• Last modified 2909 days ago (Aug. 3, 2011)


One smart fox

For several years, there have been reports of red fox dens in ditches and culverts around the community. From time to time, we have seen them down around our auction warehouse property at the south end of Walnut Street. This year there seems to be a den of them behind the warehouse where the county has piles of concrete overgrown with weeds and vines.

We have seen them early and late in the day. The parents seem to be “hands on,” corralling a group of about six or seven pups in and out of the county yard behind the warehouse. They appear to be patient parents, with the pups cavorting around the concrete piles, learning about gravity and such.

Early Monday morning, I happened to be headed south on Walnut Street and I was stopped at the railroad crossing by some of my favorite train engineers — the long-tooting boys of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe. As I sat waiting for the train to pass, I noticed an adult red fox, sitting on his haunches and watching the train cars move east. He was west of me on the railroad right of way, just sitting there waiting.

I wondered why he didn’t howl when the train whistle blew. We have owned dogs that got so wrapped up in their baying and bawling that they almost seemed surprised and little sheepish when they stopped for a breath and realized there was no longer anything about which to howl. No amount of scolding would keep them from launching into their dramatic crying when the trains went through.

And yet, there sat a wild creature making nary a peep as the engineer laid on his horn from Walton to Florence. He just sat there.

Well, not quite, he was doing something else. His head was moving as if he was reading the graffiti on train cars. It moved slightly left and then jerked back to look at the next car; followed it slightly left and then jerked back again. I swear, he was reading the elaborate markings left by folks in some rail yard many miles from here. It almost looked like he was sporting a smile. Maybe he knew what the markings meant. More power to him — I have never been able to figure them out.

When the train finally moved through Peabody (still wailing, of course), he stood, looked both ways and headed south across the tracks to Spring Creek. Now don’t you think that is a bit bizarre? Why did he look both ways?

As usual when I am writing in this space, I try to come to some kind of conclusion right about here. Often times I try to be funny or maybe profound. This time I think I am just confused. I looked on the Internet for information about the red fox and his habitat. I found a great deal of National Geographic-type information.

However, none of what I found covered foxes domesticated enough to look both ways before crossing a railroad track. None addressed the fact that the horrible noise from the train whistle does not seem to bother fox ears. And the part about appearing to read the graffiti is just over the top.

So today, there is no conclusion. It was just a curious event that happened right before my very eyes. I am flummoxed, by golly.

— Susan Marshall

Last modified Aug. 3, 2011