The First Year
The Girl From The Hill
Papa always said dat de best day was when he took me home to Chick-A-Pin Hill. He di'nt know it at da time, but he was gon' be happy…even'chally. Papa and I lived on dat nice lil hill together out in Briar Country wid de otha critters. And it was de nicest little hill I'd ever seen and 'ill ever see. Funny how I don' remember when I came to de hill, but Papa did. He said dat one day, one real random day, he woke up and heard me cryin' and cryin'. He popped his head outta de cave in Chick-A-Pin hill and found me sittin' dere in my favorite basket, de one I use fo' Foxy Loxy's bed. He read a letter from my momma. Momma said dat when Papa loved her and loved her so'mo', I started growin' in her, and she di'nt know what t' do. So she gave me to Papa. Papa was mighty shocked and angry, not at me I hope. He once said somethin' to me abou' how they'd met at a party the other critters were holdin', he tried some tingly feelin' drinks, and decided to really love on my momma. After she gave herself to 'im (as he put it), she ran away the next mo'nin' and never came back. Then when I was bawn, she gave me to Papa, jess like dat.
Papa said that he'd been feelin' mighty lonely lately and felt kinda bad fo' me, me bein' bawn to him and my momma and all, so he took me inside the cave and looked at me like dere was somethin' wrong. He said dat I was too tiny t' be healthy, so much so that dat I could fit snuggly in one a 'is hands. But also my ribs were showin' and I was mighty filthy. He once told me that I was "mal-noorished", which he said meant that I wasn't eatin' good and bein' taken care of right. Papa said "bless my soul" and tried cleaning me and feeding me, and finding me clothes to wear. He gave me a mighty big shirt, cleaned my nasty self and made me eat some chicken and veggies he was gon' save fo' 'imself (I always loved how generous he was). As he looked fo' clothes fo' me t' wear, he found an ol' stuffed toy fox that 'e used to play with when he was mighty little. He put him in my arms and called him Foxy Loxy, like de fox from dat "Sky is fallin'" story. I love Foxy Loxy a whole lot! Anyways, Papa di'nt have a bed fo' me, so he made me sleep in his bed and put pillows all around me, so I woul'nt fall off (Papa sho' is smart). A cos' I di'nt know dis was goin' on, 'cause my eyes and ears were shut real tight. Papa says dat baby foxes are bawn not hearin' and seein', so the only thang that I could do was feel him when he held me and eat the chicken and veggies he gave me. Papa was still real mad, even after he got me a bed to sleep in and found out how da make dresses (what I did wrong in de first place, I don' know). Every mo'nin', he'd wake me up real early, change me good, put a dress on me (Papa always said that foxes look nicer dan any other critter), and gave me breakfast. Then he'd rock me in my favorite chair and poke at me all playful-like, and then he'd change me, then he'd feed me, and change me agin, then he'd put me down for a nap (de best time of de day acco'din' to Papa), and then he'd change me some mo'! Then more pokin' and playin', then dinnertime, then bathtime (my favorite part of de day), and then he'd put me down to sleep. I loved 'im a whole lot. I used to wonder if he loved me when I was little.
'Cos I couldn't hear nothin' dat first week, 'cause I was still a lil baby. Like I said befo', foxes are bawn deaf 'n' blind and don' get their ears and eyes opened until 14, sometimes 16 days after they bawn, and Papa and Momma were de same. I knew my Papa by how he held me and how smelly he was. Papa is de smelliest critter I've ever smelled. Every night, he'd bathe after he bathes me, so why does he always smell like sweat, grass, and chimney smoke? I have a strange Papa. A week after Papa took me home (day # 15 in my life) my ears 'n' ears opened and de first thang I saw was Papa lookin' down at me. He's a funny lookin' critter with a big nose, big feet, and ears, and a hat. He asked me if I knew who he was. What a dumb question. He was holdin' me the way he'd always held me. This was my Papa, and den at dat time, I loved him a lot mo' than I did befo'.
After dat, each day went as usual, but now that I was hearin', he started talkin' and he'd talk and talk and talk some mo' 'bout dis ol' rabbit he's been chasin' for a long while. Brer Rabbit lives in a prickly briar patch a little ways down de road. Papa wants to eat Brer Rabbit. Papa says that rabbits make a nice stew that every fox should try at least once in dere lifetime. He told me everythin' there is to know 'bout rabbits 'n' foxes; like how dey been chasin' each other since dey first showed up on Earth long ago, how foxes first found out how nice rabbits are to eat, all dat good stuff.
