The Old Fox

I remember glancing out of the kitchen window of the Old Rectory in deepest darkest Somerset. It was my parents house and I was about 17. Anyway I was glancing out of the kitchen window. It was the kitchen at the front of the house, for we like Mr Miliband had two kitchens, though neither of them would have figured in Hello or even the Times Saturday magazine, unless they were featuring kitchens that could do with a serious make over. But look now I have digressed. I was looking out of the kitchen window (actually glancing but time is chasing us)  A fox, an old fox, grizzled and grey, weary from years of struggle, surviving and avoiding the local hunt, wandered past and, as I saw it it saw me. We both stopped what we were doing. I was washing up but don’t tell anyone. It gave me a look that I still recall. It was a challenge. Come out and do your worst human. You can’t hurt me anymore. And anyway I’ve had most of your chickens these past few years. Then it was gone. Just a silver grey memory, left fading away, until something made me think of it today. A few days later I found the body of an old fox in one of the out houses. It was an open stable where the previous owners had kept horses so this was somewhere for them to shelter.  I think it was the same old fox. It had been injured probably by a car and had crawled to this refuge to die, alone, in pain but sheltered from the horrors outside, the weather, the local hunt, crows things that would torment it as it died. It had defied these things and sought sanctuary in our out house. Despite its injuries it had manged to find a space among the hay bales. It looked peaceful as if it had found somewhere where it could drop its guard and drift away.  I still feel a pang of sadness for that fox, even though this happened almost forty years ago. Sad because we had so changed its world  that it had to come into ours, at its end. Sad because it died alone, though that is the fate of most animals and if truth be told they seek it. Sad because for some people the only good fox is a dead fox. Oh the things they could learn if they stopped to watch and listen. What a better world we would have if they did. So I will stop and ponder next time I am out in the old foxes country. And remember him.

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