Gary and Morris were walking through the Hervey Cats shelter talking about their summer plans.
“I just love summer,” said Morris. “I love the fun activities, playing with the sprinkler, kids running around having fun, climbing trees! I love it all!”
“So do I,” said Gary. “Let’s make some plans so we don’t forget to do some of those things!”
“You are right. It is always best to make plans,” said Morris.
The cats lay down and started brainstorming their summer plans.
“I want to ride another raft down the river and go even FURTHER!” said Gary.
“I want to have another big race with all our friends!” said Morris.
“Ooh, that sounds fun!” said Gary.
“I want to explore some of the old farm buildings we saw on our river adventure!” said Morris.
“I do too! I’ve been thinking about that lately,” said Gary.
“When should we go? Next week? Second Saturday next month?” said Morris.
“As much as I like making plans, it’s also good to live in the moment!” said Gary. “Let’s go now!”
Both cats got up and darted over to the door. They had a drink of water, some kibble, and then started out on the long trek to an abandoned farm property they’d seen on their trip down the river. Luckily for them, the farm wasn’t too far down the river, so they walked along the bank until they arrived at their destination.
There were a ton of tall trees all in a row, like a fence. Then after the fence of trees, long open fields. Like an ocean of land, it stretched flat into the horizon. On the property were a few barns, falling over and decaying slowly in the elements. The cats made their way to the first one, which was very small. It had a whole bunch of old household appliances in it, cupboards, cups, saucers, and plates. It was as if someone had moved their entire old kitchen into this building!
The cats took delight in jumping around on the items, being extra careful to not touch anything sharp.
“What a strange place to leave all your kitchen stuff!” said Gary.
“Humans are strange,” said Morris.
The cats moved on to the next barn. This one was a bit bigger and had an old car inside! Something from the 1930s. A long sedan with big headlights, large rolling fenders, and a massive steering wheel! One of the windows was open and Gary jumped inside. As he landed on the seat, it kicked up a cloud of dust.
“Oh no!” said Gary, as the car filled with dust.
Morris laughed as Gary jumped back out the window of the car. He was coated in dust.
“Don’t lick that off,” said Morris. “You need a bath.”
“Sadly, you are right.” Said Gary.
The cats moved on to the final barn. In this one was everything from tools, to an old truck, a tractor, a pile of horseshoes, animal stalls, and a giant bell with the name of an old elementary school on it. The cats thought the bell was pretty cool. It was leaning against a wall so they were able to crawl inside. Gary meowed and the echo was so loud it spooked Morris.
“What was that?!” said Morris.
“That was me!” said Gary.
“This thing is neat isn’t it?”
“It sure is,” said Gary.
The cats spent a few more hours exploring the property and having fun chasing around blades of grass as they blew in the wind. Eventually, they started to walk back down to the river bank where they ran into Terrance the beaver.
“Good afternoon boys,” said Terrance. “Nice day for a walk, is it?”
“Hi Terrance,” both cats said in tandem.
“We were out exploring these old barns,” said Gary to Terrance.
“They have some really cool stuff in them!” said Morris.
“Well fancy that! I was exploring the riverbed and hanging out with some of the fish,” said Terrance.
“Don’t you do that all the time?” said Morris.
“Not particularly,” said Terrance. I usually stay on my end of the river. There was an old riverboat that sunk here many years ago and although much of it was cleaned up, there are still pieces of it down there. I came to explore it!”
“That sounds really cool,” said Gary.
“Yeah,” said Morris. I wish we could go down and see.”
“If you two had a vessel of some kind, we could take it down there,” said Terrance.
“I’m not getting my fur wet,” said Morris.
“What about that bell?” said Gary.
“What do you mean?” said Morris.
“That bell we saw in the barn. We could put a little window on it, some of the tires from the old car, and push it down to the riverbed,”
“I’m happy to guide it into place once in the water!” said Terrance.
“How are we going to add a window to a bell?” said Morris.
“The raccoons!” said Gary.
Gary and Morris showed Terrance the bell at the barn so he could start thinking about how this would work. After that, they made their way over to the raccoons’ den to try to recruit their help… and their opposable thumbs.
“So once again, Gary and Morris need the help of a raccoon,” said Mama Raccoon.
“That’s right!” said Gary.
“Yes,” said Morris.
“Oh. Well, yes. We are totally happy to help! We want to come on the journey into the river too though. We might never get the chance again!”
The cats agreed the raccoons should come along if they are helping to build the diving bell and encouraged them to bring their babies as well!
“Bring the whole family!” said Gary. “This will be memorable.”
The cats gave the raccoons some time to get ready and then they all marched over to the barn.
In the time they were gone, Terrance had gathered some resources they would need to build their diving bell.
“Luckily for us, the bell has not degraded over the years,” said Terrance. “It is still structurally solid. Additionally, the metal used to build it is quite thin, so we should be able to cut into it without much issue.”
“Where do we start?” said Papa Raccoon.
Terrance grabbed a pair of tin snips and Papa Raccoon started to cut into the exterior of the bell.
Gary and Morris noticed an old window when they were exploring and brought it over to be put in the place of the hole being cut by Papa Raccoon.
Terrance found a bucket of tar and put it out in the sun to heat it up. Once the hole was cut, the animals lifted the window in place, and the raccoons sealed it in place with the tar.
With the tar still warm they added a floor out of an old piece of metal and sealed that in place. The group then got to work on the wheels so they could move the thing to the riverbed.
