The Great Cat Caper |

The Great Cat Caper

After spending almost six days atop an East Vail pine tree, a cat rebuffed almost two days of rescue attempts by professional tree climbers and crane operators, finally leaping 60 feet to the ground and disappearing into the woods near Interstate 70, refusing to be reconciled to domesticity.

The feline fable goes like this.

About five days ago, Char Quinn of the Eagle Valley Humane Society, an East Vail resident, called to explain the tabby’s troubles. It seems the cat, which appeared to be pretty well fed and wearing a collar, managed to get itself marooned about 60 feet above terra firma.

Quinn fielded rescue suggestions of all sorts, ranging from channeling the cat’s past lives to pointed references to the feline’s future involving guitar and violin strings.

Finally, Quinn got the local media involved. Mike Scott of A Cut Above Forestry heard the call and volunteered his services, which pretty much explains how he found himself less than 10 feet from the top of an 80-foot tree as another afternoon storm blew through the area, whispering sweet kitty come-on lines to a cat that acted like it wanted to be saved – but inevitably was only playing hard to get.

“When I got close enough to see it, it looked like my cat that ran off a few weeks ago,” said Scott. “That was a little strange.”

And just what does one say to a fickle feline in the name of catamount coaxing?

“Basically, I proposed just about everything but marriage,” Scott joked.

Scott made one ascent Wednesday afternoon, but was driven back to earth by rain, sleet and foggy glasses.

Undaunted, he donned his contact lenses and tried again Thursday, traipsing around the treetops for a couple hours. The cat came within four feet at one point, leaping from its tree to Scott’s.

But alas, tree-top tryst was not to be; the muddled mouser wandered away.

Which pretty much explains how the guys from Webb Crane got themselves and a bunch of massive equipment involved.

Webb Crane branch manager Arnold Mabee had heard about the situation on the radio and had called the Humane Society’s Joe Stearns to offer their help.

By mid afternoon Thursday, the crane, an impressive piece of American machinery, came rumbling up Columbine Drive. The time for subtlety was over.

Mabee’s bunch set it up, hung the basket on the end, fired up the diesel and started to reach for the sky. Just about the time they were close enough to reach the caterwauling cat, the grimalkin decided it was time to take the next step on the evolutionary ladder and fly, leaping from the tree.

Evolution, though, works more slowly than gravity and the cat careened toward the dirt faster than Martha Stewart’s reputation. It grabbed a branch about 10 feet from the ground to slow its fall – and, of course, landed on its feet.

The cheetah charged straight into the woods, and so far has managed to avoid all the cat traps the Humane Society folks have set for it.

Odd facts about this sordid tale:

– If that enviro-whiner, tree-sitting, Cat-III-protesting woman who called herself “Moonblossom” had been as adept at staying in her tree as this big Russian gray cat was at staying in that East Vail pine tree, the High Sheriffs at Vail Resorts would still be singing the blues over trying to open Blue Sky Basin.

– None of the guys with Webb Crane, Rolland Burgess, Kim Lyons and Mabee, own cats.

– Neither does Scott, although that was the cat’s idea.

And while these civic-minded citizens didn’t charge the Humane Society one thin dime for their time or expertise in the Great Cat Caper, the charges would have gone like this:

– Crane and operator – $140 an hour, two-hour minimum.

– “Man basket” to hang from the end of the crane – $90 an hour, two-hour minimum.

– Professional tree climber with Scott’s level of training and expertise – $170 an hour. Liability is expensive in his line of work.

And here’s why this has to be a girl grimalkin:

– The confused cat refused for days to act in its own best interests, eschewing food, water and reason.

– Only a hard-core feminist feline could avoid that many well-meaning men, who all had its best interests at heart.

– Randy Wyrick

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