The Plagued Parent

posts about surviving our children, the Baby Boomers who raised us, and everyone else with an opinion...

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

If you had seen him for yourself, you’d likely dispute his fantasticalness. He was worn, thin with a faded and thinning coat, ashen nose, dark and darting eyes, and… no tail.  Yes, his tail was missing.   Because of this I decided he was indeed a fantastic fox.

Last week our dog Beckham, a Welsh Corgi sniffed the air and bolted over the hill behind the retention pond after what I assumed was a squirrel. I was wrong. All I saw was a tail-less, tawny blur launch itself from a pile of leaves past several fallen trees.

The animal fled, halted and looked backwards to see if Beckham was in pursuit. He wasn’t. From about two or three hundred yards I swore it had cat-like qualities, but it was the tail, or lack-thereof that clinched it.

Clearly I had just seen a bobcat. It looked like a bobcat; I was certain. No tail, cat like reflexes and apparently there had been rumors, according to my daughter, that a bobcat roamed the town. She also insisted on having seen the exact same “bobcat” weeks back, a sighting that I had continued to mock until that day.

About a week after that, we were home thanks to a Spring “blizzard” that well, wasn’t, when the tail-less fox tracked across the snow crusted yard and took the first two steps up towards our deck. It was a not a bobcat.

He — or, she for all I know since differentiating such things is foreign to me — was missing a tail and its coat was no longer rusty and red. He looked seriously worse for wear. The serendipitous part of me wants to believe I had seen him around before in the fall. That fox had his tail and his rust red coat. Winter had taken a toll on him.

“How does a fox lose a tail exactly,” I wondered aloud.

“Easy,” my daughter answered, “someone tries to eat you.”

Too, true. The only other way I suppose you’d lose a tail if you are not someone’s intended meal is if someone tries to steal your intended meal and you have to mix it up, go all MMA cage match on his (or her) ass.

Either way, this poor bastard survived only having lost a tail. Having watched the NatGeo channel a few times, and knowing what I know of Mother Nature and her dispassionate attitude, escaping sans-tail can be considered a win for Fantastic Mr. Fox.

“Poor thing,” my wife said. “We should feed him.”

We didn’t. Although my wife did toss a random pear into the woods should he find it. While I doubted foxes eat such things, turns out they do. I kind of felt that such an offering might be seen as condescending to the fox, beneath him as it were. Odds are something else would find it before he did — a deer, raccoon or some other varmint.

Yes, he looked beaten, worn straight through and definitely worse for wear. All of which made me connect him to Roald Dhal’s title character from his novel Fantastic Mr. Fox (also a fantastic film by Wes Anderson). Recall that Mr. Fox has his tail shot off by three evil farmers who ambush him. After that Mr. Fox returns to his burrow which his “enemies” have surrounded waiting for him to emerge seeking food so they can finish the job.

Despite this Mr. Fox determines a way to feed his family by burrowing beneath the nitwit farmers. He remains undeterred, and with the help of a few friends he raids the stores of all three farmers. In the end the farmers are humiliated and Mr. Fox and his compatriots live thereafter in an underground neighborhood where they all are fed.

Well, our Mr. Fox turned away from the deck and headed off for the stone wall on the back property. I’ve seen him couple times since. Despite lacking his tail, he moves undeterred through his day — I suppose he has to; he has no other choice.

He could bemoan his appearance and waste away underground, or move forward with his day and get things done. Yes, above all Mr. Fox is a do-er and at least he can rest at night knowing he got the best of his adversaries and not the other way around.

If only we all could have his sort of luck. Maybe that’s the trick, the lesson Mother Nature has in store for all of us: withstand the loss of our “tails” with grace and go out every day and do your “job”.

Maybe learning such a lesson does not make us unique, but it certainly brings one closer to being fantastic.


Updated: March 28, 2017 — 8:39 pm


  1. Actually, he could be she. I heard mother foxes use their fur to make dens so they get this real grungy look. As for his/her tail? Who knows? Life must be rough in the wild. Can’t imagine.

    1. Thank you Laurie. And you might be right. Not really sure how to tell the foxes apart. Haven’t seen “it” for a couple days. Hope it hasn’t lost anything more vital than a tail this time…

  2. Wow. Living so urban we rarely see wildlife and don’t want to. It means they are out of habitat. I long for the days when I saw animals all the time.

    1. That’s the one thing I enjoy about where I live. Thanks Carol.

  3. Now that’s the way to take a story and make a moral out of it!!
    How fun to be able to see nature so up close and personal…as long as nature doesn’t create problems, right?

    1. Exactly. I curse the fox for not being a better predator every time I find evidence of mice in my garage or basement.

  4. Wow, a fox with no tail. Quite a tale though… 😉

    1. That fox was quite a sight to be certain. Thanks for reading and for the puns…

  5. Sounds like a pretty bedraggled fox but also a fighter. I always get a little jittery around one that looks that bad for fear of rabies. But I love anything Raold Dahl writes and I don’t think I’ve read this one. Or if I did I need to read it again. I thought I had read all of them to my son when he was little. I’m going to start over and read them all to my grandsons.

    1. You really do have to be careful with foxes that are willing to approach yards and home — they are not afraid. To me that is worse than rabies, that lack of fear. Anyway, I hope you read some Dahl to your grandson’s, they will love him. Thanks Molly.

  6. I was out running very early one morning last Spring and a very skinny fox bolted across the road in front of me and into the woods. Only time I’ve ever seen a fox up close, and it was running faster than I! 🙂

    1. Lucky he didn’t try to take a bite out of you. The local news reported two women were attacked in a park by a fox. Doubt they were running though, probably feeding donuts to squirrels. Guess they deserved it then because foxes love both donuts and squirrels.

  7. Admit it, one night you and the hubby got into another argument over that tree. So he decided to get his bazooka out of the closet and knock the tree over, only you distracted him long enough that his aim was off and he sever the poor guy/girls tail!

    1. Who told you about my bazooka? That info was on a need to know basis… Wait, did you “tap my wires”? I’ve been “wiretapped” (Sad or sick?). By the way the fox does not, and has not, ever had any contact with the Russian foxes before or after the alleged bazooka incident. For the record.

  8. I absolutely love the last line of this.
    Foxes would freak me out. I have read one too many fairy tales.

    1. Aw, they’re harmless. Fun to watch when they are stalking prey, unless you are the prey of course.

  9. ‘He still lacks a tail’ – I would hope so! It would be a bit weird if it grew back! Poor tail-less fox. I really like foxes. They are pretty unpopular over here, especially urban foxes, but I like them and I always feel sorry for them. And that’s even without ever seeing one that has lost its tail. I was so freaked out the first time I heard them at night though. Such a strange noise they make, and disturbingly like a distressed child.

    1. I can see urban foxes being a problem. But if we hadn’t overrun their backyards and paved over their dens then maybe… I was shocked to see this one sans-tail. A weird and fantastic sight to say the least.

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