It was late one night in summer, when my dad went into the woolshed to get hay to feed the cattle and horses. Suddenly, as he moved towards the stack of hay, Sheeba uncharacteristically flew at him, from on top of the bales, making him step back and preventing his usual routine of lifting a chest high bale down from the stack.
She then jumped up onto the stack herself, and proceeded to hunt out and kill a large, highly venomous brown snake, that had been harbouring in the heat of the bales.
Snake bite on the chest or face is rare and amongst the most difficult regions of the body to treat. Had my dad been bitten he was on his own and far removed from even a phone to call for help!
Prior to this event neither of my parents were fond of cats. Their affection for my three adopted cats was begrudging. Indeed, my paternal grandfather was very proud of his cat skin rug, made of cats who ventured too close to his prized pigeons. My mum had contracted ringworm from stroking a a cat as a child, so she too had misgivings about cat keeping. Meanwhile I kept pestering for a cat, having always adored them and encouraged by family friends and my nanny, the wonderful Mrs Bradford who were devout cat lovers. Finally, when we purchased our farm, with its already resident cat, they relented when Mama Cat, had a litter of four kittens. I tamed them and Sheeba and I bonded to the point we could not be separated!
Homes were found for the other three of her litter mates, but still, Sheeba was allowed inside only for limited time. It seemed she was doomed to being a wholly outside girl and I would have to wait years before I was allowed the luxury and comfort of a cat purring at my side in bed.
Then Sheeba saved my dad from a snake bite to the chest or face!
From then on Sheebs was allowed the run of the house and even to cuddle me indoors and sleep on my bed. My parents even served her warm bowls of milk and other treats. She had earned both their respect and enduring love!
Thanks to this one amazing feat, Sheeba converted my parents into "cat people" as well as dog people and Sheeba became the first of six wonderful cats who graced our lives, during and after her lifetime.
As for Sheeba and her ability as a snaker, she would regularly leave dead snakes and pieces of rabbit as her contributions to feeding our family. It must have disappointed her that we never actually ate any of these treats she carefully hunted down for her human family.
She also moved us greatly, when, during bitter weather and a flood, we heard her plaintiff meow at the backdoor. She arrived bedraggled and soaking wet, having made her way to us through the flood water, possibly even swimming to get there. She must have heard me calling her repeatedly, ditressed and concerned for her welfare!
She dried off in front of a raging open fire, with a full stomach and slept beside me on the bed all night!
She was also a very relaible mouser!
Sadly Sheeba died aged only eight, as a result of liver failure. She was a darling cat and her nephew, Garth and half sister, Blackie, Garth's mother, continued to be part of our lives for most of the next 20 years.
Sheebs was also a great kneeder and for many years after her death, I could often feel the blankets on my bed being kneeded by cat paws, even though there was no cat there, readying herself to sleep at my side!