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.