The Fox

foxSummer: Minnewaska sometime around 1950. We are living at a place called Cliff Inn some two miles down the mountain from the Main Entrance.

One day I went for a walk on the Minnewaska property to the Mohonk carriage trail and headed West toward Awosting Falls.

To get up to the carriage trail from Cliff Inn, we walked out the back door, went past the outhouse and headed toward the ten to fifteen foot high wall or cliff to the spot where there was a crevice that had stepping stones. It was just wide enough for one person. On the next level up, there were small bushes interspersed on the common white rock the Shawangunks are famous for and another one hundred feet of slight uphill walking brought me to the carriage trail.

I had walked a few minutes at a leisurely pace, looking around, and being a young lad of ten or so, I was aware I was alone and not back in the safety of the Cliff Inn. I wasn’t nervous nor anticipating anything, just a boy enjoying a carefree summer day. About halfway down a long straight stretch of trail that led to a clearing I became aware that I was “not alone.” Up ahead I could just make out the form of some kind of small animal. I could tell that we were not heading in the same direction. In fact, it was coming toward me.

Still no big concern, but as we drew closer to each other I could tell it was a medium size dog… and now it’s hard to remember just how far apart we were when I came to realize this was not a dog, but a fox. My concern grew as I recalled some talk between Mom and Dad that somewhere on Minnewaska property a visitor staying at one of the mountain houses had encountered a fox that had bitten the person. The treatment back then for rabies was to undergo a series of injections in the stomach muscle and hope for the best. Now, 60 years later, I do not recall the outcome of that fox bite, but at that moment I was sure I would suffer the same fate.

I turned around and began to walk, glancing back often to see if I was making progress increasing space between me and the (now rabid!) fox. A minute or so later I am convinced that not only am I not putting more distance between me and the fox, but that it is gaining on me! Now, I begin to jog and still it seems Mr. Fox is after me and is going to catch me. I put it in high gear and sprint the last yards to the foot path leading down to our place at Cliff Inn.

How close did the fox get to me? That last dash to the house was full speed ahead and I never looked back. I did make it home safe but totally out of breath. That was the first time in my short life that I felt really and truly threatened by another life form. Much later in Florida I had two very close calls with rattlesnakes and one with a huge alligator in a lake. Those snakes and the alligator incidents were very serious close calls and only by the interaction of (it just had to be) angels did I escape what could have been certain death.

The fox at Minnewaska most likely never came close to harming me physically. At the time, mentally and emotionally it did a number on me, but I don’t think the fox experience did any real damage to my psyche.

Overall, my memories and feelings of those four or five summers at Minnewaska have remained the happiest times of my life, bar none. So many aspects of those summers were, simply perfect.