Percy the coal black cat is a born wanderer. The former barn cat sleeps by the woodstove in winter. But in summer, he leaves after breakfast and stays out all night. For years, his owners, Anne and Yale Michael, never knew where he went. Then a friend called to tell them that Percy had made the front page of the local newspaper.
The Michaels live in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, in the United Kingdom, a pretty seaside town on the Atlantic coast. Tourists flock there in summer to go to the beach and ride the miniature train that runs along it. According to the newspaper, their Percy was also riding the rails!
“We were shocked,” Yale says. “I wondered if it was really our cat.” Because the frisky feline was always losing his collar and tags, no one knew who owned Percy or where he lived. But after their friend recognized him in that front-page newspaper article, radio and television stories followed. Percy became famous.
The train station is half a mile (0.8 km) from the Michaels’ home. To get there, Percy has to walk down the alley beside their house and cross the neighbor’s yard and a golf club parking lot (where he occasionally stops for meaty handouts). Finally, he trots over to the sea cliff and through some woods down to the railway. Once Percy arrives at the train station, he dozes on a mat the railway workers have laid out for him until he hears the train whistle. Then, every day, he boards the train, takes a seat, and rides to the Sea Life Centre. Perhaps the smell of fish drew him there originally. But that isn’t why he visits now. The curious cat behaves like any human tourist and visits the marine sanctuary to view the exhibits. The penguins are his favorite. Percy might watch them strut about for half an hour, before he strolls into the office where aquarium workers have been welcoming him for years. When it’s time to leave, the furry penguin watcher hops back on the train for the trip home.
The Michaels rode the tourist train once. “He got off, as we got on,” says Yale. “We said, ‘Hi, Percy.’“ He turned around and came to us.” But only in greeting. Then their popular, wandering pet continued on his independent way. Now that they know about his daytime adventures, they’re waiting to hear what he does at night. Perhaps a local disco?
Percy enjoying the penguins at the Sea Center.
Percy’s choice of transit: The North Bay Railroad running from Scarborough to the Sea Life Centre.
Aline Alexander Newman is a lifelong animal lover who has written more than 50 magazine stories about animals from dogs to cheetahs to dolphins. Her love of cats is reflected in her recently published Cat Tales: True Stories of Kindness and Companionship with Kittens.
MLA 8 Citation
Newman, Aline Alexander. "Percy the Cat." Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank, 13 Dec. 2017, www.nonfictionminute.org/Percy-the-cat.
We may think nothing of travelling to the other side of the world, but things were much different two centuries ago. Only adventurers and explorers ventured to faraway places.
That changed when three important breakthroughs occurred. In 1869 the First Transcontinental Railroad was completed in America. It enabled people and goods to travel easily. In 1870, the Indian railways were linked, increasing trade and travel opportunities. And the Suez Canal opened in 1869 allowing ships to sail from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.
These three leaps forward made it possible for someone to travel around the world. The idea was exciting.
Jules Verne was one of the many people imagining such a trip. He wrote a bestseller in 1873 about a man who bet his friends that he could travel around the world in eighty days.
“I will bet twenty thousand pounds against anyone who wishes that I will make the tour of the world in eighty days or less,” says Phileas Fogg at the beginning of Jules Verne’s adventure novel Around the World in Eighty Days.
In those days, making the trip in eighty days or less was almost impossible. The only way people traveled during that time was by ship, train or carriage. And there were always delays.
Stunt reporter, Nellie Bly, also wondered if it could be done. Although women faced the challenges of not readily being able to travel alone, they also felt the lure of adventure.
Nellie pitched the idea to her editor and a year later, he consented to send her. She would not only beat Phileas Fogg’s record, but she would prove that a woman could do it.
Nellie began her trip in November 1889 on a ship sailing for England. She carried with her only one bag and one dress-- and no chaperone.
Soon all of America was rooting for her. Along the way delays made it seem like it wouldn’t happen. Storms rocked her ship. Weather slowed her down. Could Nellie do it? She was courageous and full of adventure. If anyone could it would be her.
She returned to New York on January 25, 1890, in a record 72 days, beating Phileas Fogg. Her journey rivaled the fictitious one Jules Verne had imagined. Nellie Bly had written herself into the history books!
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