Bayou-Diversity (7 January 2018) While on a late afternoon walk in the bottom north of the house, I heard a commotion in the dry, freshly fallen leaves beyond the creek. Something was coming my way. Suddenly, a red fox appeared in mid-air as he leaped across Rocky Branch, barely flowing in the late autumn drought. Dashing to the top of the ridge adjacent the swamp, he stopped and looked back over his shoulder at unseen pursuers. His beautiful, thick, red coat was primed for approaching winter temperatures, and he was panting. It later occurred to me that he was running just ahead of the folklore that has chased his kind for thousands of years.
Wherever in the world foxes are found, they are the subjects of folk tales and myths in diverse cultures. Often depicted as cunning tricksters, sometimes with magical powers, they are always vibrant characters in the midst of traditional stories. Sharp-nosed, they appear first in ancient art, and prowl into written words soon after the coming of alphabets. King Solomon spoke of foxes in the Old Testament of the Bible, and Jesus labeled Herod an “old fox” in the Gospel of Luke. The Fox and the Grapes is a classic 2,000 year old Aesop fable. In the 14th century, Chaucer wrote of Reynard, an anthropomorphic red fox. Joel Chandler Harris penned Uncle Remus with his southern oral traditions that included Brer Fox. Foxes romp through the pages of children’s books including those of Beatrix Potter and Roald Dahl. Even Dr. Seuss spun a vulpine tale about tongue-twisters called Fox in Socks.
After about a minute the D’Arbonne Swamp fox spotted me, and not greatly alarmed loped over the hill out of sight with a self-assured attitude. He seemed to know that another story was in the making; that the chase through the literature of human history is never ending for those of the fox clan. (photo by Jeremy Ouchley)