Beautiful Joe
Chapter 24, Page 2


Please be aware that this book was originally published in 1894 and may contain words, descriptions, or other passages that may be considered offensive today.


"Then Mr. Fox would try a new trick. He would climb a leaning tree, and then jump to the ground. This trick would soon be found out. Then he'd try another. He would make a circle of a quarter of a mile in circumference. By making a loop in his course, he would come in behind the hounds, and puzzle them between the scent of his first and following tracks. If the snow was deep, the hounds had made a good track for him. Over this he could run easily, and they would have to feel their way along, for after he had gone around the circle a few times, he would jump from the beaten path as far as he could, and make off to other cover in a straight line. Before this was done it was my plan to get near the circle, taking care to approach it on the leeward side. If the fox got a sniff of human scent, he would leave his circle very quickly, and make tracks fast to be out of danger. By the baying of the hounds, the circle in which the race was kept up could be easily known. The last runs to get near enough to shoot had to be done when the hounds' baying came from the side of the circle nearest to me. For then the fox would be on the opposite side farthest away. As soon as I got near enough to see the hounds when they passed, I stopped. When they got on the opposite side, I then kept a bright lookout for the fox. Sometimes when the brush was thick, the sight of him would be indistinct. The shooting had to be quick. As soon as the report of the gun was heard, the hounds ceased to bay, and made for the spot. If the fox was dead, they enjoyed the scent of his blood. If only wounded, they went after him with all speed.

"Sometimes he was overtaken and killed, and sometimes he got into his burrow in the earth, or in a hollow log, or among the rocks.

"One day, I remember, when I was standing on the outside of the circle, the fox came in sight. I fired. He gave a shrill bark, and came toward me. Then he stopped in the snow and fell dead in his tracks. I was a pretty good shot in those days."

"Poor little fox," said Miss Laura. "I wish you had let him get away."

"Here's one that nearly got away," said Mr. Wood. "One winter's day, I was chasing him with the hounds. There was a crust on the snow, and the fox was light, while the dogs were heavy. They ran along, the fox trotting nimbly on the top of the crust and the dogs breaking through, and every few minutes that fox would stop and sit down to look at the dogs. They were in a fury, and the wickedness of the fox in teasing them, made me laugh so much that I was very unwilling to shoot him."

"You said your steel traps were cruel things, uncle," said Miss Laura. "Why didn't you have a deadfall for the foxes as you had for the bears?"

"They were too cunning to go into deadfalls. There was a better way to catch them, though. Foxes hate water, and never go into it unless they are obliged to, so we used to find a place where a tree had fallen across a river, and made a bridge for them to go back and forth on. Here we set snares, with spring poles that would throw them into the river when they made struggles to get free, and drown them. Did you ever hear of the fox, Laura, that wanted to cross a river, and lay down on the bank pretending that he was dead, and a countryman came along, and, thinking he had a prize, threw him in his boat and rowed across, when the fox got up and ran away?"

"Now, uncle," said Miss Laura, "you're laughing at me. That couldn't be true."

"No, no," said Mr. Wood, chuckling; "but they're mighty cute at pretending they're dead. I once shot one in the morning, carried him a long way on my shoulders, and started to skin him in the afternoon, when he turned around and bit me enough to draw blood. At another time I dug one out of a hole in the ground. He feigned death, I took him up and threw him down at some distance, and he jumped up and ran into the woods."

"What other animals did you catch when you were a boy?" asked Mr. Maxwell.

"Oh, a number. Otters and beavers — we caught them in deadfalls and in steel traps. The mink we usually took in deadfalls, smaller, of course, than the ones we used for the bears. The musk-rat we caught in box traps like a mouse trap. The wild-cat we ran down like the 'loup cervier' — "