Great Shot, Griswold!
Meanwhile... back @ Ashley's Inn, Lefty was sitting on the softest cushion Ashley could find, which meant one made from the tiny downy feathers shed by the baby birds of Legacy Ranch.
Each season, the bird mothers gathered the precious feathers for Ashley after their fledglings had flown and presented them to her as a gift for her Annual Kindness. All too often it was one of their own clan who needed to be to be rescued and nursed.
The cushion she'd selected for Lefty was one Ashley had lovingly stitched herself. It was a lovely shade of light blue velvet, with no lace nor ruffles. Lefty had enough pain without being teased for lace and ruffles.
Lefty looked quite grand on his throne. His swollen paw was bathing in a mixture of baking soda and shaved ice, which Joie had brought from the humans' supplies, which are kept on hand (or paw, as the case may be), for precisely that use.
Ashley had allowed him to use her favorite cut crystal dish for the therapy, which was quite a privilege. Ashley knew that Special Privileges often take one's mind off one's pain, and is fine, if it isn't taken too far!
The cold on his still-throbbing digits felt almost good now, but he tried not to show it.
Lefty's mother, Mini (the sleek and exceptionally tiny jet black Mother Cat who had eyes the color of amber) lay dutifully by her son's side. She softly licked his brow when she thought it too warm, and gave his ears a good cleaning while she was at it.
Lefty thought she was surely the softest, nicest little mother in the whole wide world. Even though Lefty was already bigger than Mini, he felt so bad that it made him want to be nuzzled like a baby.
Lefty was glad his sister wasn't around. She'd just tease him for being pampered by women. Which... as he looked around at the three ladies who obviously loved him and cared for him deeply... didn't seem to be all that bad, after all. He proceeded to get his face licked some more and actually started to purr.
It had taken some doing to get Lefty and all the picnic goodies back to the Inn quickly, with no Incidents but with the help of the horses and Everyone Pitching In, they'd accomplished the task in Record Time.
After putting the picnic things in their proper place and feeding her other guests... and finally bidding them all farewell, Ashley took a moment to make a note in her Emergency Logs (ELs) of the group's Efficiency During the Entire Operation (EDEO), giving the exercise an "EDEO rating" of B+. (In Ashley's World, there's always Room for Improvement).
She poured herself a cup of her Strongest Tea and served Mini, Joie and Lefty some heavy milk, with extra honey.
Now that the healing was taking place, Joie took the tender opportunity to begin an important discussion. "Lefty, Dear! I know it hurts, but you would do well to take it as a warning how important it is to do as you're told by those more experienced."
"Yes, dear," Mini added, in a quiet tone and in her unusually raspy voice. (Mini sounded a bit like Janice Joplin). While Mini and her older sister, Joie, didn't always get along very well, they were, nonetheless, of the same mind when it came to raising the youngsters right.
"We know that you know how to be a youngster. You're very good at that! The next step as a young teenager, is to continue to enjoy your childhood while learning progressively more skills that will help you be a successful adult," said Mini.
All six cats at Legacy Ranch are related, Mini being the last of their line to breed. The entire Legacy Cat Clan, for generations back (the original pair were a magnificent Jet Black Bobtail, named Stealth, and a very Wild Little Calico named Tara), prided themselves on being highly successful and very responsible.
As she busied about, Ashley took the opportunity to be more specific. "Griswold was obviously armed. And he is a Giant Hornet, as you well know! Griswold's, and many other clans of hornets and wasps, will sting when they have reason. Even worse, they are able to sting as many times as necessary, and as hard as they choose without it effecting them negatively in the least."
She paused for a sip of tea. Everyone listened intently for they knew that some stinging insects died after they struck. This could be serious information, not just idle chat.
"I've also noted that they seem to have very good memories and a definite sense of purpose. All in all, however, hornets and wasps, like the bees, help keep the balance and are very important people in our food chain. In general, hornets and wasps are regarded as quite good since they help keep other, more harmful insect clans in check."
"It's the same as with the grasshoppers and mice," chimed in Joie, who was enjoying the direction of this chat. She was careful no to stand too near her little sister, Mini, who could be lethal when inspired.
"One or two of such a prey are fun... and even cute. Get hundreds of them hopping about though, and they take over. That's why it takes six of us cats to work The Knoll." Joie looked at Mini and almost smiled. Mini gave a squint that whispered approval.
Ashley decided to sum up Lefty's Lesson. This was not intended as a carnivore story. Mz Possum's was the place for such talk, considered offensive by dedicated herbivores!