I remember one day, Papa took me outside fo' de first time since my eyes opened up. It was a week after dat, and he thought I was ready to see what outside looked like. I like outside. It's mighty purty some days. Other days, it gets real wet and gray sometimes, and I don' like dose ver' much. But on de day Papa showed me outside, he had me in one arm and our picnic basket (not my basket, another one) on de other and he took me up on a hill and showed me all there was t' see in Briar Country. The briar patch, the mole sisters' house, Mr. Bluebird's nest, the cabin of ol' Uncle Remus, all dat good stuff. Speakin' a which, guess who I met dat day! We saw Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit walking down de road singin'. Papa hid me and hisself behind a tree and Papa told me to hush. He told me he was gon' try and get Brer Rabbit away from Uncle Remus and then take him home with us. He said "wait here", but I di'nt understand. I was still not good at talkin', always cooin' and babblin'. He went up to Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit and tried to distract Remus from de Rabbit. But I wanted to follow. I cried for Papa and held out my arms. I wanted him near me fo' sho'! Papa slapped himself, came back over, and took me in his paws, and told me that I shoulda stayed quiet by th' tree. Uncle Remus stopped Papa from lecturin' me and introduced hisself. I ain't used to talkin' to no one 'cept Papa, so I wrapped my arms around Papa's neck and turned away. Uncle Remus laughed and called me "sweet". I only talk to Papa, thank you ver' much. But at least he was mighty nice.
Brer Rabbit tried to speak t' me. He said "be nice and sweet, and keep yo' Pa in line!" Papa carried me away from 'im. "Lisa, don't play with yo' food" he'd say. I looked at Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit one mo' time and they looked mighty worried. I di'nt know why. My Papa is smart and was fo' sho'ly warmin' up to me. Papa took me to another hill and we had our picnic there. He then told me 'about de trees, de flowers, and even some o' de otha critters. I met Brer Bear and his family too, as they came walkin' down de road. Papa says that Brer Bear is a foo' but he thought it nice that Brer Bear found a Missus Bear and had lil Brers and lil Sisses Bears with 'er. Alot a critters were havin' babies and Papa once heard that even Brer Rabbit had gone acourtin' with some lady rabbit that lived in a separate briar patch. Maybe that was why Papa had been feelin' lonely by th' time I came. Everyone else were either havin' babies or, in th' case o' Brer Rabbit, were meetin' critters they could 'ave babies wit'. Papa says that I'm special 'cos even though he di'nt know I was comin', it turned out to be a real good thang that I did. He once called me "the best surprise I ever 'ad"! Brer Bear is mighty slow. He don' talk nearly as fast as Papa but he seems nice. Don' make 'im mad though. His cubs were misbehavin' and he yelled at dem. Missus Bear told dem to stop makin' a scene, so 'e stopped. I like Missus Bear, she know she she wants and hain't afraid to speak. Papa rolled 'is eyes and told me that Brer Bear's temper shows up sometime, but with Missus Bear around, it don' appear as much as it used to. They seem nice though, but like I say befo', I only talked to Papa. The Bears tried to speak to me, but I just put my head in Papa's chest. I'm sorry, but I only want to talk to 'im. Papa calls it "bein' shy". I guess dat's what I am.
After the Bears left, I looked at the grass and started playin' with de ground, as Papa was puttin' the food away. He looked back at me and saw my covered in dirt and about to eat some. He slapped my paw and I cried 'n' cried. He told me dat eating dirt is a foo'ish thing t' do. Instead of givin' me my nap when we got home, he cleaned me, pulled my dirty dress off me, and gave me my bath instead. After puttin' me in a night dress and so that I could nap, he told me "sorry" for slappin' my paw, but he told me that eatin' dirt hain't good and dat he'll be keepin' a better eye on me. I don' mean to make Papa mad, but I jess really like de outside.
