He didn’t even wait for us to go to bed. Slumped in an armchair, cracking the spine of a much anticipated new book (J. F. Burger on Buffalo), I was gazing at the fire and the shapes of the steam rising off my boots. Rain drummed on the skylight and almost covered the sound of the first scream from the bottom of the garden.
It took a second to get to the door and two more to get down as far as the hen house, where the dim light of the torch picked out strange and sodden shapes on the dribbling mud. But in the time I had taken to get there, the fox had melted away into the darkness leaving a wreck of blood and feathers across the hen house and into the run. The surviving hens huddled together in wide-eyed misery, never having really grasped the significance of what had just happened. To them, there would have been a momentary shadow on the stoep of the house, then a hot, sleek body in amongst them.
The cockerel’s head had been crushed, but in the swirling darkness it would have been impossible to see what was where and for how long. The dog ran purposefully off into the icy rain as we tried to identify the silkies from their matted, rain soaked remains. There was an almost perceptible after-glow of the fox’s presence hanging in the sleet, like the bright shadows which continue to dance even after the welding torch has been extinguished – I looked at the feathers and pictured him there at my feet, just a few yards from the back door. As much as I wanted him dead, I couldn’t resist an equal measure of excitement and delight amidst the anger.
It so happened that when I got up this morning and checked my email, I had three hundred new messages, and my blog had received the best part of a fortnight’s traffic in a single 24 hour period. This was directly related to the post (below) on hen harriers, and shamelessly draping myself with metaphors, it seemed that while the fox had been in the chicken coop, the cat had been amongst the digital pigeons.
There will be more to come on this and others in due course, but suffice to say for now that I’m (as always) grateful for the support and backing I get on this blog –