The hills and dales were filled with the fragrances of spring. All the earth was renewing itself and plants were bursting forth with colorful blossoms. Dog wood trees speckled the forest with white cotton-like blooms. Purple clover covered fields like a velvet carpet for all the animals to walk upon. Bees woke from their hiding places to sip the sweet nectar of the gods. Cherry trees woke from their dormant winter state and displayed a glorious light pink color painted by God Himself. Red bud bushes sent forth fresh green foliage and trees were alive with playful gray squirrels chasing their mates with romantic chatters. Great willow oak trees stood barren their leaves lying dead beneath them waiting for more warmth from the sun. Tall long leaved pines were alive having dropped their previous year’s cones on the ground beneath them. Brown pine needles lay neatly spread underneath each tree, a gift to the small animals for their winter dens. Everywhere tiny eyes were beholding another new year and another chance to replenish the earth at Willow Point.
Along the edge of the forest was an embankment that rose up to meet a rocky cliff. Near the bottom of the embankment were fallen trees, an assortment of dried leaves and dense wild shrubs. They had dug their strong roots into the red clay thus providing the wide hill’s soil protection from heavy rains. Small wild green foliage had also emerged as did strong creeping vines of honeysuckle and wild blackberry bushes. Looking closer one could see an opening in the embankment about three feet wide. It was the den chosen by a family of Red foxes for their home.
One particular member of the family was Fabela a rusty colored fox with a white chin, throat and belly. The tip of her tail was white as snow. Her pointed ears could hear even the slightest mouse digging in the soil and her bushy tail made her look somewhat like a dog. She stood about two feet tall and about three feet or so long. She had kept her weight to about fifteen pounds only because she was looking for a male fox and romance weighed heavily upon her mind. Her father and mother had chosen this particular place for their den because they could see in every direction and could see any predator coming from a great distance. This was the main entrance but the intelligent foxes always had several other exits from which to escape if need be.
Fabela would soon find her own den and line it with grass and leaves as her mother had done. She had big plans for her den. You see Fabela was not just an ordinary red fox. She wanted only the best of everything. Her nails had to be groomed daily and her beautiful fur coat kept in pristine shape. Never would she allow her coat to become matted or tangled with debris. She only came out of the den at night for her mother had taught her well about hunters and how they would kill red foxes for their fur. She had never seen a human but her mother and father had told her horrible stories about the booming guns and the wild dogs. Fabela wanted love and romance to fill her young life. She was willing to do whatever it took to see that it came to pass.
Tonight Fabela would look for food. Her main food was mice, moles, beavers, snakes, lizards, birds and a variety of insects. Grasshoppers were good as well especially the big juicy ones. Trying to keep her figure she was thinking of eating more cherries, berries, acorns and nuts. She knew where a wild grape-vine grew and her plan was to visit it as often as possible. It was while visiting this grape-vine that young Fabela happened upon another red fox named Issur.
“Hello my dear!” Issur called walking ever so slowly in Fabela’s direction. “The grapes are not yet ready for eating but if you would like we can walk down to the creek bank and check for some crawfish.” He smiled pointing to the rippling stream deeper into the forest.
“Where are your parents and where do you live?” She questioned quite leery of the new fox.
“I live alone just over beyond those tall oak trees.” He answered. “My mother was killed by a farmer who thought she was stealing his chickens. She wasn’t the culprit but she lost her life just the same. My father left long ago to make his own den. I don’t know where he might be just now.” He continued lowering his head. “Life is getting harder and harder every day around these parts.” He sighed.
“So true!” She said shyly.
“I’m one that believes in doing good things. I think we need to work harder to keep the rodent population from exploding and to help farmers get rid of snakes or raccoons.” He said, hoping to impress the lovely lady who stood before him. “If we work closely with the owls and hawks, we can keep these rats from taking over the world!” He exclaimed.
Fabela nodded her head in agreement. He was quite a handsome fox. Perhaps she would stroll down to the creek and see just how mannerly this gentle man really was.
Issur was very shy and tried hard not to stare at Fabela’s beautiful face. Her long eye-lashes and moist nose just captivated him. Her coat was so oiled and pretty. How can I be so lucky, he thought? This is just too good to be true.
The evening went by quickly. Issur caught dozens of crawfish for Fabela to eat. She laughed when he slipped off a huge rock and plumped into the cold water. “You better be more careful. You will scare all the food away.” She teased watching him shake his body wildly to rid himself of the excess water. His hair stood this way and that from all the shaking.
“We really need to be heading back to the den. I’ve had a lovely time with you here. Maybe we can do this again soon.” Fabela said looking around to be sure nothing had crept upon them.
“Yes! Of Course! We will do this all summer if you would like. As soon as the grapes get ripe I’ll do the picking and bring you lots of good juicy ones. I’m a good picker!” He mused trying to get his wet hair to lie down.
“I’d like that so much and I’d love to have some of those sweet wild strawberries just down the hill if you would be interested. I am trying to avoid so much meat. It tends to add extra weight to my sleek figure. I plan to be digging a den for myself soon and you have great digging claws.” She said looking at his two front feet.
