One month after the start of a very cold winter, Mother and Father Red Fox searched for a new home. They wanted a safe location to have their pups. Mother was worried about humans, predators, and being near a place where the cubs might be struck by cars. Father and Mother found many places, but Mother pointed out dangers near every one of them. Just as Father felt like they might not find a suitable place to live, he found an abandoned ground hog den in a field by a stone too large for a farmer to remove. Mother liked it.
Mother and Father improved the den. They made it the right size by digging it out with their paws. They also made a special space where Mother could care for their future pups. Their new home was perfect, but for one thing: it was difficult to find food around the den. Mother and Father could find enough food for themselves in the fields around them; but after Mother had the pups, it was Father’s job to find enough food for all of them.
The day after Mother had the pups, Father left the den to look for food by himself for the first time. He searched the field around their home for rabbits, but he knew he would not find any. He searched and he searched for food getting farther and farther from the den. At one point, he was so far from the den that he could not see the stone beside it. At a distance and in a direction that took him even farther from his home, he saw a line of trees. Unwilling to return home empty handed, he traveled toward the trees.
After walking much longer than he had expected, Father arrived at the trees. He looked through them, but did not find food. Their berries had already been eaten by other animals and it was too cold for insects. The trees, however, were lined up next to a creek. That was a little good luck for Father who was thirsty. He lowered his head for a drink of water. As he drank, a long-tailed weasel unintentionally came up out of the water next to him. Father snapped him up with his mouth.
The weasel cried, “Don’t eat me! I’m mostly bad fat! I’m trans-fat!” Father chuckled.
Encouraged; the weasel continued, “I’m a leading cause of death!” Father chuckled more.
“I’ll give you gas with oily discharge!”
Father released the weasel and laughed. The weasel was free, but stunned and did not run away. Instead, the weasel asked, “May I offer you a healthy alternative?”
Father had never talked to his food before. He replied, “Weasel, I don’t know what you are saying but keep talking.”
The weasel said, “If you promise not to eat me – if you promise never to eat me, I will show you where you can find as much food as you can eat.”
Father thought about Mother and his cubs. He said, “I promise never to eat you.” So the weasel led Father down the creek, under a bridge, and to a location where the first creek joined a second creek. They then traveled up the second creek, passed under another bridge, and arrived at a waterfall.
The weasel said, “Humans put trout here all the time. When it’s cold, there are more trout than we can eat.” Father now knew where he could find food for his family and was glad that he had not eaten the weasel.
“Thank you, weasel,” Father said. “I will keep my promise.”
Then, Father had a new problem to solve. Fish spoils quickly. He had traveled a long distance for a long time. How would he deliver the fish to Mother and the pups before it spoiled?
The weasel said, “You look unhappy, fox. You’re not changing your mind, are you?”
Father replied, “I’m happy about the fish, but I don’t know how to get it back to my den before it spoils.”
“Is your den by the tree where we met?”
“No, it’s up the hill by a big rock.”
“I know that rock,” the weasel said. “If you’re taking food back, you must have family in that den.”
The weasel paused to think for a moment and then said, “If you promise that your family will not eat weasels, I will tell you a shortcut.”
“I can’t make that promise for my cubs.”
“Will you promise to tell them that weasels are disgusting?” the weasel said as he picked his nose. Father laughed and agreed. “The Sun is going to go down right over there,” the weasel pointed as he explained. “You need to go straight toward where it will set. If you start right now, you might make it before it is gone. If it sets before you get home, you’ll be lost because you don’t know your way yet. So, you’d better grab a fish and start running back right now.”
Father did as the weasel advised. He caught the largest trout he could find and ran following the Sun’s descent into the horizon. The route back was challenging. He came across different animals that wanted to talk to him about why he was in such a hurry. When he could not cross creeks using fallen trees, he had to wade across. He had to cross two streets. As the Sun was setting, he arrived at a field that was familiar to him. As dusk ended, Father saw his rock. Mother and the five cubs were so happy to see him come into the den that they did not notice the big fresh trout he had brought back for their dinner.
Father placed the trout in front of his family and asked, “Have I told you how disgusting weasels are?”