A Red Fox Named Cinnabar

animal wisdom childhood earth wisdom May 09, 2023
Cinnabar the One O’Clock Fox,drawn by Wesley Dennis

Back in the dark ages, when I was in fourth grade, and books had paper pages and bindings, my teacher Mrs Grace read (!) a book to us. It was called “Cinnabar, the One O’Clock Fox”, written by Marguerite Henry (of Misty of Chincoteague fame) and illustrated by Wesley Dennis, who illustrated I think all of her books.

That was … um….. a lot of years ago. We’re talking decades. But I’ve never forgotten Cinnabar and his family. I even went so far as to find the book a few years ago and buy a copy. I don’t have many things that are precious to me, but I’m telling you right now that when I pass and am cremated, I want that book right there with me. We’ll send our ashes to the ether together.

Cinnabar was sentient. He had a family. His wife’s name was Vicky, and during this story four little ones were born - two boys (Rascal and Pascal) and two girls (Merry and Mischief). Foxes, for those of you who just have to know, mate for life, and are monogamous. Cinnabar and Vicky were the foxy power couple of the Virginia hills.

Drawing by Wesley Dennis - Rascal, Pascal, Merry and Mischief

The story is based on a legend about a wily fox and Gen George Washington (remember him? Father of our country, or some such thing). Mr Washington not only led the rebels to victory, he was an avid fox hunter. (I am not into fox hunting with a real fox, but things were different back then.) Apparently, there was a fox in the neighborhood who loved being pursued as much as Mr Washington loved pursuing. At 1pm sharp, this fox would appear to the hunt pack and lead the dogs on a merry chase. He was never caught. 

Cinnabar is the story of that fox, his family, and several misadventures. It’s a delightful book, and certainly had a huge impact on me as a 10-year old. Maybe Cinnabar was the reason I started looking at animals as more than “just an animal.” Or maybe it just brought out that latent knowingness in me. I’m pretty sure the rest of my class thought the book was nice, but recess was nicer.

Me? I wanted to hang with Cinnabar, Vicky, and the kits.

Drawing by Wesley Dennis 


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