Last spring it just so happens, our little bedroom community of Fairfield, usually so safe and conservative and comfortable, broke from its decorum and had the most wild and exciting adventure. It was the spring of our FOX influx, as these regal and much misunderstood creatures loomed large for several months in the neighborhood.
Foxes before had just been rumored about—stealthy creepers that kept their distance that rarely ventured above the creek valleys.
But suddenly in this spring, they were changing the rule books.
I remember my first brush with the foxes in Fairfield. I was doing my morning pre commute dog walk with Ranger around the block. Soon I could sense that we were being watched. And it wasn’t by Leanne our constantly on alert neighbor. It was a curious fox that decided to follow me and Ranger as we walked.
It was a creepy feeling that I had no frame of reference for. What if is it rabid? Should we quicken our steps? Should I search for a stick and attack it?
But the fox just shadowed us and continued to watch our progress.
When I got home I told my wife. She hugged me in relief to see that I was still OK.
Fred Sanderson noticed them first on his daily dog walks in the morning. One solitary faded red dingy coated specimen suddenly appeared at dawn and stared inquisitively at him and his dog. Naturally when Sanderson heard his dog bark and lung at his leash, he figured the creature would be spooked and run off back into the forests edge and back to the creek valley. But a curious thing happened: the fox just continued to stand there and stare back.
Dino Garcia was the next neighbor in the domino effect to be struck by the oddness of the foxes. He noticed several foxes fighting together in his back yard. Even when he blew his whistle, (Dino was a school gym teacher) the impertinent foxes continued wrestling and carrying on as if it were THEIR yard and not his. Dino later noticed that a fox was stealing dog and cat food out of the food tray in her back porch.
Soon the word was spreading from one clique of friends to another scattering of driveway acquaintances. The foxes were in Fairfield and they were getting emboldened.
Then I got an urgent email from the notorious busy body across the street from my house—Leanne Dupre. She strongly emphasized to me that in her opinion people should not be friendly with the foxes around here and that they bother dogs. She heard it on good authority from a friend of hers down the block.
Leanne went on to say that several weeks ago she watched a fox run into my yard and then jump over our fence and into my backyard. She hoped our dog wasn’t alone back there. She has seen foxes run between me and next door neighbor Stanley’s yard. “Maybe they even go into the woods behind your house” Leanne said, with a tone that sounded almost like she was implying that I had been negligent in the whole affair.
Then the widow Viv (I don’t remember her last name) next door; who was widely believed to be getting weirder in her behavior and most likely entering the early stages of dementia- was actively encouraging all of the foxes to come up to her backyard, which abutted the forest, to be fed and cared for. She was doing this blatantly right out in the open for all to see. Furthermore, Viv was widely known in these parts to be mixing and matching all kinds of wild and domesticated creatures together to the point that it might upset the natural order of things and lead to terrible consequences.
This naturally caused friction between Leanne and Viv. Factions formed between the 2 ladies. Those that liked the new wildlife in town and those that feared it.
It all came to head when the local HOA met later in the month. Wildlife rangers were called in to lecture on the habits of foxes. Neighbors stood up and attested to the effrontery of many of the foxes. Tales of harassment were shared—children that were scared going home from the bus, pets that were teased by gangs of foxes, teenagers that were tempted to run off with several.
There were even calls to kick Viv out of the neighborhood as an active inciter of fox gatherings. Several members looked for torches. One divorced woman even stood up and cried as she described how a particularly alluring FOX had seduced her husband who had run off with her, leaving her with nothing but a mortgage and kids to raise.
But all of this ruckus was quelled when a lone voice of reason stood up in the middle of the hearing. It was a man that no one had ever seen before in Fairfield. Turns out it was Viv’s cousin Luke who was visiting that same week from around Middleburg.
The crowd hushed as he spoke. “I don’t think you folks realize what a great marketing opportunity these foxes are for Sugarland. Why in Middleburg, foxes are venerated as great symbols of prosperity and tradition and their images are featured in many of the gift shops in town. You should do the same here instead of chasing them out.”
Heads turned and looked at each other on the high council of the HOA. The business manager felt a chill. “Why hadn’t HE thought of this?” Great Falls, Clifton, Middleburg—all these great towns had one thing in common—they promoted the FOX as a visible symbol of distinction and high breeding.
And that is just the beginning of this story of the FOXES of Fairfield. By the end of the calendar year, the great blue HERON had been replaced as the symbol of Fairfield (being close to the Potomac River) and switched with a NOBLE FOX image (with a hunters hat on for some odd reason).
Soon articles were appearing in the region describing the connection of foxes in Fairfield. Wealthier folks soon moved into town as homes expanded. The following year, a FOX was actually elected to serve on the board at the HOA. And she was gorgeous too, by all accounts!
Now there was no turning back. Viv had gone from an old eccentric widow to being a fox raising heroin. Leanne became her best friend and became a tireless advocate of foxes.
Fox photo parties were formed with citizens heading out in determined groups down into the stream valley in the hopes of capturing their image. Historic signs popped up which told of the crazy spring in the y ear of such and such when the foxes came to Fairfield.
And the legacy of the fox was insured for years to come–that is until the HOA council could be convinced that there was no money in it.