When one of the locals around my country town offered to take me camping on my one day off of the week, I of course had to say yes. Little did I know the night would turn into one of my favorite Australian bush stories, from my months living out in the middle of nowhere.
I don’t get out much, not having a car or even a bike, so even a trip to the next town or anywhere unreachable by foot (which is pretty much everywhere) is now an exciting outing for me! As funny as it is, it’s true.I have been living in a tiny town of TEN PEOPLE working at a farm pub. I went to the grocery store for the first time in a month on this outing, and I was so overwhelmed I had no idea where to even begin deciding what to get… but that’s another story.
So, we drove about 30 minutes to this rock to go camping on the Monday night when I got off work before my weekly day off on Tuesday. It was in the middle of some bushland which was in the middle of vast expanses of farmland, and had a perfect little flat area to park the car and set up a little fire right next to this big rock that you could walk up.
My friend is an expert and veteran camper, with a trailer and everything. He had all the supplies for cooking meals, setting up a bed in the back of his 4 wheel drive, and brought a big swag so one of us could have the car and one could sleep under the stars in the swag. (For non-Aussies – a swag is kinda like a massive sleeping bag with a little soft pad that you put on top of a tarp on the ground and put your sleeping bag inside. You kindof burrow up into it like a human envelope, and can bulge the swag up over your head so it’s like you’re in a little cave, totally covered yet pretty much totally exposed as well. Google it to see what it looks like – but make sure you search for a ‘swag’ of the camping variety – results can come up very different otherwise 😉 )
The stars were absolutely STUNNING that night – totally clear and uninterrupted by the lights and pollution that I am so used to at home. It was so clear you could make out the cloudy milky way galaxy stretching across the sky, and we saw a bit of the Southern Cross before it dipped below the horizon as the night went on. It was the perfect night to tell some Australian Bush stories before making some of our own.
Because it was so nice, I decided I would take the swag that night. Might as well get a real camping experience when given the opportunity, right?! I could lay out and look at the stars, only being mildly afraid of spiders finding their way to crawl on me, and hopefully have a cozy outdoor night’s sleep.
But little did I know, it wouldn’t be spiders that found their way to crawl on me.
Australian Bush Stories: The Night Commences
After a few glasses of wine over a campfire, it was time to go to sleep. Because we’re at the time of year here in Australia that it’s hot during the day and impossibly cold at night, I put on my camping socks, two pairs of pants, three sweaters, and climbed into the thick sleeping bag I was so graciously given for my night in the swag. I was juuuust warm enough, and tired enough to drift directly into dreamland in my cozy double sized swag.
I had some strange dreams that night. Not entirely sure why. I remember one dream involving a chicken (probably because I am in the middle of farmland here and so many people have them. They call them chooks. But I digress) I remember in my dream I think I was holding the chicken. It began to walk on me, and I tried to keep it from jumping away.
Then I felt something, I thought, in real life. Not the chicken. I stirred a bit. I began to remember that I was actually asleep. I was buried quite far into my swag, cozy as a little baby in a blanket. But then it happened again, a little tiny amount of pressure on my chest. Was I dreaming still? Where was I? Then another – a little step. Of a paw. It stepped again. I blinked my eyes open.
HOLY SHIT I AM CAMPING OUTSIDE AND SOMETHING IS WALKING ON ME.
In complete panicked daze I picked my arms up from my sides and threw whatever-it-was off of me and sat up, quickly peeling back the top of my swag to see what the heck was trying to assault me in the middle of my strange chicken dreams.
But – when I actually emerged from the thick protective cover of the swag, there was nothing there. I blinked my eyes again. It was gone! What the hell, it was gone. Already. What the heck was it? Wait – was that a dream?!
I sat up straighter, quite confused. It was at that moment it appeared – trotting out from behind the rock a few meters away from me. It was a silky, soft orange colored, bushy, extremely-cute-yet-slightly-suspect-looking fox.
Australian Bush Stories: The Wild Fox Encounter
The swag was set out pretty much right in front of the chairs, in between the fire and the rock to the right – which is where the fox appeared.
We locked eyes for an uncomfortably long time. Neither of us moved. It was probably realistically only a few seconds, but I think we saw all the way down to the core of each other’s souls. We were both clearly confused about each other’s presence there.
When I finally processed what was happening – that I was having a staring contest with a wild animal that I had never encountered before – my instincts kicked in. I jumped up and towards it, to scare it away. I wasn’t sure what exactly foxes would do or if they’re aggressive – I only remembered a few farmers talking about how they were massive pests to their crops and had really sharp teeth.
The thing ran away immediately, in an almost indiscernible flash of orange. And then, it was gone.
“Hm… what the heck do I do now?” I thought, in a sleepy, ‘I-just-woke-up-from-a-deep-dream’ state. I looked around, for more. For some reason I felt like there were more than one.
I stood up and looked around. Nothing. I still felt a little bit of my dream lingering in my brain. I was tired. I tried to blink my eyes more open, but decided it wasn’t worth it. I climbed back into my cozy warm swag and tried to go back to sleep.
But a few minutes later, I thought I would look out again, just to make sure that they were gone. So I pulled back the swag cover…
And there the damn thing was again.
