On March 15, 2000, Mountain Xpress printed my letter describing the cruel shooting in the chest of one of three "woods" cats I fed that winter near Cruso. The letter told of one of the cats, Strawberry, and his struggle over five days to get back to the safety of my porch, with only his two back legs to propel him forward.
Thanks to the Asheville emergency hospital, a Waynesville vet and the kindness of several Xpress readers, Strawberry healed well after much rehab and pain. His shattered leg bones fused into a peg any pirate would envy.
He and I moved away from that mountain cottage soon after. My search for solid working opportunities took us to four or five cities and towns along the Southeast coast. For these past 13 years, among other cats in the household, Strawberry has been my rock, a handsome green-eyed orange tabby who allowed me to bask in the warmth of his brightly burning ember. Through all the tough times, I could look at him and know there had to be another way. Drive on. Now, strangely, work is better than it has ever been, and my life has become more stable and safe.
I send this letter today to let you all at Mountain Xpress know that your publishing my letter back then gave me hope that good humans exist, and we are there to counter the bad ones. I send this letter to say, "Hold the line!"
As Lt. Gen. "Chesty" Puller, my favorite Marine, said when informed that he and his troops were boxed in by the North Korean army: "We've been looking for the enemy for some time now. We've finally found him. We're surrounded. That simplifies things."
Thank you and your readers for responding so humanely to the story of a small life who had a giant will to live.
— Wayne Holbert
St. Augustine, Fla.