The tractors are rusted out, skeletal beasts dad pushed over the ravine when the transmission went out, or the axle snapped like a bird’s leg, or the engine died. Now it’s a graveyard. Old bones of farm equipment. The rotting remains of a squirrel, laid open by a coyote. Gravestones of disintegrating tires. The labs and I walk the streambed, my daughter carrying a puppy against her big pink down coat as the pup whimpers at the fall cold on its soft belly. We stop under the tree stand in the big fir. I pull out crackers and two honeycrisp apples, slice through their skin, the knife’s edge blunt against my thumb. I break the crackers apart and throw them to the dogs. Brush the crumbs off on my jeans. Downstream just out of sight the wind nudges the waves up onto the lakeshore. Howls through trees. It sounds like it’s singing, Lee says. Just like it, I say. The fir flexes above us. The brown dog splashes into the stream, a kingfisher chick-chick-chicks its way to another overhanging branch. Lee laughs as the puppy licks her apple-sticky fingers and a piece of metal squeals as it shrinks in the cold. I remember seeing a fox here when I was her age. A whole skulk of them. My dad and I dead in our tracks for half an hour, our rubber boots sinking into the leaves, his knuckles going white and chapped as the babies ventured closer, one finally tumbling over its brother right onto my boot. I laughed just like Lee, then. Laughed and clapped my hands and my dad grabbed my shoulder like he could hardly stand and released one long held mist of a breath as the fox danced away, scared to death at the sound.
Jonah Ogles is an editor at Cincinnati Magazine. His writing has appeared in Outside, Canoe & Kayak, Cincinnati Magazine, Toad the Journal, and Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25. He lives in northern Kentucky.