Nobody is really sure when the tale of the kitten in the sewer began.
Jamie Dilworth, who lives across the street, was outside with her daughter, Grace, and they heard the kitten crying Friday afternoon. When she spoke with Morenci police officer Frank Cordts, he already knew about the situation because some kids had notified him earlier in the day.
When I arrived on the scene Sunday afternoon, only Joe Farquhar was present. He was kneeling down on the south side of Main Street near the Bean Creek bridge, peering into an open sewer.
Let me set the scene better. Four bright orange traffic cones protected the area. The storm sewer top had been dragged to the side. A white plastic bucket stood along the curb, with a rope connecting the bucket and the sewer top. A disgusting brew of a milky substance with tuna fish covered the bottom of the bucket.
Joe was holding a long stick that protruded from the sewer. Inside was a fishing net, and inside the net was a tuna can with a little of the milk mixture.
That wasn’t all. A rope dangled down into the sewer. It was part of the police department’s harness used to catch dogs. The harness was no good for a kitten, Joe said, but occasionally a small, furry head would protrude from inside the drainage pipe at the bottom of the sewer and bat at the rope.
Joe explained that the bucket was used in previous rescue attempts. Three times the kitten climbed out of the pipe and into the bucket and then jumped out before it was hauled to the top.
“We actually had it out once,” he said, “but it jumped back in before we got the sewer covered.”
That rescue didn’t involve the bucket. This was another scheme.
Geri Sanchez dangled the rope to draw the kitten out. It walked into a fishing net that Kevin Arquette had contributed to the effort, then Geri lifted the net out.
I missed all the previous methodology. Justin Miller had climbed into the sewer, but once he was inside, there was no room to maneuver.
I missed the opportunity for a winning feature photo. That’s when passerby Tyler Guelde volunteered to go down head first. Justin held one ankle and Joe grabbed the other.
Once at the bottom of the extremely smelly pit, there was nothing he could do. His body blocked all the light and he couldn’t see a thing. He was long gone before a flashlight arrived on the scene.
Sybil Diccion spent time making very convincing cat sounds that drew the interest of the kitten.
Kevin had a live trap, but it was too large for that space. Do they make live traps to catch something the size of sewer rat?
By now the kitten wasn’t walking into the net for anything, so a new plan was concocted. That’s where Joe’s stick came into play.
When the kitten appeared, Joe would flick it with the stick into the net, which would quickly be brought to the surface. It wasn’t easy for one person to coordinate, so after a failed attempt it was decided that Joe would handle the flick stick and Geri would control the net.
Joe peered into hole, talking to the kitten. “Now that we figured out how we can get you, you’re not even going to show your face.”
Geri returned to the scene after a break. Off and on people would stop to inquire what was going on, and of course they offered new ideas. Flush it out. Make a kitten trap based on a minnow trap. Send in a schnauzer from the other end of the pipe
I even got sucked into the rescue, and one of my suggestions contributed to the final success. I didn’t think a kitten would want to jump down from the pipe into the wet bottom of the sewer, so we made a platform with bricks and the net now rested on top of that.
Joe’s wife, Kris, arrived on the scene because she finally had to see what her husband was up to all day. She quickly decided something like a feather on a string was needed to draw out the kitten. Something to play with.
She was back in a few minutes with some wire and tassels, and she also brought her cat, Raven, to talk to the kitten. Raven enjoyed the time out immensely, but never said a word.
More passersby arrived, including the afternoon shift police officer.
At one point Geri called for silence. She was having some success with the tassels and didn’t want to scare the critter.
Another failed attempt. The kitten started walking into the net, but when Geri lifted it, too much of the kitten was still in the pipe and it tumbled backward.
Kris was shaking her cat carrier, trying to coax a few words out of Raven.
Kris’s daughter, Vandi, arrived with her cat Paisley—a more vocal feline—but it didn’t have much to say, either.
Eventually, Parsley started talking and the kitten emerged. Geri was right there where she’d been for about an hour—patiently watching, with a hand on the net.
She lurched, brought the net up like a fisherman leaning over the side of a boat, and inside was a kitten. This time the sewer top was quickly kicked into place.
Geri wasn’t looking for a new cat, but once she had it in her hands, it looked as though the decision had been made.
“Now that’s a good Samaritan,” Kris said.