From the Melville Cat:

Heather left me over the holidays and went on a trip. Apparently she went to a tiny country called Lesotho, and to a place in South Africa called the Eastern Free State. Heather was gone for nine days. How rude.

Malealea sunset

Here is a photo Heather took in Lesotho, at a place called the Malealea Lodge. I suppose it’s rather pretty.

Golden Gate

Here is a photo Heather took in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, in South Africa’s Eastern Free State. I admit it also looks very pretty there.

While Heather was away on her nice holiday trip, I was still in Melville, hiding under Ms. M.‘s bed and bravely enduring the horrible New Year’s Eve cacophony that humans call “fireworks”. Hmph.

Angry Smokey

I don’t like it when Heather abandons me. Grrr.

At any rate, when Heather returned yesterday I put my anger aside and welcomed her home with open paws. Heather seemed very happy to see me, and she gave me a gift. A rather strange gift but a gift nonetheless.

Bob the porcupine

It’s a porcupine. A porcupine made of clay.

Heather brought me a porcupine. The porcupine is not real — he has real porcupine quills but his body is made of clay, a special black clay from South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province.

My clay porcupine’s name is Bob. He is named after the man who made him.

Bob

This is Bob. And Bob.

I was suspicious of Bob the porcupine at first.

Smokey meets Bob

Bob looks prickly.

Smokey and Bob

Bob and I reach an uneasy truce.

After giving me Bob, Heather told me more about how she got him.

Bob (the human) has a very interesting story. Every day Bob fills a plastic bin full of black clay, and hitchhikes 170 kilometres (105 miles) from his home in rural KwaZulu-Natal to Clarens, a touristy town in the mountains of the Eastern Free State. Once in Clarens, Bob sits under a tree and fashions clay porcupines and other animals, drying the animals in the sun on a small mat. Bob sells the animals for R40-50 ($4-5 dollars) each.

Heather met Bob and his assistant while she was walking the streets of Clarens on New Year’s Eve. She bought the second-to-last porcupine that Bob had left.

Once Bob uses up all his clay, he travels home and starts again the next day.

Bob’s story seems impossible. I don’t know how he can travel so far each day. But this is what he told Heather and I have no reason not to believe him. South Africa is full of strange stories, after all.

Heather has traveled all over South Africa and has never seen anything like Bob the porcupine. That’s why she bought him for me.

Now I love Bob.

Smokey loves Bob

Smokey loves Bob.

Post-script #1: Heather will be writing several blog posts about her travels in Lesotho and the Eastern Free State. She’s fallen a bit behind in her blogging though, so it will take her a while to catch up.

Post-script #2: I’m pleased to inform you all that I, the Melville Cat, now have my own Instagram account. Please follow me at @theMelvilleCat. Thank you.

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