A few weeks back I was riding my (now stolen) bicycle up one of our local back roads in the latter part of an afternoon. The road is a little more than one lane wide and is such a beauty it gets written up as "a great road to ride" in all kinds of cycling publications.
For me, it is simply a left turn out of my driveway and then six miles or so riding up the valley we live in until the road turns narrow and begins to climb a long and arduous mountain.
I usually ride two hours out and then fly back down the steep hills I had just climbed so slowly up, putting on a windbreaker for the descent and hoping to get back before the sun dipped behind the ridges as there are no lights of any kind out there.
But there are plenty of critters.
And on this particular afternoon as I was cruising back down the mountain, a red fox caught my eye as I passed it not ten feet from me.
I thought it was going to pounce.
It was arranged in that position- the position a cat takes right before it attacks your leg as you walk past it. That position. The pouncing position. Only this fox didn't pounce. It didn't, as a matter of fact, move. I hit my breaks and slowed and turned, curious as to why the fox was lying in the ditch, ready to pounce, but immobile.
Then I realized the fox was dead. Hit by a car? Maybe. But it ended up in an unusual position for road kill. Poison? There was a property that raised livestock very nearby.
I noticed that the eyes of this fox were still glistening and shiny. It hadn't been dead long.I felt sad for the pretty little fella. He was such a beautiful little fox, all grey and red with clear glistening eyes.
I stopped myself from getting too close, as road kill always smells and it is a smell that makes me throw up in my own mouth if I'm not careful. I turned and headed my bike back down the hill, and made it home before dark.
The next day I had a niggling thought, so I got back on my bike and rode back up to where the fox had been. I was right. The fox was gone. There were no drag marks and very little of the surrounding dried grass had been disturbed.
Somebody either picked this fox up by the scruff of the neck from the road or -oddly- the fox just leapt from the ditch and continued across the road and went on his merry way.
I imagine the fox was running down the embankment when it heard me approaching too rapidly to run from. The fox just hunkered down and tried to hide right there in the ditch as I passed, only I caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye.
"Crap!" thought the fox as I made the u-turn and came back and looked at him. He held his breath and convinced me that he was dead by not moving at all. I assumed he was dead and didn't look too close or get too close for fear of my own bile.
When I left, the fox stood up and high-tailed it outta there.
That's what I'd like to think anyway...
Smart little bastard.