Kent White is one of the world’s best, and best-known, sheet metal workers and antique car and aircraft body restorers. Kent lives in the Sierra foothills, about 17 miles outside Nevada City, California.
I’ve known Kent for ages, and last week he invited me to stay at his place and help with his yearly catalog. (See the TM Technologies website.)
He told me this story on the way to town to run errands.
“We had a fox that was giving us grief,” Kent began one of his always interesting tales.
“It pooped all over our deck, and pooped on our benches and picnic table. It was making it very clear that it didn’t like us living in its neighborhood.”
Foxes are very territorial. When I lived a few miles from Kent, a mama fox kept my ex-wife pinned in her car one evening, afraid to get out while it yapped and growled in the driveway.
“Well, we got pretty sick of cleaning up fox poop,” Kent continued. “So I got hold of a live trap and set it out with fruit for bait, and within a day I had the fox in the trap. When I came out on the porch, it was furious – barking, snarling, and snapping.
“I put it in the truck and drove it up the road six miles to North Bloomfield, and let it go. In a couple days, it was back, barking at night and pooping all over our porch and deck furniture.
“I set the trap again, and this time it took a little over two days until the fox got hungry and let itself get caught again. I went out in the morning and put it the truck while it barked and tried to bite me through the cage. I took it down to the bridge over the Yuba River, maybe eight or nine miles over rough terrain.
“It took three days, but one night it was barking its head off and pooping all over the porch again.
“I set out the trap, and it took four days, but the fox finally let itself be caught. But this time when I went out to put it in the truck and deport it, it was real quiet, not barking, just lying there like it was resigned to its fate.
“I got it loaded and drove it to the Grass Valley airstrip, about twenty miles. Foxes love fruit, and I brought some tangerines and threw them on the ground before I let it go.
“I came home, and that night there was a fox barking in the yard, and in the morning there was poop all over the deck again. I knew now that there were two foxes. No wonder that little fellow was so persistent!
“I put out the trap, and it took a long time, but after four days I caught the second fox and loaded it up and took it to the airport. When I got there, I saw that the fruit I’d left for the first fox had been eaten – there were chewed-up skins scattered around. I threw out more fruit and let the second fox go.
“We had peace and quiet for about a week, and then we heard tremendous barking in the Gold Rush diggings near our house. The two foxes were down there, barking their heads off, celebrating and letting everybody know, ‘We’re back! We’re home!
“Since then, there’s been no poop on our deck, at least so far. But the little rascals had to have the last say. I had set out a bunch of sonic gopher spikes in the vegetable garden. They emit a sound that gophers don’t like, and it keeps them out of the garden.
“I had driven the spikes in the ground so only the tops were showing – they were about an inch wide. And I went out one morning and found that every single one of the spikes had fox-poop deposited on its head. I don’t know how the foxes were able to poop so precisely, but it’s clear that they were taking their revenge.”
I howled as Kent related each chapter in the saga of the foxes. Later, I reflected that the story had a serious and touching message. The devotion of the gentleman fox for his lady was moving, and their homecoming celebration and revenge were touching and very funny.
I realized that these intelligent creatures had the same natural gifts that make running both successful and enjoyable. For them, the heart came first – the longing to expand awareness and include the other. And the joy of persevering to the end, despite obstacles.
I had experienced the same joy many times – most notably when I ran for a reason larger than myself. For years, I would run an ultramarathon as a fundraiser for the small private school where I serve as webmaster. There was a special quality about those runs that were undertaken to help others – they seemed blessed.
Thinking about animals and their interactions with humans reminds me to recommend a very fine book that I read lately – it’s a mystery novel about a Los Angeles detective who is severely injured and then joins the K-9 division. The dog he partners with is a U.S. Marine veteran who lost his beloved handler in Afghanistan. The book is Suspect, by Robert Crais, and I think you’ll find it moving and enjoyable.
If you want to be a happy runner, remember to develop the heart.