All the leaves that are going to fall are on the ground. Everything, but the evergreens, is brown. It is cold and food is scarce. It is winter, but Fox is happy.
Fox is finally mature enough to be out on his own. He left his family and is looking for a den. He has been searching for his new home since fall, but he feels like he is close to finding it.
These new woods seem only a little different to him from the woods where he was born. There are fields in unexpected places and there is a creek that runs through them. Fox finds holes left by previous residents by the creek. Some of them are big enough for him. He digs a den for himself and calls it home.
After a long nap, Fox crawls out. There is a bear waiting outside. Fox has never seen a bear up close. The bear is many times his size and Fox has to look up at his face. He has a much bigger mouth than he does and with bigger teeth too. One of the bear’s paws could hold all of his in it. Fox stares at the bear’s long claws.
“Welcome,” Bear says. “You may not know this, Fox; but around here, new residents bring the older residents fish. It’s just good manners.”
Without saying a word to this enormous animal, Fox walks to the creek. He sees a trout, catches it, and takes it to Bear. Bear eats it. Fox catches another and Bear eats it. Fox catches another and another and watches Bear eat without offering him a single one.
“We’re going to be good friends,” Bear says after he is full. “I’ll come visit you often.” Fox does not know what to think of Bear as he watches him walk away.
Green is returning to trees and bushes in the form of tiny leaves and buds. There is color everywhere. It is not so cold anymore and there is more to eat. It is spring, but Fox is sad.
Bear visits Fox. Fox does not pay him much attention. His body has a deflated appearance as he slowly retrieves fish for Bear.
“Is this any way to treat a guest?” Bear asks.
“I’m sorry, Bear,” Fox says.
“What is the matter with you?”
“I just learned that my friend, Raccoon, was trapped. It happened just at the end of winter. He won’t be back.”
“There are many raccoons,” Bear replies as he chews his trout.
“I know that, but Raccoon was my friend.”
“Well, then make one of the other raccoons your friend. Problem solved.”
Fox could see that Bear did not understand his sadness. Raccoon understood him most of the time and he misses him. Now he only has Bear as a friend.
The canopy is so full the sky cannot be seen. Everything is green. The days are hot and food is plentiful. It is summer, and Fox feels great.
With less effort to find food, Fox has time to play. He trots around the woods. He has met other animals and says hello to them as he runs about. Fox runs into Bear.
“Where are you going?” Bear asks. The way he asks the question implies that Fox is going somewhere special. Bear is paying special attention to Fox’s fur. It has grown long, soft, and has a beautiful color.
“Nowhere,” Fox replies. He looks at Bear. Bear’s eyes move from Fox to his own fur. Bear’s fur is short, coarse, and black all over.
“Good,” Bear says, “because you are looking terrible. You might want to ask one of your skunk friends to groom you – so they are good for something.” Fox knows his fur looks good, but his feelings are hurt. He notices he feels bad when he is around Bear.
It is harder to find trout, but there is plenty of other food among the green plants. The days seem as long as they have ever seemed. It is late summer, and Fox is worried.
There is a man that walks quietly through the woods. He reminds fox of himself when he is hunting. The man, however, does not hunt. He looks around making note of everything around him. Fox does not know that the man is a hunter himself and is scouting, but he knows enough about man to run and hide.
One day, when Bear is visiting Fox, he sees the man. Bear rises and goes for a closer look. Fox warns bear to stay away, but Bear never listens to Fox.
The man sees Bear and he freezes. The two stare at each other. The man’s face says fear. Bear’s posture suggests he thinks the man is admiring him. Bear stands up as if he wants the man to admire all of him.
“Run, you stupid Bear!” Fox yells. Bear gets back on all four legs and charges at Fox. He does not like being called a stupid bear. Fox is too fast for Bear and gets away. The man slips away as well.
The canopy still conceals the sky. It is orange, red, yellow, brown and green. The days are cool. Food is a little harder to find. It is fall, and Fox is afraid.
It is hunting season. Fox watches the man that scouted the woods during the summer walk quietly to a tree and sit. The man’s back is against the trunk of the tree. If Fox did not see him go there, he would not be able to see him at all. He is dressed in a pattern that makes him look as if he is a part of the woods around him. The wind is blowing his scent away.
Bear arrives. Fox whispers a warning to Bear, “The man who visited the woods often in the summer is hiding by a tree.”
“The man wishes to see me again,” Bear says. He explains that the man is hiding so that Bear will appear. “He must have thought he scared me away.”
“I don’t think so, Bear.” Fox feels fear. “Please don’t let the man see you.”
Bear sees a deer nearby. He tells the deer that he saw some very good grasses in the open field. He does not tell deer that there is a man near there. He prevents Fox from warning him.
The deer goes out to the open area. Fox watches him. It appears that he does find good grass. The deer looks up. He sends a grateful look to Bear. Fox hears a clap like thunder. The deer’s body falls to the ground.
Fox wants to run, but his eyes are glued to the spot where the deer fell. Bear walks to the deer. Bear pushes on the deer’s side with his paw, but it does not respond. Fox’s eyes snap to the tree where the man is sitting. The man does not move. He watches Bear. Bear finishes inspecting the deer, looks around, and walks back to Fox.
“See, he didn’t come to see a deer,” Bear says. “He came to see me.”
Fox decides he will not be friends with Bear anymore.