and baggy clothes, he got out of his truck and evaluated the situation. I was afraid he’d say Pepper Jack was too high, that the branches were too thin.

Instead he nodded. “I can do this.”

And he did. I couldn’t watch some of it, especially up high, swaying among wrist-sized branches, but then he coaxed Pep into her carrier. Suddenly I was back in time with a local hero who came to the rescue. It was a weird feeling, a kind of remembering in my whole body, not just my analytical brain, of how I used to believe in people. What’s more, when it was over, the neighbor whose dog had gotten loose approached and insisted on paying. As I walked Sean back to his truck, he explained that business was slow for the small guys, and he appreciated the call. I remembered the dead tree on my property and asked if he’d like a bit more work. He smiled big.

This Easter weekend something came alive in me, was reborn, lifted up. That homemade sign on Sean’s truck made me nostalgic for a simpler time, a different way of seeing that is not all glitzy and professional, but craftsy and personal, its own kind of dignity. The next time I need work done, I will remember the single-name-and-number businesses. Sean did that for me. He reminded me that those who “pick up” for others can change perspectives and I want to be that way, too.

A Bi-Mart clerk’s effort, a neighbor’s offering, an unassuming man with thick glasses and homemade signs. Community exists. Heroes are everywhere, even on a busy Easter weekend.


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