A warm winter night sent me down the road with car windows open. My body told my mind that anything could happen. The mountain road was lonely enough to break your heart … or fill it to overflowing.
The green shine of an eye rose on the road, perhaps the eye of a deer. As I hit the brakes a much smaller creature appeared. A fox ran off the road and into the bushes below.
I exited the car and walked to the side of the road, but the fox was gone. I turned to walk back and glimpsed fur on the roadside. Three young foxes lay on the berm. I could have tapped them with a toe but did not.
Instinct told them, “don’t move if you want to live.” They lay as flat to the ground as possible. Their eyes were paradoxically rolled up to the top of their heads, fixed on me, the large predatory threat above. In this pose they looked as though a cartoon artist had drawn them there, among the sparse roadside vegetation in the light of a half moon.
Their fur looked coarse with the guard hairs which protect wild creatures from briars and catch snow natures insulation for the body beneath. Under the guard hairs, the short fur next to the body would be soft as a duckling’s down, warm to the touch.
I did not try to touch the three. Foxes can give a painful bite and are known to carry disease, including rabies, but there was more to it than that. Seeing them here in the light of a half moon was a rare gift of nature, whom I have called my muse. I would intrude into their world no further.
Caught up in the magic of that moment, I nearly jumped when a fast-moving shape cut through the brush below; crashing through the woods as if it were a bear or a human. When I looked back down, the three were gone, following an adult fox to safety.
I have since pondered that distraction. Foxes can move silently. Why did the adult fox crash so noisily through the underbrush? It had to be an intentional distraction. It got me to look away as the three escaped. I was sure that these three would safely reach adulthood, though they certainly are gone by now, more than twenty years later.
For further reading:
Sally Carrigher gave close views of wild creatures in her books, including One day at Beetle Rock, The Twilight Seas, One day at Teton Marsh, and several others.
For the Reader:
Describe your own close encounter with a wild creature.