Colonial Cats in History: The Bristol Channel Flood Part II
Hi- Mitchell here again. You may be wondering why I’m telling this story, and not my person, Melissa. Well you see, I am part of a long line of cats who have been given the task of preserving our history by keeping our stories alive. Cats normally use scent and body-language to communicate, but to share this information with humans I have to make these strange tracks. Humans have no sense of smell at all.
I’m going to pick up the story where I left off last week, so if you need to read part one, you can go here.
My many times great-grandfather, Salt was struggling to climb a very steep hill on his little baby legs. The animals from the barnyard were swarming past him, screeching and squawking and threatening to trample him into the ground. Luckily his friend Henry picked Salt up and threw him on the back of a fleeing ewe.
The sheep turned to see what had landed on her back. Her eyes rolled back in her head with terror and she didn’t seem to see the small white cat hanging on for dear life. Salt burrowed into her long fleece and looked down over her rump at the strangest sight his young eyes had ever seen.
In the distance, trees, buildings, and animals were being erased from view. It was as if a great hand was sweeping them away. One minute a grove of trees stood in the distance, the next minute they were replaced by the horizon which continued to come closer.
He felt the ewes flanks tremble with the exertion of climbing the steep hill, and yet the sheep dog was behind her urging her to move faster. Other animals raced past, and Salt caught sight of Henry running like a greyhound. The man from the farm still stood at the bottom of the hill cursing at the sheepdog to bring the sheep down.
As the horizon grew closer, Salt realized it was actually the sea closing in on them. A terrible force was pushing the water toward them and sweeping away everything in its path. Trees tumbled forward like mere twigs. The thatched roofs of cottages erupted and floated apart like dandelion fluff on the wind. People and animals littered the encroaching surf, grasping onto any tree or rooftops tall enough and strong enough to support them.
Salt watched in awe as the barn he’d spent the night in was engulfed. People and animals clung to its peaked roof, but the water kept coming. When it reached them, it would sweep the ewe off her feet, and Salt with them. The poor animal struggled upward, the scent of her terror was all Salt could smell.
Now the sea was so close it threatened to sweep the sheep dog off his feet. Yet he stayed behind his charges, urging them forward, even though he could have run ahead. Whenever a ewe or lamb would falter he would nip at their heels to urge them on.
Salt looked over his shoulder to see how high they’d gotten. They were reaching the top of the hill. If the water followed them there, the only place left to go was the great tower. But would the sheep be able to climb that high?
The top of the hill teamed with animals smart enough to race for high-ground. Once the ewe reached the top, all Salt could do was hang on as she scrambled for a position farthest from the encroaching water. He watched as debris of every kind was swept toward the top of the hill, among it many dead animals. He saw the body of the farmer who had tried to drown him slumped face down in the tide. Salt couldn’t help feeling that the man had gotten what he deserved, but what about all the other people and animals caught in the great wave?
Henry managed to worm his way through the terrified animals to where Salt rested on the ewes back. The old tom urged Salt to get down and join him at the top of the tower. After a long struggle up a steep ladder, the two cats emerged. They looked down over a scene of devastation. Where there had once been farms with sheep, cattle, and horses, there was nothing but water. Where there had once been churches and homes, there was nothing but water. Where there had once been trees and flowers there was nothing but water.
It took days for the water to recede enough that Henry and Salt could leave the Tor. When they finally did, Salt wasn’t sure he wanted to ever be surrounded by water again.
To read more about the Bristol Flood of 1607 you can go here.
To read more about the Glastonbury Tor where Salt and Henry found safety you can go here.
You can learn more about Salt by reading Salt and the Sea Venture available here.