By Carol Mills
I was sitting on the side of the road near St Leonard, Maryland, studying a map for getting to Annmarie Sculpture Garden, when a middle-age man approached my van pointing to my front wheel. He said something, but I could not hear him. I was afraid he said I had a flat tire. I rolled down my window to hear.
He said, “There is a kitten sitting in front of your wheel.” He then walked over to the wheel and stooped down.
A woman was following him and said, “Oh no, it went up into the van.” The woman explained to me that they were driving down the road and saw the kitten. They had stopped to help it, but the kitten ran away and to my van.
I was not sure whether this was a ploy to get me, an older woman, out of my van to hijack it. These people looked OK, and they seemed to be sincerely concerned about this kitten. We were in a public place, next to a shopping mall. I decided to take them seriously. Maybe there was a kitten.
I popped my hood and got out of my van. I lifted the hood but could not see any kitten. The man said, “It wouldn’t be up here, it would be underneath.”
At that point a teenage girl approached and asked us, “Can you see the kitten?”
The woman, who appeared to be her mother, said, “No.”
I said, “If you want to look underneath, I have rugs. The blacktop is awfully hot.”
I got two rugs out and put them on the blacktop in front of the van. The girl looked under the van and said, “Here it is! What should I do?”
The mother hesitated but eventually said “grab it.”
Before the girl could do it, she said, “Oh now, it got down and ran to the back of the van.”
We all moved to the back of the van and the man saw it climb behind the wheel. I myself never saw the kitten. I did not know how big it was or what color it was. We all looked under the van but could not see the kitten. The woman and girl called “kitty, kitty.” This was all to no avail.
Then we decided we should back off because the kitten seemed so frightened. We waited 15 or 20 minutes standing some distance from the van and nothing happened. I started the generator in the back of the van which is pretty noisy. The kitten still did not come out.
Next, we thought if I would drive down the road very slowly, maybe it would fall out. I did that and the people followed me in their car. I pulled over after a few miles and since the kitten had not fallen out, we decided to give up. I guess these people were not trying to hijack my van. There must be a kitten under my van somewhere.
On to Point Lookout. It was about 40 miles yet to my campsite at Point Lookout State Park. On the way near Solomons, Maryland, I stopped at Annmarie Sculpture Garden to see sculptures, which are mostly from the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art, and to give the kitten a chance to escape.
After I enjoyed the sculptures in their wonderful, wooded setting, I was sure the kitten would be gone and decided to forget about it. When I got to the Point Lookout State Park campsite, I walked, went to the pier, read park literature, ate, showered, and went to bed.
At 2 a.m., I was awakened by meowing. The kitten was still with me! I found a dish for water, and some bread that I dampened with water. I had a can of sardines which I opened. As I put these under the van, I was very quiet so as not to scare the kitten.
I went back to bed, but I couldn’t sleep. At 3 a.m., I heard meowing again. I decided this time I was going to look for the kitten even though it was dark and 3 a.m. I got out the rugs and crawled under the van with my flashlights. I could not see a kitten and the food had not been touched. I called, “Kitty, kitty.” Nothing happened.
I went back to bed but did not sleep because I was listening for the kitten. I did not hear anything. I finally got up at 6 a.m. when it was light and crawled around under the van. Again, I could not find the kitten and the food was still there. Maybe it got out of the van?
I drove around Point Lookout State Park that day. I went to see the lighthouse, the beach, the fishing piers, and the Civil War memorial, prisoner camp, and fort. I walked along both the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River. When I got back to the campsite with my van, the bread had been eaten but not the sardines. I was hoping that meant the kitten was out of my van. That evening, I put out more food — sardines, bread in cheese sauce, and water.
I was extremely tired and was hoping to get a good night’s sleep. But just as I was ready to sleep at about 9:45 p.m., I heard meowing again from the rear of the van. I talked to the cat, and it meowed back. I went out to look at the food and most of the bread and cheese sauce was gone, but not the sardines.
I felt sorry for the frightened kitten, but I wanted that kitten out of my van and wanted to get some sleep. On one of my walks in the park, I remembered seeing that a campground host had a business of fixing RVs. Maybe I could get him to come over to my van and search for the kitten.
I walked about a half mile to his campsite and knocked on his camper door. A woman answered and I told her my problem. She called the repair guy and he immediately put on his shoes to come look for the kitten. In fact, the whole family came: the woman (his wife), his daughter (who is about 12), and son (who was about 8). I found out later that they were big cat lovers and had 4 cats in their camper. This was a big event for them — saving a kitten. They even brought cat food and cat litter.
All four of them searched the van inside and out, back and front, and underneath. Much of this I had already done, but they were more thorough and found a few unsearched compartments, but no kitten. This took at least an hour. They were making a lot of noise and talking; so of course, the kitten would not meow. The RV repair guy could not believe that a kitten had ridden underneath the van for 40+ miles. I thanked them for their help and gave them $40 for their efforts.
By the time they left it was 11:45 p.m. Everything in the van was turned upside down and it was full of bugs since all the doors had been open. I got everything straightened out and most of the bugs killed by about 12:30 a.m. and finally got to bed. Thank goodness I did not hear meowing in the night!
The next morning, I left for home in Baltimore. I told the kitten several times before I left that he better get out and stay there in the park. Happily, I heard no more meowing on the drive home. Maybe he could understand me!
I made two scenic stops on the way home. First, I stopped in historic Saint Mary’s City, Maryland’s first European settlement and first capital, which has been partially reconstructed. Then I stopped at Greenwell State Park, which has beautiful views of the Patuxent River, a small beach, and farm landscapes.
I know now the people who approached me on the side of the road, were not trying to hijack my van and there was definitely a kitten. The kitten, which I never saw, hijacked part of my time and enjoyment of my camping trip and I hope it does well wherever it is. I do wonder what happened to it. The kitten was a lot of aggravation, but it did not prevent me from enjoying the excellent water views and beautiful scenery of southern Maryland and learning about its history.
Carol Bergfeld Mills is a Professor Emerita of Goucher College, Towson, Maryland. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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