Whitesburg KY

Is photo of White Lightning ahead?

Points East

One winter, five or so years back, there was a red fox that I would see almost every morning as I drove to and from work on Highway 21 between Berea and Paint Lick.

I starting calling it Big Red because the name seemed appropriate for either gender and I was never able to get quite close enough to determine whether I should refer to it as him or her.

Highway 21 runs alongside Paint Lick Creek for several miles and is bounded with patches of woods and fence rows most of the way. Squirrels, rabbits, opossums, raccoons and such apparently play games of “dare” pretty much around the clock along 21.

One animal dares another to run across the road in front of speeding vehicles at certain spots along the way and, suffice to say, there are lots of losers who fail to complete the gauntlet.

Big Red discovered that he/ she could give up hunting as a means to feed the family simply by checking the game sites at dawn and dusk and packing off the fatalities.

Sometimes I’d even see him/ her sitting/waiting near the end of Dean Cornett’s bridge where this high risk game averaged about 10 losers a week.

This went on for at least six months and then Big Red simply disappeared. I like to think the fox became bored or maybe tired of eating too much squirrel and rabbit and went back to hunting mice. Truth be known, Big Red probably succumbed to the same demise as the food source.

But now we have another fox that is definitely a male unless female foxes have taken to hiking their legs to wet down cornstalks, which is what I saw this one doing a couple of weeks ago right beside the road.

I have named him White Lightning because he has an unusually distinctive, large white tip on the end of his tail. Actually the last quarter of his tail is snow white and he is so fast that my attempts to photograph him have resulted in blurs. He will stand, statue-still, no more than 20 feet away until I get my truck stopped but as soon as I reach for the camera he is gone like lightening. The name fits.

And Lightning gets around. I’ve seen him three or four times within a hundred feet of my house as well as, on several occasions, more than six miles away on both White Lick Road and over on 21. Lowell Branch (where I live) and White Lick are tributaries of Paint Lick Creek and Lightning is never more than a few yards from one of the stream beds and by the time I have a camera in my hand, he’s already in a creek.

We’ve had a lot of rain lately which makes it easy to find fresh tracks and there are several places to get off the road and look for them. I know fox tracks when I see them and I promise you faithfully that Lightning always uses the right bank in whichever direction he’s headed as he makes his rounds. I’m not sure what this means or whether it’s even important, but I find it interesting and figure it has to be a sign of something.

I also know that since Lightning has come into the neighborhood, there has been a very noticeable decrease in visible road kill on 21. If you see a dead rabbit or squirrel on your way to Berea it will, most often, be gone when you return. Up until just recently, drivers usually had to slow down a couple of times on 21 to keep from killing buzzards feeding in the middle of the road. I haven’t seen one in weeks.

In the meantime, keep your eye peeled on this space in your newspaper. If it ever stops raining, Loretta is going to do the driving on weekend mornings and late afternoons while I lean out the window with my camera’s shutter ready to trip.

My goal is to get a decent shot of White Lightning instead of just a blur and I intend to run the photo in this column. Do stay tuned.

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