Framed, just like that–what a picture. But I didn’t have my camera. Or binoculars. I tried with the cell phone but even the zoom didn’t bring him into focus. And the window screen blurred what image it captured.
There’d been foxes in my yard before. Gray foxes. The kind I think I saw when I was a kid out at the farm. I’ve always said my nearly 100-year-old bungalow farmhouse on the outskirts of Vega, Texas was like living in a pasture. And the foxes proved it. When I was away for months, teaching elsewhere, I’d drive up, often late in the evening and there they were. A pair of foxes in the front yard. Catching them in the headlights was always a thrill. Wildness still survived here and welcomed me home.
No, no photo. Just the moment, then a memory. This fox is red, like the Reginalds of our childhood, an orangey red punctuated with the night- black legs, vibrant ears and florid tail. A beautiful animal and not native to these plains. How did he get here, this red fox in my back yard?
I watch him and wonder if he can hear me scurrying in the house, searching for my camera. They’re said to be expert listeners. And just now he perks his ears. I stand in front of my kitchen sink; he sits in the deep summer grass. There’s a moment of absolute stillness. He’s free of the knowledge of my gaze. He strikes a pose and holds it for at least five minutes; I want to fidget. He seems calm, relaxed, complete as a part of the evening, maybe contemplating his night-time meal. He makes me pause, slow down.
My neighbor out back remarked to me one day about his foxes, the gray ones. He threw dog food up on the roof of his trailer house for them. They’re also good climbers.
This one sits. He yawns. He stretches as if to cool his tummy in the thick grass. Finally something gets his attention and he trots toward a bank of trees which separate my place from my neighbors–pounces on something, a grasshopper? I look away for a moment and then back and he’s gone. Disappeared into the blush of evening. Did he appear or enter from stage left as in a play into my window-framed view?
My friend, Genneil, appreciates foxes and other wild living things and recounted how as a child she was thrilled to see both a fox and a cougar on one of her horseback rides with her father along the Canadian River. “Sixty-five years ago,” she recounted, “and I still remember it.” Was it red, I meant to ask.
Another man I heard tell he had seen the last reported gray wolf in the Texas Panhandle, who, scruffy and probably starving, approached the man and his family at a picnic table. He shot him. The gray is stuffed and available for viewing at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas. I wonder: does the man ever remember that wolf, alive, his hungry yellow eye?
I guess I try to shoot them too–those wild creatures who magnificently surprise us by their presence in a world of suburbs and frightful highways. Framing, as we are wont to do, an experience, making that snapshot memory, when all along it is its own long, hopefully inexhaustible, narrative.