Coffeyville The last time Sid Tracy saw his beloved cat before flooding devastated his home and city, Lucky Tom was racing away after being startled by a loud flood warning speaker.
"All the things I lost didn't really matter much, but I kept thinking about him," Tracy said.
That changed Wednesday when neighbors told Tracy they thought they saw Lucky Tom wandering out in a pasture behind his house. Tracy went home and called for the cat, whose orange-and-white head popped up about a half block into the pasture.
"He came running and put his head on my lap. That got me there," Tracy said. "He laid still for a while as I petted him, and it was almost like you could feel his relief. I'll admit I got pretty emotional."
Malnourished and injured, Tom wouldn't have survived if he hadn't been found, Tracy said. The cat was thin, wounded and had a spot of oil on his nose. But he gulped down some scraps that Tracy had brought along for him.
That spot of oil on Tom's nose could have been from the 71,400 gallons of crude oil that spilled from the Coffeyville Resources refinery after the Verdigris River topped its banks, flooding about a quarter of the southeast Kansas town June 30.
Tracy took Tom to a veterinarian Wednesday and noticed something new about his cat, an orange and white tabby he has had for about three years.
"As I was taking him, something kind of freaked me out. He can't meow right, never could really, but when I was driving him to the vet's, he was making this long gurgle noise that sounded like 'help' with a silent 'h'. That cat has been through some tough stuff."
He said he named the cat Lucky Tom because of his ability to defy the odds.
"Tom was only six weeks old when I found him coming out from under the house. I didn't want a cat at the time, but I couldn't see an animal starve, so I fed him," Tracy said. "Since then, I've nursed him through serious wounds and illnesses - his name says it all."