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A Cat Story

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

You may have heard of Huckleberry Finn who once lived a hundred miles or so downstream of Rock Island. Huck never told a lie, but he wasn't above telling what he called "stretchers" now and then.

This story is not a stretcher; it’s about a cat, and it's hard to stretch a story involving cats. If you have owned a cat, you know they have even more stories than lives.

The cat in this story was owned by Lester and Adelia Larson who live near Rock Island, although "owned" is not the right word when talking about cats. She never came when called. Even in a blizzard, Adelia would have to open the back door, meow several times and close the door for three minutes. Only then would Petra be waiting and agree to come in.

Lester and Adelia had been married for nearly forty years and had never been on a trip, except to the Black Hills for a honeymoon in 1952. Two years ago, Adelia saw a feature on Victoria, British Columbia, in the National Geographic and decided that the one thing they had to do before she died was attend high tea at the Empress Hotel—break out of their Norwegian mold, as it were.

In March, they set out west—with the cat. Adelia could not leave poor Petra behind. Across Iowa, the Great Plains, over the Rocky Mountains and the Cascade Mountains they went—2,362 miles to Seattle, and across the straits to the Empress Hotel in Canada.

Then tragedy. Somehow Petra got left behind on the ferry boat. Perhaps it was because the high tea turned out to cost $17.50 per person ("Now I know why they call it high," said Adelia's postcard). A day of phone calls and meowing failed to find the cat.

Brokenhearted, the Larsons drove 2,362 miles, not even stopping at Wall Drug, back to the Mississippi. Every evening, Adelia meowed out the back door, and opened it again three minutes later. One week, two weeks.

Now here is where this story gets almost unbelievable for a cat story. Remember the corn fields, the Great Plains, the mountains, the 2,362 miles? By now you must have guessed the end of the story:

To this day, that cat, Petra, has never returned.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.