The cost of living on a country road

I love living on a country road. You never know what you are going to see around the next bend. And that is why you need to be extra careful when traveling on them.

The hardest thing I’ve had to do since becoming a father 10 years ago was tell my son that I had found our cat that had been missing for a few days.

Murray came to us not even a year ago. My wife’s 15 year old cat Mitch passed away around Christmas time, and there was a hole in our hearts that we knew would need to be filled.

Just before spring I saw on a facebook post that Murray needed a new home. At the time his name was Polka-dot, but we all knew he was Murray.

Like all our pets, Murray had several nicknames: Murrbeast, Sgt Murtaugh, Murbious Strip, Murness, Furry Murray, and he came to them all.

When we got him, it seemed like his nose had been broken. The bridge of his nose had a spot where the hair didn’t grow, and it scabbed over often. He grunted like a little pig. But he seemed to be healthy otherwise, and he was a very happy cat.

Our other three cats don’t really get along with each other. Shesho, the cat that was left here by the previous occupants of our mobile home tolerated Shu-Shu the cat we adopted from an elederly lady after the shelter turned her away. Shu-Shu tolerated Shesho, and Molly, the cat my wife rescued from the streets of Brewer. Molly tolerated none of them. But all three cats liked Murray.

Shu-Shu and Murray would charge through the house chasing after each other, and more often than not, Murray would end up crashing into something, and wrecking his nose again.

Murray was a very clumsy cat when he first came to us, but when Shu-Shu chased him, he always went for the highest point he could find. And when he jumped down on Shu-Shu, he usually brought down whatever was up there with him…Books, dishes, clean laundry…No matter, it wound up on the floor.

Molly wasn’t a fan of him when they were in the house, but outside they were buddies. Molly is a strange cat, she goes away for days at a time, and then comes home to be loved for a few hours, and grab a bite to eat. She always chooses a different person to get the love from, and she never stays in for more than a day at a time. But if you saw her in the yard, or in the woods across the street, Murray was with her.

Shesho? Well Shesho is old, and doesn’t really want any other cats in the house, but he rarely swatted Murray, and sometimes let him snuggle as they napped.

Murray was a champion snuggler. He spent as much time indoors as he did outdoors, and if he was in the house he was looking to cuddle. Many nights you would find him in my son William’s room, where Will used him as a pillow. Sometimes Murray used Will as a pillow. More than once I had to take him off the boy’s face, while they were both sound asleep.

If you were outside, Murray would find you. He would never go in the goat pen, unless one of us happened to be there. Out in the shed? Better look for Murray before you close it up! Getting in and out of the van, you had to watch for Murray. If you were sitting out in the shade, you better be ready, because he would climb up to sit with you…And by climb, I mean up your bare legs, or your dangling arm. He didn’t care. He just wanted to be with you.

Murray had one seriously bad habit…One we could never get him to break. He loved to be in the road. There are periods of time when our road has little to no traffic, and you would see him laying on the center line napping away, more than once cars would zoom by him in either lane, and he would just wag his tail, and turn his face to the sun.

We did all we could to try and make him fear the road. We chased him with our van. We chased him with rakes, and sticks. I even took after him with the hose, but still, the road called to him. He liked to eat dead frogs, and insects from the road, and he liked to roll around in the smudges and things only he could smell.

Many times we would hear a horn blare, and a car slowing down before speeding off, and we knew it was Murray. That’s why I was not surprised when I took a walk I didn’t want to take on Thursday afternoon. Murray’s luck in the road had run out. I found him lying in the weeds in the ditch.

William had seen him Wednesday morning, and he never missed a chance to come running to us if he were outside, and he heard the van coming, so I know he was likely hit in broad daylight, as he didn’t come to greet us when we got home Wednesday evening.

I’d like to think that the person who hit him tried to miss him. I’d like to think they stopped to see if he was hurt, and could be helped. I’d like to think they tried to tell us what had happened and found nobody home.

In the end, I had to wade down through a batch of poison ivy to bring poor Murray out of the ditch. When my son’s sobs of anguish, and sorrow subsided he asked me to lay Murray to rest out on the patch of lawn beside the road, next to the driveway. A sunny place where Murray liked to lay. The place where Murray would be some afternoons when the bus stopped, and he would try to climb aboard to meet William when he came home from school.

We have been here since 2009. And we watch cars go by our place in excess of 60MPH. The posted speed limit is 45. Our place sits at the top of a little rise, enters a curve, and starts to go back down hill a bit, there is a blind entrance to a dirt road a few hundred feet down. A wise place to slow down.

When my son was little I would put a “CHILD PLAYING” placard on the center line in the road. He liked to catch frogs in the vernal pool across the street. I was always right there, and I have taught him road safety since before he could talk, but you never know.

You would not BELIEVE how many times cars just plowed that placard over without even touching the brakes. Many of them would slow down after they passed it, only to immediately speed back up on their way to other places.

We have lost ducks, rabbits, and a hen in the road, and only once did somebody stop to let us know, and then, the person that stopped hadn’t even been the one to have the accident. A woman found one of my hens bleeding in the street, and stopped to assist.

In the years that I have lived on this country road, I have traveled it many, many times. I have stopped for turtles in the road, cats, dogs, kids on bikes, deer, squirrels, and only 1 time have I had an incident. It was dark, and a dog that liked to chase cars ran into the rear passenger’s door of our car. The dog was unhurt, and I had to convince her owners that she had hit our car.

I know accidents happen, but I am betting most of them can be avoided! Put your phone down. Stop looking for things on the seat. Stop fiddling with the radio, and SLOW DOWN! Just this morning, I lost another duck in the road.

Some will blame me for not keeping my animals in my own yard, and yeah, I get that. Free range animals lead tough lives, predators, cars, dogs and cats. But that is not the point.

You are supposed to be in control of your vehicle at all times. I’m sure you would feel bad driving on a country road and hitting a wild animal. And I am sure you would feel even worse if you hit a pet. But imagine how it would be if you hit a person?  School is starting up in the area, and there will be kids at the ends of driveways early in the morning.  Imagine if you are speeding down the road and a cat darts out, but even worse, a kid darts out to save it?

Slow down, and pay attention. You will be surprised at the many amazing things you will see on country roads if you reduce your speed by 5MPH, and scan the road, and ditches ahead. Don’t be the reason for another child’s tears!

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So long Murray…We will never forget you!

(Correction…it has been just over a year since Murray came into our lives…Time sure does fly)

Doug Alley

About Doug Alley

I grew up in Bath, Maine in an upper lower class family with 3 step sisters, a step brother, and a little sister. After high school I spent 3 years serving in the USAF at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage AK. I've competed in, and won, demolition derbies. I've competed in, and never won, stock car races. I am the 47-year-old father of an 11-year-old boy who is pretty sure he is smarter than I ever was. We live on a little less than an acre of land in a 1973 mobile home in Stetson with my wife Jen, some cats, a few chickens, and rabbits, and a couple of goats. I hunt, fish, camp out, dabble in photography, gardening, and I cook in variable degrees of near success.