“Sure! It sounds like a good plan to me!” Issur said as they neared Fabela’s den. “I’ll come back tomorrow and we can roam the hills all evening long.” He smiled then turned and sped away.
“Wow he is fast too!” She exclaimed. “Now if he only brings me flowers and perfume perhaps we might have something going on.” She whispered lowly to herself. Her big eyes closed momentarily to recapture the image of him she had chiseled in her mind.
Two months passed and Fabela and Issur were always together. “I’ve got good news Issur! I’m going to have a litter of kits and I am so happy. Now we must get started on our den.” She exclaimed showing her excitement by rolling in the leaves with her feet up in the air.
“You are gonna get leaves and grass all over your beautiful fur coat!” Issur winked.
“I don’t care the world is my oyster! It won’t be long until I’m a MOTHER!” She squealed.
“Hush!” Issur called as he put his ear closer to the earth. “I hear some digging under the leaves. It could be dinner!” He said with a nod.
“Oh Issur! Just think in two months I will have some kits. What are we going to do if I have ten?” She giggled.
“You pamper them and I’ll collect food for all of us. That’s what we handsome males do, don’t you know?” He puffed as his sharp claws dug through the leaves and dirt in search of his prey. “I’ll stalk them until I get really close then I will pounce on them and bring them home.” He said throwing grass everywhere.
The weeks passed quickly and Issur worked very hard digging the den. Fabela carried leaves and soft grass to line the edges. Nothing would be too good for her babies. She gathered all sorts of blossoms to add fragrance to her nesting place. Her babies would be born on a bed of soft petals. Issur brought her extra food to eat while she was pregnant and made sure she wasn’t in danger of any kind. He was such a proud red fox.
The day finally came and Fabela delivered eight healthy kits. They were so soft with tiny pink tummies.
She drew them all close to her allowing them to feed. Issur had gone to find dinner and had missed the delivery. He would be so happy because several of the kits looked exactly like him.
The night passed and morning dawned. Issur had not come home. Fabela was torn with worry.
“I wonder what has happened to your father!” She whispered to the kits. “Something terrible must have happened to him because I feel it in my bones!” She whined allowing her depression to be seen. It was a very long day and there was no sight of Issur anywhere.
“I dare not leave to get food.” She sighed. “I’m getting very hungry though! What am I to do?” She questioned. “Perhaps if I leave for a few moments and gather a few nuts I will be fine until Issur makes it home.” She had a deep feeling that something terrible had happened but could not leave long enough to search for her beloved partner.
She crawled out of the den quietly and began to pick up wild walnuts and goose berries nearby. Sitting under the large shrub she ate as quickly as she could. She had a troubling feeling and could not seem to shake it.
“I do pray Issur will be home soon.” She mumbled softly.
As she made her way back to the den she heard squealing sounds. Quickly she entered the opening of the den. Her nose went wild as it caught the scent of blood. Her eyes searched the darkened tunnel for her kits. Only six little kits remained.
“Oh no! What have I done?” She cried. “My precious babies are gone!” She whipped her face around to the doorway of the den but there was no one there.
“They must have gone out the back exit she said loudly.” As fast as she could she gathered the kits and nudged them with her nose into the darkness. She had to go and see if any kits might be in the back of the den somewhere. Her pointed nose directed her to a single exit where she saw predator tracks but there was no sign of her babies.
Returning to the den she curled her tail around her shivering kits and comforted them. She knew they were very frightened and she felt so guilty for having left them alone. Her head ached and she trembled in fear. For the first time in her life she was alone and with baby kits.
As the day drew to a close she heard footsteps outside her doorway. Pushing the kits from her she jumped to her feet and headed to the door. It was Issur!
“Oh my precious Issur! Where have you been. Something came and took my kits while I went for food. I was only gone for a short time but they are gone!” She cried. Tears rolled down her face as she remembered each tiny face. Then she looked at Issur. “What happened to you Issur? You are bleeding!” She gasped!
“I was attacked by a wolf but I will be alright I think.” Issur replied trying to comfort his mate. “I’m so very sorry this happened. Perhaps I should go and try to find the kits.” He said looking into the sad eyes of Fabela. Without further notice he brushed past her to look for his children. He returned alone.
Fabela remained in the den for weeks guarding her kits. She never left them for a second. Issur’s wounds began to heal and he gathered food at night for his remaining family. Fabela never forgot the loss of her kits and she taught the remaining ones not to leave the den without her. She licked their fur coats daily and played with them. Her heart yearned for her lost kits but life continued on.
Fabela never found out what happened to her kits but the wise old owl that sat in the tall willow oak trees knew.
The balance of life continues and Issur works to keep the rat population in check. All is well as Fabela looks forward to another litter of kits and a new year at Willow Point in a den lined with fragrant blossoms.
Written by Sybil Shearin
Dedicated to Actor Kirk Douglas
All Rights Reserved
Question: What happened to Fabela’s babies?