Clancy’s favorite way to explore was to ride on you until you came upon something that he found interesting. Then he’d hop down to investigate. His style of mounting you was by climbing up your leg, over your back, and onto the shoulder. Ouch. But, it beat hearing the bulldog whimpering.
One day we opted for a long hike through the woods and across the island. The island not being too broad at that point, I soon came to the shore of the Sheepscot River. There in the flats, a few boats had been run onto the tidal flat. Men were busy working the mudflats with hand rakes. Surprisingly, the cat seemed curious. So, we walked onto the flats to watch. Seeing someone on the mudflats with a large cat on the shoulder was not something the diggers usually saw.
Clancy liked his instant celebrity status. He jumped down to enjoy the attention. Soon he was watching each worm disinterred from the heavy clay. His gray fur about matched the look of the marine clay on the flats. He didn’t seem to mind a bit.
Now, a word about bloodworms; they bite. They bite each other, they bite themselves, and they will bite you. Considering that I don’t recall seeing gloves on diggers, they either develop a facility for not getting bit or ignore the nips.
Clancy was soon helping with the digging, as he discovered that the worms bite he became more not less interested. “wanna piece of me, huh? Come on…” the diggers got a charge out of this cat who took his combat personally with the worms.
Digging worms starts and ends on the turning tides. As the tide recedes, you run your boat onto the flat. Buckets of bloodworms and the mud they are in are heavy. You don’t want to lug them farther than needed. Having the boat handy is a great convenience. The equipment appears rudimentary: a bucket, hip waders, and a hand rake with large flat teeth.
You are bent over at the waist the entire time you are digging and in clay, or mud for long hours watching for worms as they wriggle away from your rake. After a digger finishes an area, it looks as though a rototiller went through. It did not bother the cat. I thought I had at last found something to occupy his attention when I wasn’t working.
All of a sudden, there was a wet slap slap followed by a watery, sucking sound. The tide was coming. The cat continued until a wet splash landed within a foot of him. All of a sudden, all his attention was to his rear. For the first time, he saw waves washing towards him. It took a moment for him to process: waves, wet, water…oh shit! With a scream, he was off. Across the flats, to the dry, he ran. He leaped across the access road to the woods, into the woods and was gone. I was left to follow at a much slower pace. I found tufts of gray fur in the low bush blueberries that marked his passage. As I approached the cabin, I heard my wife screaming. He had hit the screen door running, smashed through, and in a panic jumped into her arms – with claws fully extended. Now, they were not mutual favorites. She was not thrilled with this sudden surge of “Mommy protect me!” He was not happy that she was eagerly trying to disengage him. As I entered, he seemed to realize how this looked, and he reasserted his macho self-control. He strolled by me and took a swipe.
We never went back to the flats. That ended Clancy’s explorations for a while. The dog was not pleased.