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Down the Road

Those cute wily fox
By Milton M. Gross
Jul 13, 2014 - 2:27:17 AM

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A nice e-mail in response to my recent story about turtles has encouraged me to tackle (not literally) yet another critter that runs around Maine and lots of other places.

Brer Fox, the little reddish guy you see crossing the road in front of you. And you're not sure if its a good guy or a bad guy. Or if its a good gal or evil gal. Or a good fox or an evil fox.

Also, he's the topic of a short story I found online, but didn't take the time to read, Brer Fox Goes Hunting, a Georgia tall tale. I'm not sure why I didn't read beyond the part where Brer Fox is returning from a hunting trip and finds Brer Rabbit lying on the road. I apologize to both of you Brers for not taking the time to read your tale.

The cutest Brer Fox possibly was the one I watched in Acadia National Park and persuaded a New York teenager to feed it some peanuts. Probably the meanest one, was the rabid one that tried to bite my seventh-grade ankles but only got a mouthful of long pants.

I'm glad that happened long ago, when I was a kiddo, because now I wear shorts in warm weather. I wear shorts after suffering a mild heat stroke while working as a volunteer on the Appalachian Trail west of Andover, Maine. The doctor told me I'd had the heat stroke. I told me it was time to return to shorts, the kind I wore as a camp counselor in Maryland when I was in college....the kind that are much cooler in summer than the long pants I see so many men suffering in, perhaps never having heard of shorts or perhaps ashamed of their skinny legs.

Hey, my legs are skinny too, as you can tell when you see me wearing shorts. But do I care that you laugh at my skinny legs? Yup, I care, but I'd rather be comfortable in shorts than not laughed at by you.

Anyhow I was walking our shepherd-collie named Shep in the woods on a leash, when I heard a noise ahead in the brush. Then something blurred toward me from those bushes, and I awaited grimly having a wild cat climb my leg.

But the wild cat turned out to be a fox, that grabbed my pants, and hung on for awhile as I spun from his centrifugal force and kicked at him (assuming he was a him and that she was not a her). Shep raced around us both, trying to grab Brer Fox unsuccessfully. Finally Mr. Fox let go and lit out through the woods, where he bit a friend of mind and then was shot by a farmer. Somebody later told us Brer Fox had been rabid.

My friend had the rabies shots. I had none, because my hot long jeans kept his mouth away from my tender white leg. But I missed my chance in gym class the next day, when we were all outside playing baseball. The other kids had heard about Brer's attempting to bite me and wanted to know if I had rabies.

I missed the chance to slobber at them.

One fox came to our campsite, when I as Chief Milt had taken a bunch of those Maryland campers out in yonder woods for a campout. Brer Fox appeared, sniffed around a bit, and left. He barked while he was there. He apparently was not rabid and left quietly when someone threw a shoe at him.

Turned out his den was near our campsite...unless it was her den.

I've seen lots of fox dash across the road and one dash through our yard. No adventure, just quick dashes.

The one in Acadia National Park was familiar to me. I'd seen it lying on a ten-foot-high boulder, watching all the possibly not rabid tourists driving past. But this time he was in a trailhead parking lot, along with the New York car. The teenager was out of the car watching Brer Fox, when I offered him a bag of peanuts which he could feed Brer Fox. He took them and fed the critter, while I took his photo for the paper.

Finally, I said, "Did you know it's illegal to feed wildlife in the park?"

He climbed back in the New York car, which sped away from the scene of the feeding.

One in a garden in Southwest Harbor caught my attention as I was walking one evening in my grubbiest after-work shorts. Three guys wearing black suits were also watching him eat left over veggies.

I enjoyed watching the happy Brer Fox nibbling away.

But I always had my doubts about those three guys dressed in black suits.

But they didn't bite me.


Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at lesstraveledway@roadrunner.com.

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2014


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