Hunting the Fox

We were too old to play hide-and-seek, but we were certainly doing just that.  There was a rather large group of adults, both young and middle-aged, looking for the one who was “it”.  We did this same thing every Friday night during the summer months for at least a couple of years that I remember.  Unlike the times we played this game as children, we had not started with an hour-long game of “Not It”.  No, strangely enough, it was normal for the person who was going to hide to actually volunteer, sometimes even to demand the privilege, to hide first.  The game only got stranger.

We always started in a parking lot, standing around our cars.  Every single one of the vehicles had an extra antenna attached, indicating to the world that we were “CBers”.  The rage was in full bloom.  “Break one-nine for a smokey report,” or “Ten-four, good buddy!” were the phrases of the day, and we jumped in with both feet.  Cruising took on new interest.  No longer did we simply ride up and down the main drag, listening to the rock and roll tunes blasting from our 8-track players; waving at friends when we spotted them going the other direction.  Now, we communicated!  From one car to another!  You might say that we were racing, pell-mell into the communication age.  There were certainly no cell-phones and, before CBs, when we got into our cars, we were cut off from the world.  Granted, the range of the quirky units was limited, but we kept upgrading, buying signal amplifiers and whip antennas to extend the range.  And now, instead of chance meetings on the road, we located our friends and stopped for ice cream at the DQ, or for a Coke at the Town & Country.  It was cutting edge technology and we weren’t going to be left behind.

The group in the parking lot on Friday’s however…we were just there for fun.  This was our nearly grown-up version of hide-and-seek, but we called it the “Fox Hunt”.  The rules were simple; Only one person would hide and the others would look for them.  The “fox” had ten minutes to hide, car and all, within a prescribed area.  When he or she was hidden the best they could, they would transmit on the designated channel for one minute.  Every ten minutes after that, they had to transmit for another minute.  During this time, the hunters would drive around, checking their signal strength meters as the transmission was on the air.  Then the airwaves would be busy for several minutes as each person reported the reading they got from their location.  A stronger reading meant they were closer, so everyone would move toward the locale reported by the person with the strongest reading.  Then everyone would drive around that area, awaiting the next transmission by the “fox”.

The hunts could go on for a couple of hours, or they could end within a few moments of the start, depending on the skill of both the fox and the hunters.  Eventually, a few run-ins with the local gendarmes required a venue change and we moved out in the country.  The possibility that a suspicious (and well-armed) farmer might find us before the others did only made the wait in the parked car more exciting.  You may laugh, but when you were being hunted, the adrenalin would pump, the heart would pound, and it was as stimulating as anything most of us had done up to that point.

From my great vantage point of middle age, I can hear the voices even now, demeaning the game.  “How lame!”  “Why would you waste your time?”  Today, it is the voices of the younger folks I hear, disparaging the activity, with a shake of the head and a sniff, as if to assure you that they wouldn’t dream of doing anything so juvenile and primitive.  Almost forty years ago, it was the older folks who couldn’t understand why we would fritter away our evenings chasing around the countryside, grown up, but still children at heart.

In my mind, I see my grandchildren just last week, in a huddle back in the den, the oldest explaining the parameters of the game.  “We have to stay inside to hide.  We can’t hide where Grandma’s lamp is, or she’ll get upset.  I’ll be it. You guys hide now!”  The kids scatter, with the instigator staying put and counting to forty.  Don’t ask why forty.  It’s just the number he counts to.  The nice thing about this game is that the seeker always knows where to look.  The toy cupboard in Grandma’s sewing room can fit the whole group and since they don’t like to hide alone, they can always be found there.  Every time.  My guess is that they’ll figure out the point of the game soon enough, but for now, I like the version where they hide and get found.  Together.

And, as the scene in my mind shifts, I see teenagers as well as adults, both young and older ones, playing their version of “Fox Hunt” as they sit at their computers and experience the “first person” games, connected to friends and people they will never know, via the Internet.  They hide and they seek, the goal – to find their opponent and defeat him in the scene being played out on their screens.  The adrenalin pumps, the hearts pound, and the cycle continues.

I’m not sure what the persistent game of hide-and-seek shows about us, except to say this.  I have sat hidden and dreaded the moment of being found, almost as much as I knew subconsciously that I wanted to be found.  We always knew that eventually the seekers will discover our hiding place.  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.  The few times the Fox Hunts ended by calling in the Fox, and admitting the defeat of the hunters, it was a disappointment.  On any given night, when the Fox was captured, we would all stand around their hiding place, talking and bragging about how close we had been, the Fox bragging about how long he/she had eluded capture.  Then we would head to Sambo’s for some coffee or to the Whataburger for a late-night snack.  On the nights we had failed, we went our separate ways, without the camaraderie of exulting and replaying the chase in repetitive, boring detail.  What a letdown!

I bet you know people who are hiding and need to be found.  I do too.  They hide deep inside their emotions, and sometimes in depression, but they are still right there, hoping against hope that someone will find them.  I see some of them hiding in their possessions, buying clothes and cars and useless stuff.  Some hide within anger and resentment, daring you to find them.  There are an amazing number of hiding places, including the church and the workplace, in the public eye and in the back alleys.  The addicts long to be found, as do the workaholics.  All hiding.  All needing the release of being found.

It’s up to those of us who have already been found to seek.  And, we almost certainly will have to be persistent.  Unfortunately, they won’t all be hiding in the toy closet. 

“The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
(Luke 19:10~NLT)

“Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”
(Zora Neale Hurston~American folklorist and writer~1891-1960)

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