James L. Cowles
© Copyright 2018 by James L. Cowles
Photo by Daniil Silantev on Unsplash
My wife and I moved into a new home a few years back and immediately fell in love with our location. It’s in a beautiful part of our city, with a creek running along its boundary and through a densely wooded area. To top it off, there are two beautiful man-made lakes at the entrance of our neighborhood, alive with all kinds of wildlife.
The large parcel of land on which our neighborhood was built was once a tree nursery and as such, had many mature trees scattered throughout. I guess these were trees which never sold, but they offered an array of beauty, including elms, red maple, pin oak, holly, southern magnolia and many other varieties. In fact, all the beautiful trees, was the feature that attracted us to the neighborhood to begin with. It’s rare to see land developers leave trees where they find them; I detest new subdivisions where there is absolutely no natural vegetation; those people may as well live in a desert.
Our neighborhood land had sat for several years prior to being developed and with all the trees, the creek and of course, high grasses and weeds, animal life of all kinds thrived. Our house was the only one in our immediate area for a good while and we were treated to seeing all kinds of God’s creatures roaming right around our new home. Yes, we enjoyed watching builders erect the new houses across the street where new neighbors would soon live, but the best part was the animals. I recall one morning when we awoke early, only to look out our bedroom window and see five deer grazing on the new lawn of a house which had just been completed. I immediately felt sorry for them; it was not they who were encroaching, but rather us humans. We were slowly driving them out of this, their wild life sanctuary.
I know this is not uncommon. I have read numerous stories about it from all parts of the country; is it any wonder we see so many creatures of every size killed on our streets and highways? Still, many of these beautiful animals seem to refuse to be driven from their homes. Raccoons aplenty still live in our neighborhood. Possums are common place and our dog gives them wide berth, even though they truly are very gentle creatures; they sure can look mean when they bare their teeth and if I were a dog, I’d not want to get into a fracas with them. In fact, all our dog Missy ever does is bark at creatures and except for squirrels, which I believe simply want to play, she wisely avoids all of them. I’m happy for that, believe me; there are many skunks in our neighborhood and we often smell their spray on warm summer nights. Apparently some of our neighborhood dogs had to learn the hard way.
Our lakes draw the attention of ducks and geese and they are now apparently a favorite summer and winter home for several flocks. I suppose the funniest thing that ever happened to us, occurred one warm summer night. We had gotten into the habit of taking our dog Missy out to our front lawn, off leash, letting her do her final bit of business before bedding down for the night. Although it was often midnight of after, she couldn’t resist walking down our sidewalk, going several houses away from us. She was leery of going beyond a few houses, simply because she thought one of us should be right beside her and when that didn’t happen, she’d stop and look back as if saying, “hey guys, what gives?” This particular night, my wife Teresa had taken Missy out and decided to stay close to her as she sniffed and roamed. They had gotten several houses down the street, when Teresa noticed a dark figure on the back of a neighbor’s driveway. She saw the outline of a medium size dog standing about sixty or seventy feet away from her. Darkness covered the creature well and doing what anyone would do, my bride said, “You go home now. Do you hear me? You go home.” The creature just stood and stared at her as she talked to it and fearing it might run and attack our little dog, she picked Missy up and continued telling the dog to “go home.”
It was then I heard Teresa yelling and I rushed to the door to see what was happening. Apparently none of our neighbors heard her let out an ear-piercing scream, but the animal she screamed at heard it and reacted as any creature would. He (or she) took off in a flash. By this time I was standing with Teresa, asking her what the heck was going on. She said, “We saw a wolf, or something. I yelled at it, ‘go home,’ but it didn’t move and I started to see the outline a little more clearly. It was a wolf, or a coyote,” she said. Well, I knew it wasn’t a wolf. We live in Louisville, Ky., nowhere near wolf territory. However, I thought it could have been a coyote and although we had never seen one anywhere near, we had heard that someone saw one on a road near our house. We went back inside and continued talking about it and as she continued describing it, I began to think, “She saw a fox.” That made sense; they love fowl and our lakes were full of the delicacies foxes crave. It was that little bit of “red” she talked about, or maybe it was “orange,” but it’s size and color, though it was too dim to get a perfect view, sure sounded like a fox.
The next day I was sitting in our family room talking on the phone, telling a friend what Teresa had experienced. I was about halfway through my conversation when suddenly the most beautiful red fox came running down a neighbor’s driveway, crossing the street on a dead run, turning right down the sidewalk in front of our house, no doubt headed toward the lakes. It was so funny seeing him use the sidewalk as his means to get from one place to another, but I was sure his mind was set on making the four block trek to the lakes to see what was for lunch.
Mr. Fox, you were a pleasant interruption of my otherwise lazy afternoon. Your beauty was astounding and I felt so good that I was right about you. You would never attack humans and you really want no part of a dog; you don’t need the annoyance. Now I could add a red fox to our neighborhood wild life and I could include you, Mr. Fox, in the growing number of those for which I felt sorry. We are encroaching more and more, Mr. Fox and I hope you can tolerate us humans as we move you aside; I marvel at your beauty and stamina. I hope, like Teresa, I get an opportunity to talk with you one late evening, or perhaps even a special lazy afternoon. If I do, I promise I will not tell you to go home. No Mr. Fox; I will beg your pardon and apologize for moving in next door to you.