I liked Jean the moment I met her. Standing in front of her beautiful old South Carolina plantation with a big smile on her face, she greeted me as though we had known each other for decades. "Welcome to my home!" she said, and before I could take in the loveliness of the place framed by moss covered centenarian oaks, the guest cottage covered with a climbing rose whose yellow buds had just opened, the blooming azaleas and the many planters and topiaries filled with ferns and ivy, Jean pointed to a big fluffy black-and- white cat. "This is Bogey!" Jean said.
For you see, this lovely home is as much Bogey's as it is Jean's and her husband Julian's.
Let me explain.
Twelve years ago, Julian Hunt came across this beautiful old coastal rice plantation, fell in love with it and bought it without telling Jean. Luckily, she approved immediately when she saw it and together, they lovingly and respectfully restored this splendid house.
Bogie, then a small skinny cat, appeared one day, having wandered from the surrounding woods. His arrival coincided with Julian having to undergo cancer treatment. As the Hunts drove to the hospital in Charleston every day, the cat would greet them on the porch in the evening. The shy, scrawny kitten, with his constant presence, proved to be as therapeutic, if not more so, than Julian's treatment. Jean in particular drew much comfort from Bogey, as she soon named him. He accompanied her through long walks through the woods and the marshes behind the house, introducing her to the surrounding wildlife.
Friday, April 01, 2011
"There is someone I want you to meet" my friend Peggy told me. "The next time you come down to South Carolina, I want to introduce you." And so, during this week of vacation on the coast, I was introduced to Jean Hunt.
Thankfully, Julian is fully recovered and Bogie, the cat that had given the couple so much during such a difficult time in their life, stayed. He also inspired Jean to write a children's book: "Cat Tails And Spookie Trails" introduces kids to Bogey, the plantation cat, and to the wonders of nature. This first work was followed up with "Waggin' Tails And Moonlit Trails". The illustrations for the books are done by South Carolina artist/illustrator Caroline Lott.
Jean, who is currently planning a third tale of Bogie, donates the profits from the books to organizations that benefit animals and wildlife. In addition, she visits schools to bring the beauty of South Carolina's low country and nature to students.
And all of this because of a black and white cat. During my visit with the Hunts, Bogie is soaking up the rays of the sun in the garden, unaware of the chain of events he has set in motion in Jean's life. However, when I take a photo of him, he poses for my camera. Bogie is quite a cat, indeed.
Jean and Julian, it was a true pleasure meeting you. I would like to thank you so much for inviting me to your spectacular home. It is a place that reflects your warmth and your love of the past.
And to my dear friend Peggy, I am so glad you introduced us. I am only sorry that my mother couldn't have shared the day. She would have loved it.