“Sounds like a fox in the chook house” said Mum.
“What's a fox?” came my reply.
“You stay inside and look after your baby sister, foxes eat little girls”. This was the statement made by my elder sister Faye, who at 16, was ten years older than me.
Mum, Dad, Faye and Joe, (my older brother) all donned coats and shoes to go out to chase away 'the fox.' I didn't want any of them to go. It must be dangerous if this fox ate 'little girls', and if Dad had to take his gun, the 410.
Mum's chooks were beautiful, big black and shiny and they laid lovely brown eggs. I would sometimes find one of their feathers in the yard, it smelt weird, but was smooth and shiny. And if you brushed the feather upside down, the edges went all funny, haphazard. My brother's ducks were black and white muscovies, a nuisance really, always in the way when I wanted to play on the chook house roof and jump down into the yard. They left mess everywhere, but they ate snails and scraps. And made funny sounds when you chased them around the yard. Or they squatted down in a hurry and you almost stepped on them because they had stopped, and you nearly didn't. Mum made sponge cakes with their eggs, so they were okay, because Mum's sponge cakes were the best. Lots of whipped cream and strawberry jam, with white icing on top that crunched when you bit into it, and cream went all over you.
I walked into Mum's bedroom to check on my sleeping baby sister and to make sure the window was closed tight. I didn't want the fox getting her, as she was really little. All was well, Beth was quietly sleeping in her little cot, totally oblivious to the drama happening around her.
I sneaked towards the back screen door. The hens and ducks were still carrying on, clucking, screeching, with the ducks loud quacks as well, and I could hear the muffled voices of my parents and siblings. I was terrified for all of them, outside with a creature that ate people. However I thought they all should be alright if foxes only ate 'little' girls; because my sister was a big girl and Mum was all grown up, and Dad and Joe were boys, so they'd be okay.
What was a fox, how big was it, what colour was it, did it have two legs and walk like a person or four legs and run like a dog? Why did it only eat little girls and not big ones? Why didn't it eat boys or grown ups? All these and many more questions raced through my mind.
Suddenly there was a loud bang, a lump of wood being hit hard against the corrugated tin of the chook house, much more squawking and quacking, and then lots of laughter from my family.
A couple of minutes later everyone returned to the house safe and sound, saying they had scared the fox away for this time, with Dad promising to check tomorrow to make sure there were no gaps in the netting for it to get in with the chooks.
Sometime later I learnt what a fox really was, a pretty ginger coloured animal like a dog with a big bushy tail and a strong aroma, that didn't enjoy eating people at all, and especially not little girls. If I see a fox dashing off in a hurry to a place of hiding, I smile and remember how his ancestor was supposed to eat me.