Sunday, January 15, 2006

Crazy like a goose

My Dad finally picked up one sorely needed ally in his never-ending battle to keep squirrels off the bird feeder. While his banging on the windows, hollering, “Get! Get!” keeps the squirrels away for about the same amount of time as it takes to execute a Google search, the clamping jaws of death of the neighborhood fox seem to be slightly more persuasive.

The red bushy-tailed fox started lurking around my parents’ house a few seasons ago; it doesn’t come around all that often, but every now and again, when I’m home for the weekend, I’ll hear a cry of “Look out the window! Foxy Loxy’s here! Look, look, look!”

Long ago, my parents used to run to the windows even when we had deer in the yard – to me, that’s just not worth standing up for. It’s like getting excited about someone cutting you off on the New Jersey Turnpike. It’s weirder if it doesn’t happen. There are so many deer where my parents live that, after they finish gnoshing on the rhododendron in front of the house, the deer just waltz inside to see if there’s any leftover pizza in the fridge. They like it with extra cheese and azalea.

But when the fox is running around outside, it’s much more exciting, like Wild America is in the backyard. Marty Stouffer should be out there, pleasantly describing the fox’s activities while making some of his famous French bread pizzas.

Last winter, Dad went out in the backyard and shot the fox. With a camera, of course. He wouldn’t ever shoot it with anything else, because Dad is the kind of guy who catches groundhogs in have-a-heart traps, drives them outside of town and drops them off by the river. Sometimes you’ll see those groundhogs on the side of the road, wearing backpacks and doo-rags, hitchhiking back to my parents’ house so that they can continue the excavation project they started under the deck.

When Dad took the fateful picture of the fox, he caught a magical moment at just the perfect time, as the fox ran out on the melting ice of a frozen pond, stalking a flock of geese. At the moment the shutter made that classic sound --BEEP!-- the two geese closest to the fox were beginning to flap their wings to take off, while the others anxiously strolled away in the other direction, nervously whistling to themselves, exactly like I did in ninth grade when Brian Kiernan from the football team put my buddy Jeff in the trash can outside the girls’ room.

While the fox didn’t have any luck on that particular occasion, Dad scored a great photograph, which ran on the front page of the local paper the next week. I even have a framed copy hanging up in my house, which works out well, because I’m getting too old for Phish posters.

For Christmas this year, Mom gave Dad a huge, wrapped rectangle. When he first pulled the wrapping off, I thought she’d given him an enormous blown-up copy of the photograph. Upon closer inspection, you could see it was all done in pastel, which is artist-talk for fancy crayons. Mom had commissioned a friend of the family, who somehow managed to be an extremely talented artist without the requisite craziness, to reimagine Dad’s photograph as a pastel painting. That was a way cooler present than the sweater I gave him.

So now Foxy Loxy is immortalized on my parents’ living room wall, and Dad is the new Ansel Adams of the house, only cooler. I mean, if you had to guess who was going to win in a fist fight, and all you knew was that the two guys duking it out were named Ansel and Maurice, seriously, who’s picking Ansel to win it? Nobody. Also, my mom’s name is Clara, so if she ever makes a hip-hop album, she should definitely call it Clarafication.

When you’re done chasing geese around the yard, you can drop Mike Todd a line at


  1. You’ve reminded me that I need to get a portrait of my Dad posing with a burp-gun slung over his shoulder. He shoots ping-pong balls at the squirrels and grackles that dare get too close to his bird feeder. Perhaps not as picturesque as your fox, but that’s the scene I get when I visit home . . .

  2. What a great story! I would LOVE to see that photo. Are you going to share it (wih Pop's permission of course)

  3. Geese are mean bastiges... I'm cheering for Foxy Loxy!

  4. you walked away while your buddy got put in a trashcan in the 9th grade? tsk, tsk, Mike! ;)

  5. Michele, your dad sounds awesome. And grackle is a cool word.

    Sheri -- I'm still working on the old man to let me post that shot. He thinks the internet is going to steal it from him.

    Anna -- Bastiges -- that's another great word.

    Heidi -- Actually, I hung out and watched, then helped him out of it once bully man left. I believe they outnumbered us, too. That must have been it. And they had baseball bats. And gatling guns.

  6. nice story. I feed corn to the squirrels in my yard. (I can't feed birds because of my daughter's lurking cats.)

    My brother in law two houses down catches them in wire cages and drives them to the edge of town because he does feed birds.

    In the end, we still have about the same amount of squirrels in our backyards. ???