“Someone told me it’s all happening at the Zoo.  I do believe it.  I do believe it’s true.” Assiniboine Park Zoo, Winnipeg, December20, 2019

Another cold day.  Thank you God for the heated car seat!  I planned to visit the camels once again before Christmas but decide to stop to see Reddy, the fox.  He is close to the entrance of the zoo.

Today I discover a reason Mr. Fox seems to hide somewhere in his compound every time I appear.  The ticket taker tells me his name is Simon, not Reddy!  Trudging out of the entrance pavilion I easily get to the fox compound with the wind at my back.  And, on cue, Simon is sitting on the platform to greet me even in a frigid -15 C.

For years I’ve been intrigued by the wily red fox, with its pointed triangular ears, flat head, slightly upturned snout, and especially its long bushy tail.  Apparently fox are light on their feet and swift.  But their life span is short, only 2 – 5 years.

Often I had seen foxes in the wild in Saskatchewan.  One morning at the Silton Jesuit Villa on Last Mountain Lake (sometimes called Long Lake), there on the grass just outside the cottage a vixon lay.  She was watching as her three kits gambolled playfully around her.

Another time, as I was returning from my niece’s farm north of the Qu’Appelle Valley there on the dirt road curtained on either side by metre high weeds a skulk of five fox were revelling in the heat of the sun.

As I drove nearer all wisely slipped into the weeds except one.  This kit stood in the middle of the road watching my approaching vehicle.  I stopped the car, him just in front of it.  We peered at one another for a full minute.

Finally, his curiosity satisfied, he followed his mates into the weeds ceding me the road.  A beautiful saucy little animal!

I was mostly influenced by the fox through a book by Thornton W. Burgess.  Our small 1950’s one room school house (Fairview S.D. #174) on the then #16 Highway about twenty miles east of Regina had a small permanent library containing a set of Encyclopaedia, many books of fiction including most of the Nancy Drew mystery novels and a set of Hardy Boys mystery novels.

I read every book in the library including the Burgess stories about Sammy Jay, Peter Cottontale, Jimmy Skunk, Old Granny Fox, and of course, The Adventures of Reddy the Fox.

Omnivorous Reddy is really a rascal, always getting into trouble.  He lives with his Grandmother in her den.  She tries to teach and train him.  But he seems to have to learn everything the ‘hard way’ managing to survive being shot only because of others’ care.

All Burgess’s books teach about morals and the connection between families, animals, and nature.  I suspect I learned a lot from those books, especially about the animals like the fox.

Here in his compound real life Simon, not like the naughty Reddy, seems sedate and content tarrying on his platform, half sleeping, half peering at me!  I guess he’s already learned all he needs to know.  And me?

I know about cold.  Rather than heading further down wind to visit the camels, I face the freezing south wind, wishing I had Simon’s whiskers and fur, and stride swiftly the short path back to the parking lot (and the car’s hot seat) heading home to my cozy den.

Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ, is pastor of St. Ignatius parish in Winnipeg.

  • Ivon Bellavance
    Posted at 08:13h, 28 February Reply

    Thank you Frank for that touching text. Your maner to writting is always soft and tender , we need that in our days. That novel make me in a particular mood because it remember me my time at some of those places that you mention. As my good feeling memories goes on throught your text, i easilly could revisit the prairies sounds wind, the community trip at your chilhood village with you and my lonely days vacation up at the villa on the lake. All those goods are print in my heart forever.

    • Roy Frank Obrigewitsch
      Posted at 10:32h, 29 February Reply

      Thank you Ivon. It is good to hear from you. I’m glad we shared some prairie peace.

  • Tarcia Gerwing
    Posted at 10:41h, 28 February Reply

    So great to hear of our furry friends in Saskatchwan! Great memories renewed! Thank you so much! Tarcia Gerwing.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 15:14h, 28 February Reply

    Thank you Frank!

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