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Last updated on February 5, 2019

Old Rock Cairn

It was a drawn-out, wailing plea. Distant and nearly inaudible. Had there been any sound at all? I stood motionless, senses sharp, twisting slowly to the left and right, scanning for signs of anything that might indicate someone or something in trouble. There was nothing!

It’s strange how the peacefulness of a quiet walk through the woods can suddenly come alive with chatter when you want to listen for a particular sound. Any hope of hearing it again was lost in nature’s sinfonietta — tree branches whispering in the breeze — dry leaves rustling past my feet  —  birds singing. My senses strained to filter the noises of nature’s harmony but failed.

‘Just cry out once more —  I’m here,’  I mentally pleaded, questioning my sanity of searching for a sound I wasn’t even certain had occurred.


There it was! Again faint and lost in wind. But, I definitely heard it. Different now — muffled — but still filled with painful distress. Perhaps it was simply a pair of intertwined trees, groaning as they twisted and rubbed in the breeze. My curiosity remained intent.  I had to find the source.

The sound had cut its way through the forest noises, but from what direction had it come?  I turned and left the path to search the forest.  I moved forward, gingerly stepping over the leaf-covered ground, trying to keep any noise I might make to a minimum. My senses were keened to anything unusual; ears tuned for the slightest of sound.

A twig beneath the leaves snapped in an explosive demolition under my weight. I jumped as if I was about to be attacked, tripping myself to nearly stumble to the ground. I took a deep breath.

‘Settle down! Relax!’ I told myself.

“Where are you?” I called out as if expecting a voice to reply, ‘Over here!’

I waited, hoping for a reply, but there was none. Perhaps, whatever had made the sound, used its last ounce of energy in one final cry-out, then expired. I would wait and listen. A fallen moss-covered oak provided a sit-upon.  I sat down, to watch and wait for just one more cry of distress, frustrated that I was too late — unable to track the sound in time to have saved a life?

Fifty feet or so to my left I noticed a pile of rocks, decorated, like my log, with moss and decaying leaves. It made me think of an ancient druid ceremonial gathering spot. I found myself studying the nearby oak trees for mistletoe growth they would have used in their fertility rituals.

Then, in a moment of symphonic respite, the sound happened once more. It was louder and closer. I was certain it had come from the rock pile. I moved to investigate this ‘cairn-of-ceremony‘ more closely.

“Are you there?” I called out, leaning over the tomb of rocks. “Can you hear me?” A cry echoed from deep within the pile. An animal — somehow trapped. I moved a few rocks to one side and heard another weak howl. It sounded like a cat, but whatever it was, it was still alive and I was here to rescue it.

My heart was pounding as I removed stone after stone. I began to wonder what Druid curse I might incur for my destruction of this possible shrine. I frantically worked my way down to the animal buried below me.

As I thought about the entombed animal I was attempting to save, my thoughts drifted, to a stray cat that had chosen to let me share my property with it over the past year. When it first took up residence in my yard, I was concerned that it might become a threat to my chickens. I only had a few hens, mostly for the eggs — and Rusty my rooster. Until the cat’s arrival, raccoons had been my biggest problem. I didn’t want to have to also defend my chickens against a cat. But it seemed to have no interest in chicken meat or their eggs.

In fact, besides showing his talents as a yard mouser — apparently one of its favorite foods — it wasn’t long before I realized my raccoon problem had all but disappeared. I was quite content to allow him the run of the yard. I had determined it was a Tom. For whatever reason, he remained shy of my efforts of friendship, always keeping his distance when I’d approach. Although there was no hesitation to feed on the bits of food and cream I’d leave on the porch for it each night. I’d watch from the window, as he would sneak between the outbuildings, then bound across the yard and up the steps for dinner.

Unfortunately, the cat had disappeared as he had appeared; moved on; or he was possibly taken by a raccoon that was too big to handle. The way of the wanderer —here today, gone tomorrow.  Now I began to wonder. Was this my tom-cat?

There it was — well, its tail anyway — flicking back and forth as if warning an aggressor to, stay back. It had found its way into the pile, perhaps after a small rodent,  but having gone too far, was unable to reverse direction and so was stuck. Already in its grave, it could only wait for death. As I removed more stones from around it, I could see it must have been here for some time. A few more rocks and I waited for it to back out, but it appeared to lack the energy for even that. If it was my stray, he certainly looked different, very scruffy and emaciated. I gently wrapped my hands around the cat’s middle and with no fight left in it to object, I lifted it from the hole.  It was pathetically weak, as I coddled it into the fold of my jacket for warmth. Its eyes shifted to meet mine in a weak thank-you. We headed home.

I named him Cairn. It seemed fitting and I thought it might appease any Druid spirits that might be evaluating me. A symbolic gesture of respect. Cairn regained his strength and made his return to controlling the mice, and chicken and egg-stealing raccoons. But he spent his nights in the house, either on the rug in front of the fireplace or on my lap. Our relationship had bonded.

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