It ran away immediately in a flash of fluffy tail.
“That’s it,” I thought.
I got out of my sleeping bag, as tired and cold as I was, and stood on a nearby rock to make sure it ran away. I heard it crashing through the bushes. I looked over and did see another one, climbed atop a rock about 25 meters away which disappeared in a moment upon seeing me standing there. Determined, I stood my ground; I was too tired for this to be happening all night. I wanted them to know I wouldn’t back down… and I wanted to get some damn sleep!
The crashing through the bushes eventually stopped, and I stood there a few more minutes just to be safe, looking all around for the buggers. Finally, I thought they were really gone, so I went back to sleep… burying myself extra far into the swag.
The next morning I woke up to the sun beating down… I was definitely not cold anymore. I peeled off all my spare layers and tried to get a bit more sleep, to no avail. My friend woke up too, and was extremely entertained to hear my crazy night’s stories. He had never heard of any crazy Australian bush stories like that before.
Australian Bush Stories: The Mystery
After breakfast, we started getting ready to go on a walk. I went over by the swag to get my shoes, a pair of combat boots…. but they were’t there. I swore I had taken them off right on the tarp next to the swag. But, I am forgetful quite often, and we did have a few wines by the fire the night before, so I figured I must have just put them elsewhere.
We checked the trailer and went through all of the car. We looked all around the fire. I turned the whole swag and sleeping bag inside out and looked under the tarp. Nothing. And I had a fairly solid memory of taking them off next to the swag before getting in it, because my feet were so cold. This was weird.
Do foxes…. steal… shoes?
No, there’s no way. What could a fox want with my boots? But that could explain why it was so close to me. But again… why would it want my boots?!?
I must have taken them off somewhere. This was too strange.
I looked all around the rocks where I saw the fox, the fire, even went a bit into the spidery bushes. I still saw nothing. Were my shoes really stolen by a wild fox while I was sleeping? I heard myself think that, and realized how crazy I sounded. What even is Australia?
My friend joked that I might have sleep-walked up the rock and left it there. But I have never sleep-walked in my life! The foxes went the other direction, but I thought I would check anyway. This was way too bizarre.
The view looking up the rock
So, I started my way up the rock with the hot morning sun just peeking over the treetops. I wasn’t sure where I was going, but I trudged upwards. Eventually I squinted towards the top of the rock, where there were some more trees growing and some more smaller boulders. I have pretty bad far-away vision, but I made out the outline of something sitting near the top. It was probably just a little rock or a stick, like everywhere else. But I kept my eyes on it and kept walking.
I got closer and I still thought it might be a stick, but it damn well looked a bit like a boot. It didn’t help that my boot was the same exact color as most of the rocks in this damn place.
I sped up my walk a bit. Oh my God. I ran up to it and picked it up, looked at it. This was actually happening. I waved it up in the air to my friend down by the car.
“You are NOT going to believe this!”I yelled, as I examined one of my missing shoes that had somehow made its way up the rock in the opposite direction the foxes went. What. The. Hell.
I threw it down towards camp, turned back around, and launched into a full search expedition up the rock. “Ugh, I really do like these shoes,” I thought. I wore them to work pretty much every other day, and they were the most farm-suited shoes I brought down here… and the only boots. Stupid foxes.
After an unsuccessful 20 minute search, I returned to camp. My friend swore that it wasn’t him playing tricks on me although he suspiciously suggested for me to go up the rock… 😛 We examined it for tooth marks and saw nothing, but concluded that if foxes carry their young in their mouths they would be pretty proficient at being careful with a shoe.
I really liked those damn shoes.
And in case I am dragging on, I’ll just pretty much cut the story there. A bit anti-climactic, I know, but it was anti-climactic in real life, too. We searched the bushes near the car, and even walked through the bushland and surrounding farms for a whole hour searching for it. We even poked our walking sticks into a few fox holes we walked past, and scoured the entire rock for it. It was gone. Probably being chewed on under the ground somewhere by little baby foxes. I imagined one wearing it. I at least hoped they got some good use out of it if they were going to ever-so-rudely rob it from me in my sleep. At least it made what is probably one of my very favorite Australian Bush stories from my time out here!
Something interesting, though, is that my friend told me they had a big problem with people stealing golf shoes at the club he played at, when people would leave them over night. They had always assumed humans were the thiefs, given that golf shoes are apparently pretty expensive and all. So people started bringing their shoes with them, unsure who the jerk was stealing their shoes. BUT, that issue could be explained by my curious morning mystery of the fox and the boot. That almost sounds like a movie title, doesn’t it?
So now here I am, with one boot and absolutely nothing to do with it. Perhaps I should go back there and sacrifice it back into the wild, where it can reunite with its counterpart and perhaps the creature that brought it up the rock. Do you think travel insurance will cover theft via wild animal in your sleep?! I would rather it had taken my old running shoes. But ah well, if anyone wants to send a new pair of combat boots to my little town in Western Australia, that would be awesome.
But for now, this will always be remembered as the morning a wild fox stood on me and stole my shoes. I am fairly sure there aren’t many people in the world who can say the same thing.. and the hilarious, unbelievable Australian bush story this experience has brought me might, just might be worth the price of my beloved boots. Almost.
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