Grandpa was a different kind of person. His taciturn nature only served to amplify his stern countenance creating the appearance of a severe and somewhat mysterious man. My friends would hang-up immediately when he answered the phone rather than ask to speak to me. I think it was mostly due to his gravelly voice, but he rarely smiled, and most people never saw him laugh. His laugh was wonderful though and it’s a shame more people didn’t get to enjoy it. Grandpa also didn’t talk on the telephone much and I think he felt put-out by the interruption it created when it rang. Whatever the reason, he sounded gruff when he answered, and it scared my friends into hanging up without speaking. In retrospect, it seems like maybe those occurrences added to my grandpa’s dislike of the telephone.

Grandpa was a private person. The fingers on my left hand are enough to count the number of times I ever heard him answer a question about himself. There were even fewer times I heard him say what he was about to do or where he was about to go.

By the time I was old enough to notice, probably about age eight or nine, he began going out onto the farm again after supper. This was usual during the summer, but he began doing it very early in early spring which was highly uncharacteristic. He would always take a napkin full of bread and meat scraps with him. I thought he was going back out into the orchards to work and was taking a snack with him in case he got hungry. A few minutes after the screen door banged shut, bouncing (as it did) several times before completely coming to a silent rest.

I would hear the tractor start-up and head west down the road in front of the house.  Then the engine sound turned left just past our house, traveling south past the old, yellow brick schoolhouse, into the orchard. Soon the sound would fade into silence again.  An hour or so later though he would return. There was never any discussion about where he went. Grandma didn’t ask any questions, so I certainly didn’t…and Grandpa never offered any explanation, at least not to me.

Then one night he asked me if I’d like to see where he was going every night after supper. I quickly said, “Yes!” and he took me with him that night. We walked across the yard and down the hill to where the green John Deere tractor was parked. He picked me up and put me on the tractor base near the padded black seat. He climbed up after me, sat in the seat, then picked me up and sat me on his knee. He started the tractor and off we went. We headed south on the lane just past the old yellow brick schoolhouse, along the edge of the orchard all the way back to the woods. On the edge of the woods, just to the west of the lane, there was a huge brush heap. At least two generations of fruit farmers had been piling tree pruning scraps from the orchards yearly pruning. Grandpa pointed about three-fourths of the way down that wood pile and asked if I saw the small dark opening. I did. He told me to sit on the tractor seat, be very quiet, and watch.


Brush heap – this one is courtesy of the Internet

He climbed down off the tractor and walked toward that pile of brush. He took the scrap packet from his shirt pocket, opened it up and placed the contents on the ground about six feet from the opening. He slowly backed away until he was beside me once again.  He told me to stay still and keep watching that dark spot in the brush pile. After a few minutes, a family of fox emerged.


Red Fox family – this photo is courtesy of Pixabay.

The kits were darling! I desperately wanted to hold one and bury my face in its soft red fur. I wanted to hug on one, but I knew I couldn’t because they were wild animals. But oh! how sweet were those little faces and puffy tails. They were very skittish, darting eyes trying to see everywhere all at once. They continually looked to their mom to see what she was doing. She would take a bite of food very quickly then look up, look all around as she sniffed the air, then stare in our direction for a few moments to see if we were moving. Once she was sure we were staying put, she would glance at each kit in turn and then quickly take another bite of food and repeat the security scan of the whole area. She was continually on the lookout for any sign of movement or possible aggression.

One kit came out toward us, a few yards away from the rest of his family. He was very brave and curious. He sniffed the air, looked at us, and I think our eyes met. He gave a shrill whistle-like bark and trotted back to his family. He stopped and grabbed a mouthful of scraps and headed into the wood pile that was their den.

Grandpa continued to go out after supper every night. Three or four times a week Grandma and I would follow him with the car. We would sit in the car and watch as Grandpa would place the food down, farther and farther from the den (and a little closer to us) every week. Before too much time had passed, Grandpa started calling the bravest kit, Freddy. Freddy Fox was always the one who came closest, seemed the most curious, and was the most vocal. He would look us in the eye while the other kits would look away and try to not to acknowledge our existence. Had there been any holes in the ground in which to hide their heads, I have a feeling that’s exactly what they would’ve done.


Orchard like I grew up with…with space between the trees


Fox kit outside den opening

By the end of summer, Freddy had come within a few feet of my grandpa. One night, before school started back up at the end of summer, I rode out with him again and he helped me down off the tractor. We walked a few feet and we could see the fox family coming toward us about 10 yards away. They saw me and slowed their pace. Grandpa whispered for me to squat down and be very still and quiet. He did the same right beside me. The fox family approached slowly, sniffing the air and eyeing me the whole time. They stopped. Most of them sat down but Freddy and his mom continued toward us. Then mama fox stopped walking and stood, sniffing the air, and looking all around. Freddy, however, continued toward us, moving ever more slowly as he got closer and closer.

