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Yoda made it!

Yoda made it!
By JOHN LINDENBERGER, The North Platte Telegraph

Tom and Nancy Simonton of Chicago were reunited with their beloved cat Yoda Tuesday thanks to the quick thinking of 5-year-old James Roberts. The cat was missing for seven weeks.

Origins of the old wives tale about a cat having nine lives have been attributed to the feline's reputation of having an astounding will to live. That notion has never been truer than in the story of Yoda.

On Nov. 27, Yoda darted from his owner's vehicle into a fierce blizzard. Seven weeks later, he miraculously appeared at a nearby farmhouse, less than a mile from the scene of his disappearance.

"I had almost given up hope," said Tom Simonton of Chicago during his trip back to North Platte this week to be reunited with his beloved family pet.

Simonton was traveling from Denver to Chicago over the Thanksgiving weekend when he encountered a blizzard along I-80 near Maxwell. His vehicle ended up on its side in a ditch after Simonton swerved to avoid hitting another vehicle.

When Simonton rolled down his window to talk with the driver of the other vehicle, the frightened cat darted from his Suburban into the blizzard.

Simonton spent several days looking for Yoda, then returned to Chicago with his wife Nancy. They remained hopeful that Yoda would eventually be spotted by residents in the Maxwell area.

"There were times where my hope wore pretty thin," said Simonton. "But Nancy was steadfast that he was going to come home."

Yoda's miraculous appearance occurred Saturday afternoon at a farm four miles southeast of Maxwell. An unsuspecting five-year-old James Roberts, son of Mike and Sarah Roberts, made the discovery.

Roberts was looking for a rake in the shed when he heard the cat's meow. "I wanted to pick him up, but I was afraid he would 'whoosh,'" Roberts said, flinging his hand to indicate the cat might try to dart away.

Roberts said he immediately went inside to tell his mom. She then came and caught the cat, placing him in a cage with some food.

When Simonton received the call from the Roberts family on Saturday, he said they were immediately excited. Simonton had received two other calls about possible sightings that turned out to be false.

However, they knew this one was for real because the cat still wore its tags.

Since the Simontons were unable to return to Nebraska until Monday, a local Humane Society representative took Yoda to a veterinarian.

"The vet said he was in amazingly good condition with the ordeal he had undergone," said Simonton. The cat had a trace of frostbite on his ears and had lost nearly 50 percent of his body weight, but he was alive.

"He is skin and bones," said Simonton, Tuesday, as he cradled his weary cat tightly.

Simonton is planning to return to Chicago today, before the next snowstorm moves in.

In addition to being reunited with his family pet, Simonton was also reunited with the Roberts family, whom he had met while searching for Yoda.

As he was driving a rental car around the area, Simonton said the Roberts came out to see who was driving around in their neighborhood.

"They had been very helpful right from the get go," said Simonton.
They all went out the next day to look for Yoda. Simonton said the Roberts used their ATV to aid in the search, and they even climbed up on hay bales to scan the area.

"This has been an important reminder to me that there are kind and caring people in this world," said Simonton. "The empathy, kindness and compassion of the people here has been inspiring."

The Simontons presented young James Roberts with $300 in cash Tuesday as a reward for his efforts.
"You are our hero," Nancy Simonton said as she presented Roberts with his reward.