My New Neighbor


Surprised by a large animal trotting rapidly in front of my van when I turned in our driveway, I slowed to get a good look. It didn’t look like any of the neighborhood dogs. It was moving fast in front of me, not turning to look back. As it passed our house before me, it turned, giving me a side view, which literally told the tale/tail. It was a fox! The unusual, fluffy shaped tail that first sparked my interest showed up well from the side as the animal made a slow gallop across our yard and into the scrubby growth at the edge our property.
Wildlife excites me. I’ve seen a live fox only once before on home soil. When I was maybe 5 or so, we spotted a fox passing just outside our house in the driveway. With no humans or vehicles about to inhibit his style, he was boldly plodding along with his nose in the air, sniffing, like any competent hound can do, with his tongue hanging from the side of his mouth through his teeth – just like the wolf in my Three Little Pigs Book when he fell into the kettle!
My parents’ excitement made it unforgettable. They’d lived in the country around critters all their lives, but a fox showing himself so unabashedly next to our dwelling was rare, and the explanation my Dad brought forth really made things hit home. The invitation Mr. (or, perhaps, Mrs.) Reynard couldn’t refuse was the smell of our ducks!
Our livestock consisted of a dog, the usual cats of both barn and house varieties, and my uncle’s cows, pastured across the drive. The ducklings had been added as an Easter gift from Uncle Freeman, a friend from our community. It’s funny, Mom sounded kind of disappointed right off about the ducks and wished Freeman hadn’t given them to us. I may have heard Dad grumble a time or two while he figured out and fixed a fence for them north of our house to one side of our barn. They were such cute, fluffy yellow babies, but once they molted into white feathers, growing too large for kids to handle, they lost their luster for Brother Jimmy and me, too. Dad said that’s why the fox came in so close. The ducks, now fine, fat adults, looked pretty tasty.
That scene came back vividly to me, as I looked across to the Schnarrenberger’s back yard. Neighbor Alex’s three hens strutted and pecked about their pen, seemingly secure from the intruder I’d witnessed. Appreciating them, up until then, only for their ability to provide beautiful brown eggs, I now could imagine them fit and fine as dressed out roasts on oval platters.
I’ve seen what I’m assuming was the same fox, since then, strolling along the brush across from my kitchen window. Ahh, yes, Reynard. You imagine those chickens, too. No, you don’t need them roasted. So plump and tasty they’d be; no platters necessary; no salt or pepper; just fresh fowl. If only you could get around that chain link fence, what a fine holiday feast those chickens would be!


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