The Way of the Fox The orange angora came screaming out of the woods as I took morning walkabout to check the fence posts in our largest pasture. The cat was so stressed that when he saw me in my long Aussie raincoat that he screamed all the way up my body, across my shoulders and onto my head. If you have never been clutched head first by all four claws of a cat while he deafens you with his fear, you have not lived on a farm. That said, my mind drifted through the pain to whatever had sent him to the barn and inadvertently, to my skull. The answer was forthcoming, in a leaping, streaking bundle of four-footed red fur which promptly sat like a pretty dog exactly three feet in front of me. It cocked its head, lovely thing, but the gleam in the eyes said that it might not back down. Now I had a problem. It was obvious that Tang, our first barn cat, was not coming down. By now I was punctuated with blood streams and to my greater distress, by a warm stream of cat piss on my neck. The day had not begun well, and I was not carrying so much as a walking stick. The fox cocked her head in the other direction, I had decided on female because of the slender build and the long eyelashes. If she had had a wristwatch I think she would be saying that time for breakfast had come and gone and that the kids were waiting back at the den. I have since learned that a single vixen can have more than one den and we are in former gold digging country, so the hills are filled not with music but with predators. I was listing my options at a speed greater than light. Back off? A sign of weakness. Step forward? Rejected at first. Turn a shoulder? Not with the flaming cat injecting my weary scalp. I know that if you can make yourself look bigger some animals will back down, so I took my hands briefly away from Tang and spred the panels of my coat out. Tang was not amused and I think I gained sixteen more punctures in that moment. The fox did raise her hindquarters, though. Was she preparing to move off? Seemingly not. I have heard that foxes and bobcats can leap twice their height. Hay-sussssssssssssss, Mary and Joseph, please, no. I was considering giving her the cat, to be honest, except that it would leave me scarred for life. The moments passed. The vixen grew impatient. I'm not sure how long we both stood at high noon. We both decided to act in the same heartbeat. She jumped at an angle to snap at Tang as I bent my knee with the intention of backing her off. However you look at it, I could have used a little help. I like animals, I understand the food chain and I do not begrudge a wild thing a full belly. I also like my pets and though Tang was not here by my choice (former owners begged me to keep him), he was also not being hunted by choice. I'm not sure if cats understand that they are food when they are loose, but Tang was getting the picture, fast. Tang was forzen in his terror, expect for those claws that seemed to have a new life, deep in my senses. This vixen had no fear of me, she must have been around the barn many times and I had often felt her presence at twilight. I had known so many times that something was hunting that I began to lock up the barn a little early so that the horses could relax, knowing that the cats would come in through the hay vents at the edge of the oft, as they pleased. So why was Tang in the woods before breakfast? Why was I even thinking about that with fox jaws so close to my face? I turned sharply off course and Tang went flying off my shoulder, used my hip as a launching pad and headed for the barn. I didn't see him enter, I was otherwise occupied, but I did him him scrabble up the barn boards, leaving me to fend for myself, thank you very much. Back to the vixen. She had not realized Tang was gone, and she made at least two more leaps before i screamed DAVIDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD and started kicking at her. It was a while before she realized the battle was lost. Now I knew that foxes seldom approach humans, and my fear of rabies was sky-high by then. Not that we had a documented case in the province at that time, except in bats. But foxes hunt bats, right? And he who was drinking his coffee at the house and listening to the morning Sports on TSN, did not hear me. Apparently I should have yelled sooner because the vixen, still scenting and leaping, made a startling YIPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP, and turned to run. She did not go far though, and she faced me one more time, puzzled. I think she thought I smelled like a very big cat now, but were they edible? I made a big show and spread my coat, whilst yelling. I figured that if I ran she'd be snapping at the legs of my jeans, For a moment I though she might stand firm. But no, she called to three kits far off in the grasses and they came to her. Insulted, she pranced away, as though she had been teaching her babies something. I mean, the average cat will try nine times before getting a mouse on the tenth attempt, she may have explained to them. Never quit, keep trying, we're good at this. They all seemed healthy and well-fed. We lost a couple of cats that summer and the neighbours had all their layers killed. But Tang lived another seven years, mostly in the barn.