For de next few months, Papa would take me outside all de time. He even stitched me a hat just like his to keep de sun outta my eyes. We met lotsa critters whenever he took me out. Mr. Bluebird likes me alot fo' some reason. The Mole Sisters and Sis Possum got real fond a me and kept offerin' Papa to make nice dresses fo' me. They kept tellin' me how purty and cute I was, but I wanted to only be near Papa, but durin' dis time, he started gettin' me to talk to otha critters. He'd say "Lisa, ya gotta talk to othas. Critters 'n' people wanna talk t' ya". I tried t' understand, but it came kinda clear t' me that I had t' talk to othas. The Mole Sisters and Sis Possum loved talkin' t' me and makin' stuff fo' me. What I did to get dis attention, I don' know. It just happened. They made me some nice dresses fo' both cas'all 'n' special occasions and pretty bows 'n' bonnets to wear in my hair. Papa di'nt show that he liked it, but I think he did. He never told 'em to stop. I soon had a nice little set of clothes to wear 'n' if I could talk, I woulda been told to say "thank you" every time I got a new one. Papa still did everythin' else though. Cleanin', feedin', takin' me outside, he even started readin' to me every night. He often talks t' otha critters and Uncle Remus about how "gifted" I am, all because I di'nt fuss alot as a baby. When he got me to do somethin', even somethin' as simple as eat, he'd smile and I'd hear 'im say "I have a gifted child". "Gifted" must be good, because Papa boasted 'bout me and called me that alot when he did. I love Papa, but I think he gives mo' credit than I'm worth. I've heard otha critters say that Ma's and Pa's do that 'cause they so proud of dere kids. Why is Papa proud o me den? What did I do dat was so special? I cry and eat and sleep like every other child, so why is Papa so "proud" o me? I've never caught and brought home a rabbit or a chicken or a fish. I never made my own trap for dem rabbits, chickens, o' fish. I don't talk or learn good. It takes me a long time to figure out stuff, but Papa keeps callin' me "gifted". "What a smart child I got!" "Aren't I blessed to have such a sweet baby like you!" Papa sho' is strange sometimes. Got a way wid words too. I wish other critters like 'im, but 'e's always chasin' rabbits 'n' chickens.
Them comments just kept comin', 'specially when I started crawlin'. I fell alot, but Papa always told me "oh, you can do betta dan dat! No mo' tears. Try again!" I cried alot when I fell down, but Papa would always tell me t' try agin. "No mo' tears", he'd say. "No mo' tears". Papa was scared that I never gon' crawl or walk, and looked a lil worried 'bout me. So one day, I grabbed ont' the legs of our dinna table and I walked 'round in a circle while holdin' on tight. Papa was starin' all serious like. I wanted to impress 'im, so I let go and took one step...and fell real hard. I cried and cried, but Papa took me in his arms and said "You did so good. No mo' tears. You can try agin". Papa is right, as always, so I tried 'n' tried. I'd take a few steps 'n' fall agin 'n' agin. He was always right dere, watchin' me. "You can do it!" he'd say. Papa kept holdin' out his arms, and soon, I jess got up 'n' ran. I had t' get to dem arms somehow, so I held out my own and cried out fo' 'im as I sprinted. Papa got a lil closer as he went 'n' took me in his arms right den and dar. He held me real tightly as he sat all criss cross on de flo'. He gave me lots a "butterfly kisses" and told me all sorts of stuff. "Dis is a gifted child! I ain't never seen no young'un so smart 'n' special befo'"! Papa laughed 'n' laughed and kept me wid him for a mighty long time after dat. Even durin' my nap, he insisted that I stay in 'is arms. Usually, he'd just put me in bed and left me there fo' an hour. But not den. He held me and kissed me and I just laid dere. I think dat was when Papa really began to love me. He let me sleep in 'is arms the rest of de day and night. He'd gotten fond a me befo' but den I knew fo' sho' that he loved me. And I always loved my Papa.
I wanted to start talkin' to Papa, no babbles but real words. Papa repeated every day words t' me, like "mo'ning", "bath", "outside", especially "Pa". He kept sayin' "Pa" agin and agin, that one day, I jess blurted out "Papa". I hadn't seen him dat happy since de day I ran t' him. "You called me 'Papa'!" he cried. Every time I called 'im "Papa", he'd reply with all sorts a questions. "How d'you do?" "Watcha gotta say, Lisa?" "What d'ya gotta tell me?" He always wanted me to say somethin'.
As de days got colder 'n' colder, Papa made me go outside wid a jacket and my special hat mo' often. Papa showed me how leaves fall from de trees and dat soon 'nough, snow might start fallin'. I liked the reds 'n' yellows 'n' oranges, but I really loved the kickin' and the throwin' of dos leaves. Papa wou'nt let me stay out too late, but I wanted. Sometimes I'd cry "NO!" Papa said "Yes, ma'am!" 'n' took me inside. Papa always says that when he tells me t' do somethin', I gots t' do it. 'Cause the days got colder, Papa woul'nt keep me outside fo' as long. "Frozen foxes don' make good foxes" Papa would say. When de Christmas snow came, Papa would give me flour to throw int' a Christmas cookie batter. After a looong time, Papa would give me two cookies to eat fo' Christmas day. But not befo' presents, which I always look fo'ward to. Papa gave me some clothes and so'mo' toys, and den, after dinna, gave me dem two cookies he promised me. Papa told me all about New Years "Resolutions" 'n' what dey meant; promises t' the new year, I think.