Grandpa began talking to Freddy in a soft voice. Freddy’s ears perked up and pointed toward my grandpa. His eyes kept darting to me, but he would look back at my grandpa and continue toward him. Grandpa took the packet of food from his pocket. He unfolded the napkin, removed a very nice scrap of pork chop and held it out in his open palm. Freddy smelled the chop and licked his lips. Freddy looked at me again and stretched his neck as far as he could and still had to take two more steps toward grandpa before he could reach that piece of meat. He took it! Right out of my grandpa’s hand! He jumped backward out of reach and ate his prize while grandpa kept talking to him calmly. Freddy approached again and took another piece of meat but this time he turned tail and trotted back toward his family.

I gasped at that point, full of awe at what I had just seen. Grandpa placed the rest of the scraps on the ground and we calmly walked back to the tractor and then we watched as the rest of the fox family ate. It was a wonderful experience and even though over 50 years have passed, I still remember that evening with amazing clarity. Perhaps the most amazing thing of all was that grandpa had managed to get an 8-or 9-year-old to sit so quietly for so long. Perhaps he was more than a Fox Whisperer.


The whole family licked their lips in anticipation as well as after eating.


This looks just like Freddy looking at us

All these photos are courtesy of either Pexels, Pixabay, or Unsplash.






Square Nails and Deck Shoes

In 1963 or so there was an abandoned school house just a few yards from where I lived. Far enough away to be safe from the prying eyes of adults if we were careful, but close enough that we kids had to keep our exuberance under control so as not to be heard. The old yellow schoolhouse was “off limits” to us. We played there a lot, in complete secrecy, when we were children.

It was slated for demolition since it was in disuse for so long. As sad as I was to see it being demolished, I was also very curious about the demolition process. Over the weeks it took the men to dismantle the old yellow brick building I would hang around watching. I would hang around on the fringe of all the activity, watching, trying to stay out of the way. Actually, I tried to escape any notice at all for fear they would send me far enough away that I couldn’t see anything. Continue reading

Pipe Dreams

Do you remember when grownups would ask you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

That puts a lot of pressure on some children, those serious little souls who contemplate adult matters at a very young age. Some children look back blankly because hey!, what are you talking about? They’re just trying to figure out if they are allowed to put that boogie under the arm of the couch since they aren’t allowed to eat it….after all, they are kids Continue reading


Interesting birds, buzzards. I’ve seen them soaring aloft for most of my life but never in the numbers I have since moving to my current home. I remember hearing about the buzzards circling over something dying from the old westerns like “Gunsmoke“, “Paladin”, which it appears was actually called “Have Gun Will Travel“,  “Bonanza“.  I knew it was how you could find someone who had wandered off and was in peril from either “Sea Hunt“, “High Noon“, or “Lassie“…maybe from all of them. Continue reading

1880 or 2016? 136 years of women’s exploitation?

In this cool old book, “Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping”  the preface starts off with “Fortunately it is becoming fashionable to economize,” In my local community, in the past couple of years, there have been several events started that aim, or aimed, at helping homemakers learn how to economize while creating a pleasant home experience.  “and housekeepers are really finding it a pleasant pastime to search out and stop wastes in household expenses,” Are they really? Is it a pleasant pastime or is it a necessity? I think in today’s economy, most homemakers would claim it to be a necessity. And evidently, it is a long lived necessity and one that is even profitable. If it weren’t such a popular topic I doubt that Martha Stewart could have built a financial empire on it and that FlyLady would have been hard put to follow in her footsteps. Up-andcomer, Rachel Ray, is on the scene with an ever increasing popularity in those interested in cooking.and to exercise the thousand little economies which thoughtful and careful women understand so readily and practice with such grace.” Continue reading

Killer Phone Calls

Seriously. This has been stuck in my craw for a couple of months now. I thought I could just let it go, but I can’t. Mainly because this could potentially cost someone their life and I can’t live with that possibility so I have to do what I can to get the word out about this.

I had a caller that tied up my only phone for about an hour before Continue reading

Whistle While You Work…

When I was a kid I used to love that first week of summer vacation. It was the best of all the weeks of the year. Even though I missed my friends at school and my friends on the bus there were things that I only got to experience fully during that first few days of summer vacation and that made that week so special.

We lived at the top of a long hill. Even most of the back yard was downhill. Down the hill from us on the other side of the house, was a barn full of smallish wooden crates (that we used to play in even though we were told repeatedly not to) Continue reading