The Southern gray fox does not have near the portfolio of his red cousin who is either the main character or enfant terrible of the beast epics form Aesop to Joel Chandler Harris.
What the Southern gray fox has over his red cousin, however, is his ability to climb trees, not exactly like a cat, but climb he can.
In a past life, I used to "hunt" them. We'd go out on a ridge, build a big fire, turn the dogs loose, eat and drink and tell stories - some of them true, some myth and some lie - while the dogs trailed and ran, if they jumped, a fox. We'd listen to the "music of the dogs" as they popped over ridges and bobbed into hollows, commenting, for we knew their voices, on which one was in the lead and which one had broken off to run a rabbit or a deer.
Ironically, if the dogs did not bay the fox in a tree, we let the fox go. If they, however, treed him, we felt obliged to walk the mile or so in the dark to find the fox and kill it for the dogs. I used the word "ironically" because the fox was usually safe when he had made it up a tree. If the dogs did not bay, I would call them in with my horn, and we would leave.
From time to time, the dogs did not make it back when we were ready to go home and seek the feathers of old Morpheus, so I would lay out my hunting coat the dogs to sniff out and locate around. The next morning, I would go back to the ridge; and there they would be, lying on and around my coat, fully trusting that their master would return for them. They knew their master's scent and his loyalty to them.
So it is with me, I know my Master's "scent" and am fully confident in His loyalty to me. Like my dogs after a long hunt, my paws are sore and bleeding, my fur is full of briars, I've ripped my ear on an old barbed wire fence, I am bone tired. But I can scent my Master's coat and am slowly but steadily coursing my way toward it. There I will lie in the safe assurance that He will be faithful to return and take me home.
Thanks to the humble Southern gray fox for giving my hounds good runs, for giving his life from time to time, and for, most of all, being the impetus for this ode.
Robert Peters was born in the town of Natchitoches, Louisiana, the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase Territory. He was, however, reared in the Republic of Pollock situated in the eastern march of Grant Parish, carved out of Winn Parish and Rapides Parish for the purposes of looting by carpetbaggers, a fact betrayed by the name.