One mo'ning some time lata, when I was cryin' out fo' Papa to let me out a my crib, Papa came in wid de prettiest chocolate cake I ever saw! He gave me a present and told me that I'd been bawn dat day a year ago and said dat it's one de most impotent days of de year! I tried to say "thank you" but I still di'nt talk good den. But I think he knew. He helped me open the present 'n' it was a pretty girl fox wearin' a pretty white sundress with two big button eyes just like Foxy Loxy. He told me that Foxy Loxy should have a playmate. He walked me over t' Foxy Loxy's basket (my basket really) 'n' told Foxy that he had a new lady friend. I loved mine'n' Foxy's new friend. After I got good at speakin', I started callin' her Farah Sarah 'n' Papa laughed wid me when I told 'im. On my first birthday, he made me my favorite breakfast and took me outside agin. He gave me my favorite lunch and let me put my paws into that small cake he made fo' me. It wasn't a tiny ol' cupcake, but it wasn't one of dem big wedding cakes either. It was about as wide as one a Papa's big ol paws and it was real purty, with pink and blue frostin'. Papa made sure that he was wid me every day, so maybe he made it while I was sleepin', or somethin'. I got all messy, but Papa di'nt mind. He let me get all messy from de cake and lettin' my play in de grass, which musta been his plan all long 'cause he made my bath extra long dat day. I always loved dos baths and he let me stay in de tub for a loooong time. He made dinna as usual and read me my favorite story. When he put me t' bed, he told me that my first birthday was one of de best days Briar Country has ever seen. A week later, I got anotha surprise! Papa surprised me agin wid a trip to the fair bein' held right dere at Briar Country! He 'splained to me that t'day was th' day he took me home a year ago, and dat dis was another 'stremely impotent day! Papa showed me how t' do lots a things. He showed me how t' throw a ball int' a hole t' get a prize, and den he showed me how t' fish for fake fish, so that we could git anotha prize. Otha critters were watchin'. Some were lookin' mighty confused. "What's Brer Fox doin' here?" "Ain't that the fox baby we been hearin' about?" Sis Possum, the Mole Sisters, and Brer Rabbit musta told otha critters 'bout me 'cause some critters were talkin' t' me and pointin' at me. Did I do somethin' wrong agin? Papa gave them suspicious lookin' looks 'n' showed me how t' play so'mo' games.
I saw de Bears agin. Brer Bear showed ever'un how strong he is by slammin' a mallet down an some kinda platform. A bar would go up 'n' a bell would go "ding!" Den, I saw Brer Rabbit agin. "Howdy, Lisa! Keepin' yo crazy Pa in line?" he joked with me. I liked Brer Rabbit a whole lot. He'd tell me about these "Laughin' Places", places that a critter can go to, t' make theyselves laugh real hard and forget dey own troubles. Then, he'd tell me 'bout my Papa, callin' him by his real name, "Brer Fox", 'n' how he used to try and eat him by usin' bells, 'n' tar babies (whatever dat was). Papa took me by de paw after dat and told me dat, dat ol' rabbit "will be ours soon. And don't you fall fo' his tricks neither". He di'nt deny any of what Brer Rabbit said. Papa really wants to eat 'im, but he's so nice though.
I met Uncle Remus agin at de fair. I recognized him 'n' waved to 'im. "Good mo'nin, Lisa!" he said happily. Papa simply said "hello, Uncle Remus". And Uncle Remus greeted back. I started talkin' a lil bit to Uncle Remus who began tellin' me stories of some of de otha critters. Dey weren't gossip-y or anythin' but it was just little stories of the daily lives of de critters, like how ol' Brer Frog had a tail 'n' lost it. "How can there be a tale when they ain't no tail?" I laughed when he said dat. I like Uncle Remus 'n' I think he liked me too. Speakin' o Brer Frog, I met him there too. He talked to my Papa a lil bit 'bout me and where I came from. Papa simply told 'im "I met a lady, choices were made, and now here she is, thank you ver' much". Brer Frog smiled at me. "Luck be to you, child" he said, shakin' my paw. And away he went with his fishin' pole in hand. Papa rolled his eyes.
Papa took me home after I fell asleep. I woke up after we got home 'n' he gave me a bath, den put me to bed.