My backyard consists of a five foot wide strip of San Augustine lawn that abruptly drops away down a rocky brushy hillside. Sometimes it’s surprising what appears just beyond my rear deck. Over the years I’ve spotted deer, raccoons, armadillos, and coyotes from the porch or through my kitchen window.
Usually this requires seeing the wild animal before it spots me and runs away. This spring, however, I had a brief visit from a little critter that apparently came to my yard specifically to see me. It was a bit strange, but touching in a way. Outside the light was dimming as the sun was about to set. I had just settled down in my easy chair to search for something worthwhile on television, when motion outside drew my attention. I stood and looked out through the glass backdoor. At the bottom of the steps to the rear deck the fuzzy little face of a gray fox was looking back at me. I turned and went for my phone, thinking I might snap a quick photo before he took off. When I turned back I was amazed to see the little gray and tan animal actually walk right up to the glass door and briefly look at me inside. He turned and went back down the steps as I approached the door. At this point most wild things would be long gone, but when I quietly stepped out onto the porch, I was shocked to find him sitting peacefully on his haunches beside my birdbath. I moved right up to the wooden railing and tried a couple of shots with the cell phone. The light was too low to get anything but a fuzzy blur with the phone’s camera, but the fox continued to gaze calmly back at me. I hurried back inside and upstairs to retrieve my Nikon camera. Unbelievably, when I returned to the deck he was still sitting there, as if posing for his close-up. We were not more than fifteen feet apart. I snapped away, even talked to him. The usually invisible focusing beam from my camera twinkled brightly from the eyes of this nocturnal forager. Even when I used the flash, the little animal never flinched.
As the light completely faded he finally got up slowly and strolled into the brush down the hill. It seemed to me the fox had been trying to communicate something to me, sitting there looking me in the eye like a puppy. Later, while uploading the photos to my computer, it occurred to me what this visit had been all about. The day before I had decided to throw away a loaf of white bread that had been in my freezer for weeks. Before it hit the trash can, my son suggested I put some of it outside for the birds to eat. Nothing seemed to touch it during the day, but the scraps were all gone the next morning. It was pretty clear then that it hadn’t been a bird that scarfed down the tasty treat during the night. The fearless little fox had returned in hopes of getting more. Although I don’t make a habit of putting food on the lawn to attract who knows what, I couldn’t help but regret that I hadn’t understood what my patient visitor was trying to communicate to me: “Got any more of that stuff?”
A few weeks later I saw the fox once again during daylight hours, trying to catch a squirrel or other small rodent behind the house. He must live somewhere nearby. I hope to see my tiny neighbor again.
“Bother me tomorrow.
Today I’ll bear no sorrow.
Doo…Doo…Doo…looking out my back door.”
John Fogerty and the Creedence Clearwater Revival
Norm Brown is the author of the suspense novel Carpet Ride, published by Secondwind Publishing, LLC.