Terrance, being a beaver, quickly fell two thin birch trees and gnawed them into perfect cylinders. On each side, they attached some car wheels and tires and then added them to the floor. Lastly, they needed a door. The raccoons cut another little hole on the side, big enough to fit the cats and raccoons, then added tar around the edges of the door and the edges of the hole where the door was cut from.
“We did it!” Said Terrance. “I fully expect this diving bell to work as intended!”
“Great!” said Gary.
The raccoon family was elated. Everyone had worked hard all afternoon to build the bell and they decided they would test it out the next day.
Gary and Morris thanked Terrance, and the cats and raccoons walked home together down the riverbank.
“You think it’s really going to work?” said Papa Raccoon.
“Terrance knows what he is doing. He is the engineer of our little community and if anyone knows waterproofing, it’s a beaver,” said Mama Raccoon.
“I second what she said,” said Gary. “Terrance is really good. He is a details guy.”
The cats and raccoons parted ways and slept with visions of their next adventure dancing in their heads.
The next morning, Gary and Morris woke up with the sun and headed back down to the riverbank. Mama and Papa Raccoon were there with their babies sitting on their backs, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. The animals walked down to the riverbank where Terrance was waiting for them.
“Top of the morning!” said Terrance.
“And to you!” said Mama Raccoon.
“How are ya, Terrance?” said Gary.
“I’m just fine! Excited to get started!” said Terrance.
The crew of raccoons, cats, and a beaver all made their way down the riverbank to the property where the collapsing barns were. Once there, the raccoons attached an old bicycle pump they found in the barn to the wheels and inflated them with air. As the bell slowly rose off the ground, the animals all felt a flash of excitement. It was really happening!
“Let’s get behind this thing and push it down to the water!” said Terrance.
The animals all gathered around and started pushing the heavy bell down to the riverbank. It was hard to get it out of the barn, as the floor had sunken into the ground a bit, but once out, it began rolling down the hill towards the river.
Some of the other animals had gathered around to witness the event. There was a ton of fish, some deer, a baby bear, and a host of other creatures.
With the bell down at the water’s edge, the raccoons boarded first with their babies, then Gary and Morris got in, pushed the door against the tarred edge, and placed a board over it to lock it in place. The tar on the door connected with the tar on the frame.
“We are watertight!” said Gary.
“Everyone take very tiny breaths,” said Morris.
Terrance then got in the water and instructed the larger animals nearby to push the bell into the water. The tires made it easy to push in and kept it floating on the surface. Terrance and another beaver then removed each axel at the same time. With no wheels full of air, the bell then slowly sank to the bottom of the river.
Gary and Morris were enchanted. There were fish all around the window, they saw pieces of the old riverboat, coated in algae and other green stuff. They saw seaweed flapping in water that could only be described as ‘the breeze’. They were underwater for the first time in their lives and completely awestruck.
“Think about how many cats will never see this,” said Gary.
“We are truly lucky to have the friends we have,” said Morris.
Both cats looked over at the raccoon family. They seemed to be equally in awe of everything that was going on. Terrance then swam over to the window.
“Gary, Morris, raccoons. I have some… news.”
“What is that, Terrance?” said Gary.
“The bell is… umm… well… it is stuck,” said Terrance.
“What?” said Mama Raccoon.
“We are working on a solution right now, but as it stands, you are stuck. Please remain calm. I will return soon,” said Terrance.
The cats stayed calm, but the baby raccoons were getting nervous.
“I wonder what we can do?” said Gary.
“I’m not getting my fur wet,” said Morris.
Terrance eventually swam back to the window.
“Good news everyone! I have found some larger animals to help us pull you out of here. I think you may know one of them already. He is a moose. He said he knew you. A Bullwinkle?”
“Oh, thank goodness!” said Mama Raccoon.
“Bullwinkle!” exclaimed both cats.
Terrance then attached a rope to the top of the bell and swam the rest of it back to the riverbank where Bullwinkle and three of his moose friends were there.
“Tie it to our horns and we will pull this thing out of the river!” proclaimed Bullwinkle.
The young moose was much stronger and bigger now, and his friends were of similar proportions. Once the rope was affixed to each moose, the four of them formed a line and began pulling with all their strength.
The bell had settled into the mud after all this time and was sitting there like a suction cup on the bottom of the river. The moose were all working so hard to pull the thing and after gathering what felt like all their strength, they tried one more heave-ho. And the bell pulled free! Once in the water again, and away from the mud, it was easy to get back to the surface.
Back above water, the cats and raccoons gathered themselves off the floor. It was quite the jostle being pulled up off the riverbed. Gary and Morris pulled the board off the door that locked it in place and walked out of the bell.
All the animals nearby clapped and cheered. The cats and raccoon family had done something no other surface mammal had done before – they had gone below the water.
They felt like astronauts or explorers. They had discovered a new frontier and done it all with the help of a few friends.
The cats thanked all the animals cheering for them, then hugged the raccoon family and Terrance. Terrance was soaking, however, and Morris ended up getting wet.
“Look who got water on his fur in the end,” said Gary.
“Shut it,” said Morris.
The animals all helped reattach the axels and pull the bell back to the barn for safekeeping.
“Thanks for your help, everyone,” said Gary. “We are all going to head home now for a well-deserved rest.”
The cats and raccoon family walked down the riverbank with Terrance following in the water.
“Terrance, you make things happen around here, don’t you?” said Morris.
“All in a day’s work,” said Terrance. “I have plenty of experience building things with the materials around here, and I am happy to spend time with my friends.”
“Aren’t we all,” said Gary.
The raccoon family agreed and the rag-tag bunch of animals all made it home happy, safe, and tired!