Fox and hounds

coyote tracksDo farm kids still play fox and hounds? I loved being the quarry, with a half-hour head-start to try and make my footprints in the snow lead elsewhere than to me. This was back before the eastern coyote arrived on our mountain, so there were still plenty of red foxes in residence — Reynard was my role model, not Coyote.

It always seemed too easy: with the whole mountain at our disposal, I had hundreds of acres in which to hide my skinny frame and sit out the clock. I learned to walk backwards in my own tracks and to run in huge circles, to keep an eye out for likely vines and south-facing slopes with bare rocks. Places with odd echoes could be used to throw my voice — a taunting yelp.

I’d look for a likely thicket, laden with wild grapes, because if a flock of winter birds settled in around me, it was as good as a spider web across the door. I had to watch my scent, though, because the deer could give me away. A deer snort can be heard a long way off.

After an hour and a half of running, I loved the return to stillness as my heart stopped hammering and I focused on every rustle, listening hard and hoping to hear nothing but the wind. But it was also fun to cut it close, and spy on my brothers the hounds as they panted up the far side of a ravine, the smoke of their breaths signaling zero, zero, zero.

view of Tussey Mountain

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

7 Comments


  1. Ah, yes, in Montana we played “Duck Duck Goose.” A much more restrictive game, however, with a circle and spokes laid out in the snow.

    In the summer it was “Piggy Wants a Signal.” I well remember the breathless suspense of my hiding place.

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  2. Wonderful to have the whole mountain as a hiding/hunting place! Your words of pounding heart, breathlessness, and stillness bring back memories of my own childhood games of hide and seek with my brother and the neighbourhood kids, but on a smaller urban area, particularly thrilling and a bit scary as darkness settled in. I don’t think kids do this anymore these days because of their paranoid and overprotective parents.

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  3. Kick the Can was our ultimate.

    The snow on the dark grove’s floor — wow.

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  4. No snow in Western Oregon, so we couldn’t play this version of it. But we certainly had a chase over countryside game, though I can’t remember its restrictions. & we called it fox & hounds.

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  5. We just called if hide-and-seek. My family’s summer place was surrounded by a few acres of forest which made it challenging for the seekers. I had a couple of good hiding places that were never discovered.

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  6. Thanks for the comments. Wow, these are some games I haven’t even heard of! We played Hide-and-Seek, too, of course, but usually confined that to a much smaller area. And when our cousins or other friends came to visit, we played games like Steal the Bacon up in the barn. I can’t remember involving other kids in games in the woods, though.

    I have to say, I understand the allure of paintball.

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  7. This made me ache. For childhood. Youth. My lungs, again. My brat of a sister. For lost secret places.

    I think ‘Dandelion Wine’ last affected me like this. Wonderful.

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