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Copyright 2001 Bruce Ling
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Grey Cat in a Hollow Maple
I live about 12 feet from the Grand River, and on the corner of my property are two massive Maple trees. Judging by their size, (two grown men couldn't join their arms together around one,) they have been sitting there since the mid to early 1800's. One of these Maples is hollow, with the entrance at about 3 feet off of the ground. I'm 6'4", and I can just fit inside the cavity. It's a wonderfully magical place to be still. The tree doesn't seem to be in any danger of dying or collapse. The walls are about 2 feet thick, and it appears to be thriving. Interestingly enough, the roots of both trees grasp the cement foundations of an old landing stage.
The Grand River, being the largest and longest river in the state, was once the main artery for commerce. Flatboats, log rafts, steamboats, and the like all plied their way up and down this river. Most of the cut stone that was used to build the historic buildings in Grand Rapids had come down the river from Portland and further, via steam-driven stone barges. The Grand was used extensively by the lumber industry to deliver countless millions of board feet of logs to the port of Grand Haven, for distribution around the U.S. and other countries.
After a library research on the history of my location on the Grand, I discovered that there were a number of lumber mills, gristmills, and tanneries located in this area from the early 1800's till the 40's of the previous century. Local lore places an old trading post were I'm located, hence the landing stage. When I first moved here, I spent a lot of time cleaning debris from my river bank. I found quite a bit of metal, and long, hand forged square-cut spikes which leads me to envision some sort of wharf along the river here.
Yes, the cat part.
I had a friend who had a litter of kittens, (they're always your friend when they have a litter to get rid of.) He had this one kitten who was 3 fingers wide between the ears, and who had weaned himself early and started in on dog food. That's the one I picked. On the way home Becca's son Kris named him Owl, cause he was marked like a Barred Owl. He was a great cat, and did the proper cat things, i.e. mousing, purring, sleeping in front of the wood stove, etc. We were his family for almost 2 years. He had adopted the Hollow Maple as his special lair, and often I'd see him entering or exiting the kiva in the tree.
After an absence of 3 days, I received a call from a neighbor down the road, telling me that he had found my cat. I found Owl asleep in his wood pile. It appeared that he went to sleep and never woke up. He now sleeps in front of the Hollow Maple.
by Bruce Ling 2-2002