The Great Catastrophe
by Pr George Porter
The year was late 1949. The location was the Tweed River Valley in northern New South Wales. This area reaches to the Queensland border. My family and I lived under the McPherson range immediately down from the border gate in Upper Numinbah. It was my tenth year on the planet.
The border gate was situated at a high elevation where a narrow pass crossed the border between Springbrook Mountain to the east and Mt Lamington to the west. All inland vehicular traffic from NSW used the pass to get across into Queensland. The gate was commonly known as "The Tick Gate." The Governments had the gate installed with a tall animal proof fence extending either side for several kilometres to mountain precipices. The purpose was to stop Queensland cattle ticks migrating to NSW and definitely to put a stop to NSW cattle ticks moving over the border into Queensland. The ticks had devastating effects on the animals. All vehicles and animals were inspected before being authorized to cross the border.
Not far from the gate lived a lady whose name was Joan. One morning she awoke to hear a strange cat calling, Meow, Meow, Meow. It sounded hungry, lonely and stressed. "Oh no!" she said to herself, "this must be another cat some person from Murwillumbah has dumped on my doorstep." It was a habit of town people to dump unwanted pets in isolated county locations. Joan opened her door onto the house veranda and immediately a huge ginger tom cat raced over to her and began purring and rubbing her leg with his body. Tom began to persistently cry for food and drink.
Now Joan really did not want another cat as she already had several of her own. However her love for cats caused her to weaken so she gave the Tom fresh milk and some scrap meat. Tom immediately made up his mind that this was the place to permanently locate. Joan was a friend never to leave. Unfortunately for Tom, Joan's resident cats had other ideas. They were furious that Tom had crashed in on their territory. So with all their female feline ferocity they heckled Tom day in and day out plus all through the night. Joan could not handle it any longer so she decided to take Tom on a bus ride to Tweed Heads and give him to her sister, who lived there by the river.
Joan prepared a large basket and lined it with a thin cushion and sat Tom in it all wrapped up so he could not jump out. Soon the bus bound for Murwillumbah arrived. As she boarded the bus, Jack the driver greeted her then asked, "Where are you taking that huge cat?"Joan replied, "Someone from town dumped him in my yard. My cats fight him continually so I have decided to take him to my sister at Tweed heads." Jack never said a word but he thought to himself, "I bet that cat follows her back to the mountain."
Tom enjoyed the trip to town. He continually gazed out the bus window and seemed to take in every detail of the surrounding scenery. On arriving in Murwillumbah Joan boarded a second bus for Tweed Heads. All the while Tom was scanning the outside surroundings, identifying and recording in his cat mind all the key objects along the way. Trees, gates, creeks, bridges, cow bails, fences, houses, shops, schools, cane farms including the bus itself. Soon Tom had about 44 kms of memories imprinted on his cat brain which he fully intended to use on his planned return.
Joan was so pleased to meet with her sister again. It had taken most of the morning to travel and it was great to enjoy a good lunch with family. Tom also enjoyed the food he was given to eat. Soon after lunch the ladies suddenly realised that Tom had taken off. He was nowhere to be found. Joan's sister was so sad. She really did need the cat, as she had lots of mice in her yard which needed to be eaten! The women were so disappointed.
Joan stayed with her sister in Tweed Heads for three days so that they could catch up on news and enjoy each other's company. They continued to search for Tom but to no avail. The time came for Joan to say her good byes and head for her inland border home. She arrived home late in the afternoon. It was four days since she had taken Tom to her sister's house. As she walked up to the front door she noticed Tom sitting on the veranda staring at her as if to say, "Ha! Ha! I beat you home." Joan was devastated and not at all happy.
When Jack the bus driver met Joan next, he mentioned that he had seen Tom back at her house three days after he had been taken away to Tweed Heads. He told Joan, "cats must not see where they are going because they record all the markers along the way and will retrace their journey and find their starting point.""Really" replied Joan, "what on earth can I do now? I just cannot have this huge cat around my home."
Jack suggested that Joan repeat the first journey with Tom and take him back to Tweed Heads. He advised, "This time put Tom inside a sugar bag and tie the top off with some rope. If he cannot see where he is going he will not come back again. (A "sugar bag" was made of hessian and held just over 27 kilos of sugar. Sugar was supplied bulk to country shops and sold to customers per kilo in brown paper bags.) Joan acted on Jack's advice. She found a sugar bag in her shed and placed Tom inside it and tied it off with rope. Tom was not happy. About 44 kms later Tom was back at Tweed Heads and Joan's sister was so pleased to have him back. After the usual pleasantries Joan set off for home.
It was three weeks later and Joan was at home up in the mountains. She was sitting on her veranda which looked out over the entire valley and beyond to the sea. Enjoying the scenery Joan slipped off to sleep until she was awakened by many weak meows. She could not believe what she saw. There was Tom coming up the path weak, skinny, dirty and hungry after his long trek. No one knows which route he followed. Some people think he followed along the foothills of the range. One thing for sure he made it back to what he called home.
Jack the bus driver was speechless when Joan told him that Tom was back after three weeks travel. "The sugar bag trick has always worked for me", he stammered apologetically. He continued, "Now Joan there is one final method you can try to prevent Tom from returning. Just carry him in your basket as you did on the first trip but take plenty of butter with you and rub plenty on his paws just as you get on my bus. He will love it and busily lick it and miss the landmarks along the way." Jack continued his instructions, "make sure to continually plaster his paws with butter all along the journey to Tweed Heads and for an hour after you arrive. It will take his mind off his surroundings and clear his memory bank. He should lose his sense of direction."
Joan was so desperate to get Tom to love her sister and Tweed Heads, she was ready to try anything. So with basket, butter and Tom she made the trip to her sisters the third time. Tom was so busy licking butter that he never once even peeped out the bus window. He just loved the taste of the butter. He seemed hypnotised. He continually licked his paws and lips. He was totally engrossed in butter. He had no mind for anything else. You guessed. Tom never returned from Tweed Heads. Jack the bus driver was relieved. Joan was delighted. Her sister was satisfied and the mice in her house and yard were very worried!
There is a lesson in all this for us all. Along life's journey with heaven as our destination, we must keep our eyes open and be alert to where we are headed. Keep noticing all the landmarks that God has placed along the way for us to recognize. Beware! Do not let Satan "butter-up" our thoughts and emotions. Beware of his butter of temptation. Beware of the sins he offers. They are often tailor-made for our liking. They can taste good. They can feel good. They can be good for a start. However, if we lock on to his butter and keep licking we will lose our way and be lost in strange territory. Remember, do not permit Satan to "butter-up" your mind, soul or body. Those he butters he toasts and eventually roasts. So keep heaven's home on your mind. Do not be blind. That would be a 'Great Catastrophe'.
This article is Copyright © 2013 by George C Porter. Used by permission.
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