Suburban Soliloquies #9

The shriek entered my dream.  The discordant sound merged into the nocturnal tale my subconscious had been composing, converting it into a nightmare. Then Boris, my 190 pound [86kg] Newfoundland dog began to bark incessantly. I snapped awake.  Sitting up in bed I called out to Boris to be quiet.  He obeyed, temporarily.  There was another unwholesome shriek and Boris began again his barking.

Leaping out of bed, throwing on my bathrobe to conceal my nakedness, I dashed from the house in the middle of the night to rescue the supposed woman.  Boris was at the end of his taut chain barking in the direction of our street advancing south.  The woman was not to be seen.  I thought, perhaps, our large bush was in the way and looked around it, but found at first nothing.  A moment later and I saw a small, stubby legged dog, what I imagined to be a Welsh Corgi.  I searched about for the pet's master, whom I assumed to be the source of these middle-of-the-night screams.  Even calling out "HELLO!" nothing came of it.  I was halfway up my driveway when the
shrieks started again.

It was the Corgi.  The creature was cocking back its head and wailing like a banshee to the sky.  The sound issuing from its narrow jaw was indistinguishable from what I would have expected of a woman in peril.  Only then did I consider how I might not be looking at a Corgi.  Maybe I was staring at a fox.

Taking several steps in the direction of this fox, for I have come to know it for a fox, did not perturb the animal as I expected it might.  The fox, which I assumed would fear me, watched me with indifference, at which point I considered the very real threat that I could be dealing with a rabid creature.  I retreated.  The fox, flinging its head in resentment, took off in the opposite direction.  It issued its eerie scream several more times before returning into the forest a hundred yards away.

All this took place last year.  For several nights that week the fox returned regularly to our house and I wondered if the fox came because of Boris, to scream his indignation that his cousin should be so immense.  A crime against nature the way the fox saw it, the fox being not even fifteen
pounds (7kg).  It also might have been that Boris stood in the way of the fox eating our cat.

It is the insolence of life, of the things that grow, that causes weeds to rise out of cracked city sidewalks, and compels a fox to visit suburbia. We, meaning all of life, want to live, even if we don't have the consent of others.  Sometimes we manage it in spite of others, making our homes where they were not intended to be.

In 1950, U.S. Steel began building their new steel mill in Lower Bucks County, just in time for the Korean War.  It was named the Fairless Steel Works for then U.S. Steel president Benjamin Fairless.  The mill was to employ 6,000 people.  In 1951, the Danherst Corporation, a subsidiary of
U.S. Steel, built about 1,500 Cap Cod cottages, shoeboxes with roofs, and named the community Fairless Hills.  It was adjacent to this community that William J. Levitt, seeing a good thing, decided to build his complex.

Soon after their astonishing success with Levittown, New York, Levitt and Sons came, in 1952, and built, by 1958, 17,311 single family homes on the fertile farmlands of Lower Buck County.  By 1954 Pennsylvania's Levittown had 60,000 residents, and soon after 70,000.  What William did, that the Danherst Corporation had not done, was commission someone (his father Abraham) to do landscaping.  The senior Levitt planted trees everywhere.  He also left intact the narrow stretches of woodland that traced the creeks.

Forty years later, this community, which at the onset looked more like the surreal terrain of a sterile golf course, has become almost a forest.  Here I live.  We have rabbits and squirrels despite many pet cats and dogs trying to keep them in check.  Occasionally our homes are adopted by mice and toads. Sometimes, and most regretfully, we run over a skunk with our cars. Once, when my wife was serving tea to a guest, a lost fawn found its way into our backyard.  Twice a year a Great Blue Heron stops by our creek for a week's respite in his migration to and from.  Mallards have also settled on Levittown for their nurseries.  These breeding grounds are no longer exclusively for the human species

So much of biology is in contempt of geology, life forms making their homes where they are not invited, our own species most contentiously of all.  Life crawls into every nook and cranny; takes seed, persists, and sometimes prevails.

And now through the open window come the repeated shrieks of a fox, perhaps the same individual having returned from last year.  The fox is prepared to contend with us suburbanites.  Its insolence gives me hope.

Bruce Bentzman

This is the ninth in a series of regular reports from the life and times of Mr Bentzman. If you've any comments or suggestions, the writer would be pleased to hear from you.