He was a stray. No one claimed him. He was cagey, fearful, wary. Even as cats go he was not nice looking. He was no cute kitty. Instead he was an obviously older cat. His ears were short. One eye constantly watered. He wasn’t nice either. He crept around on the sly, trying to rob what food he could and avoid all human contact. Fear and survival dominated his demeanor. He lived on the edge of foliage always close to cover, never friendly or inviting
Sara and I responded to him as a threat to our pretty domesticated cats and with voice, dirt clods and gestures we put him on the run. When he entered our yard we sent him back to the wild. Then winter came.
This last cold Montana winter he looked thinner than before. Even a hard hearted cat hater could see he was in trouble. We have not yet adopted the dominate attitude toward drifters in this part of the world. You see, the lives of cats—especially strays—are expendable. No big deal. It would be normative here to just let him die. But Sara and I knew he was suffering and decided we either needed to shoot him, relieving him of his misery, or adopt him.
We already had enough cats so I began to muster the whatever to do him in. I even prayed he would never show up again because I had no desire to do what I increasingly believed was necessary. But, there he was again one morning gaunt and quivering beside the shop. I decided to get the rifle. As I moved toward the house and the gun he did something I had never seen him do. He dropped to the ground and rolled belly up in a submissive gesture. I spoke kindly to him for the first time and he inched toward me before dashing mistrustfully away.
Gradually, very gradually, he warmed to us and us to him. Finally we touched him, petted him, listened to his steady purring and welcomed him to the brood. We vaccinated him, housed him in the shop for the winter, fed him, nurtured him and enjoyed him coming to us. Wow! Imagine Maverick, the name we gave him, probably his first, being so friendly and so loved. For sure he was nothing like our cuddle bug Maine Coon cat Harley. He was still reserved, guarded and cautious but he was now part of us. Then summer came.
Whether it was the call of the wild, the plentiful food—gophers and field mice came back with Spring or his deeply embedded fear we don’t know, but Maverick left. Gone. Did a coyote get him? Hit by a car? Natural causes? We searched the roadsides and ditches. After more than two weeks with Maverick missing, we drove the nearby roads again last night. Nothing. Maverick was gone. Sara lamented, “He didn’t even tell us bye.”
Early this morning however, with the first cup of coffee in hand I drug from the den to the kitchen looking outside to the inviting Montana morning. There he was on the edge of the Caragana hedge. Maverick was back!
I rushed toward the still fearful, cautious, and hesitant Maverick. He fled, looked back, came closer, allowed my touch, purred in spurts and followed me to the shop. He exchanged greetings with the other cats, ate, purred more deeply and leaped to his familiar ledge. Maverick was back! Amazing. Yes, he may leave again. He may leave and never return but it was such a thrill to welcome him, feed him, nurture him and to exchange the warmth even for a brief time this morning. No scolding, no questions, no berating. Nothing but sheer joy.
I am of course, reminded of the Maverick in me. Independent, wild, fearful—really fearful of the threat in human exchanges, cagey and sometimes not even nice. Not the top cat, the friendly cat, the warm and engaging cat but the wounded, wandering and wayward cat. The one with the short ears and leaky eye. The unwanted one. I am familiar with dirt clods and rejection.
Reflecting way past Maverick’s capacity I also think of my reluctance to reach for available help, my reticence to break bread at the Father’s table, my resistance to the road less traveled and my avoidance of God’s best for me. Fear has far too often captured more of me than faith. Mistrust rules more frequently than necessary. My secrets and wounds have kept me hiding on the edges instead of enjoying the warmth and shelter of safe human interaction. There was a time when I refused to believe there could be warmth, hope, shelter and safety in this world. I am glad God welcomed me home, brought safe people into my life and gave me grace instead of shooting me
Mavericks are welcome here at CRN because we have been there too. We ran, hesitated, hid from the light, stayed in the shadows and allowed life dominating fear to stop us from getting what we needed. Been there done that. Just because you haven’t found a safe harbor, it does not mean there isn’t one. We invite you to make contact with the BTDT Network or seek individual help as you are able. Mavericks just like you matter. Take even a faltering step forward. You are worth it. Click here and take the next courageous step.