Fox has lost its plume, not its pluck

Even above the 6 o’clock newscast I could hear an insistent voice – that of a chickadee calling over and over, and loudly, from the back porch.
This was not normal. The chickadees here seem to know they are protected and certainly well fed, so this one could not be hungry or endangered. Or could it?
I quietly arose from the couch and eased to the open back door to see what was causing all the commotion.
Unbelievably, it was Reynard, the fox that was in the pasture two weeks ago, but this time he was actually on the back porch! No wonder the chickadee was having a panic attack.
But this was not the gorgeous red fellow with the plume of a tail.
That tail, except for the white tip, was completely bare and I watched in horror as the poor guy walked along the west side of the barn, ducked through a space in the fence that he obviously knew about beforehand and trotted to the pasture.
I watched as he promptly caught a big fat something and proceeded to have his dinner, after which he first walked, then trotted and then actually galloped around the pasture, apparently unfazed by whatever had taken away his brush.
Sadly, it had to be a type of mange or other skin disease and there is nothing I can do to help him.
In retrospect, an excavation I had seen on the west side of the barn – the digger had been thwarted by the deep old stone foundation – two weeks ago could very well have been his work, although at the time I blamed it on a groundhog and plugged it.
I have now removed the plug, an old length of downspout, and will monitor any activity.
I have to laugh, though. Someone had given me a pint of home-canned mushroom and pepper rings, in a sauce so hot you could smell it. My innards can’t handle anything very spicy, so I emptied the contents on the pile of dirt from the excavation. I told myself that groundhog was going to have indigestion plus.
Guess what? It is all gone, and someone, Reynard or the groundhog, is going to have an ulcer or worse.
(And I have to be the only nature lover to have a watch-chickadee! Had it not been for that noisy little bird, I would have missed the visitor.)
* * *
Without a frost even into the first week of October, the leaves seem to be reluctant to turn color. Maybe by the time you read this, they will have started their magic transformation but each day I watch a particular branch on one maple tree that began to flame two weeks ago.
One by one, the leaves turned and now that branch is the only red one on the tree.
The silver maple at the end of the driveway – you remember the tree that still wears its yellow bow marking its rescue – has yet to display its golden phase.
My beloved birch tree, which I planted as a twig close to 40 years ago (I spend almost more money on its health than I do on my own!) will soon release its golden coins, and then those bare white arms will reach dramatically for October’s cobalt sky.
* * *
A dear friend sent this to me, and dog lovers everywhere will appreciate it.
“A veterinarian was called to examine a 10-year-old Irish wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife, Lisa and their little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker and they were hoping for a miracle.
“The doctor examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. He told the family he couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure in their home.
“As arrangements were made, Ron and Lisa explained they thought it would be good for the 4-year-old Shane to be present. They thought he might learn something from the experience.
“The next day, the vet felt the familiar catch in his throat as Belker’s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, the vet wondered if he understood what was going on.
“Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away. The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without difficulty or confusion. They all sat together for a while after Belker’s death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.
“Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ‘I know why.’
“Startled, they all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned everyone in the room.
“Shane said, ‘People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life, like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right? Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.’”
The little story ends: “Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. May you always have love to share, health to spare, and friends that care.”

About the Author

A lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, Janie Jenkins retired in 1987 as a feature writer and columnist at the Youngstown Vindicator. In June of that same year, she started writing her column, "On My Mind" for Farm and Dairy. She loves all animals and is an accomplished equestrienne. Local history is also one of her loves, and her home, the former Southern Park Stables, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More Stories by Janie Jenkins

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