The Secret Visitor

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve just published my first E-book, “Cleverly… The Fox,” which is available for purchase through Amazon. To learn more about it, just click on “E-books” in the menu above. This story was inspired by my love for foxes, even though I rarely get to see one. I’ve also developed a fox-related activity for children, provided under the “Activities” menu option.

For many years my husband and I lived in the country and only recently traded our bucolic lifestyle for one in a city. Alas, we are older and keeping up our rural property seemed to consume too much of our time and, energies. We have lived in our new home one year now, and while we love our house and community, there are some things from our past life that we still ache for, namely wildlife.

Over the years, encountering wildlife was a daily thrill. We lived on the margins of agricultural land, and our property was surrounded by woods and prairie. It was Eden to us. During our time there, our endless nature encounters gave me the idea to begin writing children’s stories. There were visits by coyotes, Cooper’s hawks, turkeys, skunks, raccoons, opossum, and deer. But of all the animals we frequently watched, one was conspicuously absent — the red fox. We had hoped to see one, and we did, but it was about a mile from our home. A family, in fact, that took up residence near the home of a friend. One year we spotted kits, and I thought surely they would grow and disperse, and possibly one of them could wind up living close to us. But it was not to be. For fifteen years, we watched, listened, and waited. If a fox ever came, we saw no evidence.

Then the last winter we lived there, I was worried about my chickens trying to keep warm in their unheated coop. I got the idea to build a temporary “winter coop” in the garage, where there was access to electricity for heat lamps. This turned out to be a cozy arrangement, and I liked taking only two steps outside the kitchen door to gather fresh eggs for our breakfast. But one morning, after an evening snowfall, I stepped outside to discover tracks coming from our prairie and walking right up to the garage door. Small dog tracks — one foot in front of the other — a fox! It appeared the fox had paused at the door, considering ways to get into the garage. Then the tracks continued past the garage and hugged our house’s foundation, eventually passing on through the yard.

For the next few weeks, the fox was a regular secret visitor. I never saw him or her. I suspect the visits were at night while I slept. Just two months later, we were preparing to move. I was in the living room packing a box when Tom, in a strained whisper said, “Julie, fox!” I ran to the kitchen, and there he was, all beautiful and orange, crouched warily on our patio, checking the birds at the feeder but nervously looking here and there. Then quickly, he darted into a bush and made his way out of the yard. Perhaps he sensed he was being watched. Needless to say, we were overjoyed. It had taken fifteen years, but we finally got to see our fox.

A year later, settled into our new home; Tom and I had just said good night when suddenly we were jolted by the strange sound of an animal. If you can imagine a distressed cat attempting to bark, that would be the sound. I’d heard the sound before in a recording — a fox. Tom agreed with my assessment, and it made sense. We lived near a park with a creek and woods, and it happened to be fox mating season. The following day we explored the back yard, and sure enough, following along some rabbit tracks that zigged and zagged across the yard, we found the tracks of a fox. It was a happy discovery and it’s good to know that we can look forward to more secret visitors.

Fox tracks adjacent to rabbit tracks.

Published by littleseedsread

Hello, my name is Julie Lerczak. For over twenty-five years I worked as an educator in a variety of art, history, and anthropology museums in Illinois, Iowa, and Virginia. Then, for the last five years of my career, I was an environmental educator. I am now retired and am pursuing my dream of being a children's book author. I am a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. I live in Illinois with my husband Tom and our rescued pet turtle "Tootles." When I'm not writing stories I enjoy gardening, painting, making pottery, beekeeping, photography, hiking, and traveling.

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