Monday, July 8, 2013

The Early Bird Catches the Fox

Memories of the Summer of 2013
This is the only photo taken by me in this piece. Photo credits go to Kayla for the rest of the pictures.
Our ten-year-old granddaughter Kayla was visiting from Mississippi. She's a delightful, sun-kissed child full of curiosity and manners.  

"Yes, ma'am. No, ma'am. Yes, please. No, thank you."  Her soft words fall from her lips like honey. We share a love of mornings and reading. Spending time with her reminded me of pleasant schooldays as a teacher visiting with fifth graders who congregated in my classroom before the bell rang each morning.

Kayla told me about swim meets, best friends, mean girls, group texts, her little brother and sisters, and Gulfport. At night before bed, I read Ruby Holler to her. During our early morning walks, we talked about the book and the characters. 

On one of our walks, we saw a fox out in the pasture by the canal. Later that morning, her Grandpa reported they had seen a family of foxes when driving out of our subdivision in Clearfield. One of the very best parts of our location is that while all things city are within two miles of home, our neighborhood bordered a marshland of cattails and Russian olive trees where foxes, ducks, and raccoons make their home in the sanctuary set aside by the city.

Kayla and I wanted to see the mama fox and her babies. "Let's go out at 1:30 in the morning, so we don't miss them!" she squealed.  I reminded her it would be pretty dark at that hour. "I can see really well.  I won't mind," she assured me. Finally, reasoning with her worked, and we decided we would leave at six and hope for the best. Her Grandpa thought we were crazy.

"Why are you getting up so early?  What makes you think they'll even be there?" he asked us.  Kayla and I just smiled at each other. Morning people don't mind getting up early, especially if there is something fun to anticipate!

I barely nudged her the next morning, and she bolted out of bed. "Foxes," I whispered.  I didn't have to say anything else. After attaching my telephoto lens, I gave her my new camera to wear around her neck. We were out the door in a matter of moments. We whispered excitedly as we walked to the edge of the animal sanctuary behind our house in northern Utah. The ground is thick with trees and cattails. I knew from experience there are raccoons and foxes, but who knows what else has made this little haven its home?

In my adult life, I have spent more hours than I care to count looking for wild animals. My first husband and sons are outdoorsmen. They trap; they fish; they hunt; they call coyotes. My children are so much better at spotting animals than I.  I have learned that to be successful, you have to look for what's different. Look for the stillness in the movement. Look for the movement in the stillness. Look for the brown against the green...or the furry texture against the smooth.  After awhile, it becomes a habit.

Kayla and I were rewarded for our patience. A mother fox and her pups peeked out of the woods. They even took tentative steps to the outer edge of the trees to take a look at us. Kayla snapped many pictures; I just hoped a few would be clear enough to send some home with her. While we were watching the foxes, I detected movement in my peripheral vision.

I couldn't believe it! DEER!  Two mule deer bucks, their horns covered in velvet, were crossing the parking lot of the condominiums behind us, making their way to the empty field.  I had no idea deer lived behind our home.  The bucks generously paused for pictures before they stepped into the camouflage of the trees.  Our morning was off to a great start!

Kayla captured some great shots.  After awhile we headed to the canal in search of the duck family we had seen on earlier walks.

A mother duck with seven ducklings entertained us for awhile and then some older ducks came swimming past. The older ones took turns bobbing underwater looking for some morsels in the mud of the ditch bank.  We had fed bread to the ducklings the day before. The mother duck was very protective of her little ones, charging at any of the older ducks who dared come too close.
The deer were such a surprise.  The  ducks were fun to watch, but I'm sure that the memory that will stay with us the longest is the pure delight we felt in spending time at the edge of the woods with the foxes.  It had been two years since I'd seen them.  Until the day we spotted the lone fox in the field, I'd all but given up on seeing them again.  The city is growing, and I'm sure the little family feels that its home is getting smaller.  It's so nice that Clearfield provides an animal sanctuary as a natural habitat for the creatures who choose to make their home here.  And it is such a blessing to be able to watch them at a distance.


  1. Loved your post. But even more I loved your adventuresome spirit which you got to share with Kayla. What a wonderful memory you two made. Great post.


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