Not so very long ago and not far away from where we are now, a strange thing happened. No one knows for sure what happened and no one knows what could have happened. But here the story of three foxy foxes reveals itself.

It was a warm summer day at the end of June. Three travellers were walking along a road not long before sunset. They had been camping for a while now and trekked from place to place as they pleased. They were on a group of islands in the northern lands and hopped on and off ferries to get from one place to another. The ferrymen were used to them for they were frequently seen. They were an odd-looking group of travellers, because apart from the heavy backpacks strapped on either of the two adult’s backs, they pushed a baby along in a push-cart as well. Anyone crossing their path was bound to notice them and not forget. Just like the adults, the baby enjoyed this trip enormously and had a constant smile on her face—that is, if she was not eating or sleeping, of course.

For this particular night they chose to pitch the tent where they pleased; it was already getting late and they were tired. Normally they went to camping grounds, but sometimes these were far between and they pitched their tent just where they wanted. In the northern lands the sun does not set during the summer, or so it is said. True, but that only applies to the very far north; you will at least have to go to the arctic circle for that. Below the arctic circle the sun sets, but the rays crossing over the horizon give out enough light to assume it is still daytime. The lower you go, the darker it gets, though. Our three travellers were in the northern lands all right, but not that far north; it was getting late and thus it would soon be dark.

After another few more minutes and yet another few more steps, they reached a small path to the left. Following this path they left the main road, which they had followed so far, behind them. This path should no doubt lead to somewhere where they could pitch the tent for the night.

They reached an opening in the forest and slipped the packs from their backs. Another path to the right led to a small lake surrounded by sand and rocks: a perfect place for a late picnic before slipping into the sleeping-bags. Quickly the tent was erected on a small stretch of undergrowth and the three travellers walked, with hands full of food and cooking-utensils, down to the lake and sat upon the rocks nearby.

The father lit the stove and started to prepare their dinner. Mother and the little baby sat close by watching the sun shining upon the lake as they tended to the other part of the dinner: setting the cups, plates, knives and forks.

Apart from the three travellers, no one could be seen, even though the penetrating smell of the baking potatoes and garlic must attract all nearby. No one indeed could be seen, none mankind that is.

Not far from where the travellers were enjoying their late diner, in fact just behind some bushes no more than ten metres away, a fox was watching them—obviously attracted by the permeating smell of the garlic-potatoes.

The mother spotted the fox first. It was the size of a dog, with a thick bushy tail and the distinctive V-shaped head. Amused they watched the fox with interest. The baby however, they set closer by. One hears strange stories about foxes snatching babies away, and of course the travellers had heard them too; better be safe than sorry. They scared the fox away and continued their dinner.

While continuing to eat, the travellers spotted two more foxes on the rocks across the lake. First there was one fox and now there were three. The other two foxes were sitting on rocks not far from the little path leading to the tent and they had already shown an interest in that path, and probably in the tent.

The father stood up and walked towards the tent, a pack of bread was left laying on top of one of the backpacks and this should better be secured before a fox could snatch it away. While storing the loaf of bread in the smaller backpack and picking up all other loose, small items lying around the tent and packs, one of the foxes was watching him from just a few metres away. Both amused and a little bit scared, he started to walk back towards the others. The fox turned around and sped away. It ran straight onward through the undergrowth up onto the rocks where the travellers had seen the two other foxes—one of which it must have been.

Back with the others, the father told of his encounter and that they had indeed left some food up for grabs, but that it was now secured. Their food-supply was rather important in such a way that shops were far apart and they usually had to carry supply for a few days along with them.

As the three travellers nonetheless enjoyed the sunset and a cup of tea, two foxes suddenly appeared behind them. All looked and all tried to scare them off. The foxes sped away after they were assaulted by rocks. They must have been the two foxes that were earlier on the other side of the lake.

Suddenly a fox came out of the dense undergrowth to the far left. It’s golden-brown body shining in the setting sun. Jumping up, rolling over and wildly shaking its head—it seemed to have caught something. It looked like it was toying with a bird in its mouth. The two scared-away foxes had reached their rock on the other side of the lake once again.

The travellers finished their tea and walked back towards the tent, not too comfortable because of the foxes. Back at the tent the father immediately saw that the tent had been tampered with; one of the tent-picks was clear out of the ground. On further inspection he found some saliva and a small tear at the front of the tent, where their feet would have been had they been asleep.

The decision to leave this place was made at once. As the father started to pack the tent, the mother looked around for the baby’s shoes. Nowhere to be found. The lonely fox must have taken them. It was not a bird it was playing with, it were the baby’s shoes. The foxes that had appeared on the rock behind the travellers had been misleading them, while the third fox went in for a quick look around the tent!

The father continued packing and guarded the baby, while the mother walked around in the hope of finding the shoes. She found none.

Just before they were ready to leave, the father searched one more time—just in case. Not far from the tent-site he spotted one of the baby’s shoes hidden from the densely overgrown path between the undergrowth. He searched on for the other one, even going as far as crawling on all fours along the foxes’s supposed paths. He checked everywhere where they had seen the foxes. Climbing through bushes he reached the rocks where the two foxes had been on the other side of the lake. No shoe there either. He did however, see a large bone about thirty centimetres in length and surely at least two centimetres thick. Whatever it was from, it was a very clear indication that this was not a suitable campsite for them. He sped back to the mother and baby, hauled his pack up onto his back and at once began pushing the baby-cart along the path back towards the main road.

Back on the road the travellers breathed a lot easier and headed towards a known camping ground—at least another two hours walk deep into the night. All thanks to three foxy foxes who stayed behind and took command over their lake and site, once again.

(Tampere (Finland), 13—14 September 2002)