"Hornets and wasps are somewhat like snakes," interceded Ashley. Especially rattlesnakes. All in all they are critical to keeping the proper balance in our environment. Rattlesnakes are, of course, our deadly enemy... and hornets are quite innocent and small in comparison."
"Oh dear," she thought to herself, "I hope I'm not getting this muddled..."
"I get it," piped in Lefty, feeling even better now. (The more you know, the less painful the hurt... or so it seems).
"If Maverick stung me, it wouldn't hurt much, even though he's the biggest guy I know! Because he doesn't have a stinger!" Lefty was also thinking, that if he got his elders to stay in their preachy/teachy mode, they might forget about his snitching.
"And if Griswold stepped on you instead of stinging, it wouldn't have hurt a bit, because he's so much lighter than you. Whereas Maverick's innocent hoof could inadvertently squash you in a minute!" added Joie
"I believe Lefty gets the idea now," interjected Ashley. Turning her attention back to her patient-turned-student, she continued.
"Danger comes in many forms and normally cannot be foreseen. You must be careful to leave people like Griswold alone, and they won't hurt you! Threaten them and the resulting pain can obviously be very severe."
"But I didn't even see him. I'd have left him alone if I'd have seen him," explained Lefty, wincing and squelching a yowl as the excitement of merely thinking about coming to his own defense made his paw get another of those horribly fiery, shooting pains.
Ashley knew, however, that hornet stings feel bad, but don't last long. Surely it had worn off by now. Before more comforting, it was a good time to get an important lesson across.
"Although I certainly feel the pain you're experiencing goes way beyond due punishment for snitching..." began Ashley. It pained her to see her beloved little Lefty wince one more time, but knew it might be Griswold's sting that hurt.
"... I can't help but take the opportunity to remind you again, that if you had encountered a rattlesnake, you might well not be with us now.
"Although quite painfully, you've learned how wary one must be of what lies under any camouflage. And sometimes, the smaller the attacker, the more pain it can evoke. Hornets are much like snakes, and we adults have all tried to teach you what we know about snakes." She looked at Mini and Lefty's Aunt Joie and remembered to add, "and your heritage is suburb; your instincts excellent!"
The cats, of course, agreed by nodding their heads, and squinting their eyes. Lefty settled back into his mother's warm embrace, his hurt paw back on the cushion, and began to purr. Preachy/teachy mode wasn't all that bad, after all.
A Heroic Effort
Ashley poured more Tea for everyone, sat down on her favorite chair (after fluffing up the cushion a bit) and settled in. It was getting late in the day, there was nowhere to go and nothing particularly important for anyone to accomplish.
That was one of the things that made Ashley's Inn so appealing. After all, it overlooked An Old Texas Ghost Town, named Placid!
"Lefty, Dear... now where was I? Oh, yes.... We all believe you're quite good with snakes now, but you obviously have a way to go with hornets. Like most snakes, hornets tend to stay to themselves and don't go looking for trouble. Griswold, however, may be the exception to that rule." The cats giggled between purrs. "As I was saying, while generally not aggressive, no matter what, you don't want to bait them, and that's precisely what I did by putting out the food that way."
Wait... was Lefty hearing this right? Was Ashley saying he wasn't to blame? He shook his head and ears to be sure he was hearing her correctly.
"In retrospect, I think it would have been best to allow you to eat early, since you were so obviously hungry. Then you could have guarded the food from Griswold!"
Lefty could hardly believe his ears. Was Ashley taking the blame?
"Then you're not still mad at me for snitching?"
Ashley said nothing, and like Joie and Mini, simply smiled at him warmly.
"Because... if you're not, then I'll tell you that I DID defend the food... even though I got stung something terrible!."
Lefty was feeling much better now, almost bordering on heroic. With growing confidence, he actually rolled over and sat upright on his haunches, his hurt paw off the cushion and almost supporting some of his weight again. He looked at his mother, his aunt, and "Aunt Ashley," and confided...
"In fact, I think I actually got in a good slash at him before he buzzed off!"
"Lefty Dear, You DID!" said Ashley with genuine pride. "I saw it happen just before he let go. I was so frightened for you, and even for myself, in case Griswold wouldn't let me intervene.
"In my opinion, you were Quite Heroic! And I for one think it appropriate that we all say...."
Ashley and the ladies, who'd been through similar scenes together, lifted up their tea cups in high praise to their darling little kitten and said in unson...
"Great Shot, Lefty!"
Lefty valiantly held his sore paw up, and added...
"Yes Indeed! Great Shot... Me!"
Lefty got an extra helping of egg milk pie that afternoon.
Although cooked to perfection, for some reason, he didn't feel much like partaking in Ashley's Simply Divine Ham and Cheese Quiche.
©1998 by The Legacy Company